Agile Warrior and the Future of the British Army

The much vaunted Future Character of Conflict work by the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre predicted a fragmented future with increasing conflicts and challenges to existing force compositions. It is an evolving work but whilst recognising that state threats to the UK mainland are more or less non-existent (except to sovereign territories The Falkland Islands and to some extent Gibraltar) it predicts a future where enemies are varied but generally will seek to exploit our weaknesses and the environments in which the armed forces are required to operate, equally varied.

Interestingly, it also recognises the likely diminishing purchasing power of the UK armed forces in comparison with other rising powers.

The Cold War is well and truly over and yet so is the post-Cold War fashion of Revolution in Military Affairs thinking. This should at least show us that over confidence in our capabilities, old fashioned hubris and underestimating an adaptive enemy are the most serious challenges, not looking too far into the crystal ball and coming up with a set of predictions.

The fundamental nature of conflict will remain the same as it always has but the operating environment and influences will change.

One of the conclusions from the report and associated papers is that if we are to remain effective in the context of increasing costs and diminishing purchasing power the concept of building indigenous security capabilities must be at the core of how we operate.

The key thing to remember about building indigenous security capability is not that we should be helping them to help themselves but we should be helping them to help us, or put another way, it should not be a means unto itself but have a wider role in the security and interests of the UK.

If we are to retain the credibility, and therefore ability, to leverage indigenous forces to improve our wider security we must also retain the ability to actually offer something, i.e. expertise and capability.

Whilst the FCOC is quite well known and discussed one of the lesser known but no less interesting associated papers is called the Future Land Operational Concept.  It is a 2008 document and much discussion is currently being had about which direction the development of the Army should go in.

It was clear that the Army needed a robust and empirical evidence base on which to make its predictions, even accepting fairly large dollops of uncertainty.

Skip forward a few years and we have the continuation of this work manifesting itself in Agile Warrior, Future Army Structure, Future Army Structure (Next Steps),  Multi Role Brigades and the studies by General Nick Carter that are seeking to tie up all these competing loose ends.

These studies don’t exist in a vacuum though and the eponymous elephant in the room is the financial situation that sees options somewhat limited. Although the Army (obviously) has a larger personnel cost it has seemed to be at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to major equipment projects with significant quantities spent on aircraft, ships and submarines. This does not seem to be changing much except that after Afghanistan the Army will shrink to about 80,000 personnel despite not being likely to see much additional capital expenditure.

It is the financial situation as much as anything else that will dictate the future shape of the Army but with the obvious caveat of crystal balls and lottery tickets I think whatever that shape becomes, operating in an urban environment will remain a relevant challenge.

So what is Agile Warrior?

Agile Warrior

Agile Warrior is the latest process that is being used to inform thinking on the shape of the Army, it is not a unitary field exercise but more of an annual evidenced based process that uses a series of linked activities.

The 3* guidance on the embedded document below characterises Agile Warrior as

Series of activities designed to get the Army Thinking;

  • Deliver an authoritative evidence-based analysis of future land-force requirements within a JIIM context
  • Across all Lines of Development
  • FCOC era out to 2020
  • Policy aware not policy constrained
  • By the Army not to the Army
  • A Brand name

Agile Warrior 11 had a number of themed questions;

1. Test the ability of the TAS structure to transition to best-effort Divisional level operations in a hybrid conflict.

2. Test how a Multi Role Bde will fight and operate in a hybrid conflict. Test how our sustainment and service support organisations will operate in hybrid conflict.

3. Evaluate and determine the Army’s future C2 requirements and associated models, for ISTAR and CIS.

4. Determine the ‘Understand’ demands of continuous modulated engagement and deployed brigade operations and recommend the optimum structures to meet them.

5. Determine the nature of future demand on commanders and soldiers.

6. In what ways will we need increased Army agility in the future and how should we look to promote it?

7. Test and evaluate the major constituent parts of our current doctrine and determine its necessary conceptual direction of travel in the next 10 years.

The final report highlighted 17 key insights and this year’s events will work on the following questions;

1. Urban Operations;

2. Cyber and Influence;

3. C2 at Div. and Bde;

4. Whole Force Concept; Contractors & Reserves

5. UORs into Core;

6 – National Interests;

7. Professional Development;

8. Force Support;

Separate but linked activities include Exercise Urban Warrior and Exercise Mad Scientist.

