Multi Role Brigades

The Strategic Defence and Security Review framed the future of the British Army in terms of the Multi Role Brigade. This had been signalled from as long ago as 2008 and subsequently featured as part of the Future Army Structure and Future Army Structure (Next Steps) initiatives.

This original thinking envisaged 8 identical Brigades and 3 deployable Divisional HQ’s, each larger than a conventional Brigade and broadly configured for enduring operations like Iraq or Afghanistan.

In 2009 a report in Daily Telegraph;

He announced that the time between fighting on operations would be increased from two years to two-and-a-half years by re-ordering the Army’s brigade structure into larger units that could be sent away less often.

In a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, during which he addressed the issues of equipment, troop numbers and training, Gen Dannatt said: “Many families and marriages have unfortunately fallen victim to the relentless pace of operations.

“A gap of one year between operational deployment is not unusual. Often soldiers are spending much of the year before deployment away from home in training and preparation. This is unacceptable.”

It was a question of how much could be asked of soldiers, he said, adding: “We have seriously stretched our soldiers – both their good will and their families’.”

Clearly, the underlying thread was to ensure sustainability for a long operation or even continuous operations with each Brigade deploying for 6 months every 3 years.

From the existing brigade/divisional that defines the function of a Brigade as armoured, light role or mechanised the Multi Role Brigade will be homogenous. The final composition is not yet known and even well past the SDSR much of it was still under discussion, there have been reports that the final establishment of each brigade will be announced soon.

I find it rather silly to try and speculate which units will be disbanded or which ones will be where and what unit, the details will reveal themselves soon enough.

The SDSR described the MRB’s as

We will restructure the Army around five multi-role brigades, keeping one brigade at high readiness available for an intervention operation and four in support to provide the ability to sustain an enduring stabilisation operation. Key to the utility of these multi-role brigades is their “building block” structure, allowing greater choice in the size and composition of the force that might be deployed, without having to draw on other elements from the rest of the Army as has been the case in recent times. With suitable warning time, the brigades could be combined to generate a larger formation.

The multi-role brigades will include:

Reconnaissance forces to gain information even in high-threat situations;

Tanks, which continue to provide a unique combination of protection, mobility and firepower; and

Infantry operating from a range of protected vehicles.

The brigades will be self-supporting, having their own artillery, engineer, communications, intelligence, logistics and medical support. Territorial Army personnel will be fully integrated into the new structures, in both specialist roles and reinforcing combat units.

The basing review reported on the location of the 5 MRB’s

Army brigades currently stationed around Catterick and Salisbury will make up three of the five multi-role brigades. The other two MRBs will be based in the east of England, centred on Cottesmore, and in Scotland, centred on Kirknewton, south-west of Edinburgh. The MRB centred in Scotland will require a new training area, and positive discussions are being taken forward with the Scottish Government. Two major units and a formation headquarters will be based at Leuchars, increasing the number of posts there from 1,200 to more than 1,300. Consequently, the Typhoon force due to be built up there will instead be built up at RAF Lossiemouth. Other MRB units will be moved into Glencorse, Caledonia, Albemarle barracks and eventually Arbroath, as we intend over time to bring the bulk of the Royal Marines together in the south-west. We are also planning to place Army units in Kinloss in around 2014-15, continuing its long-term relationship with defence.

Taken together, this represents a significant increase in the defence footprint in Scotland of well over 2,000 posts. This is in line with the Scottish tradition of supporting our armed forces and is a recognition that these are United Kingdom forces under the Crown, protecting the citizens and interests of this United Kingdom. With the move to five multi-role brigades, we have concluded that 19 Light Brigade in Northern Ireland will be disbanded. Other units returning from Germany will move into the vacated bases and we remain committed to maintaining a permanent military garrison in Northern Ireland; 160 Wales Brigade will remain in Brecon.

In addition to the historic pattern of enduring operations the influencing factor in the MRB concept is that in those same operations a range of capabilities have been used, from heavy armour to light infantry including artillery, engineers and the other enabling functions.

When these other capabilities have been used they have been pulled in from all over the Army, creating disruption and upsetting established rotation patterns.

So it is these three factors that have informed the creation of the Multi Role Brigade; sustainability within harmony guidelines, likely operations and reduction in disruption.

I must add that I think there is another factor at play, that is the retention of Regiments by dispersing them but that of course is a cynics view!

Iraq and Afghanistan have informed the Army structure, thinking and equipment for over a decade and the MRB is recognition that the future may well encompass an Afghanistan style enduring operation but also something that requires a more traditional combined arms manoeuvre approach.

Each Multi Role Brigade (MRB) will consist of 6,500 personnel and comprise a mixture of an armoured regiment, brigade reconnaissance regiment, armoured infantry battalion, mechanised infantry battalion, light role infantry battalion and a cast of supporting functions. The Combat Support functions such as artillery have also started the transformation process with RA Close Support Regiments, for example, likely to comprise both Light Gun and AS90.

Incidentally, the Australian Army is walking the same path, I think they may have actually come up with the original idea, under Project BeerSheba.

From this article in Defense Update

Planning for the next phase of the Adaptive Army Campaign, the Army will form three new Multi-role Maneuver Brigades with the 1st, 3rd and 7th Brigades. Each brigade will be supported by two reserve brigades. Adapting to a mission dependent formation, each brigade will be able to generate 7-10 subunits. Under Plan BeerSheba ten battle group maneuver units will be formed to support this formation. The Multi-Role Maneuver Brigades will include infantry, armor, artillery, engineers, logistics and communications and will be fundamentally alike in structure, to enable sustained operations within a new 36-month Force Generation Cycle. The six Army Reserve Brigades currently operating under the 2 Division forming the Reserve Force will be more focused on stability operations. These units will be structurally aligned with their regular counterparts. Through the training cycles they will be involved in major exercises with their partnered Multi-role Maneuver Brigades.

I wonder if this is similar to what the British Army will actually end up looking like.

What I find hardest to understand in this is exactly how it is going to be achieved with 82,000 regular soldiers.

The SDSR based 5 MRB’s on a total Army number of 95,500, not 82,000.

The only way I can square the circle is by assuming that CSS will be sliced to the bone, the Territorial Army will play a considerably larger role than even the SDSR considered and what we consider a battalion or regiment will no longer look the same in FF2020.

Another possibility is merging some of the CSS functions to reduce the rank overhead, the Royal Support and Everything Else Corps remains a distinct possibility although this will provide a relatively small saving.

If the CSS functions are going to be sliced in order to preserve historic regiments and the illusion of numbers then this is nothing short of a re run of Options for Change and Frontline First, a reorganisation the Army has been rowing back from constantly since it happened. Afghanistan has shown that the British Army at the scale as configured for that theatre is not sustainable without extensive ‘partner’ support, i.e. US logistics and transport.

So beyond the ‘how are we going to do this’ question we might also ask if the concept of the MRB is sound anyway.

If you envisage a horizontal line that represents the span of possible operations, the MRB is designed to cover as much of that line as possible. At the margins are where the MRB will be either too heavy, too light or comprising not enough of capability x or y.

If the MRB’s does not cater for those margins then it is logical to assume that the deployed MRB will have to pull formed units and/or personnel  from non-deployed Brigades, thus throwing those carefully planned rotation schemes out of sync. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, we have been doing it for centuries, but it is a problem that the MRB was supposed to solve.

Of course the MRB may mean it is less of a problem than normal and that may be acceptable.

I have also not seen any mention of the enduring deployments of Brunei and Cyprus, where they fit into the grand plan, perhaps they will sit outside of the MRB.

It also takes the path of least resistance with 3 CDO and 16AAB, i.e. leaving them alone.

I am not sure if this is wise.

The Army has an image problem, its performance in Iraq and Afghanistan, rightly or wrongly, is perceived to have fallen short and its leaders equally assumed to be politically astute but essentially spineless careerists with not a creative thought in their bodies.

The ability to change its own future is very limited.

Whilst the official line is that the MRB is the only game in town, General Nick Carter has been looking at alternatives and although details are sparse it seems they are getting a little traction. General Nick Carter is a proper military thinker and anything he comes up with should be taken very seriously indeed.

Underpinning the this thinking is that the armed forces should not be configured for the most likely type of operation but one that presents the most danger to the UK or the most operationally challenging situation.

This, the armed forces in general, and Army in particular, must provide genuine options against things that cannot be foreseen or easily prepared for. They must therefore be configured for high intensity operations against competent enemies. Reading between the lines, he believes that the MRB is mediocre and does not provide enough combat power to do anything much at all, or offer sufficient deterrent or even much worth in a coalition.

In my previous posts on the Future of the British Army I have wondered the same thing about the MRB and suggested a return to the Heavy and Light formations, concentrating combat power, modularising the supporting functions rather than attaching them to formed brigades and concentrating the capability at a Divisional level.

General Carter envisages more numerous but smaller infantry and armoured brigades with very little or no permanently attached CS and CSS.

He also sees a greater forward role, mentoring, building local security and generally seeking to prevent rather than react with a more integrated approach with DFiD and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Hi concept seems to be forming around the idea of 4 brigades structured in heavy and medium formations with those being predominantly regular soldiers. The basic position is that the TA cannot be safely relied upon to provide infantry and armoured capabilities but CS and CSS could take a higher proportion of a reserve element although this is difficult to see with highly specialised trades.

I find myself agreeing a lot with this newer concept, especially concentrating combat power, moving CS/CSS to a divisional level and engaging in more conflict prevention activity.

Some thoughts and questions…

What roles are an increased reserve component going to fulfil and how exactly are they going to play a greater role without additional primary legislation. Not sure the new Engagement Model and Whole Force Concept have this question adequately addressed.

Could the Royal Armoured Corps and Royal Artillery merge, many of their roles in ISTAR seem to have a lot of crossover and with the likely reduced need for the Queen of the Battle to engage in monster counter battery and battlefield preparation activities their shift to ISTAR and fire support (artillery, air coordination etc) would not be a wholly bad thing.

Tour lengths, the MRB nails up the 6 month tour but as we have seen from Afghanistan in some cases this is too long and some, arguably too short. We need to retain flexibility rather than put uniform boundaries around everything.

To what degree do we go purple, a tri service electronics, communications and vehicle support command for example. Or is this far enough, the problem seems to have been presented as an Army rather than MoD problem. A look at the units deployed in Afghanistan will show that all three services have representation, not necessarily in their traditional roles.

