A balanced force with a balanced budget ?

A guest post from Jed…

TD has recently regailed us with posts on the Post Afghan vehicle lottery and on aspects of operational mobility (just to back up his veritable reference work on bridging!), including his awesome series of specialist mobility video postings.

In the comment threads, plus those on earlier articles there is countless discussion of wheels versus tracks, CVR(T) 2.0 versus FRES SV etc. Personally I have always thought that “wheels versus tracks” is a non-existing argument – in fact we very obviously need both and we should use the right tool for the right job wherever and whenever we can.

However my thoughts on Future Force 2020 and what the army might look like evolve every time I read another interesting article or re-read interesting comments in the various threads. The evolution of the “perfect” post Afghanistan force structure for the British Army is apparently a cause close to many of our hearts, even ex-Navy men like me ! However as none of us are endowed with the ability to read the tea leaves of the geo-political future, we can’t really do anything other than attempt to design a force structure that meets the requirements of the SDSR, with a balanced set of capabilities that has the ability to enable a flexible response by UK forces to a potentially very broad set of contingencies.

Following this train of thought, I constantly return of two of TD’s enduring themes:

1. Massive commonality of vehicle type – with the aim to reduce logistics burden and through lifecycle cost by maximising maintenance benefits and simplifying the spares holdings etc.

2. Providing niche capabilities – providing NATO and ad hoc coalitions, or other alliances with specific ‘niche’ capabilities that lever what we are good at, or what we are already equipped to do.

Using these lenses to view the expeditionary requirements of the SDSR, with HMG’s confirmed desire to meddle in other people’s backyards in order to safeguard our national security interests, my own thoughts on force structure and Tables Of Equipment (ToE) have swung back and forth as the debate rages in the comment threads.

For example, I have never been a ‘fan’ or proponent of the 8 x 8 wheeled AFV as a replacement for tracked medium weight vehicles. However a few vociferous commenters are great fans of the concept, and their arguments with respect to strategic self-deployment, and operational mobility in theatre are not completely without merit. On the other hand, although just about everyone admits that the day of the 60 tonne plus MBT are really not over, with even the COIN-istas admitting their utility, the questions remain as to how often we might require their capabilities in any great numbers, and what is the best way to retain their certain advantageous capabilities.

Questions, questions and more questions…..

I would like to examine a few of the questions that pop up in my mind before indulging in a little bit of “fantasy fleet” force structure design.

Question 1 – do operational requirements outweigh the cost benefits of massive standardisation ?

If we could standardize on 3 ‘fighting vehicle’ fleets (not including MBT) with:

  • 1 tracked medium family (upgraded Warrior or FRES SV),
  • 1 wheeled Medium family (FRES UV) and
  • 1 light wheeled family (Foxhound);

plus some oddities like RM Viking, then would the cash benefits outweigh any potential operational flexibility costs ?

Question 2 – does filling a ‘niche’ mean going to extremes ?

Our NATO allies are divesting themselves of MBT’s and reducing their numbers of high end tracked, medium to heavy weight MICV / AIFV type vehicles, well most of them are – the U.S. and Turkey to a lesser extent. So should we aim for that niche, do a U-turn on MBR’s and go all heavy at one end and all light at the other ? Keep all our Chally 2’s and Warriors, upgrade them, get FRES SV into service, and build up the capabilities of our elite light infantry units at the other end of the capability spectrum ? After all we are no longer fighting the cold war, so do we need a the equivalent of TA infantry battalions in Saxon, able to zoom along the autobahn to re-enforce BAOR ?

But as I suggest, with the SDSR requirements, this is hardly a likely niche to focus on, is it ?

So could we go the other way ?

Reduce heavy armour and tracks to a minimalist capability, relying on allies to bring the tanks if we end up in another GW1 / GW2 type scenario ? Does the French, Italian, and U.S. (Stryker brigade) all wheeled brigade type of force fulfill the requirements of a what is largely an expeditionary force ?

Question 3 – is there a middle ground, some heavy tracked, and some medium wheeled ?

Can we truly afford to keep the “full spectrum’ war fighting capability of Challenger 2 regiments, Warrior armoured infantry, FRES SV ‘Formation Recce’ and find a suitable FRES UV wheeled armoured vehicle to replace all those thousand plus FV432 and CVR(T) variants, Mastiff’s, Wolfhounds and Ridgebacks ?

Can we dismiss ‘massive commonality” in favour of operational flexibility in the shape of some big, weighty well protected 8 x 8 to replace some tracks (say Patria AMV or RG41), while buying a cheaper 6 x 6 or 4 x4 (say RG35) to take on all the supporting roles ?

Question 4 – what roles for the reserves ?

People keep noting in the comments that fast paced armoured manoeuvre warfare is no role for part-time soldiers. I am not sure I agree. The assertion might be true the way the TA is structured right now, but other nations don’t have a problem with reservist armour crews – perhaps taking a leaf from the Israeli training manual we would only allow ex-full time ‘professionals’ into such units ? I have seen the big halls full of Challenger and Warrior simulators in Germany; spending a whole weekend buttoned up in one of those has to be a solid training experience !

We recently discussed the tooth to tail ratio with respect to the reserves – should the focus be on CSS units rather than on infantry and armour ? Perhaps this is the wrong way of looking at things ? Perhaps we should be asking if we need to rely on reservists to augment full timers on long term enduring operations, or instead should we aim to only fall back on a large scale short-ish duration call out of large numbers reservists if we commit a full (large) division to a short term high intensity operation ?

I would like to suggest two straw man options for people to pull to bits. However first I would just like to digress to cover the two “intervention” brigades, the units that SDSR FF2020 state are “out of the rotation” for a long enduring operation – 3 Commando Brigade RM, and 16 Air Assault Brigade

For each of these brigades, with 4 infantry units, I would use the existing vehicles to provide an “armoured support group” such as that which already exists for 3 Cdo with it’s Vikings. For 16 AAB (which I would change role and title a bit, but we don’t need to go there right now) we could use the 100 plus Warthog’s plus some additions. For both vehicles we should purchase some dedicated 120mm mortar versions with the STK SRAMS for example. The Warthog group might get some recce variants based just on the front module as I suggested previously.

Straw man force structures

Of course we can mess with the structure of the MRB’s and other units as required to fit our own agendas J For both potential solutions there are sizing options we can consider too, however I don’t want to explore all the variables, just to really examine the vehicle fleet options:

#1: The high end – low end option – mixed MRB’s

So straw man number 1 is a high-low mix, with nothing in the middle, but with a mixed set of capabilities based on both tracked and wheeled vehicles within the MRB. So five identical MRB’s of:

  • 1 x FRES SV family based Brigade Recce Regiment
  • 1 x Armoured Infantry Regiment on upgraded Warrior
  • 2 x Mechanised Infantry Regiment on FRES UV family based on RG35 variants
  • 1 x Artillery Regiment – resurrected LIMAWS based on single pod of rockets, and M777 on RG35 or other wheeled chassis.
  • CS – Combat Engineers with tracked as required (FRES SV family)
  • CSS – mostly FRES UV based

A am sure a squadron of Chally 2, a TA regiment of AS90 and an extra infantry battalion could be attached as required ? Should there be 4 infantry battalions as the norm and if so, can 1 be “Light role” as they would in the peacekeeping / peace enforcing / COIN scenarios they would be guarding bases etc and could patrol in Foxhounds if required ? Or should the deployable Brigade be capable of putting all it’s infantry on the move under armour, for more “intensive” scenarios ?

The aim here is to keep the FRES SV and Warrior upgrade programmes as they are, already funded etc. but add a single large family of FRES UV to replace a lot of existing old vehicles and make as much as possible of the “massive commonality” them at the wheeled, lower weight end.  Of course we would add Foxhound family based vehicles as required.

If you think about it, this is not radical at all, we would just be looking for the money to buy a lot of RG35 series vehicles, built in the UK if required to replace lots of old, mostly tracked vehicles. You could still mess with whether or how much of the MBT capability sits in the reserves or main force etc.

#2: High – middle – low

I want to be deliberately more contentious with this one, so hang in there with me, and just follow it through:

Heavy end:

  • 1 x Regular Armoured Brigade – 2 x MBT Regt. & 2 x Armoured Infantry (Warrior)
  • 1 x Reserve Armoured Brigade – as above

The Reserve formation would actually be twice as big, but with whole fleet management of the vehicles the concept is 2 regiments or battalions would share 1 regiment or battalions worth of vehicles. This means of course in time of call up we should have no problem getting a full complement of warm bodies for the ‘war time establishment’ of the units, plus probably some additional as ‘battle casualty replacements’.