Continuous Modulated Engagement (CME)

A new buzzword perhaps, but it is used to describe the span of activities that the Army will need to undertake in support of the National Security Strategy, in so much as we actually have one.

Because the SDSR and NSS place an emphasis on addressing the root causes of instability that effects British interests (although this was a tenuous link) the Army, as one component of this strategy, must adapt and enable achievement of objectives by influencing events.

Understanding the Environment

As identified by a RUSI paper on Agile Warrior one of the key challenges with CME is devoting sufficient resources over a sufficiently long time to enable a level of an adequate understanding to be developed before any operation. Managing the wider intelligence picture, horizon scanning and fusing disparate sources of information into a single, coherent picture is arguably the most significant of these challenges and it is compounded in an urban environment by a number of factors.

Whilst remote sensing prior to an operation is invaluable there is no substitute for in depth understanding and empathy so this will need much more resources devoted to so called Foreign Area Officers, a career structure that rewards specialisation and deployment model that sees them working largely in locations of strategic interest.

The role of the Army in understanding the environment prior to operations might not necessarily be exclusive; of course it should be a multi-agency and these others might include local business, charities or civic leaders and we should not be afraid of engaging with religion or even Twitter and Facebook.

Information to develop understanding should be source independent but whether the Army is the best place for this information to reside or be collected by is a point for debate.

Indigenous Capability Building

This area is one of the more interesting aspects of Agile Warrior is it discusses the notion of developing Foreign Area Officers with an appropriate career stream, deploying training teams at strategically important locations and ensuring that overseas training locations also have benefits to localised capability.

It places special focus on training these overseas training teams so that they can see the wider picture.

I am going to be looking into aspects of Agile Warrior in the future and specifically urban issues, here are a few documents to inform those discussions and prime the pump!

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March 10, 2012 10:47 am

Good find administration, Cheers.

March 10, 2012 11:09 am

I wish I had hard copies of these documents and others like them to beat people who say the Army is directionless about the head with.

It’s amazing a 3* with all his political crony-ism, forgetting the lessons of the past and laughing maniacally as his soldiers die in SNATCH has any time whatsoever for conducting empirical research on which to base informed decisions about the service. The horrifying thing is the documents suggest a history of such undertakings and that there are more to come.

March 10, 2012 4:54 pm

The above document suggests that MRB is firmly the way to go.
It also, however, outlines a lot of measures to apply that in the US are around at least by 2003, including:

Modular HQ

Standardization of structures at all levels (a battalion of infantry is build THIS way, a Recce regiment THAT way, a Brigade HQ is so structured…)

Organic Force Protection element in CSS units

Information Management and Exploitation cell at Brigade HQ level

And a few others. The above is largely the re-invention of the 2003 US Army reform that gave birth to the Brigade Combat Teams, with little, if any, genuine new additions.

Also, there might be a gap in the plan where it is envisaged that a brigade will operate under a 2-stars divisional HQ.
With the reduction to a single deployable divisional HQ, this could be a problem, unless said Divisional HQ isn’t restructured in a modular way.

A US Division HQ can command up to 4 BCTs.
The single UK Deployable HQ should be able to command a Division of 3 brigades OR deploy “mini-HQ” with all functions, but sized to provide a top-level guidance to a single brigade.

The second deployable Divisional HQ should then be a command needing augmentation to deploy at divisional level (x3 brigades, as announced by the SDSR) but capable, without augmentation, to provide a further 2 “mini-HQs”.

I don’t know if i’ve been clear in my exposition, but this is how i read it.
Each brigade would have its own HQ for the “tactical” work, with an higher echelon 2-star HQ deployed to control the higher functions, from relations with the allies in the area to theatre logistics and so along.

Regarding Force Protection for CSS, i now wonder if it has something to do with the reorganization of the Gurkha logistic regiment. Any chance that it is being “reorganized” to provide Force Protection squadrons for assignment to the CSS element of the MRBs…?

March 10, 2012 8:29 pm

It is all a bit confusing. Surely a soldier’s job is to commit violence to the enemy within the rules of engagement that are a result of a political framework constructed by politicians? Surely soldiers have fought in all environments since time in memorial? Surely soldiers are a product of the wider society? I don’t see how the next hundred years of civilisation will differ in those respects from the previous few thousands year of civilisation since man took up farming? The biggest problem facing Western forces as highlighted in a document that was promulgated here recently I think by Phil was that our enemies, not just terror groups but nation states, won’t play war by the same rules we in the West do. An extreme example to illustrate, do you think the Wafen SS with our technology would have had the same “problems” we have had in Afghanistan? Probably not. I am sorry documents like those above just leave a bit confused.