Contractorisation, how much of the Royal Engineers, Royal Logistic Corps, Royal Signals and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers can we outsource to civilian contractors or hybrid units with retained reserves like the RAF’s FSTA aircraft fleet.

Can we extend the Whole Fleet Management concept to people for certain support functions?

These may save personnel but would have a significant impact on morale and unit cohesion so in a final analysis may not actually be worth it but it still leaves the problem behind.

Does an MRB have enough combat power and sustainability given it is likely the original 1-2 Light Role infantry battalions will likely be 1 and not 2?

Does the General Carter vision of mainly regular combat brigades (inf, armour) with non-organic CS/CSS that have a greater proportion of reserves and an increased concentration on conflict prevention appeal to anyone, I find it compelling?

One thing is for certain, creative thinking is needed because having the same but smaller is not really an option.

What is encouraging is that the latest generation of officers with experience of the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan know full well what the problem is and I have no doubt there is some creative thinking going on.

My fear is that the creative thinking and bold solutions will be stifled by political influence, careerism and vested interests.

Let’s hope not.




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January 26, 2012 1:46 am

Interesting. My guess is that it will come down to one Armour (Intervention) Brigade and 4 Mechanised Infantry.

Greater mechanization might be the reason for the lower troop numbers, one tank/APC uses less men than a section of soldiers, so I suspect we’ll be seeing lots of mechanised infantry, though with the budget, I suspect lots of these will temporarily be “mechanised” by old equipment at least until the economy picks up. Or maybe even their legs….

We’ll see.

January 26, 2012 4:31 am

ok. now i’m beginning to understand. but understanding on one hand has me confused on several others.

*why isn’t anyone stressing light infantry? that’s what will be needed for most missions short of war with a peer threat…from humanitarian assistance, COIN, to assisting with another countries internal defense…
*why the FRES and Warrior upgrade paths?
*why isn’t aviation (helicopter) made a part of these units? you would have MEU type units across the board…tailor made to jump on Royal Navy ships and get to the scene of action….
*why the heavy emphasis on tanks? the USMC has 202,000 Marines and we have a total of 3 tank companies and one of those is in the reserves….in Okinawa we have a combined company that has TOW missile vehicles and AAVs.
*i like where your Marine Corps is at the moment but they are missing in discussions of manpower and equipment fits…why is that?

thanks in advance.

January 26, 2012 5:35 am

i meant 3 tank battalions…but if we’re going by size then that would mean that the British Army keep one battalion of tanks and expect for them to be farmed out to units going on deployment as detachments.

the example for the British Army is the MEU…as a side note, the Australian Army is forming a pure Army unit to conduct amphibious operations…its being styled similar to an MEU and will be the “first responders” for the Australian govt. it might be nice for the UK to provide that same type of action afloat…the Army, Navy and Marines would be covered and your amphibious ships would be forward deployed and fully staffed. the RAF would have to fix it on there own.

January 26, 2012 5:51 am

Solomon, mechanised Infantry is more flexible than straight infantry, if you need the job done by regular infantry, you can use them too, just move their vehicles back from the front.

As for FRES and Warrior, well, it’s what they already have, changing horses in mid stream costs more, needs more retraining and has a greater possibility of not performing up to spec.

Intergrated aviation really isn’t that critical as long as you can liase properly with the department that manages them. It’s duplication of jobs if you have the airforce doing the same thing as the RM are doing, a bit redundent and less flexible. i.e Marine helichopters will usually only be tasked for Marine jobs while the Army and Airforce have their own show. It’s harder this way for Marine helos to be assigned to Army/Airforce jobs and vice versa. A centralised force gives more flexibility for inter-service tasking. The US is an oddity due to their size, it’s easier for them to control units if intergrated, but if C&C is not a problem, it’s a bit wasteful.

And is there something wrong about an emphasis on tanks? This is their overall army structure, not simply beachstorming but also for things like “Drive to Bagdad”, configuring for a total amphibious force without consideration for what happens after that will leave a big lack of equipment in the followup phase.

Come to think of it, how many amphibious operations have there been in the last 2 decades? I’m not really sure this emphasis on “amphibious” forces may be the way to go, most of the time, neighbouring countries will allow basing/transit rights.

January 26, 2012 7:52 am

did this say multi role bridges an hour ago?

January 26, 2012 7:54 am

In my view, the UK should have the capability to get a brigade sized force rapidly to a theatre of ops anywhere in the world either by sea, air or even road. However long gone is the time where we had the luxury of size (or money) to have specialized troops for each.

Equally having generic multi-role brigades that can do rapid shock and awe, whilst equally being able to enduring stabilization / defence ops seems wrong to me. Why not have different flexible structures for each? A “commando+” force for the first and semi professional brigade structures for the second?

Repeating my thoughts from a previous approach, the commando+ could be an amalgamation of the following units:

* 3cdo plus support units
* 1st Rifles
* 16 AAB plus support units
* 6 additional battalions from regular army (Ghurkas, Guards etc) – mixture of light infantry and mechanised.
* 7th Armoured Brigade

Now, we are hopefully not planning to have enduring offensive ops outside of a very hot war (in which case all bets are off), therefore you could argue splitting this force into 3 commando units is reasonable. One would be on high alert, another on medium alert (training) and the last stood down.

This could cover I believe a 2 brigade scenario such as the Falklands.

The semi professional brigades (say 6 in total) would be mixed not in terms of infantry vs mech vs armour but would have a significant % of reserves – maybe even as high as 50% (why not?). You could rotate these on a one in six basis for stability ops and when stood down use the professional parts for FI / Cyprus garrisons.

January 26, 2012 7:58 am

Sorry ” The semi professional brigades (say 6 in total) would be mixed not in terms of infantry vs mech vs armour” should have read ” The semi professional brigades (say 6 in total) would be mixed not only in terms of infantry vs mech vs armour”

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
January 26, 2012 8:09 am

One problem I can see rom this desire to “Mechaise” everything is ti wil reduce the number of boots on the ground. This is an important lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan, where in the former tank crews were used to man infantry checkpoints! Mobility is important, but I would rather see a pool of transports attached to each brigade, three quarters of which are manned by reservists, simmilar to how the Bv210s are managed by the RMs.

I am a big fan of the MBT and I have always thought it has been a mistake not to deploy them to Afghanistan. How many expensive Javelin ATGWs have been used on targets that could have just as easily and much more cheaply be dealt with by a much cheaper 120mm round from a Challenger II.

The MRB idea could work but it needs funding and this is the elephant in the room. Part of me wished we has simply converted the UK based Mechanised Brigades in “Striker” Brigades at the beginning of the last decade, whist retaining the Challenger II Regiment. We could have linked in to the US programme, buying the equipment straight from the US or licenced manufature in this country. Doing this we would have introduced kit like the 120mm Mortar and ground launched TOW providing improved integrated fire support and a replacement for the Striker. Afghanistan would have probably led to the conversion of at least one additional brigade to this type of formation and by 2010 we would in essence have at least three MRBs already in exsistence.

Areas I would like to see expanded ae first the Apache force. An additional buy to allow an additional regiment (24 ac) to be stood up. This platform and its equivilents have shown themselves to be the ideal workhorses for present and future conflicts as part of a combined arms package. Secondly it would be beneficial to have a persistent UAV/UCAV capabilty over the area of operations, able to observe and pursue enemy combatant rather like a Police Helicopter pursuea car theives. We need to be able to train and operate UAV/UCAVs in the UK rather than the US.

Finally the JHF works and in reality it doesn’t matter what colour uniform the pilots are wearing it is a pool of assets to be used. If anything the senior officers of all threee services need their heads banging together to stop them thinking of platforms as their services personal assets. Jointery doesn’t meen the creation of a single service but there has to be an end to the in service bun fights and a concentration on the bigger picture. Without this and with limited funding the MRBs are simply going to be anither admin programme with no benefit to this country’s ability to operate its armed forces.

January 26, 2012 8:15 am

Well, despite a desire to wander over to the now-safely-defused CVF thread and ruminate (again, check the alias) and will instead have one proper bash at this crucial subject — which as TD’s said is really “what will the British Army look like for the next fifteen to twenty years at least” — before the whole life thing spirits me off to intermittent lurking again.

Brigades are not in themselves a bad idea — here looking at what the French have done is a good plan. Likewise the thing the US Army have got right despite the dinky maneuver-element aspect of their “brigade-based army” which is really and bluntly designed for roulement of garrison/patrol units through the sandbox rather than either “major theatre war” or short-and-sharp intervention.

So what did the Froggies and Yanks get right? They invested a strong, able support component into the brigade formation directly. The desire for divisions, and the two-star job creation program that goes with them (probably a good three to five two-stars in staff and support jobs for every one with a divisional flag), has put blinders on this approach so far it seems. If you want a capable, independent brigade, you’ve got to invest not just RA and RE, Corps of Signals, etc., but the Large Corps in meaningful strength, some redcaps, a beefed up Medical Corps regiment, and the like right at brigade level. There’s a variation on that approach I’m surprised Solomon hasn’t mentioned, the USMC’s Expeditionary Brigade (which would be more like a division in British Army hands, with each ‘component’ flagged as a brigade.) There you’ve got a maneuver ‘component,’ a CS component, and a CSS component (plus fast air but that’s another kettle of piranhas and unique to the USMC.) They then task-organise. But if you don’t go that road, then you need muscular brigades that are probably going to man out at around 8-9000 pax in order to be truly effective, rather than 6500.

It seems to me that there’s much more room in overhead for the Army to be smaller than OGH credits. And not just in shuffling CSS off to the reserves although it’s a good way to put a leash on thoughtless long-term interventions. You’d need to kill the division as we know it in the British Army, casing the old brigade flags (which, despite their import, have less emotional drawing or rallying power than divisional flashes or regimental badges) and transfer the divisional livery and lineage to brigade formations, much as 7 Armoured Bde did donkeys’ years ago (and 51 & 52 Bdes in the Scots bits of the TA.) You can have a couple of two-star task forces — strictly command and echelon-above bits with lots of TA manning — one of which is designed to manage a single big brigade as its combatant element (basically Afghanistan-sized), the other designed to handle two (an Op Granby/streamlined Kosovo invasion sized force, to draw more parallels.) Above that you can have either a British or multinational expeditionary corps structure designed to employ probably three to four UK bdes and one or two allied units of similar dimensions to the new UK bdes. Again, those structures really need to be about command and management, while most of the rest right down to delivering the mail is invested on appropriate scale right inside the brigades.