The regular armoured brigades units would operate their squadrons / company’s on the 1 in 4 rotation, so that at any one time there should be a 12 tank squadron and a company of Warrior carried infantry available to the deployed MRB, with another available to support the ‘intervention’ brigade(s).

Medium wheeled:

  • 4 x MRB each with:
    • 1 x Brigade Recce Regiment on 8 x 8 AFV (e.g. Patria AMV or RG41)
    • 1 x Armoured Infantry on 8 x 8 AFV
    • 2 x Mechanised Infantry on 6 x 6 or 4 x 4 (e.g. RG35)

Potentially some Combat Support units would need the more expensive 8 x 8 vehicles. Combat Service Support would be mainly on the 6 x 6 or 4 x 4 platforms.

Notice that I am not mixing tracked FRES SV for Brigade Recce with the rest of the MRB on wheels. So we could go the cheap and easy short term route and ditch FRES SV family and rely on upgraded Warriors OR do the exact opposite and lever the investment in FRES SV and replace Warrior with FRES SV Protected Mobility variants.

The heavy armour units have potential to cause some of you varying amounts of apoplexy too. I would suggest 4 squadrons of 12 Challenger 2’s (4 x 12 = 42 + 2 = 50), plus a Recce squadron of 16 Warrior Recce variants – so I guess that’s a Type 66 Regiment ?

Also as TD has described for us previously, the upgrade path for Chally 2’s main armament is not an easy one; not easy to fit a 120mm smooth bore, nor easy to start production of a top of the range kinetic energy round for the current rifled gun. Two suggestions to fan the flames; put the Jordanian Falcon turret on them, or sell them off or scrap em’ and buy some second hand Leopard 2 A5 / A6’s.

The fifth Brigade / Formation Recce Regiment should have a vehicle able to support the Vikings and Warthogs of the intervention brigades – I am not going to map this to TD’s weight categories / break points , I will let you do that.

So, how many infantry battalions would we have all together in this heavy, medium, light and wheeled plus tracked force structure:

  • 5 battalions in the ‘intervention’ brigades (1 in 3 Cdo, 4 in 16 AAB)
  • 2 Armoured Infantry (tracked) on Warrior
  • 4 Armoured Infantry (wheeled) on 8 x 8
  • 8 Mechanised Infantry (wheeled) on 6 x 6 or 4 x 4
  • 2 Cyprus garrison battalions
  • 1 School of Infantry / Warminster battalion
  • 4 London Public Duties Guards battalions

Unfortunately I guess this would need us to bring back the “arms plot” and rotate units through specialisms in order to mix in the nice jollies to Cyprus and chicks sticking phone numbers into bearskins, with the rotation of MRB’s into the latest trouble spot.

In summary, my second straw man proposal provides an army with everything from elite light infantry for airmobile ops (Paras in 16 AAB), to specialist armoured infantry in tracked AIFV’s, through similar troops but in wheeled vehicles, to mechanised infantry delivered to the edge of the battle area in less tactically mobile 6 x 6 vehicles (and hopefully we could afford to buy some of these for a decent amount of the reserve infantry too !). However although it offers a “well balanced” force to take on a “full spectrum” of operations, it would introduce a whole raft of different vehicle types:

  • MBT and associated engineer support vehicles
  • Tracked medium weight AIFV – Warrior AND FRES SV, or maybe consolidated on just one type
  • Wheeled medium weight AIFV – for example the Patria AMV family or the BAe RG41 or similar
  • Wheeled medium weight APC / FRES Utility Vehicle family – for example the BAe RG35 family
  • Lighter weight wheeled family – Foxhound family in various versions
  • High Mobility Protected mobility vehicles – BVS10 Mk2 Vikings for 3 Cdo Brigade Armoured Support group and STK Warthog for 16 AAB Armoured Support Group
  • Light weight specialist vehicles – Supacats, ATV’s etc etc…..

Is this model affordable and sustainable ?





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February 17, 2012 8:32 pm

Bravo, Jed!

Also BZ, but just a plain bravo to start. Another excellent post and it’s been too long since the last one. There seems to be some continued commonality between our “if-I-ruled-the-world” ideas (except that I’d axe 16AAB and move its capabilities elsewhere.) I’ve actually spent a lot of back-of-fag-packet time on this at work and elsewhere the last little while because it’s of a piece with this carriers thing I’m working on (since carriers and what to make of them is a big spoke in the “what are the Forces there to do over the next twenty-five years or so?” wheel.) Just to throw in my own ideas for comparison because it might be quicker than rambling with cross-comparisons:

– I’m not an empirical believer in several of the rosier ideas about future force use and capabilities for the UK, individually and among its European allies. (Also think the Dutch and Danes failed to learn from their own experience in the Stan that small forces mean you combine your arms more, not less. “Niche” even in a country of 5.4 million is for photo ops and political CVs, not for national defence.)
– As a result I think the UK will deploy, not more often, but to more important crises (with more immediate urgency, complexity, volatility, and possible knock-on bad effects than anything since the late months of 2001), more often alone or as a leader rather than supporting member, and will need to do so when those times come both with greater speed (getting there) and effect (getting into action.)
– Starting from an offshore watery locale like Britain does, that means kicking in (sometimes really kicking in, against varying degrees of opposition) a watery door and flowing khaki cargo over it. Also means formng up said khaki cargo so that you can get maximum self-sustaining effect out of a “package” you can actually move.

For that reason I come back to the Yanks’ Marine Expeditionary Brigade model, not because the Army should just “be a projectile fired by the Royal Navy,” but because it’s going to be a smaller Army and it’s going to get to grips with the Queen’s enemies in any decent force over the sea, at some logistical distance from home resources. (The speed thing, too, mitigates friendly basing — massacres of your expats, genocide, civil wars spilling over into friendly territory, territorial/resource ambitions that know they’ve only got one window of opportunity, those won’t wait for you to sort out bills of lading and dock schedules in a nearby country.)

So I stick with the Maneouvre Brigade, CS Brigade, CSS Brigade model. Stick damn near all the regulars’ resources for same into those divisional shapes. This concentrates your resources, makes it possible to properly support your pointy-bits brigade in the field without a really huge tail (I keep coming out in the 12-13,000 pax range for the whole “division” and the USMC has 2-stars run their MEBs), follows Nick Carter’s suggestion about not giving brigadiers too much to manage nor enough logistical support. Also means the pointy brigade is geared more towards full-spectrum combat rather than COIN/stability, although you could re-role with sufficient training time.

After experiments like yours — I like your high-low model quite a lot — I ended up with the main force packed in four of these divisions. The maneouvre brigade would take a “square” infantry brigade (three 8×8 mech bns much on the Stryker model though like you I’d go for AMV or RG41, and one not just “light role” but actually thoroughly trained in air assault, including landing zone prep and management, some fast roping, etc.) Then I’d stick an armoured fist on top. So:

2x armoured cavalry regiments (1×2 Chally 2 for command staff, 2×14 C2 squadrons, 2×14 “Warrior Scout” squadrons with recce electronics aboard, WRAP, and a four-man scout/fireteam crammed in back)

3x 8×8 mech battalions (I’d have an extra two in each brigade’s “force pool” — those would work their way through two six-month rotations for either NI duty or backup persistent battlegroup, and then persistent battlegroup itself, regrouping-up-deploy-down, so a total of four years away then back to brigade — while the divisions would work in year-long cycles so you don’t sync out)

1x air assault bn (2x coys of riflemen, perhaps many of them DMs, and 2x coys back to the airmobile AT model, so your bn can do flanking, screening, rear security, and sudden reinforcement even of the armour up front)

So four of those divisions working the rebuild-up-ready-down cycle year by year. Gear to deploy a maximum of three of them in a balloon-up emergency (actually gear for all four, but the “fourth” as training plus war reserve.) Also splitting the brigades this way so they’re not mixed has a knock-on effect. You can deploy a “persistent battlegroup” (even one with two bns in) forever and ever, especially with some TA support. Or, you can jump up to deploying a persistent division, for a while. Stealing bits out of a division is certainly something pols could do, but the effects of robbing Peter to pay Paul would be obvious and easily explained to the public.