March 10, 2012 8:31 pm

I think MRBs are still tosh too.

March 10, 2012 11:46 pm

They are gobbledygook.

March 11, 2012 12:21 am

Well that takes us back to the ongoing nuclear debate in the Astute thread. In the Cold War all the Army was a speed bump hopefully providing enough time for the politicians to pull back from the brink. Our Army was tiny in 1985 and there will be 100,000 fewer soldiers than then in 2015 with only 80,000. How many did Belgium put into the field in WW1? 2,000,000 or so. Go and look at how many soldiers today’s Indian Army deploys; the number of regiments and formations make your head spin. The odd thing is I know what Trident does how ever unlikely that eventually may be. But I am not sure what the Army is for. It seems the Americans are interested in us. The Third World hates us. Europe is another place. We don’t have the resources to do much. And don’t have the clout either economically or diplomatically to enable our forces to do much.

March 11, 2012 12:22 am

@ TD

As for disagreeing it is your blog. You can choose to disagree. Doesn’t make you right. :) ;)

March 11, 2012 7:08 am

Actually the real problem is the size of mech and lt inf bns (armd are probably OK but should increase if the Warriors are available). Mech and lt need to go to 4 rifle coys preferably with a commensurate increase in spt coy, although this could be done by TA/res as now. The problem is the infantry regimental mafia, they prefer to have more battalions not bigger ones. RA regts of 6 btys are increasingly usual, inf bns of 6 coys should be as well.

Scrapping 10 bns, which is not unreasonable, would provide 60 coys of manpower and some (& 3 or 4 more bodies in each rifle pl HQ would be a good idea as well for sharpshooters and mortar), but only about 20 coys are needed. If you wanted to do the job properly you’d add a spt sect to each non-mech pl but that and a 4th coy would add 200 (more if spt coy was enhanced with regs) men to each non-mech bn. It’s the most cost effective change the Brit Army could make, not least because the rank structure would be flatter and wages bill average per head lower. It effectively adds a fourth bn to each bde if mech bns were included for half a bn’s worth of men (if spt sects aren’t included).

March 11, 2012 8:25 am

Hi Obsvr,

Fully agree with your thinking (the 6 coy bn is a flippant addition?)

Further (as you concentrate on light infantry), the air assult bns should be considered divisional troops (even though held by a centre of excellence, called 16X)
– am I right in assuming that even if one brigade is fielded, it would go with a deployable divisional HQ?

March 11, 2012 8:30 am

“its all very well postulating an enduring stabilisation operation but if that can only take place in Newton Abbot an awful lot of assumptions about partner capabilities need to be made, hoping they will take up the slack and compensate for our lack of mass”

It seems to me that we have known this for ages, though. And it is pretty much recognized that taking responsibility for an area as big as Helmand is was a suicidal move.

I don’t see where the surprise is, frankly.
It is also part of why me and a few others think that it is pointless to spend money on a larger army, as even 150.000 regulars would provide a minimal expansion in what can be done, at totally disproportionate cost.
It is a game that requires numbers that the UK can’t sustain.

March 11, 2012 8:38 am

“am I right in assuming that even if one brigade is fielded, it would go with a deployable divisional HQ?”

That is what i read in the documents. It would appear to me that the idea is that even a single brigade deploys with a 2-star overhead HQ.

And the cynic part of me is wondering if this is genuinely necessary/desirable, or if it is a “saving top brass Ryan” measure that could be avoided somehow by just giving an MRB a larger, modular HQ.

March 11, 2012 8:45 am

Bon giorno, Gabby
RE “And the cynic part of me is wondering if this is genuinely necessary/desirable, or if it is a “saving top brass Ryan” measure that could be avoided somehow by just giving an MRB a larger, modular HQ.”
– remember that there is only one of them (and should bdes rotate, it is the element providing continuity)

On that topic, ARRC was deprived of its signals elements in the SDSR.
– does still exist in reality, or has it degenerated into a planning and coordinating unit for the potentially mobilised (but not so rapid)multinational force?

March 11, 2012 8:49 am

It’s desirable.