It’s getting late so I’ll try to hit high points with potential design:

– Leave behind the division structure and go for big brigades, again probably 8500-9000 strong, as your basis for maneuver.

– Sod FRES. Or at least FRES as we know it. Buy a tailored RG 35 off the shelf for mechanised battalions. Look at refits or OTS for support vehicles. Take Warriors with the new CTA 40mm, add electronics and some kind of ATGM launcher (like the twin TOW on the Kuwaitis’ Desert Warriors) and make them an M3-like cavalry scout to ride in mixed cavalry regiments with the C2s.

– Keep more armour than Mr. Toad at the Exchequer wants. Most of the Warriors and probably about three-quarters of the Chally 2s. This solves some of the problems Carter’s spotted. With due respect, the folks who want armour transferred to the TA have stuck the cart right in front of the gee-gees. Put the wallop in the regulars. If you are forced, by sheer circumstances or the idiocy of politicians, to fight a “war among the people,” use your own people (in this case bags of TA leg infantry) to fight it or go the hell home.

– Use the reserves to provide echelon-above and central command personnel, specialist types with civilian crossover like (in American argot) Civil Affairs, some replacement tank crews in the Yeomanry, and bags of leg infantry to “flood the zone” if you’re forced to operate in areas with high population density. Also, just to hamstring the pols, write some new statutes that (Continental-style) demand Parliamentary approval for TA deployments *and* require the whip be withdrawn for any such vote. It’s conscience or nothing. This is just what the reserves ought to be there for. Despite Field Marshal Carver’s efforts to destroy it, the TA and the draftees it helped shepherd are who won the two world wars that go with that World Cup. They can and should now provide corps-level functions for the well-trained Regular maneuver elements, and the manpower base for foot-patrol warfare.

I like Observer’s basic suggestion: one heavier brigade, four that look more like the MRB, and then the relatively small 3 Cdo (16 AAB disappears but I’ll get into that.)

Lots of back-room positions disappear from the Regulars, lots more Rupert-sacking, and some structural changes, like getting rid of personnel attached to the heraldic “divisions” which should just be a nicety of language in an old country rather than an actual excuse to fill barracks with a typing pool.

The one major structural change to maneuver units I’d make is with the RAC. The old American “armoured cav” seems like a nearly perfect match; make the mixed C2/”Warrior cav” regiments look like a squadron in those American regiments (with similar size of 8-900 pax.) The heavy brigade would have three squadrons of 9xC2 and 13xWarrior cav, and 1×13 C2 tank company (that’s 40 Challys and 40 scout Warriors, counting one for the regimental OC.) In the mixed brigades, swap the tank squadron for another of the standard model, so 36 Challys and 52 cavalry Warriors. Backed with a 120mm mortar platoon and the usual fixings that’s decent power for maneouvre.

Then your armoured inf, mechanised, and light-role units remain the same (Paras excepted, but I’ll tack that on the end.) Difference is, like the RAC and in continental style, each battalion reflags as a regiment. Reform, reduction, and restructuring always has to get by gatekeepers who hate it. And frankly, though our blog-boss is suspicious (except when it comes to sappers…) regimental legacies matter, they are actual lived history through ups and downs that tie young men and women to their forebears, not some tarted-up Disney job at a country house. So you save regimental legacies (even down to company level in amalgamated regts, the RAC and Royal Anglians do this already, for example.) Investing the brigades with real CS/CSS staying power and preserving historical connections is how you cut the regulars’ infantry maneuver elements by a third but preserve both combat power and a sense of rootedness.

What do you get with the five brigades, then?

You get the heavy brigade, 7 Armoured, with:
3x “Type 40” (?) cavalry regts
1x light-role infantry (to provide scouting, harrying, quick provision of infantry to support armoured attacks or defend against breakthroughs, air assault, etc.)
1x now standard RA regt (2×8 AS90, 1×6 MLRS, and yes that probably means buying a few more of those off the Yanks)
1x now standard AAC regt (9x Apache Longbow, 9x Chinook transferred over from RAF, 6x Lynx Wildcat)
All the RE, Large Corps, medical, REME, etc. support (including some kind of mixed Corps of Signals/Intelligence bn) to go with, *not* at divisional level but right there sized to support the brigade

Four standardised “mixed” brigades (1st, 2nd, 3rd — flagged from the old divisions — and Guards, because zombie-like those cap badges will never die so they might as well earn their bloody keep):
1x “Type 36” (?) cavalry regt
1x armoured inf in Warriors
2x mechanised inf in RG 35
1x light role
plus the familiarised bits from before (possibly including a new Royal ISO Container Corps (Maersk’s Own) unit ? ;)

Each of these standardised brigades would, in fact, have three mech inf battalion/regiments assigned, rather than two. The third spot would place hold for a unit assigned either (Guards) to public duties/security ops in London (axe the specialised public-duty companies and let it be a roulement bn) or to rotational readiness as the “enduring battlegroup deployment” core. That would be four spots deep: work down, work up, active training as the Northern Ireland regular bn, and then alert station or deployment with the battlegroup.

7 Armoured would probably field the smallest force size, perhaps as low as 7000-7500 pax, while the others would be at least 8500. I can hear concerns already about bloating out with support units or penny-packeting Apaches, but my own mental exercise here is to provide as much power as one can to each unit that’s actually in the field without dragging a massive tail behind. Of course there’s need for coordinating structures and echelon-above work like civil affairs, ports coordination, army postal, psyops, etc. But more of that can be invested in the TA, so that HMG has to get public approval to embark on missions big enough to need it, and the positive feedback loop of specialised military professions and specialised civilian ones can have a chance to do its work.

From there you can look at how to get one of these 8-9000 strong forces and their gear deployed by sealift, because without diving into the mess of CVF threads unless you plan a snatch raid against Alex Salmond (a man can dream …) getting British squaddies in any real strength to any conceivable fight involves transit by sea. (Even if you’d like to chug across Europe to a defensive line on the Vistula against future Russian perfidy, all it needs to nobble you is son-of-Stuxnet on the points for the European rail grid. Not even the romance of dashing Spetsnaz types with sticks of dynamite.) But by “packaging” to a properly beefed up brigade, that’s more rather than less possible as it would be with an ever-task-expanding multi-brigade division. (For example, and with Nick Carter very much in mind, this 7 Armoured would give you more than half the frontal punch of 1 UK Armd Div in Granby — a little less on the arty I grant but you might attach a regt for task purposes — for a third of the personnel.)

So my guess is then you have:
7x RAC regiments (including Household Cav into which I’d level-up 1st Queen’s DGs) plus Royal Tank Regt as your all-purpose armoured vehicle training unit
24x infantry “regiments” of battalion size (4×5 in the mixed bdes, 1x in 7 Armoured, plus Royal Gurkhas in Brunei, Royal Irish in NI and permanently on the battlegroup roulement, and then the Paras)
7x RA gun regts (5x mixed heavy for the bdes, 1x M777 as 29 Cdo ARty, 1x M777 for battlegroup roulement)
5x AAC mixed regts, plus the various support elements (Commando Helicopter Force is its own deal)
Re-sized regts of RE, REME, and Large Corps tailored to fit the needs of the brigades but also downsized overall

As for gear, you cut out the old Light Gun for M777, reduce AS90 a bit, probably by a handful more MLRS, keep around 300 Chally 2s (so you can outfit 7 Armd and at least a couple of the other bdes, all if the nightmare Bizarro-world baloon goes up), around 600 Warrior many in the new “scout” refit, and pretty well all the current or projected Apaches and Chinooks swapped over from crab blue.

I have a real suspicion, based on the structure and sizes of the other “big three” armies in Europe (France, Germany, Italy) that you can have a force like that with around 80,000 personnel in regular service.

Right, the paras — since this is on a “battalion equals regiment” model, remake the Paras as an organic battlegroup-sized force, probably around 1200 or so. Something that RAF transport driven by C-17 and A400M can actually haul and drop in one load. Four big maneuver companies (three “line” platoons and one weapons platoon in each), a battery (heirs to 7 Para RHA) of 120mm mortars mounted on Spartans designed to airdrop, and the relevant support bits incl. sappers and such as specialists under the regimental flag. Roulement to have one rifle coy permanently ready for SF support. Then you roll the regiment into 3 Cdo as the main army element.

So there you go. A ramble like I’m wont to before life gets in the way again.



I suspect that “amphibious operations” will make a comeback, but not in the Overlord/Narvik/Gallipoli/Inchon/San Carlos Water sort of way. More like countries will either be reluctant to get sucked in with basing rights (transit may be another matter until it starts to cost — the Israeli raid at Entebbe saved just over 100 airline passengers, but the Kenyan decision to let the IAF refuel cost hundreds of Kenyan lives to Ugandan retaliation) or creative forms of “area denial” designed to queer the neighbours’ interest in helping you get used. In that case, it’s more a mix of amphib feints, air assault, airborne assault (drop the paras right in to help your marines at the lodgements, or to hit the enemy counterattack from odd angles), amphib reinforcement, and then a “sea-basing” throughput of regular army forces onto shore where they can go do their work.

What about the Paras? Well, with the

January 26, 2012 8:16 am

Gah — disregard the last fragment (if you could stand it to get that far :) I miss the edit-friendly setup I remember from a past chance at lurking.

January 26, 2012 8:17 am

lets all be honest for a moment, we’re stealing the usmc expeditionary unit/brigade idea……

Personaly, i really dont get the problem.

The uk is going to have 4/5/6 of each of the ‘teeth’ arms, they’re going to be divided equaly, and given organic tails.

If they lack fighting power, well, thats simply because the uk lacks fighting power.
6 small tank regiments is 6 small tank regiments in 1 army 2 divisions or 6 brigades.
We can always combine the mrbs into a cohesive larger force if we wish.

In its way, it prevents the all fur coat no knickers problem.

January 26, 2012 10:03 am

“The SDSR based 5 MRB’s on a total Army number of 95,500, not 82,000.”

Was it really?
I never got that impression. In fact, i rather got the impression that the 95k number was always a fudge designed to solve too needs:
1. Afghanistan
2. Cutting the army……. while doing afghanistan
When will those MRB’s exist anyway, i.e. really be boots on ground as existing and resourced formations? 2014………. 2015?