That all comes out to something right on your model:
– About 240 C2 in fleet service, and about 260 “Warrior Scout” so Warrior cut by 2/3rds
– Scimitar and a lot of CVR(T)/FV432 types disappear
– 8×8 combatant family (APC, 105mm MGS, 120mm mortar at battalion level, C2, ambulance) comes in, plus some in possible RE or even RLC roles
– Foxhound and the like as you say, and the “persistent battlegroup” would probably live out of MRAPs left over from the Stan, while others of same would go to the TA

In the CS brigade, besides RE with bridging capability and the Reemees in force, I’d have an RA regiment with 12x AS90, 6x M777, and 6x MLRS. Also an AAC regiment with 12x Apache Longbow, 12x Chinook moved over from the RAF, and 6x Lynx Wildcat scout/utility. (One of the things I really do like about the American “brigade combat team” model, against some I really don’t, is the standardised aviation brigades.)

In some ways, because I like the Americans’ National Guard model (and the Canadian Reserves — and I suspect you do too) your “High-Middle-Low” has a lot of appeal too. If I wasn’t so concerned about the contempt for budgeting and training reserve forces that shows up so often in regular-service brains the world over I’d go for it. It’s a deeper (in terms of combat power) and more small-d democratic model, both things I really like. And I’ve mostly babbled about my own ideas because I’d like to cross-talk about them. But it’s good to see some commonality of opinion coming together, makes it easier to come up with models that could draw attention and support actually inside the service. (Yes, I know, “you can’t Change The Powers That Be” is at the comforting heart of English grumpiness, but that’s probably part of why you and I are on another continent these days ….)

A gearhead question, and a belated response to Paul G’s very kind answer of a question I had in the vehicle mobility thread: would you set RG35 up as a “son of Saxon” in terms of how British units operate? Don’t mean to be leading, just asking.

February 17, 2012 8:44 pm

“but other nations don’t have a problem with reservist armour crew”

The US did in 1990/91. Read about the NG “round out brigades” training problems. They never made it to Desert Storm.

To be honest I think the whole Cold War US/British/Canadian reserves model would have been found extremely wanting indeed.

At least the advantage of the British model was that most of the TA formations were to operate at no more than battalion level and in the Corps rear area except for the Milan Platoons and the PRG at the sharp end.


February 17, 2012 9:15 pm

: the regular UK contingents to Granby had 2-4 months of intensive training in the desert before being found “combat ready”. I believe the track milage limit is still 250 miles pa, although I daresay it has dropped since. If you’ve not been in Canada recently, I suspect the difference between regular and reserve battle-groups would be a matter of degree.

February 17, 2012 9:19 pm

They did have training but let’s not forget that these were specially mobilised and tasked units (once they had their war increment added) fighting in a very unfamiliar environment and driving forwards and not backwards. They obviously needed to train.

There’s no question in my mind what would be more effective from a standing start. Regulars are light years ahead. It is not just fighting skills, it is all the admin skills and institutional knowledge you just don’t get as exposed to in the TA at any level.

Yes you can bring TA units up to regular speed, but the timelines are very long and that issue need to be gripped and accepted.

February 17, 2012 9:32 pm

Reading a piece by gen Greame lamb a while back he said a us marine reserve tank battalion destroyed more tanks than any other us armoured units in Kuwait in 91. Also I’d say the gulf war lasted 4 day it a hell of a expensive way to fight a 4 day ground war ever 10 years or so. light infantry that can deploy rapidly with a warthog or foxhound or both with very limited heavy armour would suit our future needs best I think for the regulars.

February 17, 2012 10:18 pm

“Reading a piece by gen Greame lamb a while back he said a us marine reserve tank battalion destroyed more tanks than any other us armoured units in Kuwait in 91.”

4th Tank Battalion deployed in November 1990 so again had several months to train and again was battalion sized so easier to run up.

“Also I’d say the gulf war lasted 4 day it a hell of a expensive way to fight a 4 day ground war ever 10 years or so”

In retrospect yes. But at the time 20-30% casualties were expected in the Kuwaiti breaching units which were not expected to be able to advance more than 8,000 metres amidst Iraqi defensive positions and chemical attack. Nobody expected a 4 day war.

The consensus was a great big bloody battle.

February 17, 2012 10:24 pm

@ Jed Re TA

Do you think your faith in TA comes from your TA unit being one of the better ones in terms of attention from the real Army(MoD) and quality of recruit?

My experience is that the average TA unit is that for specialisms and rear echelon work fine. A good nurse or doctor in civi street will be a good nurse or doctor in uniform. Same for many other specialist trades and branches. But from what I have seen it doesn’t quite work for teeth units. There are some good TA infantry soldiers, but I would venture not many. Not enough for whole units. My local TA infantry unit couldn’t put a platoon into the field. And if it could I don’t think it would last long. The idea of putting similar into a £3m MBT and sending them off with 57 other crews into the field. Um. No. Sorry.

February 18, 2012 2:06 am

Before thinking of equipment, maybe we should think of what we want our units to do first.

For example, in an engagement with a “peer” enemy, having an oversized “heavy” unit would make sense as you would be facing MBTs. However, if your role is COIN, medium and light units become more important as you would need the speed and flexibility to catch the buggers before they disappeared. You would also need more ISTAR and infantry than a normal unit.

February 18, 2012 7:13 am


That’s one of the reasons I came to my own mix: two “combined arms” armoured cav formations, three 8×8 infantry (for numbers, speed, and on the Stryker/LAV/Freccia model a good integration of firepower at the company and battalion level), one of dedicated air-assault (which I could frankly see operating with the armoured formations on occasion to provide an infantry surge capability if they get bogged down in small towns or fortified landscapes, or cooperating in “cavalry” functions like flank screening.) My thought was that if you’ve upscaled to deploy one of these (my MEB clone) divisional formations for an “occupational” job (COIN), rerole the tracked armour into Broncos and you’ve still got your 8×8 mech and air assault aboard for the job. In a heavier engagement, you have the armoured fist in front (and if you assign two of these formations to the job you can mix and match a bit more, heavy one up while making the other your mobile infantry mass) but retain the mobile light infantry surge and the three bns worth of speedy, decently-protected wheeled mech with lots of Mk.1 boots therein. That seems to me much more “multi-role,” assuming a set of operational environments where you’ll get what you could call variegated combat — a real mix-up of confronting conventional and irregular threats — than the “Multi-Role Brigade” model as put across now.


No worries. Jedi and I both tend to get “granular” about these things. BTW, how’s the not-so-new-anymore job going? I’ll hope it’s kept you in T’ronno at least, always easier on the kids to keep the geography and routine even if your own work changes. Thanks also for the detailed thoughts on RG35, which sound about like my own (one of my own thoughts about hanging on to Ridgeback/Mastiff in the motor pool, besides that they’re paid for, is taking them as “Saxon on steroids.”) I’m not sure I’d call the USMC beloved, although I’ve been close friends with bootnecks on both sides of the Atlantic. It seems to me a useful organising model for the British Army once it’s out of Germany, not because it would make them into an enlarged marine corps, but because they’ll have to “get there” in force by sea and structured in a way to make a mid-sized force as effective and self-sustaining away from home as possible.

I think we do have some definite depths in common on this subject, you and Jedi and I, maybe a few others. I wouldn’t go so far as Jedi would calling it all “Strategic Raiding.” Raiding is a very definite form of military action even if its scale can vary. And while raiding (strategic and tactical) is very much in the wheelhouse of my strategic outlook and (proposed) force structure, I’d broaden it with some godawful management-speak to rapid, adaptive expeditionary response. (Expeditionary in the “go-do-leave” sense, per something I said to Observer in another thread about the Stan being occupational, not expeditionary, war.) I could call it Swift Expeditionary Action but that would just piss off the RAF partisans ;-)

I keep coming up to 24 myself, adding on (I’ve gone down to water-purification detachments in RLC and working-dog units, must be incipient ADD kicking in and finding a task :) the Grenadier Guards as an air assault formation normally assigned to public duties/MACP but also a reserve for 3 Cdo Bde, and the Paras. This is quite a reduction, but in a Future Force picture with 84,000 in the regulars, you’re looking at that kind of reduction (pace Nick Carter who I admire hugely for chucking SDSR and speaking some truth on what the Forces are there to do.) And then of course as you say there’s the Green Death.