A Brigade HQ has access to more assets than a Battalion HQ, for example, I think the MRLS is only intergrated on a Brigade scale? Or Recce and Signals being attached only to a Brigade HQ (The high level recce and signals companies, not the short ranged scouts and radioman). Think air assets are also intergrated at that level.

March 11, 2012 10:59 am

The Norwegians and Germans(?) have four company battalions that have 3 x rifle platoons + 1 x heavy weapons platoon.

The British Army for a while now seems to have been deploying company sized units to fill gaps or hit a required manpower level for an op. I suppose this in a way mirrors how the battlegroup seems to be preferred over the brigade. It is all numbers. There will be a point where cohesiveness is effected I suppose. For that reason I think 3 x rifle companies + support + HQ is still the best model.

Still think MRB is codswallop.

March 11, 2012 11:57 am

I might b persuaded towards a 3 x ( 3 x rifle platoon + heavy weapons platoon) + 1 x(HQ + mortar platoon)

I am never sure about Commando 21.

March 11, 2012 12:18 pm

I think there was a lot to think about in what
Obsvr says:
March 11, 2012 at 7:08 am
Actually the real problem is the size of mech and lt inf bns (armd are probably OK …)

Rule of thumb I would suggest(Lt & MI only):
4 coy, that make up 2/3 of the overall bn strength, there will be bde-level assets attached a lot of the time. But importantly, that sort of strength would enable the bn to be fairly independent within an assigned area, until the overall situation takes a new turn (in most campains, not often)

March 11, 2012 12:27 pm


Battalions each holding a position may be nice, but it’s at the basic brigade level that all the co-ordination takes place, which is the reason for the brigade recce company and signals (almost types singles there…) company.

How do I explain the difference…?

Ok, let us say battalion A comes under attack. It’s perfectly capable of holding it’s own with fire support. Battalion B reports enemy recon elements near it’s AOR. Individually, without higher co-ordination (A not talking to B), these events may be overlooked as individual incidents, it’s only at higher levels (Brigade HQ) does the overall strategic picture get looked at (A is a feint, B is about to get hammered, deploy less fire support for A, keep most in reserve for B).

So in a way, going bare basic is good, but it might cause people to miss the trees for the forest so to speak.

And my bad, MLRS and Aviation is intergrated at the Division level, which is probably 2 or more MRBs working together, so, sorry no AHs or Grid-square removal for the poor Battalion… aww…

March 11, 2012 12:38 pm

In Afghanistan i’ve read that pretty often the battalions form 4 maneuver companies, breaking the Support Company into Platoons/groups, one per each rifle coy.
Only mortars remain centrally held, and not always, since they can be assigned to the coys as well.

I realize this is best suited for an afghan scenario with forces spread over a wide area, but, to me at least, it seems an effective way to organize the battalion for pretty much any kind of task, even for conventional warfighting.

If i remember correctly, ARRC is no longer a deployable HQ. It directs operations from the UK and (i guess) could be augmented if a deployment proved really necessary.

March 11, 2012 12:42 pm

I think there is no magical answer to these organisational condundrums except trusting the overall commander to tak organise his troops appropriately.

For example, one model is to centralise the bigger capabilities and assign as needed from the bigger battlefield picture the Corps commander may possess. Every battalion’s situation is going to be desperate but that is irrelevent, what is relevant is achieving the mission and concentrating mass and firepower. This can be done effectively from the centre.

But, if communications are very difficult, there is a lot of disruption EW, strike on HQ and signals nodes and a fragmented picture then centrally held assets might be underused or improperly used so they should be cascaded down to the next appropriate level.

It really depends on the commanders appraisal and what he thinks is going to happen and what the difficulties etc are going to be.

Paper organisations are good for benchmarking, providing a peacetime framework and for many other reasons but they are useless in an actual operation as any commander worth his salt is going to be constantly task organising as best as he can.

As an example, you are Commander 1 Br Corps in NORTHAG. The Soviets are due over the border, do you centralise as much artillery as possible in order to use it in great concentrations, or do you anticipate a breakdown in communications and coordination in the chaos of war and cascade the artillery to the divisions keeping perhaps only the nuclear artillery in Corps reserve?

March 11, 2012 12:55 pm

“In Afghanistan i’ve read that pretty often the battalions form 4 maneuver companies, breaking the Support Company into Platoons/groups, one per each rifle coy.”

Each CF is task organised specifically for their lay down.