As mentioned elsewhere, change the harmony guidelines and you can reduce numbers while keeping the basic ambitions alive. 4x MRB’s working a 3:1 ratio over 32 months……

“It also takes the path of least resistance with 3 CDO and 16AAB, i.e. leaving them alone. I am not sure if this is wise.”

I’m all open to arguments that 16AAB may be in need of reform, but there basic existence I do not question. Nor to do i question there continued existence while other brigades shrink, for it is entirely in keeping with the greater requirement for intervention over large-scale persistence.

“Underpinning the this thinking is that the armed forces should not be configured for the most likely type of operation but one that presents the most danger to the UK or the most operationally challenging situation.”

Exactly the opposite conclusion reached by Dannatt, why so, and who is right? The proper thinking soldier or the party political hack? ;)

January 26, 2012 10:04 am

apologies for the atrocious spelling and grammar.

January 26, 2012 10:21 am

“why isn’t anyone stressing light infantry?”
Too expensive for too little effect.
Three MRBs have to take Basra as well as one has to fight in Hemland.
Also, Warriors have been massivly effective in Afghanistan.

“Come to think of it, how many amphibious operations have there been in the last 2 decades? I’m not really sure this emphasis on “amphibious” forces may be the way to go, most of the time, neighbouring countries will allow basing/transit rights.”

Sort of…
Amphibious isnt so much essential “because its essential”, but because it opens more doors for much more useful land basing.

Its a control issue.
If your only option is to invade country A through country B, they can demand pretty much any price for their support, just look at what the various Stans get for allowing the US into Afghanistan.
If you have an alternative, over the beach and seize a port, well, the price they can demand plummets, because they have to make land push *less* expensive than a sea one.
The same goes for Carriers, in themselves, they are useful, but if you have a viable alternative to land bases, then the price Italy can charge for lending theirs plummets, because you can walk away.

Lord Jim
“One problem I can see rom this desire to “Mechanise” everything is it will reduce the number of boots on the ground.”
But thats NEVER a fight the army is going to win.
Average pay is something like £25k, thats before you tack on pensions and employment taxes.
Whats average pay in the chinese army? £5000 per year? Less?

Its not a choice between a mechanised infantry battalion and 30 light infantry battalions, its a choice between 1 mech and 3 light infantry, and thats being generous.

“I am a big fan of the MBT and I have always thought it has been a mistake not to deploy them to Afghanistan. How many expensive Javelin ATGWs have been used on targets that could have just as easily and much more cheaply be dealt with by a much cheaper 120mm round from a Challenger II.”

But how much does a litre of fuel cost in Bastion? How much would the UK be paying in “security” payments to the tribal militias of Pakistan to get them to stop stealing the fuel en route?

“The MRB idea could work but it needs funding and this is the elephant in the room. Part of me wished we has simply converted the UK based Mechanised Brigades in “Striker” Brigades at the beginning of the last decade”
But the army didnt want Stryker, or at least, didnt at the time. It wanted its super sensor fusion system (which rather missed the point of sensor fusion, but thats another story).

“If you want a capable, independent brigade, you’ve got to invest not just RA and RE, Corps of Signals, etc., but the Large Corps in meaningful strength, some redcaps, a beefed up Medical Corps regiment, and the like right at brigade level”

I thought that was the point?

“*and* require the whip be withdrawn for any such vote.”

The Whip isnt a legal instrument, it amazes me how many MP’s seem to think it is.
At worst, they can be expelled from the party, whoopie. Its a threat against pole climbers.

My understanding of the MRB is as follows, probably wrong, but here goes.

Everything thats “the same” gets formed in Army Corps, so the Army Air Corps, the Army Engineer Corps, the Army Infantry Corps, the Army Medical Corps, the Army Police Corps, the Army Police Corps and so on.

These are office/college corps, in that they handle recruitment, specialised training, (possibly some VERY high level functions), career development paths and the like.

The Army is then organised in 4/5/6/7/8 Brigades(lets say 6 for now).
Each of these has a detachment from each of the Corps permanantly attached.
So, the Waterloo Brigade is made up of detachments, each of which are permantly assigned to the Brigade, practice with, live on the same base with, go on the piss with and deploy with the same Brigade throughout their career. Well, obviously, there will be some movement of individuals.
How that handles the “small” overseas garrisons, I’m not sure.
Personaly, I’d happily stick a full Brigade on Cyprus and another on the Falklands as “peacetime” deployments, but that could be a pain for family life.
How long are units rotated into Germany for?

I suppose theres no reason you couldnt have 6 English Bases, whch are permanant homes for the 6 Brigades, and have two of then unoccupied on a rolling basis?

January 26, 2012 10:50 am

@ DomJ re unoccupied bases.

On behalf of the wives, husbands, and families who will continue to occupy those bases of yours while their loved ones are away I thank you…….

January 26, 2012 11:05 am

Not quite sure what you mean there…..

Yes there would be a “rear party” that stays behind, but that would be the same on a Falklands Garrison duty or an invade Iraq duty…..

January 26, 2012 11:30 am

Is the most likely future operations state on state warfare, medium level coin operations or multiple small scale operations of sierra leone scale?
Is it head long charges into armoured formations, or Kosovo type entry operations or finding, tracking and strike persons or organisations in multiple locations?

The army has probably since suez never deployed more than 2 fighting brigades to any operation. And I fail to see that changing. In both gulf wars we deployed really heavy formations which wasn’t exactly what the us wanted but we had nothing else so they went. I simply dony see the need fo mrb

January 26, 2012 11:34 am

More apaches maybe more lynx in its armed configuration more tactical Istar uav more commando type forces more specialist language and interpretation specials more traing teams much less armour and heavy mech forces. More the other stuff to the reserves keep a couple of heavy brigades configures like a US heavy armoured brigade team in the regulars only.

January 26, 2012 11:36 am


i’ve read some arguments that are beyond silly. “light infantry is more expensive than mechanized infantry” wow. “light infantry isn’t as flexible as mecchanized infantry”. wow.

’nuff said i’m outta here.

January 26, 2012 11:44 am

I dont think anyone said light infantry is more expensive than mechanised, merely that the cost saving isnt as great as it first appears.

You might get two or three infantry units for each mechanised unit, but the machanised unit is far more effective in real war, and the light unit far quicker to recruit from scratch.

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
January 26, 2012 1:04 pm

@TD: artillery is about smashing stuff, cavalry is about manoeuvre. They both employ shock, but given that the old days had endless friction between Garrison and Field, not sure it’s such a good idea.

On the other hand, merging armoured regt’s and armoured infantry sounds very sensible. They are always mixed on operations after all.

Now watch James go loopy at the prospect of tone being submerged under brawl :-)

Brian Black
Brian Black
January 26, 2012 1:43 pm

Hi, Rupert. I suggested a while ago, with a nod towards the US Army set-up, that it might be an idea to have two combined armoured battalions -one tank squadron, one armoured infantry company, one mech inf coy; four platoons/troops to each- didn’t go down to well though. It would have given two light manouevre units and two heavy, with the most appropriate (light or heavy) componant able to take the lead with support from the other. The US army is likely changing from the two battalions in its armoured and light BCTs to three now, matching the Stryker set-up.
For a brigade to work, you need duplication at battalion level; two or three identical units working in conjunction. If we go down to three infantry battalions -armoured, mech, light- then duplication is only at company level; we would be bringing the manpower of a brigade to the party, but without the utility of a brigade.

If we can’t afford the fourth battalion for each of the five MRBs, then maybe it’s time to cut a brigade or to bin the multi-role idea and just go with a traditional set-up.
I agree with what Jim said, that we should have gone with the Stryker plan. Can’t do everything, but it would have provided a reasonably capable force at a practical cost.

I’d still like to see the MRB’s two light battalions go towards a wheeled protected mobility form; with a mix of vehicles such as Foxhound, Jackal, and something like the Patria Havoc. And the mech battalion going the same route once the Bulldogs finally die. Then retain a Warrior/Challenger componant for the heavy support.

It’s all afffordable, we just need politicians with some balls. They try and cap child support payments and introduce an upper benefit limit, then lose their nerve because a system designed to give better service to the majority of people leaves a few anomalies. If evrey time we try and save some cash we have to scrap the plan because of unavoidable loop holes, or we have to bring in some exemption or tax credit for a few unlucky sods who didn’t grab as much money as their neighbours, then nothing in this country will ever get sorted.

January 26, 2012 2:57 pm

I would say, from staring at the matrix for hours on end out there, that there are far more RA doing Cortez etc and Desert Hawk etc and FST etc than are actually manning guns and GMLRs and EXACTOR out there.

RAC deploy solely as 1 RECCE Sqn, 1 BRF and 1 Warthog Group and I think they provide some MAISTIFF sqns sometimes.

We had about 11 RA with us at any one time, 1 JTAC, 3 FST, 2 Cortez and about 5 in the UAV det.

Phil Z29
Phil Z29
January 26, 2012 3:21 pm

I to have my doubts about MRBs. They are neither armoured, mobile, or easy to deploy.
It was also my impression that it was 5 MRBs pre the cut to 82.000.
I would much prefer the armoured units to grouped into brigade/brigades of there own.
But I do prefer the idea of X amount of brigades, which in fact are small divisions, with a single deployable divisional HQ.
I am not sure the 5 MRB plus 2 specialist brigades will be the future for the army, there has been so much said about the TA taking on more, this must been deployable units?
But lets not get carried away, about armour, the majority of challengers, warriors, bulldogs, and AS90’s are going to be in storage. So most soldiers will be using the Mark 1A boot for most of the time, and as most of the infantry battalions are light role, the Mark 1A boot looks to be the most operational army vehicle for years to come!
Let’s also remember there is a very tight budget, so please don’t start saying we should buy 200 of these and 300 of them, because gentlemen, it’s just not going to happen!
In fact, I fear the Army will be the subject of further cuts post Afghan.
I like many, have my own idea for FF Army 2020, which I have shared with Gabriele,
But as yet, Mr Hammond has not posted a reply!

Phil Z29

January 26, 2012 3:24 pm


I love your comment about organising a raid to snatch Alex Salmond – the sooner the better, frankly. On to more serious matters…

I quite like the idea of Multi-Role Brigades, but their structure has to be based on a credible means of deployment.