My main reason for rationalising down to 3 Commando Bde as the rapid-reaction force (and I’m broadly with you on going “all commando” with the Army bits in red with parachutes and the RM bits in green with amphibious/air assault focus) is again to keep it focused as the national rapid-reaction reserve and prevent poaching it for units to feed into endless, mud-humping, mine-dumping vanity projects for politicians who want something macho to put in their memoirs. There’s absolutely no reason for either the Paras or the RM Commandos to be off doing regular line rotations through Afghanistan. The latter had a role years ago there as mountain-warfare specialists before other units started training up to go in theatre. But now it’s a dangerous waste of the nation’s commando raiding and forced-entry specialists doing what line infantry can and should be trained to do. And as for cutting the Paras down to a battlegroup-sized regiment, goes with my saving service vanity by doing what every other corps does and reflagging the infantry bns as regiments. In this case it does pick on another structure for which I have a fondness, the now-defunct Airborne Battalion Combat Teams the Yanks had in Italy and Alaska which combined rifle coys, fires, and integral support. That way you have a force sized so that the UK could actually drop it from airplanes if speed or tactics demanded. And that’s too unique (like the Royal Marines) to just go throwing around an indefinite COIN job.

I like your “fantasy fleets” approach to AW149, it does seem like a very flexible “useful engine.” Good for the Army in place of Wildcat and if it had longer legs might even work for CHF, but for that I’ll be very grateful for the Merlin HC3s on tap….

February 18, 2012 7:25 am

Sorry, that should be “mine-dodging” in the anti-Afghanistan rant :)

As for the others here ref: TA, there’s some value in what you say. Certainly the various steps taken c. 1967-71 really finished up eviscerating the kind of reserve combat effectiveness the TA offered in the World Wars. It remained large, and much better-connected to local communities until the Cold War’s end than now, but too many teeth got drawn by regular-service brass with disdain for reservists. For cross comparison, the Canadian Reserves and the Yanks’ Army National Guard are (in a positive sense) more of a mixed bag. Despite some early trouble with senior command staff, the 48th Separate Brigade (Georgia NG, the unit I think Phil was largely singling out wrt GW1) got itself up and ready in enough time to deploy, but was passed over for a regular-army brigade of the same structure. Now, for Guard units that went the picture was indeed more mixed and heavily dependent on quality of unit leadership (SNCOs and officers O-4 and up.) In Iraq (and here I can speak to having a close American friend who was an infantry company OC on two Iraq tours with the Oregon Guard) there’s variegation by command quality and state as well. The same can be said in the Canadian reserves, particularly with regard to its fairly large chunk of line infantry. And there’s some evidence that, operationally, while the long wars in the sandbox have had horrendous economic and sometimes personal (divorce, illness) consequences for reserve soldiers in Canada and the States, they’ve actually had a salutary effect on reserve readiness and future capability based on having experienced leaders/trainers for the next decade’s intakes.

Right now, I would stand broadly by x’s comment that the specialist TA formations are useful and reliable and capable, mostly, of deploying to good effect as intact units if needed. But there may be, if MoD can be pushed to follow up on The Late Fox’s pretty words, a chance to start rebuilding capability in the line TA with better training and funding in the decade ahead. Would make a welcome uptick from the last forty years.

February 18, 2012 9:38 am

I agree that the TA needs to be rejuvenated.

But you have highlighted the problem yourself – leadership and experience.

Too many TA units languish in averageness, with average or frankly mediocre Officers and SNCOs who also understandably lack experience in their roles and who oversee an insipid training programme: a training programme it would be fair to state is restricted by money, but this is no excuse for a lack of imagination in the training.

Most TA units have a core of excellent Officers and Other Ranks but that core is not enough to change the culture and character of the unit as a whole.

The key is at the Officer and SNCO level. Everything else will follow with a half decent training programme.

How to fix this problem I am not sure since part-time Officers and SNCOs are going to have part-time experience and it takes someone a cut above average to make the most of that part-time experience.

One way would be to make all Officers attend the full Sandhurst course and the full courses thereafter but how on earth do you juggle commitments then and you’ll still end up with an Officer with less time actually commanding men than his regular counterpart.

Nonetheless, each TA unit could be given a stiffer scale of Permanent Staff and Officer and SNCO training the professional development needs to be strengthened and more ex-Regulars should be encouraged to join, perhaps with a seperate and more generous set of terms and conditions, an “experience” upscale in their pay for example or an “experience” bounty or some such.

And legislation needs to change that protect jobs better, but that clashes directly with a Government objective to lessen red tape on businesses. And perhaps that needs to be looked at more closely as doing more damage than good.

February 18, 2012 9:43 am

And the dead wood needs to go. Even after ten years of a virtual war footing the TA still has dead wood clinging on. Every unit has some.

They do the driving, they run the bar, they are generally nice blokes who are good company but they bloody useless to the unit in the field outside of admin and tend to be somewhat older.

They need to be let go. But again that is an internal leadership problem and people need to cut them off; they are loyal old dogs with big personalities, but are now past it.

Dine them out, cheerio fella come back to the next reunion.

Chains of command must be ruthless, there is less scope for mediocrity and not pulling your weight in units that have to do something as well as a regular unit but with something like a third of the experience.

Again, as I said, it is a leadership issue. And also partly old boy stuff, which is far harder to stamp out.

February 18, 2012 9:56 am

If we want to make the TA more effective, I’d would suggest:-

– increasing the engagement period to a minimum of 6 years, like the NG do

– making training weekends compulsory, 12 times a year (infantry units try to insist on this now)

– have 2 2 week annual camps, one concentrating on individual and platoon skills, one on battalion

– authorising 110% manning (I’d like to see this in regular units too) to increase the availability of formed units. Trainees should also not be held on unit establishment.

– ideally, recruits should pass through regular initial training, although officers don’t need the full Sandhurst package.

– regular reserves should reformed to reduce but make more meaningful service by putting regulars on the same engagement interval as the TA (eg 6 years). If you leave the regulars before 6 years are up and the local TA unit is short, you’re in unless required as an individual elsewhere

February 18, 2012 10:11 am

“- ideally, recruits should pass through regular initial training, although officers don’t need the full Sandhurst package.”

That’s the exact opposite of what should happen. There’s no such thing as bad soldiers only bad leaders. The emphasis must absolutely be on forming a framework of good leaders at Officer and SNCO level.

Not wasting money putting blokes through 14-26 week basic courses where they come out with exactly the same skill set as a regular pretty much.

“- have 2 2 week annual camps, one concentrating on individual and platoon skills, one on battalion”

That’s 100% of most people’s annual leave. Not going to happen. Simple as that. Only the jobless and those that shag the door of the TA centre are going to rock up.

The more mature and seasoned gentlemen with families and jobs will chin you right off and you then lose one of the biggest advantages of the TA and what makes it able to function as well as it does with less experience.

“- making training weekends compulsory, 12 times a year (infantry units try to insist on this now)”

There should be compulsory training weekends for Officers and perhaps SNCOs, there’s no need to do 12 weekends a year, especially if that training is insipid crap because the budget has to be spread over 12 weekends. I’d rather see seniors having compulsory weekends whilst the budget is concentrated into better weekend training but less of it. Although that is a unit decision how they want to do that. 12 compulsory weekends will see probably 6 good ones and 6 piss ups, admin fuck around weekends and nobody is going to be interested in it. Best to concentrate resources where it is needed, on the seniors.

“- authorising 110% manning (I’d like to see this in regular units too) to increase the availability of formed units. Trainees should also not be held on unit establishment.”


February 18, 2012 10:45 am

: my rationale for cutting back on Sandhurst for reservists is that a good portion of the year they do now is based around stuff that will come in very useful if they become staff officers or generals: that stuff is not required. No compromise on the leadership or tactical training.

“Not wasting money putting blokes through 14-26 week basic courses where they come out exactly the same skill set as a regular pretty much”. Well, yes. That’s the idea. Maintaining skills with 50 training days a year very doable. Training someone from nothing in the same or less time is hard

“The emphasis must absolutely be on forming a framework of good leaders at Officer and SNCO level”. Agreed. But you don’t build unit integrity by training officers and SNCO’s away from the OR’s

“That’s 100% of most people’s annual leave. Not going to happen”. Agreed, I should have added a rider for 4 weeks unpaid leave from employers. We already compensate them for reservists away on active service, we can extend the scheme.

February 18, 2012 10:55 am

Great Post Jed

Tight well argued etc.

I personally would prefer a ‘Middle and low’ option.