The battlegroups are completely re-organised. Some have more companies than others.

March 11, 2012 1:17 pm

: I’m all for Bn’s being filled out to something very close to war establishment. Readiness and keeping units together is a good thing full stop. Regarding all those “spare” companies gained from a reduction in Bn numbers, there are a lot of company group slots that could be filled: logistic squadron/regiment escort, HQ defence, even airfield defence (will wait for @James to steam in here). Having formed independent company groups, with attached support weapons available, would seem a sensible use of the manpower

March 11, 2012 2:26 pm

. Independent Inf Coys could be used for Log Force Protection but this is not the optimal solution – hence Agile Warrior’s recommendation for organic FP for Log Sp Regts. Organic FP means that the bulk of the assets in the CLP work for the same boss, live and train together. Independent Inf Coys would be likely to be pulled away for more pressing tasks when bayonets are short, and Coy Comds are predisposed to lobby for more interesting tasks than convoy protection. One would also question what the Inf Coy OC would do on deployment? CLPs are usually Sqn tasks, commanded by the RLC Sqn Comd (because it’s about log effect). Deploying a log and a FP comd element of the same rank is not neat. (ps note that I’m talking about the close FP and manoeuvre of the log element – depth FP is the game played by the ground holding FE)

March 11, 2012 2:37 pm


The MRB concept, as people insist on calling it, is irresistible as a concept. Our politicians continue to think in terms of R2P and enduring stabilisation and thusly must the Army be organised.

The trouble with the MRB is that the concept is not matched by the kit. It’s a good concept marred by the hodgepodge of kit that will be thrown into it. If the kit was rationalised then it would be a better organisation.

But, as the concept is irresistible, it will come about despite masturbatory hopes for airsealand battle type affair of hi-tech aspirational clap trap perfectly suited for the war we have yet to fight, ever.

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
March 11, 2012 4:36 pm

Phil, Your last sentence sums up the reason we are always ready to fight the last war when the next one arrives.

March 11, 2012 4:37 pm

@ Phil re MRB

For me it is about mass and specialization.

March 11, 2012 5:09 pm

I think the name MRB was the worst thing to ever happen to the whole idea of what is essentially the concept of having 5 identical Brigade Groups which are interachangeable and are suited to the most likely missions the Army will conduct. Every Brigade is multi-role, they are what we make of them.

It’s why I pedantically always call them Brigade Groups.

March 11, 2012 5:40 pm

These documents are the only evidence of anyone looking at the future with anything other than a bag of chicken bones. They highlight any number of emerging threats and issues and confirm that the future character of conflict is unlikely to be major state-on-state warfare, indeed highlighting how the state is likely to become less influential than pan-social and non-state actors such as AQ. They need to be read carefully, and understood in the context of what they are trying to predict. Ignoring them or discounting them as gobbledegook is shortsighted.

The DCDC website has a lot of other valid texts available for public reading – may I (highly) recommend the latest reissue of British Maritime Doctrine, now a much reduced document which is easier to read.

Off now to try and understand army-speak and read the above Land pubs…

March 11, 2012 5:45 pm

@ Phil

I am sorry I just don’t get it. You have an advantage on me that you have knowledge of the inner workings of the Army. But as a broad strokes idea to me the layman I can’t really map my experience of how organisations work onto this idea. And then as you say there is the issue of kit. We have armour and we have light role unlike our continental cousins we don’t have a mechanised centre ground. So we don’t really have multi-role start with. I don’t know. Ignore me.

March 11, 2012 5:47 pm

@ Somewhat

I understand the context. To be honest all I am seeing now is people who are used to being fed a diet of MoD gobbledygook toeing the corporate line.

March 11, 2012 7:48 pm

I suppose I just see them as operational groupings that are designed to conduct the sort of operations our politicians want the Army to conduct and show no signs of stopping.

I see nothing radical in them whatsoever.

They are simply Infantry Brigade Groups.

No we don’t have the mechanisation. Which is the problem. But there is a very pressing need to re-organise the Army to optimise it for enduring operations. When the Army drops in size there will be far less scope to fudge this sort of thing and robbing Peter to pay Paul is simply not going to be an option.

The bulk of the Army needs to become more uniform, more modularised and better shaped to conduct enduring operations. No we don’t have mechanisation and if we did the whole MRB concept would not seem as odd as it does to some folk.