It can take weeks to move tanks and tracked AIFVs by ship. So as soon as you have a battalion of Armoured Infantry and a regiment of MBTS, any notion of rapid deployment goes out of the window. This is why I have become such an ardent supporter of 8×8 AIFVs supported by 8×8 tank destroyers. They hold the fort while the tanks get there.

The brigade structure I would adopt would comprise three battle groups as follows::

Heavy BG
1 x Heavy armoured tank regiment (Challenger 2)
1 x Heavy armoured infantry regiment (Upgraded Warrior)
1 x Heavy armoured artillery regiment (155mm AS90)

Medium BG
1 x Medium armoured tank destroyer regiment (8×8 Centauro equivalent with 120 mm gun)
2 x Medium armoured infantry battalions (8×8 FRES UV with 40 mm CTA cannon)
1 x Medium artillery regiment (8×8 FRES with 105/ 155 mm gun)

Light BG
1 x Light mechanised infantry battalion (4×4 Foxhounds)
1 x Light reconnaissance regiment (True tracked CVR(T) replacement, i.e. weight less than 15 tonnes)

1 x Brigade artillery regiment (MLRS)
1 x Brigade artillery air defence regiment (8×8 mounting land-based version of Navy’s CIWS -Phalanx 30 mm cannon)

I would maintain 16 AAB and 3 Cdo brigades as two independent light brigades:
4 x Infantry battalions in each
1 x 8×8 tank destroyer regiment in each
1 x artillery regiment in each (105 mm light gun towed)

The commandos would have Warthogs and the paras would rely on helicopters. I would make Chinooks centrally-controlled army assets and equip the airborne brigade with enough Blackhawks to airlift an entire battalion in one lift (50).

This would make a total of 4 ordinary brigades and 2 light brigades.

I would add a further 2-4 infantry regiments as a strategic reserve.

This gives a total of 24-28 infantry regiments with 250 Warriors and 500 8×8 AIFVs, 14 cavalry regiments with 250 Challenger 2s and 350 8×8 tank destroyers, and 16 artillery regiments with various gun platforms. The overall size of Army would be smaller, but it would still be a formidable force.

With this structure, I would not use the ASCOD SV Scout at all. Instead, I would like to see a true CVR(T) replacement, which would be a tracked vehicle weighing less than 15 tonnes that provided the same level of protection as an upgraded Warrior. Having said that, I increasingly believe that the recce role could be better performed by regiments equipped with the 8×8 Centauro equivalent.

The italian Army is adopting a structure very similar to this and the Americans are using it as a blueprint for upgraded Stryker brigades.

January 26, 2012 5:42 pm

For a change I am going to try avoid playing fantasy brigades.

MRBs are a bit silly. We have no money. So……

1) Um. Sorry. I would bring back the arms plot. There said it.

2) I would create an armoured brigade with all our best kit. Infantry in Warriors; 3 battalions. A full 55 tank regiment. A FRR with regiment with that ASCOD wotsit. Latest UAVs. Best we have. Just in case the US or NATO want to do another Gulf War-esque adventure. High end traditional armoured warfare.

3) Then I would create a second brigade. 1 regiment of 55 C2. FRR Scimitar whatever being replaced with ASCOD. 3 battalions of infantry; as much of it mounted in Warrior as possible, but if not “old kit” and stop gap off the shelf buys. The role is to train to replace the regiments in the brigade detailed in (2), to augment the brigade in (2) with whole formations and replacements, and to start preparing the next brigade along.

3) Light role brigade mounted in whatever. FRR old kit. Armoured regiment one of current truncated formations.

4) Light role brigade for garrison and UN tasks. The two cavalry regiments mounted in whatever.

5) Same as above (4). Just stepped from being primary armoured brigade.

6) Disband 16ABB. Line regiments back to the line.
2/3 Para form a demi-brigade with the rump para-assets (7RHA) Put into a light infantry division with 3 Cdo. None of this para-commando crap either. Both perform complimentary roles but aren’t interchangeable. 3Cdo looses 1 Rifles uses 2/3 Para as necessary. One FRR assigned to division; needs new light tank-type vehicle off the shelf. Extra Vikings/Broncos etc. Albion brought out of extended readiness.

7) MoD licences Bushmaster type vehicle to get light role infantry into a proper vehicle. Built in Britain not by BAE. £500million. Plus Foxhound.

January 26, 2012 5:45 pm

PS: Scrap 4 inf battalions per brigade go back to 3.

January 26, 2012 6:08 pm

MRBs are just Brigade Groups. Nothing new there at all. They are diffuse because the possible missions they might get used on are diffuse. Let us not forget that they might not always even be deployed as brigades, but rather one or two battlegroups might be employed from that unit which has happened more often than it has not. Bosnia and Kosovo saw only elements of brigades going on tour.

Brigade Groups make sense. There is no one or two tangible and clear threats. The Army might be employed on the whole spectrum of operations, and it undertakes more than any other rapid reaction interventions using light forces for short durations and longer peristant operations whether this is peace keeping, COIN or post invasion stabilisation.

The Brigade Groups simply realise this reality.

The trouble with shortening tour intervals is that the readiness cycle takes around 12 months to build up a formation to deployment status. 12 months is taken because there’s a shed load to do and to try and give everyone a semblance of normal life with luxuries such as weekends and leave and because it takes a while to cycle sub-units through all the exercises etc because the Brigade doesn’t seem to do it all in one go I imagine for resource reasons.

Despite efforts this 12 month period is still a busy time, so really you have 24 months off but half that will be spent building up, you can reduce that time but you make the build up more intense which means blokes are going to be working flat out with PDT and tour for 12 months at a time (assuming you half the PDT time by beasting the cycle).

5 units is ideal to create a comfortable cycle. TA units could be used to reinforce those deploying units so that unlike now, reinforcing sub units aren’t poached from the rest of the Army. So for example, a Brigade Group deploying on Operation X needs 5 more company groups then all five could be sourced from the TA.

It would mean a big change in TA terms of service and mobilisation periods of up to almost two years from start to finish and putting them all through a catch up training package and then through the whole brigade PDT, tour and then recovery.

Ideally, my TA (oh my God I’m dipping into fantasy stuff) would be attached to each brigade with each brigade having a TA shadow unit for each regular sub unit. So for example each Brigade Group would have a Yeomanry Regiment, 1-2 Infantry Battalions, an Artillery Regiment, Engineer Regiment, Medical Regiment, RLC Logistic Support Regiment, REME Battalion and RMP Company.

Further TA units would reinforce certain units in HQ Theatre Troops, provide specialist pool personnel, further specialist units (like RE Works Units) and further 3rd Line Support within the Logistic Brigades to be mobilised on enduring operations or national operations.

The whole CCRF crap would be binned as well.

Phil Z29
Phil Z29
January 26, 2012 6:10 pm

@ X and others,

I think we all have our own FF2020 Army organisation, and they all have there points.

But I have to agree with TD and X, I find it hard to see the MRB as a deployable force.

I do agree that a modern brigade should be, an all arms self contained formation.

I don’t think 4 battalions per brigade is a problem. In fact I have re-written my FF2020 Army, and given it 5 battalions per brigade! But please note Gabriele, no parachute units!

I am told by am ex bootie mate that the boot necks have more parachute trained guys than that regiment that fall from the sky? (well the one battalion of them that do anyway)

Phil Z29

January 26, 2012 6:26 pm

@ Phil re CCRF

In light of the summer riots and the performance of the police I think there is a need for more of civil contingency crap.

Don’t want the UK to follow the Continental or Banana Republic model of putting troops on to the street when the PM sneezes. But if we did have some disaster and the police struggled it might be useful to have formations specially trained. A sort of mini-gendarmerie/anti-terror unit if you will.

Being recruited from all over the UK I would push the Household Division into this role……..

January 26, 2012 6:27 pm

I can count on one hand how many bootie’s I’ve seen with wings up.

There’s nothing undeployable about a brigade group. It is simply a holding formation, a means to work units up to deploy – they might not deploy as anything like the Brigade Group peacetime ORBAT is.

For example, with WFM there’s no problems getting the kit to make 2 battalions armoured infantry for example.

And there’s no reason why ORBATs can’t be tweaked based on horizon scanning and likely interventions on a semi-permanent basis. So for example Iran gets messier, so a Brigade Group in the readiness stage can meet up with a bespoke set of kit for that likely role which if it does not get deployed the next brigade in the cycle inherits. Our units rarely, if ever, apart from the rapid reaction units, deploy in their peacetime ORBATs.

It’s all very flexible, it can all be changed with relative ease and if you use the TA more to make up for the changes it means less blokes get poached from other regular units.

January 26, 2012 6:32 pm

“In light of the summer riots and the performance of the police I think there is a need for more of civil contingency crap.”

The Army should be involved in civil contingency planning, but must always be as a last resort and not to plug gaps in civilian capabilities in the planning stage. This is central government policy.

To show you why CCRF is a pointless waste of time and money I have copied this paragraph from the Pitt Report on the 2007 floods in June and July.

“12.136 The Review has been asked why the
Civil Contingencies Reaction Forces (CCRF),
thirteen 500-strong groups of volunteers from
the Territorial Army capable of being mobilised
at short notice to assist in dealing with a major
civil emergency such as the floods, were
not mobilised. Behind the question was the
suggestion that help was not brought in as
quickly as it might have been if the CCRF had
been used.
12.137 The Review has been advised by the
MoD that the use of CCRFs was considered but
that it would have taken longer to mobilise the
CCRFs than it would to deploy regular forces
to the scene. Since time was of the essence,
regular Armed Forces personnel were used.
Further, after the first 24 hours the majority
of the work undertaken by the Armed Forces
required specialist skills which the CCRFs did
not have – for example engineering skills to
construct semi-permanent flood defences and
logistics specialists for the distribution of water
supplies. Finally, any reserve personnel in the
local area may have had other responsibilities
in the community which would have been lost if
they had been called up.”

ie to sum up, they are shit and pointless and loads of people could have told them that from the start.

January 26, 2012 6:32 pm

Phil said “I can count on one hand how many bootie’s I’ve seen with wings up.”

Parachute trained marines aren’t exactly rare; many of them are danger addicts. I just don’t think RM and Parachute Regiment are interchangeable. Compatible yes.

January 26, 2012 6:37 pm

“Being recruited from all over the UK I would push the Household Division into this role……..”