I acknowledge the utility of the Challenger and AS 90. But given:-

1) Like it or not we are going to have to do something about the Challenger gun.
2) 60 tons is really the minimum weight for these things. It has been reported that with bells whistles and armour packages they have deployed at up to 72 tons! (I admit I can’t get that confirmed from a proper source). Its a hell of a lot to carry around.
3)It’s a unique chassis with all the usual TD objections to small numbers of separate chassis. This goes for AS 90 as well.

IF we are only going to running a small number less than 300 Is it really worth it? I am sure there will be occasions when the best tool for the job is a Heavy tank. But I remain to be convinced AT THE NUMBERS WE ARE EVER LIKELY TO BE ABLE TO DEPLOY (my emphasis). they are worth keeping. You yourself suggest a step down in protection levels by buying Leopard 2’s.

Should we not consider the option of Fres Based APC Scout, and (lets call it what it really is): A medium tank fire support version, together with tracked 155 mm version if required?
Are there really THAT many jobs a Challenger will do that a 44 ton fires support Fres cannot?

So in effect a FRes based heavy (or heavy medium), force at the top.

At the bottom the low end I would not disagree with most of your views. But I remain convinced everything will to a degree have to be armoured from the start to Stannag 3+ Even the quad bikes!:-)And there will have to be integral protective weapons, not necessarily sophisticated ones on every vehicle, but the days of the Bedford and Landrover are well and truly over for anything other than special forces they are as dead as the horse.

February 18, 2012 11:05 am

“my rationale for cutting back on Sandhurst for reservists is that a good portion of the year they do now is based around stuff that will come in very useful if they become staff officers or generals: that stuff is not required. No compromise on the leadership or tactical training”

I don’t know the ins and outs of the normal commissioning course, I suspect that it can be cut down as it was only 6 months back in the seventies.

The detail doesn’t really matter, but what you need is well-rounded, proficient leaders who are able to operate on operations, but also, and perhaps this is just as important, in the “real army” – the day to day army. The course needs to be as long as it takes to accomplish these basic goals. I think for reservists there needs to be more methods of entry so for example, OTC can have another stream of serious potential officers (as opposed to the piss heads) who do the current TA commissioning course and then at the end of University do 6 months at the Factory with the trade off being some good networking and access to Army job finding resources and support if needed. Others can choose to commission directly and do the 6 months. As a start.

“Training someone from nothing in the same or less time is hard”

Training is relatively easy. What you need is experience and bags of it. Regular recruits come out of 14 weeks basic completely green and wet behind the years and don’t really start to develop until they get to their regiment. This is where Officers and SNCOs being able to work in the “real army” comes into play as professional development of their men is a big part of that – getting them on courses etc. I think the training system now works fine, and would be better with better and more experienced instructors put through a formal training posting like regulars are.

“But you don’t build unit integrity by training officers and SNCO’s away from the OR’s”

True but I am not saying that. I am saying that you can expect higher levels of commitment from senior people – and that higher level of commitment (within reason) could be used in training them specifically, for example Study Days etc etc etc

“We already compensate them for reservists away on active service, we can extend the scheme.”

Now you are crossing policy boundaries. And getting into difficult ground.

My TA would be split into two, specialist units like the old Army Emergency Reserve and now like the Sponsored Units. They can carry on much as now but would still benefit from some of the reforms mentioned.

The rest would be tied into the regular force generation cycle so that for one year in 3 there would be a higher commitment. In the year leading up to readiness the TA unit would receive Officers and men discharged from the regulars but with a term of reserve service left to stiffen the TA unit, ex-Regular Officers could either be posted directly into normal posts or extra Shadow posts to mentor the TA officer. The unit would also have a higher training commitment that year and would exercise with their regular counter part (this would require excellent liaison between regular and reserve unit). Then just before the 6 months of readiness, if the unit was not deploying, everyone would be shadow mobilised, ie taken onto regular strength, paid a retainer, bought up to scale on individual kit and sit on their bergans, at the end they would get an bonus and so would their employer as a thanks for being patient. The regular reservists would discharge, and everyone can go back to normal TA commitment and do some AT and MATTS and pissups.

That way it is a bit of give and take.

Add to that a bespoke pathway for individuals to do their training so if someone is at a lose end they can do a regular course. Also, people should be able to move between TA and Regular far more easily, so for example, if a TA soldier was redundant he could spend 6 months in a regular unit if he wanted to and it was agreed.

All this requires effort at the senior level, effort to support the blokes and get them on courses and pathways that suit them, the regular army, the TA and their unit.

February 18, 2012 2:47 pm

: the old Standard Graduate Course used to have a long and short version, depending on whether you had completed MTQ2 in the UOTC. If we want to maintain commonality with the regulars, we can always have additional modules to be completed if you are promoted past Lieutenant for example. All in favour of leaders having higher commitments.

Regarding training, “experience and bags of it” can’t be built without upping the commitment. Although I can see advanced training working fine within a cadre, I still feel that basic is best done on a full time course. This also builds commonality with the Regulars that would advance your laudable objective of making it easier to move between full time and reserve.

However, if there is one glaring problem with your version of the TA, it’s that it is predicated on the armed forces only being required for long term, smallish COIN commitments. What happens if say, the FI blows up, 2-3 regular brigades are required at short notice, but we need to backfill them from the TA to fufill a NATO commitment to Lithuania for example? Better to be ready-ish the majority of the time methinks

February 18, 2012 2:59 pm

“the old Standard Graduate Course used to have a long and short version, depending on whether you had completed MTQ2 in the UOTC. If we want to maintain commonality with the regulars, we can always have additional modules to be completed if you are promoted past Lieutenant for example. All in favour of leaders having higher commitments.”

Well that’s all in the detail. I think we agree on the need for good leader training.

“Regarding training, “experience and bags of it” can’t be built without upping the commitment.”

No this is true. But the evidence is that most blokes are RESTRICTED in their MTDs rather than fail to meet them. There seems to be plenty of enthusiasm for time in green on weekends and doing courses and so forth so I wonder if the aggravating factor of increasing official commitment is worth it when most blokes would happily do a lot more MTDs if they were funded? Looking at this realistically, by increasing official commitment we are crossing policy boundaries into business regulation and red tape. That’s a whole seperate battle and the less toes that are trod on the more chance the reforms have of making a difference.

I think increasing the funding, keeping official commitment as is and letting OCs and COs decide on their various training programme’s is more likely to succeed in the real world.

“I still feel that basic is best done on a full time course. This also builds commonality with the Regulars that would advance your laudable objective of making it easier to move between full time and reserve.”

I just don’t agree. There is no point doing the regular courses and then going down to part time. Making the standards the same is fine and under my model there would be 2.5 years to get someone deployable which is enough time.

“However, if there is one glaring problem with your version of the TA, it’s that it is predicated on the armed forces only being required for long term, smallish COIN commitments.”

Well that’s the model the Army is going down so I’m not getting into totally fantasy TA that is not grounded in some reality. The Army model is light rapid reaction and sustained commitment. Thus must the TA model be. And there is very little the TA can add in terms of high readiness rapid reaction.

“Better to be ready-ish the majority of the time methinks”

Well if you have a money printing press then fine but otherwise reality strikes. Graduated readiness has been the model since 1991 or so, regular and TA.

The majority of the TA would be specialist units that adapt far more easily to quick mobilisation and able to do their in-theatre job which is more than likely going to have civilian equivalents. There is no equivalent civilian equivalent of infantry, artillery or other combat and combat service trades so we must accept that on the scale of sub-units they require work up to reach an acceptable, no risk standard. Individuals and small groups could be used but there is no call for this outside of very specialist roles.

Mike W
February 18, 2012 3:02 pm

A first-rate post as usual, packed with good ideas and succinctly expressed.

I tend to go with the first of your options: “The high end – low end option – mixed MRB’s”. However, I have encountered one slight difficulty, a point really of description or definition. When you say that it is a “high-low mix, with nothing in the middle, but with a mixed set of capabilities etc.” surely that is not strictly true. I can’t quite see the “high end” as you have included no Chally2s in the basic formation. (They would be “attached”) and, unless you include 4 infantry battalions with one Light Role battalion, I can’t really see the “low end” either. And then you say that it has “nothing in the middle”. But it has two Mechanized Infantry Regiments in the “middle” on RG35s. Perhaps we are using “high” and “low” in different ways, in which case I have got my wires crossed and am sorry.