So the problem is, the Army must be standardised and modularised, but the right balance of kit isn’t there yet. But the status quo simply cannot continue.

They make sense, shame there isn’t the kit to lock the concept down.

March 11, 2012 8:08 pm

Phil said “better shaped to conduct enduring operations”

Which means really infantry in MRAPS/protected motorised vehicles backed up some light guns, GMLRS, UAV, and FRR. Formations rotate on 6 month away in 3 year model.

As I said best for the armour to be concentrated in one brigade. We end up with a full T58 Chally regiment and 2 or 3 infantry battalions mounted only Warrior (plus support arms.) Regiments will be assigned to it for 3 to 4 years. Concentrates vehicle hours in the minimum number of hulls.

Simpler system.

March 11, 2012 8:27 pm

Hi x and Phil,

All of that sounds good, in words.
– but are you thinking that the army is there to police/ patrol/ control some empty, wind-swept places in eternity?
– the NW Frontier, guarding it, made sense when there was an economic engine to be protected and taxed, because even then it was the size of of the economy on these islands

And now, RE ” the problem is, the Army must be standardised and modularised [and mechanised?]”
– a strange obsession?
– BEF was the first 100% mechanised army; value?
– standardised; value?
– modularised; well, I’m always for that

March 11, 2012 8:28 pm

Step away from the arms plot!

Perhaps there could be four infantry brigade groups, and one heavy brigade. If tours go up to 9 months you’d have 27 months between tours which is longer than the 5 IBG model. Possible.

If the Army thinks it can reconstitute a heavy brigade from IBGs and fight it then I think it will go with the 5 IBGs.

If it is decided that forming a heavy brigade around a IBG won’t cut the mustard, I think we’ll see the end to the 6 month tour and go down the 4 IBG and 1 Heavy Bde route.

I don’t have the answers to that condundrum. The Army will have to think and study. All I know is that enduring operations must be at the heart of the new Army.

March 11, 2012 8:31 pm

“but are you thinking that the army is there to police/ patrol/ control some empty, wind-swept places in eternity?”

As I have said, I am not thinking anything.

I am going by the evidence emminating from our politicians who control the employment of the Army.

Standardisation brings rationalisation and lower costs. I am thinking in terms of kit, I am not advocating moving away from Task Orgs thats the commanders prerogative.

March 11, 2012 8:32 pm

Maybe the kit will come when the budget improves? After all, this is a bad time with storm clouds (Greece) on the horizon.


Nice idea, but the poor infantry gets robbed of mobility unless you use MRAPs or 8x8s to get around. “Ask me for anything but time.” And speed IS time.

March 11, 2012 8:35 pm


I imagine the kit will come. We just don’t have it now which skews the debate. People have spent a lot of time and energy debating for example the balance between armoured, mechanised and light infantry battalions in an IBG. That debate would be moot if all three battalions were mounted in a Stryker type platform.

March 11, 2012 8:35 pm

And I mention Stryker just as a generic platform so nobody come at me and ask why Stryker!

March 11, 2012 8:40 pm

@ Phil

The units assigned to the armoured brigade would have to move to the bases near SPTA. Easier to move soldiers and families than move the kit which can only be used for brigade scale training on SPTA anyway. That is why I say 3 or 4 years. Where will the armoured battalions of the MRB be training anyway? There are lots of places COIN/peacekeeping training can be done through out the UK.

March 11, 2012 8:43 pm

@ Phil re Stryker

Once I mentioned here the BTR in a positive light and got jumped on. Best to say in brackets (other 8x8s are available) or (or any 8×8 of your choosing) just to be on the safe side.

March 11, 2012 8:48 pm


You didn’t happen to say “Hi I’m a BTR!” did you? :P

March 11, 2012 8:51 pm


Just leave the Brigade at Bulford or somewhere similar. I see no point moving infantry battalions, just trickle post as most other sane Armies do and we do now.

I don’t know where they’d train. Probably Canada and SPTA and Poland.

I imagine these are all issues being worked through which will affect the flavour of the IBGs and any heavy forces.