I couldn’t disagree more. The Army doing MACA is last resort stuff. Civilian response agencies are EXPRESSLY forbidden from including in their planning ANY military capabilities except the very specialised standing tasks like SAR, EOD and SAS anti-terror wing or whatever they are calling themselves these days.

A unit of the Army, trained and maintained to take to the streets to quell riots on the mainland is a wholly and utterly unacceptable route to take. It goes against every grain of sensible government thought on the matter. The MPS already has plenty of riot police and can call on mutual aid.

If they had used them properly in the first place without abandoning the public they were meant to protect then that shit wouldn’t have taken off.

Treasonous lack of backbone.

Institutional cowardice.

Damn them.

January 26, 2012 6:39 pm

“Parachute trained marines aren’t exactly rare;”

I think they are. There’s the SBS, Brigade Patrols etc etc etc but the vast majority of Commando units do not have large numbers of blokes eligible to wear wings. There’s not even enough sorties to keep the Para’s current – are they hiring their own planes?!

January 26, 2012 6:40 pm

Did I say the CCRF set-up as is worked? Did I not say we shouldn’t follow the Continental model of troops turning out for the least little thing?

It is obvious that inner city areas of the UK have groups that don’t really respect the law or even see themselves outside it. These islands are pretty cramped if things go Pete Tong it could be a bit nasty. But if you think we are safe I shall rest easy.

January 26, 2012 6:46 pm

@ Parachute trained marines.

Um. I didn’t say there were RM parachute formations did I? I didn’t say they were vast numbers just that Marines doing parachute wasn’t really rare as you applied.

And I am not sure where you are going with this anyway. Or why you started this line of questioning.

I have said in this thread and the Blackhole thread I wanted to free 2/3Para from 16AAB so they could be semi-independent formation used to back up 3Cdo (and my proposed Army commando unit in Blackhole) so that the parachuting capability is retained.

January 26, 2012 6:52 pm

“These islands are pretty cramped if things go Pete Tong it could be a bit nasty. But if you think we are safe I shall rest easy.”

The Army is not the answer. The Army doesn’t think so and neither does anyone who sensibly thinks about these things in Central Government.

“Send in the Army!”

And what, make up for the lack of preparedness, training, planning and leadership that local responders have shown? There’s too much of an inclination, despite policy being VERY clear on the matter, to rely on the Army. They did it with Foot and Mouth, they did it with the floods in 2007, some wanted it to happen in the riots. The Army is not an excuse to leave your house to fall into disorder and get bailed out.

January 26, 2012 6:54 pm

“And I am not sure where you are going with this anyway. Or why you started this line of questioning.”

“I am told by am ex bootie mate that the boot necks have more parachute trained guys than that regiment that fall from the sky?”

There. I wasn’t addressing you.

Phil Z29
Phil Z29
January 26, 2012 7:35 pm

@Sorry X and Phil,

I fear I am to blame for the crossed wires!

I mentioned the bootie bragging about the number of parachute trained boot necks.

A single light quick reaction brigade sounds the sensible way forward to me.

I also think that 6 month tours are the best way forward. But let’s hope post Afghan that that the number of operational tours can be kept to a minimum. Just a company in the Falklands would be nice!

Please, let’s never go back to the arms plot moves!

Phil Z29

January 26, 2012 8:02 pm

No PhilZ29! It is me posting from my netbook and new glasses that I just can’t used to.

Brian Black
Brian Black
January 26, 2012 9:53 pm

Phil Z29 mentions having only a single light quick reaction brigade. Most visitors here seem determined that we should keep two x four battalion/commando specialist brigades in one form or another (I’ve previously suggested two combined arms brigades, maintaining specialisms at battalion level). But would it be worthwhile to sacrifice part of that capability to direct more resources to the main army brigades? Could we get by with just two commandos and two para battalions, for example, perhaps in a single brigade? Maybe reducing our ambitions for those forces to four independently deployable battalion battlegroups. Or some other set up.

January 26, 2012 10:21 pm

@ Brian B

No a commando across the beach today is better than an armoured brigade 3 months hence.

Brian Black
Brian Black
January 26, 2012 11:07 pm

There’s three commandos plus an army battalion in 3cdo, so you could chop off quite a lump and still have a commando to lead any amphibious operation, x.
And should not our focus be on the enduring force provided by the main bulk of the army’s brigades; otherwise we risk losing the ability to deploy any significant force with staying power. We might end up with brigades across the board that are all flash, bang and fizzle, and have to pull out after a few months.

January 26, 2012 11:20 pm

I would chop 1 Rifles anyway off 3Cdo. No disrespect to 1 Rifles.

Who will be fighting long term with these brigades?

January 27, 2012 7:56 am

Just a disclaimer, I’m not British. Singaporean, I just came by to see how our Warthogs were holding up. Theory is fine, but honestly, I was much happier with 1st hand accounts. I can hear the conversation with an officer now. Officer: “In theory, it should take a mine blast easily.” Driver: “You 1st, Sir.”

That being said, it’s starting to look like people really want an air-mobile intervention force. So would the final structure be

1x Heavy Armour (Assault) Brigade
1x Air Mobile Intervention Brigade with air-lift capable Light Tanks/Tankettes (Fold the CDOs/Marines into this unit? Another advantage is that only one brigade will need amphibious lift, so it can be intergral)
3x MRBs with heavier infantry component and deeper reserves of manpower.

Advantage of concentrating all the “door opening” assets into a single unit also means that they can have specialised “super light” equipment designed for quick deployment instead of being stuck with what “the rest of the brigade” uses.

How does that look?

January 27, 2012 9:28 am

air mobile ops are a joke. especially in a forcible entry role. you can move at most one CH-47 per C-17.

in other words by the time you could get a credible air mobile force to an area of operations you could have better used the time to move a reinforced Brigade to the same place. if its inland then you can still make you of air mobile assets that arrive by ship.

long story short, amphibious shipping is important. especially to smaller forces with less options.

January 27, 2012 10:42 am

Never said shipping wasn’t. But shipping takes weeks, the heavy armour might not get there in time.

How the CH-47 is supposed to be used in cases like this is to do in-flight refueling. If it’s across a long distance, the pilot/co-pilot will cry, but it will get the job done.

A single Chook can carry a platoon of men, using only half the current UK fleet, that’s 30 platoons in addition to belly slung cargo like artillery guns and motars. That’s a battalion+ of infantry right there. C17s are not used to lift infantry or aircraft, they’re 2nd echelon and used to lift in semi-heavy armour like Warriors and CVRs after the infantry have secured landing zones.

One important caveat. Initial entry requires supression of the air defences, either by air strikes or naval bombardment. This is essential for the CH-47s to operate in hostile airspace. Friendly AH support helps too.

January 27, 2012 11:05 am

This is also not counting paratroops inserting into the field via C5/C130. That’s another 950+ troops into the field, if you can find that many para trained soldiers. Remember, I’m only using ~50% of total lift capability, assuming the rest are needed elsewhere. Even so, by numbers, you would have almost 3 battalions on the ground, not counting follow-up C17 armour.

So yes, I say it can be done. Not comfortable or nicely, but it can be done.

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
January 27, 2012 11:06 am

@Observer: heliborne ops have another issue, even if they self deploy: helicopters have a large tail, and consume large quantities of fuel. Why not paradrop vehicles instead? Fixed wing transport is one third of the cost, and doesn’t need the same degree of transit refuelling

January 27, 2012 11:23 am

Er… We did try airdropping a Frence AMX-13 scout tank from a pallet before. Broke the suspension and drive on landing. Project shelved.

And I agree on the fixed wing transport, it’s the best transport economy wise, which is why the “heavy armour” is being transported by them. Bad point is, they need an airfield. Helos, despite all their faults, don’t. I also included a component paradropped by C130/C5. The 2 methods I know that don’t need an airfield.

January 27, 2012 11:25 am

… darn typo.. French, from Franc(e)…

*smacks head*

January 27, 2012 11:28 am

how far away from home are you talking about operating. you can pack paratroopers into a C-17…fly them for 18 hours and drop them on the LZ but you’re going to have a pretty beat up fighting force just from jet lag alone. you can bet that it better be a short fight or you’ll lose your bridge head.

consider it a bridge too far. additionally you’re talking about a tremendous effort…do you have enough aerial refueling to take care of the fighters providing cover and the strikers? what are your guys going to do for air support? tomahawks can only hit stationary targets so fleeting targets of opportunity will be an issue.

January 27, 2012 11:43 am

Jet lag? :) Those cargo transports were the most comfortable planes I’ve ever slept in. Damn economy class flights…

And I agree it’s a tremendous effort. After all, this is a mini-invasion we’re talking about. As for Tomahawk strikes, we don’t need to destroy EVERYTHING, just the air defences. The ground troops are supposed to be the ones cleaning up the rest of the mess with 155mm and 81mm and 30mm.

In fact, your biggest headache would be damn sneaky infantry with MANPADs.

January 27, 2012 11:58 am

hmmm….not so sure. by your answer i’m guessing you’re talking about an operation at a much greater distance than Libya so lets say Central Africa to get us out of a comfort zone (meaning that we’re all familiar with combat in the desert…i’d almost argue that the desert is the most advantageous area for western militaries to fight in)…so you have a sub lobbying tomahawks at Command and control…you have your SAS and SBS marking targets for your first wave of Fighters to take out anything missed by the tomahawks (mobile anti-air….ok so we’re talking about invading S. Africa just to make this interesting) and assuming that you didn’t get the Gripens on the ground then they have to do fighter sweeps. so we’re back to the western way of war….probably 2 weeks of fighter sweeps and bombing before you put anyone on the ground.

you could have sailed there by now and arrived with a much bigger force that could either repair the airport that your fighters put out of commission or build one with proper support from the seabase that your navy is about to participate in with our exercise Bold Alligator! yep…anyway you slice it you still need naval assets and in the grand scheme of things two weeks is about right considering how we fight. western way of war. minimize casualties. minimize risk.

January 27, 2012 11:59 am

The VDV are pushed out of planes in their vehicles. But those peskie Ruskies use retro-rockets to slow the landing.

All I want is a few parachute companies on hand just in case.

@ solomon re long flights

But, but we always have host nation support in theatre. Honest. So there will never be any long distance flights. Jump in the ‘plane. Fly across the border. Jump out of ‘plane. Simple. (You have to put all silly notions of the Chinese buying influence all across the Third World out of you head. There will all be bases near. And overfly rights will always be obtained……)

January 27, 2012 12:04 pm

@ Brian Black – “Phil Z29 mentions having only a single light quick reaction brigade. Most visitors here seem determined that we should keep two x four battalion/commando specialist brigades….Could we get by with just two commandos and two para battalions, for example, perhaps in a single brigade?”