In actual fact, the organization of this option does not differ very much from the present Mechanized Brigades, would you agree? I think it is excellent and getting on for being the solution; it is just the description I am quibbling about!

Just one or two more points:

What role do you see AAC (or even RAF) air support playing in these brigades (Apache, Wildcat, Chinook perhaps, etc.)? Would you have in each MRB more than the almost token detachment of AAC we have in each of the present Armoured Brigades?

I am all for the procurement of “resurrected” LIMAWS” and M777 but shouldn’t the heavy AS90s remain with regular regiments?

February 18, 2012 4:45 pm

I do not know much about the TA,so something like this might already exist but how a about a scheme where physically fit 18 year old’s sign up to get their university fee’s paid for, and in return the do basic training and any specialisms that take them up to a years service, enter university at 19 to do their degree, with an intensive 4 week course every summer, and if they select a sandwich course they spend another year in the army (on a salary) before returning to do their final year and then automatically become TA officers on graduation with an offer of a lump sum for the best to sign up to become full time career officers. Would this help to recruit good TA officers?

February 18, 2012 5:08 pm

Only if they let good blokes do it!

The RAMC has a cadetship scheme for wannabee doctors.

You have to pass AOSB and join the UOTC and for your last three years of medical school you get £15,000 odd a year. Usually medical students transfer from the UOTC at the end of their third year and continue their service in a TA medical unit until they attend Sandhurst and do the Vicars and Tarts Course and you bang out 7 years service to Her Majesty (the 7 years figure being a very calculated and deliberate figure…).

I think an extension to other arms and services of a similar thing might be worthwhile.

First year UOTC, second and third years a cadetship training with normal TA unit with extended summer camps and then an abridged, reservists commissioning course.

February 18, 2012 5:22 pm

Phil @ 7 years

I am intrigued. Why 7?

February 18, 2012 5:34 pm

Because that’s about when you are looking at completing your training and become a consultant or specialising further. Basically, from conversations with a few doctors, years 7-8 of your career are a turning point.

February 18, 2012 5:48 pm

: I take you point about the Army moving towards “sustained commitment”, although I think it’s based on a mistaken view that the UK defense world will remain in a proto colonial stasis, with small predictable commitments through which we can rotate a small number of units that are brought up to strength and readiness over an extended period. The services are now so small and underfunded, the potential is instead for a very nasty surprise, to which we will have no answer other than “can the world wait for 6 months please while we get ready” :-(

Assuming that we now need to factor in 2-3 years time for training, would that mean a) paying wages and training costs for an extended period for people who cannot deploy and b) we would have to up the standard engagement (to amortise the training time from say 3-6 years to 9). Might this not act as a deterrent to engagement in the first place as well as costing more than full time training?

Looking at the supposed new structure, it’s clear the TA is going to have to operate at a higher level of readiness than previously. It can be done, but we’re going to have to take more of the US Army route rather than the “yeomen soldiers against Napoleon” model IMHO.

February 18, 2012 6:01 pm

“I take you point about the Army moving towards “sustained commitment”, although I think it’s based on a mistaken view that the UK defense world will remain in a proto colonial stasis, with small predictable commitments through which we can rotate a small number of units that are brought up to strength and readiness over an extended period. The services are now so small and underfunded, the potential is instead for a very nasty surprise, to which we will have no answer other than “can the world wait for 6 months please while we get ready” :-(”

I think this is an argument whipped to dust on this blog so I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one before it all goes downhill!

“Assuming that we now need to factor in 2-3 years time for training, would that mean a) paying wages and training costs for an extended period for people who cannot deploy and b) we would have to up the standard engagement (to amortise the training time from say 3-6 years to 9). Might this not act as a deterrent to engagement in the first place as well as costing more than full time training?”

I mean training in its holistic sense, all the way up to CT3 which I think is company level operations. 2.5 years from walking in the door to doing CT3 I think is achievable if you add in the extra commitment at the end of the cycle. Of course there will be some who aren’t deployable but that is the nature of the beast. And also, just because they don’t deploy on a group basis they would be ready to deploy as an IR much faster than 2.5 years. It would be up to the CO to manage his mission to generate a certain sized force element every three years and still allow blokes to go off and do tours etc as they do now. Really for the individual not much would change in that context except that over a 3 year cycle they would be building toward something and the training getting more intense. It’s exactly how regular units do it.

I don’t necessarily think the US model is the answer. Like I have said, leadership, mission, focus and experience are what is needed.

Sort this out first before fundamentally altering the culture and raison d’etre of the Volunteers. Otherwise you’re just changing and not achieving anything.

Other than a few extra allowances, and a bit and give and take amongst employers for an extra two week camp in year 3 of the cycle the current essence of the TA can remain.

Work on the human potential first and focus units on missions as an integrated part of the Army.

Everything else can then follow but it requires a constant vigilance of standards and a pro-active senior core. Just like a regular unit.

February 18, 2012 7:02 pm

: agree to disagree on that one. On a more personal note, are there improvements you can think of with regard to independent units like your own?

paul g
February 18, 2012 8:44 pm

@ wf,”the UK defense world will remain in a proto colonial stasis”

Don’t say colonial or you’ll get sean penn all over your arse!!!!

February 19, 2012 12:08 am

great post jed, a pleasure to read.

February 19, 2012 1:24 am

Gent’s you talk as if the TA have not been in a armoured reserve role for may years already, 4 TA armoured corp regiments are already trained and provide a FR & MBT replacement crew role. With many having already filled placed in units previously in theatre. If its good enough now why would it not be acceptible in the future ?.

Think Defence
February 19, 2012 11:03 am
Reply to  Comrad

Welcome to TD Conrad, is that the Yeomanry?

February 19, 2012 12:14 pm

Those units dont train as regiments, or even as squadrons I believe their role is providing IRs and crews. A very different challenge from mobilising as a unit or sub unit.

February 19, 2012 12:22 pm

Hi TD, yep eight years in RY, still try to keep up with what the regiment is up to. We had enough boys out in iraq, that they gave us a battle honour for it.

There has been and still is a strong relationship between the yeomanry and regulars for many years. TA fill the gaps in units on operational tour and when regulars leave the forces many join the TA it helps them back into society LOL.

Nice to be onboard,


February 19, 2012 12:41 pm

Hi Phil,

The RY is what the army makes of it, in my day we were front line BOAR trained with annual training in Germany and regular exercises with the RAC and other supporting units. We exercised regularly at sqn and regimental levels and took full responsiblity for maintaining our own kit inc attached TA LAD REME.

We were generally at full quota, inc a lot of ex reg’s. and matched or improved regular army results on courses, gunnery training and brigade / divisional excercises.

The man power, and commitment is there, its really down to the powers that be how they tap into and train that potential.

February 19, 2012 12:55 pm

@paul g: I have no worries over Sean Penn (El Twatto) being all over my arse. Like many of his ilk, he compensates for not having the trousers to match his mouth by genuflecting to the bullies (see El Presidente)

February 19, 2012 1:08 pm

“The man power, and commitment is there, its really down to the powers that be how they tap into and train that potential.”

I agree. Hence why I think we should concentrate on stiffening the senior core of a unit and getting some good, funded training done with a focused mission before fiddling with other things and treading on cross policy toes.

You were Fox armoured cars weren’t you back then? How quickly did you expect to get to Germany if the balloon went up? Did you have a set of vehicles to fall in on in BAOR or was it a case of bring everything with you?

“On a more personal note, are there improvements you can think of with regard to independent units like your own?”

My unit wouldn’t be a fair comparison.

But what needs to happen is better discipline when it comes to getting rid of people who are shit and that means the chain of command growing a pair and chinning off (dining out) good drinking buddies who have been in since God knows when and who haven’t done a course since the early 90s and either get coached through MATTs every year or get a tick in the box because they keep the stores in good order and sweep the gym floor.

Just get rid of them. And courses need to be harder across the board. No more attendance courses (even if in practise not in theory) and don’t be afraid of failing people and then getting rid of them if they fail a course twice like the regular Army often does.

It’s all basic, basic stuff.

Some units do it, it’s all down to personality.

February 19, 2012 1:33 pm

Back in the 1930s when the RAF were short of recruits they upped the entry requirements. And the shortage of recruits disappeared.

Perhaps with a clear and present danger to the UK the TA of yesteryear was a bit more focused? And perhaps further the “military” was perhaps more embedded in the national mind set (being closer to WW2 in time, plus post colonial activities, plus Ulster) ?

Does anybody know if TA bods have to serve a probationary period? And when in an earlier conversation on these matters I ventured that TA soldiers needed greater employment protection and perhaps employers needed “encouragement” to support their TA staff many here said I was being a tad optimistic given the current economic environment and employment market. With that in mind does anybody know what the contractual arrangement is between the TA soldier and the Army? It seems for the less committed it is like ACF for adults.

@ Comrad

My comments up above where based on my experience of TA. Wasn’t wishing at all to disparage the efforts of others or condemn as a whole. I was saying that I couldn’t see whole TA heavy armour units being formed. Don’t want to talk about platforms per ser. But having your Foxes in a garage at your TA unit, looking after them, being the vehicles you take on exercise (the vehicles you can drive to exercise without recourse to much outside assistance) must bring an added something to the “experience” in that you are invested. It isn’t abstract. It is real. “We are a yeomanry squadron and there are our vehicles.”

February 19, 2012 1:48 pm

“Does anybody know if TA bods have to serve a probationary period?”

Sort of.

You have to pass your recruits course.


“With that in mind does anybody know what the contractual arrangement is between the TA soldier and the Army?”

In theory, 28 days (15 in camp, rest out of camp) a year (some exceptions). You have engagements but in practise people just hand their kit in if they’ve had enough or someone has upset them.

You are supposed to get a Certificate of Efficiency from the CO every year which means you get your Bounty and broadly speaking you need to have done your days, passed your MATTs and been a good boy. It depends on personalities if you get binned if you don’t repeatedly get your Bounty and if you bring something special to the party.

Yes it is ACF for adults for some.

ACF with drinking.

February 19, 2012 1:48 pm

Hi Phil,

From an RAC point of view, and probably true for most of the Army is that equipment wise the TA is the younger and poorer bother.

We have made a art of making the best of the regular armies hand me downs, TA equipments at best stuff that the army doesn’t want,and generally redundant kit thats near the end of it’s services life.

There is no chance that a TA regiment is going to get its hands directly on CR2 let alone FRES. The best it can hope for and currently has is CVRT or the chance to work on better kit but only on a course.

I agree all units have a central cadre of staff that are ready to go, either ex reg’s or senior TA staff. Others will require various degrees of training and to be frank yes there is the dead wood, but are they going to make it in on their big day ?.

The TA can generally be broken down into three types, the specalists how do it for a living anyway and put on a uniform instead

February 19, 2012 2:28 pm

semoorry broken thread

proffessional TA units ( SAS, Para’s ect) semi perminent soliders, the remaining are Semi proffessional units with degrees of proffessionalism from veterans to straight out the box.

The Semi proffessional units will either require more unit training, or in time of need the central cadre can fill in the blanks of an existing unit (senior TA soldiers are normally trained in many roles so are quite adaptable)

February 19, 2012 2:37 pm


Agreed so much so, I brought a Fox when the army finally decided to get rid of them. A moment of madness maybe, but after 8 years to me its just my old company car !!!.

February 19, 2012 2:43 pm


I agree the logistics of giving TA heavy armour is a nightmare, (though it might help with recruitment ;) ). Not only would most TA centres require a complete rebuild, they are generally located close to population centres for best recruiting.

CR2 in Croydon or London causes its own problems !!!

February 19, 2012 2:49 pm

Hi Phil,

UK exercises, were almost always route marches, Fox & CVRT fit in ISO containers so for BOAR the Regiments kit is normally transport to a army base in Germany in advance and the staff then normally follow via RoRo and coach.

February 19, 2012 2:58 pm


I agree, the TA that I knew had a lot of staff that bridged the two, either ex reg’s looking for more in their life than just soldiering, or Civilians who if it wasn’t for their chosen career (and salary it provides) could well have joined the regular army.

After all of the chest beating of ARAB & STAB !!!, when it comes down to it in the field both have the same goals and often suprise each other.

February 19, 2012 5:24 pm


Your suffering may be lessened by listening to this:-


Weird Al Yankovich star wars song…..

On a more serious note, What would you do about the Chally 2 problem?

February 19, 2012 5:24 pm

@ Comrad re Fox

No I don’t think you are bonkers. When I was regular at surplus sales I nearly succumbed once or twice. Where I would have parked a Stally I don’t know…..

@ Phil re TA contract

Thanks matey. I sort of knew about the camps and training weekends. I was wondering if there was anything beyond that. And it appears not. Not good.

Mike W
February 19, 2012 5:35 pm

“Sorry – my bad – not properly worded or explained. I was meaning the high – low end of the armoured vehicle mix for the infantry.”

Yes, that really does make sense now. Thanks.

I would like to ask a couple more questions, if you survive “Phantom Menace in 3D”, that is!

I have just been reading your post through again and would like to ask:

i) You seem to come to the conclusion that you would have a total of 26 infantry regiments in your “heavy, medium, light and wheeled plus tracked force structure”. Aren’t you being a little pessimistic in terms of the number of regiments that will be available? At the last count I made it that we still had 37 Infantry regiments (that is, including the Gurkhas and 3 Para battalions. The estimates for loss of infantry regiments in the press vary between five and eight (say six?). That would still leave you 29! Room for manoeuvre there, then?
ii) The other query concerns your own question: “Is this model affordable …?” You seem to be suggesting quite a large buy of RG41s and RG35s. If you include some of the latter for reserve infantry as well that would require quite a tidy sum, wouldn’t it? My own guess is that Mastiffs and Ridgbacks will serve for quite a time yet.

February 19, 2012 5:51 pm

“Thanks matey. I sort of knew about the camps and training weekends. I was wondering if there was anything beyond that. And it appears not. Not good.”

I don’t think there is. At least nothing that impresses upon me or others I know on a day to day basis. The essence of the TA however is the Volunteers and that essence has continued for over a hundred years. There doesn’t seem to be an appetite that I know of to change that fundamental ethos.

February 19, 2012 5:55 pm

Someone not too far from me has an Abbot and a Ferret in their front yard.

February 19, 2012 6:26 pm

@ Phil re TA contract and volunteering

Perhaps if it was seen as more a proper second job (even if that job is done one night a week, plus camp, plus weekends) by the MoD and society at large it would attract a better class of recruit? Or should that be more recruits of a better class? Yes the latter.

February 19, 2012 9:11 pm

: I have just found the owner of a Humber pig since I changed my cycle route :-)

February 19, 2012 9:19 pm

: I seem to remember quite a bit of drinking re ACF/CCF. Some of it was even vaguely official: nothing like a pint of cider to a 14 year old with blisters :-)

February 19, 2012 9:38 pm

The Wikipedia article on the Volunteer Force is quite good.


The table showing the Force’s strength year to year is interesting.

Norway’s Home Guard has a strength of 56,000 from a population of 5,000,000. A UK force of the same proportions would have a strength of approx. of 674500!!!! Of course Norway is a lot richer.

Mike W
February 19, 2012 10:24 pm

Ah, so it is all part of some cunning plan, is it?
Fair enough but I think (unless of course you’re being tongue-in-cheek) there are real dangers in shrinking the Army as far as we have already, let alone further. The British Army of 100,000 has been “running hot” conducting one medium-sized campaign in Afghanistan! God knows what it will be like with a regular Army of only 82,000! Enter Phil (stage left) at this point exclaiming: “Yes, but we shall also have 180,000 (or was it 30,000?) trained Reservists. Well, I shall believe that when I see ’em. There’s one hell of a long way to go in that respect.

Anyway,Jed, I’ll leave it there. I don’t want to become embroiled in another argument with people who know a lot more than I do (including you and Phil!)

I hope that the final shape of the future Army, which is to be revealed in April(?) bears a strong resemblance to your Option A, but we shall see. Once again, a tremendous post.

February 19, 2012 11:36 pm

Well Mike the first step toward a better reserve is to actually start thinking of it as an integral part of the Army. Hence why our Army will be 120,000 strong. If we can’t even conceive of it as being a part of the Army then we’re not likely to see it all happen in actuality.

February 19, 2012 11:49 pm

Well said ” If we can’t even conceive of it as being a part of the Army then we’re not likely to see it all happen in actuality.”

Mike W
February 20, 2012 11:18 am

Yes, OK Phil, I suppose you’re right. We have to conceive things strongly in our imaginations for them to come to reality. Cue for song there? “You’ve got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream … etc. etc.”. It’s just that I don’t see see £1.5 billion going very far at all in bringing the TA up to standard.