Not if we want to meet my ambition (and apparently the governments too), of a greater shift towards rapid-intervention from previous notions of persistent-stabilisation.

Not least because stabilisation requires a force size that would utterly scupper all other capabilities, i.e my oft-repeated contention that it would require an 8+1 brigade army (regular+commando) working on a 3:1 deployment ratio.

This is why both the US and the UK have come up with the idea of [limited] stabilisation, as it constrains ambitions while preserving resources for other purposes, notably [punitive] interventions.

So, in short, it ain’t ever happening!

7 brigades will always be a 5:2 split between regular/commando, and if we ever sink to 6 brigades i can pretty much guarantee it will end up a 4:2 split between regular/commando.

January 27, 2012 12:15 pm

Hi Sol,

“so lets say Central Africa to get us out of a comfort zone (meaning that we’re all familiar with combat in the desert”
– or let’s say Kolwezi, even further out in the Congo
– practice run done with old, crappy equipment (worked)

January 27, 2012 12:15 pm

Solomon, if you bomb for 2 weeks, you’re doing it wrong. Blitzkreig please. And if you’re talking about Africa, even better, stretches of undefended land, just land the troops without interference. 1 day max insertion. Day 2+, you’re into ops time already.

And X is right, I screwed up on the strategic picture, aggressive attack is the doctrine from MY country, fighting for strategic depth. The only time the UK would ever be in such a tearing hurry is if an ally is about to come under imminent attack, which means the air transport will be coming in into friendly territory. In this case, equipment can come in by C17/5 while troops take commercial chartered flights in.

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
January 27, 2012 12:15 pm

@Solomon: lets face it, unless it’s a small scale raid, we’re never going to be thousands of miles away from reinforcement. However, given that fixed wing can carry far more weight than rotary, I’m slightly surprised on the obsession on the having ever larger heliborne units, that cost far more than equivalent fixed wing transported units, and still have a radius of action of no more than 100 miles. The UK would be better served with a parachute brigade that could do the theatre entry and operational manoeuvre roles via parachute and TALO, with organic light armour, with 2-3 light role battalions organised and trained for air mobile operations, rather than the current mix

January 27, 2012 12:22 pm

The reference to VDV by x is a good one
– S O’s website has a piece on airportable armour and that piece includes a video link on how these drops work (with that little bit of brake applied in the very last minute)

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
January 27, 2012 12:25 pm

@x: we could learn from those Russkies. 12 C17’s carrying 6 CVR(T) each and a para battalion would allow us to re-capture MPA quite handily after the swarms of Argie SF take it by pretending to be a tourist liner in distress seeking emergency access to Mare Harbour :-)

Would make the amphibious follow up much easier too!

January 27, 2012 12:40 pm

RF, mel cupa, X was right, I was too focused on an assault entry into a hostile theatre. You’re right, fixed wing is the best for this kind of scenario. No need to drop tanks too, fast intervention is for reinforcement of an ally, not breaking and entering.

January 27, 2012 12:42 pm

@ JediBeefTrix

As an idea limited stabilisation sounds a bit wobbly to me.

@ Observer

Singapore has no strategic depth just like say Israel. That is why offence is the best defence.

Phil Z29
Phil Z29
January 27, 2012 1:05 pm

@ jedbeeftrix and Brian Black,

Having one specialist light quick reaction brigade, (I would suggest of 5 Battalions), with one RM CDO battalion, and one airmobile battalion as its spearhead makes sense to me. Why would you need two?

I see much has been said about parachuting in infantry. In my opinion, parachute drops are a thing of the past, as are cavalry charges and pike phalanxes. I think we will find that parachute training, for other than special forces will soon disappear. (At last).

In my view, the army must first plan for the worst case scenario, which in my opinion is still a full on war in Europe. That may not be an immediate threat, and therefore we can be at low readiness for it, but it’s still the one we must plan for. The challenge is, having a force to deal with that threat, yet still having options to deal with minor or not so minor, conflicts which may emerge from anywhere.


January 27, 2012 1:22 pm

@ X – “As an idea limited stabilisation sounds a bit wobbly to me.”

To quote from those who coined the idea (see the pun?):

“The limited stabilization mission anticipates opposed, minimum essential pacification of a state, territory, or region — friendly or hostile — where central authority has failed and disorder itself threatens core U.S. Interests. Likeliest use of the limited stabilization option is in the establishment of functional security in the most important areas of a crippled state or region. By definition then, limited stabilization is not optimized for bottom-up, long-duration nation-building but instead focuses on establishing and maintaining those minimum essential security conditions necessary for the local reconstitution of effective political authority.”

“Thus, increasingly the FM 3-07/FM 3-24 blueprint will instead have to be a menu; where minimum essential outcomes are pursued through selective and limited stabilization and reconstruction efforts in pursuit of ‘good enough’ but certainly not ideal outcomes. The next failed or failing foreign regime will get something less than ‘all in’ from the USG.”

“HEAT challenges will increasingly become the objects of dissuasion, deterrence, and, at their most intense level, coercive campaigns — certainly not regime change. Whereas, small wars of disorder need to increasingly be seen as management challenges where intervention seeks to drive active threats to levels senior decision makers find manageable. To the inevitable retort that failure to go ‘all in’ in any small war only guarantees U.S. forces will have to return, the best answer is “perhaps”; as the absolute cost of one, two, or more future wars like Iraq and Afghanistan become increasingly unthinkable.”

@ Phil Z29 – “Having one specialist light quick reaction brigade, (I would suggest of 5 Battalions), with one RM CDO battalion, and one airmobile battalion as its spearhead makes sense to me. Why would you need two?”

Because HMG wants to build up a capacity for punitive intervention, not tear it down, and at the same time it wants to create a limit on presumptions of our allies as to the scale of support they can expect of us: “no sir, we have 5 MRB’s on a 4:1 harmony guideline, you can have a commitment to one brigade and no more. we can surge a further battlegroup for a six month period if that is necessary……?”

Why two in particular, because by having the day to day requirement of a reinforced battlegroup ready for an intervention we permit forces that are still capable of fighting as a brigade in time of need.

January 27, 2012 1:35 pm


An opposed air assault, parachute insertion? You first!

January 27, 2012 1:38 pm

+1 Jackstaff and +1 Observer. A post on Singapore might be pretty interesting (hint).

Also, what with all this talk about multirole brigades and spreading the heavy armour among them, perhaps we should have gone Antonov back in 2002 or thereabouts, using some of the FRES money. a couple of squadrons of AN-124 = deployability, plus lots of NATO and EU brownie points via SALIS.

January 27, 2012 1:45 pm

Phil, that IS part of my job description, so yes, me first.

January 27, 2012 1:49 pm

Alex, yes those things are huge! They were chartered to ship our Apaches to Australia from Singapore and they did 4 of them per trip!

On the other hand, Russian stuff are famous/notorious for being hard to maintain, so all in all, I’m glad we simply chartered and leave all the logistical/maintainence nightmares to them.

Alan Garner
Alan Garner
January 27, 2012 2:07 pm

In terms of combat power my best guess is that a MRB will lose 1 btn of armoured infantry and gain 1 btn of mech infantry compared to a current armoured brigade, making it more of an armour/mech/light hybrid. Any enemy Britain faces in the lives of current kit will be 70’s-80’s era Soviet stuff. Surely 1 MRB vs 1 Soviet style division with T72’s, bmp1’s/2’s in a fair fight would only have one outcome, and ideally we’d never be in a fair fight.

Once fully realized, ie Bulldog replacement for mech inf and foxhound for light role inf, then on paper (US heavy BCT aside) a MRB looks to me to have a similar amount of combat power as most other NATO brigades. Is 1btn swapping from armoured to mechanized (if that is the case) really that much of a loss of combat power?

January 27, 2012 2:23 pm

Well… yes and no..

Is there a big loss of firepower? Yes, the loss of tank main guns is a big downgrade. If you were to fight top of the line equipment, the effects would be felt.

Is it a bad thing? Maybe not. The Mechanized Infantry fighting vehicles fire MUCH faster that a tank main gun, and 30mm is enough to crack the shells of many T-72 variants. During Gulf War II, more armoured kills were made by M2 IFVs than M1 MBTs. Maybe the swap might be a good thing after all.

January 27, 2012 3:03 pm

“Phil, that IS part of my job description, so yes, me first.”

An opposed air assault or parachute drop is bordering on suicide. No serious military thinker expects to conduct such an operation, and certainly not at any distance against a peer enemy.

Losses would be horrendous and likely crippling before the first bloke hit the ground – dead probably. Even with top cover.

The Market Garden and D-Day drops took losses that would be well in excess of what we’d deem acceptable or could absorb today. The US alone lost 42 Dakota’s on 6/7 June 1944.

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
January 27, 2012 3:21 pm

: perhaps you could mention this to the 75th Ranger regiment? They’ve conducted such drops several times in the last 30 years, without crippling losses. Declaring D-Day losses as “unacceptable” smacks of complacency: will we never, ever have to conduct such operations again? I’ll bet in 1930, no one thought WW2 was likely either…

Secondly, just like amphibious landings, it’s preferable not to do so where large quantities of SAM’s, AAA, and eager beavers with machine guns are nearby. Unless we intend to invade North Korea, I would aver there are many locations where a parachute force could land and encounter nothing more threatening than a farmer with a pitchfork. Equip the force with vehicles to make it mobile, ideally protected vehicles, and the defensive problem becomes very hard to solve…

January 27, 2012 3:30 pm

: perhaps you could mention this to the 75th Ranger regiment? They’ve conducted such drops several times in the last 30 years, without crippling losses. ”

En mass against a peer enemy?

You can’t just ignore words in my post and then present an argument.

There is only one air force in the world that could even afford to physically lose 42 transport aircraft and those were lost to blokes firing guns in the air, not to a modern air defence network with SAMs. We don’t even have 42 planes to lose.

Yes parachute drops have been done since 1944 but nothing like Market Garden or D-Day. All have been in semi or completely permissive environments.

Can you imagine the 82nd Airborne overflying a Soviet Army and dropping into its rear and still being fit to fight?