February 20, 2012 11:18 am

Couldn’t stop smiling while watching Weird Al.

I actually laughed when he got to the part about “bringing balance to the Force”. So the British solution to a balanced Force is to hire Darth Vader? I heard worse ideas. ;)

February 20, 2012 11:24 am

As I’ve said. Money is only part of the problem. The human material is. You can throw billions at the organisation but it won’t solve anything unless you stiffen the senior leadership. There’s too many seniors treading water. Re-structure, more funding, all of that ignores the real and far harder problem.

February 20, 2012 11:57 am

Throw them into the deep end? Deploy them?

There might also be longer term benefits to concentrate on the middle (Lts, Cpts) than trying to butt heads with entrenched opposition. Even if you convinced a senior, he would just be overwhelmed by his peers, while if you subverted a large chunk of the middle, remember these guys are the “seniors” once the old batch starts shuffling off.

Think there might be some point in deploying TA Lts and Cpts into active areas? Having your arse on the line tends to be great incentive to sharpen your skills. Or maybe even some TA units? Knowing that there is a chance of being deployed might make the lower ranks a bit more sharpish about maintaining their trade skills.

February 20, 2012 12:10 pm

@Observer: nail on the head time. Deploy the TA as units rather than glorified BCR’s, all sorts of changes have to happen. The regulars saw lots of improvements in JNCO quality after NI deployments pushed responsibility down to L/Cpl’s commanding bricks

February 20, 2012 1:05 pm

There’s simply no need to deploy combat TA units at the moment. It could be done but to get one battlegroup out on Herrick would mean raping probably four or five TA battalions plus heavy regular increments.

And by seniors I’m being very lazy and mean SNCOs and ALL Officers.

February 20, 2012 1:27 pm

In my own personal view, the TA as constituted doesnt really work.
The two mantype I’ve been led to believe dominate are the “proper” soldiers the army cant afford to employ, and the former “proper” soldiers who cant afford to leave army employ.

Could be wrong of course.

Personaly, I’d go for a giant TA/Reserve force, but with little ongoing training.
As you all know, I’d go for a very small, very well equipped army.
The reserve, would be something you joined, went through basic training in, stayed in for 6 months say, and then that was that.
You’d get paid for your 6 months, and then you’d get a small annual payment (say, £1000?) for keeping at the appropriate fitness level, with an annual test.
The purpose would be, when “the big one” broke out, everyone in the army could be given a two rank promotion, and the reserves could be conscripted to treble the manpower available.
Deploying them to Afghanistan now doesnt really fit the words reserve or territorial.

February 20, 2012 1:40 pm

You want us to be like the Swiss or Norwegians?

February 20, 2012 1:41 pm

But your model has no basis in reality. It doesn’t even pay lip service to the direction this country is taking in security terms so it cannot be part of a serious discussion in how to balance the army because it ignores reality.

The TA does work in its current mission. There’s hundreds of people deployed now doing sterling jobs. But if you want the TA to do more than provide increments and specialist sub units then you need to change the culture and attitudes of the leaders and provide more dosh for training and personal kit. Fiddling with terms of service etc does not address the very human problems the TA have. And if you think these problems aren’t shared by the US ARNG and Reserve then you’re kidding yourselves.

Think Defence
February 20, 2012 1:42 pm
Reply to  Phil

Phil, do you think any step change, as being proposed, is possible without changes in legislation on employment protection?

February 20, 2012 1:47 pm

“Personaly, I’d go for a giant TA/Reserve force, but with little ongoing training.”

Sounds like a giant cannon fodder factory to me.

That was why I recommended deployment. If the prospect of incipent demise doesn’t wake them up, nothing will. Aka attitude change through baptism. Though you are right about the disruption. Can’t have it both ways. Deploy and get serious or worry about disruption and continue as it was before. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

February 20, 2012 1:57 pm

Yes there is scope for change without fiddling with those things. I firmly believe that if you increase the quality of leadership then dramatic changes will follow. Ultimately some terms and conde will need tweaking but I think that it would be a mistake to do this first as people will rest on their laurels with a job half done.

What I propose is incredibly hard to accomplish. But if on the whole it can be done the TA would be far more effective.

Case in point.

My mate wants to join the regulars. He’s a TA Sgt (I won’t share the horror stories from his promotions course) with four tours under his belt. Solid as a rock. Goes to Career Office and says I want to join, I’ll go in as a Tom if I have to. Chinned off. Too old. Gets chatting to our TO. An excellent, accomplished, highly reverred leader of men. Within a day the CO of a medical regiment meets my mate. He says I’ll take you tomorrow. Email chain goes from TO all the way up to Director Med and all the way back down. Mate takes this email chain to recruiting office and he’s probably now going to go from TA right into the Regulars as a Sgt. No rule changes were required. You just needed a good Officer to pick up that ball and go with it. My mate will probably do 22 leave as a Captain Late Entry and become an awesome PSAO.

Select, train and develop better LEADERS.

February 20, 2012 2:08 pm

@ TD re employment law.

I said as such further up.

So in a way we are saying that the TA actually reflects UK society in that TA soldiers who are specialists/technicians/craftsmen in civilian life are assets as they transfer their skills to the Army. These are above original individuals who are the corner stones of our wider society. But these individuals are exceptions in a wider society that is on the whole indifferent to the question of security (in its broadest sense) and indeed feel safe to the point that personal and national security doesn’t feature in their intellectual landscape; a lack of existential threat to the UK society and home islands. In times past it is though from this latter group that the mass of soldiery would have been drawn which means that TA, even if the funding were available, couldn’t generate battalions of infantry to slot into the line.

We have sell the idea that war is like HALO…..

February 20, 2012 2:11 pm

@ Phil

Share the stories…………..

February 20, 2012 2:14 pm

@ Observer re cannon fodder

I prefer the term “target rich environment”.

February 20, 2012 2:16 pm

Too many already think war is like HALO.

February 20, 2012 2:20 pm

The story had a point though. Like so often in life it’s not the rules that need changing but the people. But it’s far easier to change rules, and even that is hard enough. So people stay and do the same shit job but with different rules.

There’s no need to change anything to let people move from TA to Army and vice versa. It can be done if the powers that be want it to happen and have the gumption to do it.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 20, 2012 2:26 pm

Thought this might be of interest, even if it’s about the US National Guard:


Think Defence
February 20, 2012 2:26 pm
Reply to  Phil

It seems to me we need to remove the friction and allow individuals to move seamlessly between regular and reserve with shades of grey in between.

Perhaps we need to get rid of the terms regular and reserve all together, one Army and all that.

As long as we have TAVRA owning the land the TA Centres sit on and artificial distinctions between a regular and reservist then doing all those sensible things becomes very difficult.

The whole world has moved to a flexible employment model, is it right or even possible that this can be reversed into the UK armed forces.

Would be interesting to see how other nations do it, France would be interesting, Australia and Singapore (anyone getting the hints!!) as well.

The USNG is a very different model and not applicable, as is those nations with a lot of conscription hangovers from Cold War days

On the subject


February 20, 2012 2:35 pm

@ TD re TAVR

You mean the regional reserve forces and cadet associations. August bodies of numpties who should be done away with as soon as possible. The TA are actually their tenants……..

February 20, 2012 2:38 pm

Ive already done Denmarks reserves!

Think Defence
February 20, 2012 2:50 pm
Reply to  Phil

I was hoping the two ‘observers’ would weigh in to the debate :)

And Jed, from a Canadian perspective

February 20, 2012 4:50 pm

what politicians say today and do tomorrow are not always the same.
But you ignored my point, in what way is the status quo territorial or reserve?
If you need it in ghanners its not a reserve or a territorial, its certainly not a territorial reserve!

pretty much, yeah, phil has convinced me a big war is going to be a blood bath, if your serious about fighting one, you need a half a million men in a ready reserve.
Anything else is fantasy.

No one who has shouted down my small army has yet explained how the balanced army survives a big war, or indeed, what we do if after ‘dominating the enemy capital’ they laugh and carry on regardless.

Think Defence
February 20, 2012 4:54 pm
Reply to  x

X, yes, those people.

Phils point is a good one, its about will and attitude but structures and procedures have a way of miring that in treacle so I think you have to tackle them all

February 20, 2012 4:58 pm

The Army is already tiny and well equipped that is why nobody has shouted at you…. :)