January 27, 2012 3:31 pm

“Secondly, just like amphibious landings, it’s preferable not to do so where large quantities of SAM’s, AAA, and eager beavers with machine guns are nearby.”

You mean, 10 miles from the bridge?

January 27, 2012 3:35 pm

Ok, ok it took me a while but I finally got the hint Alex. Yes, DU has nothing compared to me regarding density. :P

In some ways, Singapore is in the same straits as the UK, severe manpower shortages limit the number of platforms that can be deployed. In others, the conditions are different, especially in regards to mission scope and budget, the UK having a massively expanded mandate as opposed to local defence, and budget, Europe being the heaviest hit by the economic crisis.

In the begining, it was obvious that we were not going to be able to match our neighbours with regards to manpower, they have 10x the population. Good luck trying to win against that. So in response, the counter was to modernise/mechanise/automate.

Don’t think the army has much to offer in comparison, the structures are almost the same division wise, and the manpower shortage isn’t as badly felt here due to large scale conscription.

Navy wise, there are a few things that might be interesting.

1: Automation.

The RSN ships are heavily automated. And I MEAN heavily. The initial investment may be painful, but it allows massive manpower savings. A T45 runs with 190? crew. A RSN Formidable frigate with approximately similar capabilities run with ~90 crew. The LSTs show an even more drastic discrepency, an Albion has 300+ crew. An Endurance has 65. Even with a 2 for 1 comparison, it’s still 130 vs 300.

Best of all, you don’t have to pension electronics. :P That’s a 50% savings in manpower costs right there. Minus initial outlay of course.

2: More automation. :P

What do you do with your LSTs when your marines are not practicing “How to invade someone in 10 easy steps.”?

Ans: Plug in some control modules, replace the landing boats with Spartan and Protector USVs and use it to replace a destroyer used in piracy protection. A single LST can control up to 6 USVs + 2 helos, on a 3 up/3 down shift (it’s not going to complain about overtime) a USV can take over the duties of up to 2-3 escorts. You don’t need an all up destroyer to stop a speedboat after all, and this saves on the need for more destroyers, allowing them to concentrate on their main job. Fleet air defence.

Air Force, not much here too, most of our stuff is multi-roled, same as yours.

Guess the Navy was where the interesting stuff is.

January 27, 2012 3:35 pm

I thought Phil meant no Parachuting onto an enemy division, rather than parachuting into an enemy country.

January 27, 2012 3:49 pm

I mean conducting a drop anywhere near a peer enemy.

There’s plenty of times an air drop can take place, but pulling another D-Day or Market Garden is almost certainly out of the question.

Nobody thought such a scenario even likely except the Soviets and whilst they had their dinky AFVs (all of which can be done over with a 66 LAW) they were just as vulnerable on the ingress as anyone else was. And I’d bet the farm that going up against even a degraded NATO AD network would have seen enormous casualties from plunging planes because obviously although the US lost 42 airframes, the individual airframes now carry a lot more men. The whole Soviet airborne capability was never seriously meant for central front type scenario’s – ie in a non-permissive environment.

January 27, 2012 4:00 pm

Automation on a ship can only go so far. You need people to conduct damage control, computers cannot put out fires or shore up bulkheads or hammer wood into gaping holes in the hull.

Which brings me onto a point about AShM I was going to mention earlier. It is fire and not blast that kills ships. An AShM that detonates with fuel still not consumed can and does kill ships far more effectively than hitting at extreme range when all the fuel is gone.

On board USS Stark lots of sailors had terrible burns to their feet as the water run off they were wading through from fighting fires started to boil.

Blow a hole in a destroyer and especially if she turns her stern into it, damage is not that bad. Get that ship to burn and she will go down, and the less hands on board the harder it is to put out those fires.

January 27, 2012 4:00 pm

Phil, what bridge? You talking about Op Market Garden? A single op in WWII and that’s your example of how it can’t be done, and all your hyperbole of “serious military thinkers”? Why not use Greece as an example? Or Op Rugby? Or Urgent Fury?

Another thing you might have misunderstood. With such a large amount of troops going in, you’re not going to seize a single objective. You’re there to seize EVERYTHING.

And despite what you imagine of chains and chains of SAM sites protecting a border, reality is that along a long border, there WILL be gaps in air defence that will allow a force to land. Whether the gaps are a product of enemy numbers vs terrain or because the SAM site in question met with a traffic accident involving a head on collision with a Tomahawk, is irrelevant. What is important is that there will be a place to land and do a ground advance, clearing more SAM sites and increasing the area for forces to come in.

BTW, considering that considerations for such an assault is part of my professional thinking, not to mention it’s my ass on the line, don’t you think it might be a bit insulting to imply that I’m not a “serious military thinker”?

January 27, 2012 4:10 pm

“Phil, what bridge? You talking about Op Market Garden?”

I was just being facetious, it’s a good quote, chill out.

Use as many examples as you like, I think nearly all suffered air frame losses that only the US could even think about sustaining now. And that was from WWII AAA defences, not modern integrated AD networks.

“You’re there to seize EVERYTHING.”

Everything of what? A whole country?

There isn’t even, with the possibility of the USAF, anyone capable of supporting and conducting a divisional sized drop.

“And despite what you imagine of chains and chains of SAM sites protecting a border, reality is that along a long border, there WILL be gaps in air defence that will allow a force to land.”

Ah those gaps that the enemy are somehow blind to or paralysed by? Thing is, if it’s worth dropping a division onto, it’s worth defending.

I’m not saying that planes won’t get through, I am saying that losses would be unacceptably high before they even hit the ground against a peer enemy so don’t bang on about some second rate power you were talking about an opposed operation previously.

“BTW, considering that considerations for such an assault is part of my professional thinking, not to mention it’s my ass on the line, don’t you think it might be a bit insulting to imply that I’m not a “serious military thinker”?”

Nope. You’re a big boy.

Like I said, if you think an opposed airborne drop against a peer enemy is possible then after you. The whole Market Garden, D-Day, Rugby, Crete etc days are over. Airborne drops have their place, but not a mass drop against peer opposition.

Brian Black
Brian Black
January 27, 2012 4:17 pm

Parachute forces give us some tactical options, but we hardly want to go dropping onto the enemy’s heads with what we have available. If we were to drop more than a small raiding or recce force, then we could drop a battalion which would then be needed to hold the area for the next wave, rather than getting themselves immediately tied up with winning the war – with the second wave aircraft ideally touching down to disembark its force. So short hops only, no long distance invasion. And preferably avoiding unnecessary contacts on the first day.

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
January 27, 2012 4:17 pm

: I’m with @Observer on this one. There will always be gaps, even against a peer, and rolling back AD networks can be done. Not to say it’s not a risky business, but against a peer, anything becomes a risky business, and the payoff could well be large.

“another D-Day or Market Garden is almost certainly out of the question”. OK, why? If you have such a great crystal ball, please tell me the next Grand National winner :-)

January 27, 2012 4:22 pm

Phil, go to Youtube and find the Australian Navy’s Collins class sub’s test firing. After you see that, come tell me again how explosions are “not that damaging” to the ship. Or the recent sinking of the South Korean corvette.

You might want to compare the similarities of the 2 cases. Namely, that both ships broke in 2 from the blast. Still think explosions are “not that bad”?

January 27, 2012 4:36 pm

Well Rupert, if there isn’t a gap, I’m sure we can schedule some unfortunate… trafic accident.. to happen to the SAM site. Those Harpoon/Tomahawk drivers are so careless nowadays. :P

Phil, in case you don’t understand, if you can’t find a gap in air defence, make one yourself with cruise missiles or artillery.

Brian Black
Brian Black
January 27, 2012 4:46 pm

To be fair, observer, Phil was talking about anti-ship missiles rather than torpedoes. A generally much larger warhead exploding against a hull, with the density of the water only directing the blast through the ship. Different weapons meant to have different effects.

January 27, 2012 4:57 pm

@ Brian Black

Not against the hull. The shock wave pushes the (uncompressible) water in a “plug” against the keel which breaks the ship’s back. Contact with the hull wouldn’t cause as much damage. In many ways a ASM hitting a ship and exploding within similar to a bullet striking a human body. As long as the fire can be contained and watertight zones be maintained the ship has a good chance of surviving (if not moving and fighting) the initial strike. A Long Lance / USV weapon may be one way of defeating increasingly sophisticated missile defence systems without all the hypersonic rhubarb.

Phil Z29
Phil Z29
January 27, 2012 4:58 pm

Have I gone back thirty years in time!

If you lost only one plane to triple A alone, that would be nearly a company gone from your battalion! God only knows what the losses would be if there was just couple of guys with shoulder launched surface to air missiles around, it would be total carnage!

We are only going to have 22 such planes. Those planes would have to go back a drop supplies the next day!

If the LZ is clear, you have a clear flight path to it, why oh why would you not use Helicopters?
It’s a soft drop; you can escort them in with attack helicopters.

Even Special Forces prefer the helicopter option these days!

Anyway, according to Mr Hammond today, we are to have 5 MRBs.

Phil Z29

Brian Black
Brian Black
January 27, 2012 4:59 pm

One of the strengths of airborne forces is not what you might do with it, but that your enemy doesn’t know what you might do with it. So talk of air defence sites around a country preventing an airborne operation ignores the fact that having airborne forces requires the enemy to invest its limited military resources defending every possible approach or landing site regardless of whether you actually use your airborne troops or not. Similar can be said for amphibious forces.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
January 27, 2012 5:11 pm

@ Observer – I’ve been interested in the Endurance class as a USV/UUV mothership for a while now; do you happen to have any good links about this development?

RE: Paratroop landings. Been interested in the possibility of airborne operations for a while.

An idea for the Commando brigade(s)?

January 27, 2012 5:16 pm


Torpedo’s are a different matter. We were talking about AShM. And I stand by my point, fire is more damaging to vessels on the whole than blast. Ask a sailor what he fears the most and he will say fire. Sheffield burned to death. Galahad and Atlantic Conveyor burned to death.

Glamorgan took a hit from Exocet and survived and moved away under her own power. Sheffield took a hit and the unspent fuel burned her out not least because it took out the fire main. The USS Stark only didn’t sink because the crew did a truly heroic job in fire fighting and got their feet boiled as they stood in the magazine spraying water at the bulkheads. Unspent fuel can fall into shafts, hatches and ventilation spreading very quickly and causing dramatic problems, as does the run off from the fire fighting.