March 11, 2012 8:57 pm

Hi Phil, sometimes I have found it difficult to understand why you say some things, but now against this ” All I know is that enduring operations must be at the heart of the new Army.” it is all more readable

March 11, 2012 8:59 pm

@ Observer

No I didn’t. At that time I was convinced I was BARV serving in HMS Albion. :) ;)

@ Phil

My point is that all the armoured units should be concentrated in one brigade. Next to the areas where they can exercise their kit. And with the families close by. The Army needs an armoured capability but we have to factor in the UK fights an armoured once every 10 years or so. The busy part of the army will be the peacekeepers/COIN/UN assigned formations. For the UK to become a centre of excellence those brigades assigned to those duties need to concentrate on them with a some armour training for variety depending on where they are in the deployment cycle.

March 11, 2012 8:59 pm

I get there in the end!

March 11, 2012 9:01 pm

“My point is that all the armoured units should be concentrated in one brigade. Next to the areas where they can exercise their kit. And with the families close by. The Army needs an armoured capability but we have to factor in the UK fights an armoured once every 10 years or so. The busy part of the army will be the peacekeepers/COIN/UN assigned formations. For the UK to become a centre of excellence those brigades assigned to those duties need to concentrate on them with a some armour training for variety depending on where they are in the deployment cycle.”

Agreed. So why the infantry arms plot?

Drop the heavy brigade near SPTA and voila!

March 11, 2012 9:04 pm

Hi x, RE
“Once I mentioned here the BTR in a positive light and got jumped on”
– I sincerely do not remember you getting jumped on at all
– BTR90 is a great platform as an infantry carrier ( and for protecting its dismounts, once they are off)

It has its limitations in the further growth; Freccia with a gun on top is currently going through trils with the Russian army, with a view to buying an early batch, and then making some more over there),a model tried out with IVECO Lince (Panther) and the French LSDs (without! the NATO command system installed, in the end)

March 11, 2012 9:09 pm

There is one type of formation that I think is lacking, something like a territorial defence force configured for COIN ops, not the “kick down doors, shoot anything with a gun” tpye of COIN, but more like a heavily armed police force type with specific equipment and SOP for area control, like Psyops, Propaganda, Economic Warfare, Religions Warfare, Internal Security, Anti-Corruption and equipment like metal detectors, security passcards and 24hr survilance cameras. Roles will overlap somewhat with Police/Internal Security and some military ops. I know the military has sub-branches per formation devoted to this sort of thing, but if combined into a single formation? It’s going to be manpower intensive, but might be more effective than using combat troops for this kind of jobs.

Assasinations Department anyone? :P

March 11, 2012 9:12 pm

For a moment there, I thought Phil said “Drop the heavy brigade, SPLAT! Viola!” :)

March 11, 2012 9:18 pm

Gives a new meaning to the term “drop tank” :)

March 11, 2012 9:29 pm

@ Phil “So why the infantry arms plot?”

Yes I see what you are asking. Right…..

1) Let’s say for the sake of argument we have 21 battalions with 3 infantry battalions per brigade so 7 brigades. (Oddly enough there are 21 line infantry brigades right now.)

2) I push one brigade to SPTA for armour for 3 to 4 years.

3) This leaves me with 6 brigades. My understanding is that Army likes a 6 months out of 36 month deployment schedule. At the start of the schedule then,

4) One brigade will be 12 months away from deploying.

5) One brigade will be 6 months away from deploying.

6) One brigade will be deployed.

7) One will be returned going through all the stuff regiments go through on return from a deployment.

8) Well I wasn’t sure to do with the next brigade so I thought it could do some basic armour training so it could augment the armoured brigade if needed in extremis. I am only on about basic, basic armour training. Without wishing to sound patronising I thought boredom was one of the big problems. And as you said variety and interest are important in a training programme.

9) And similar for the next brigade plus public duties or whatever else the Army wants to with them.

March 11, 2012 9:32 pm

Observer said “Assasinations Department”

I read that as “Assignations Department”. And I was going to humbly suggest if James’ stories are anything to go by the Cavalry have that well covered.

March 11, 2012 9:43 pm


Depending on the culture, that could work too. :)

March 11, 2012 10:06 pm

“Agile Warrior and the NSS has decided that we must concentrate much more heavily on conflict prevention”

Interesting as a concept.

BUT, this is a political decision not a military one.

Things being as they are, we tend to get involved after the event.

March 11, 2012 10:15 pm

I’m sorry but you can’t increase the TA to 30k talk of them being more useful more used and then say we only have an 82k army to do stabilisation ect. We have a 112k plus 7k marines ground force to do stabilisation ect if we’re serious about reserves ect and it s not just more waffle.

March 11, 2012 10:24 pm

Um. Once you start using your reserves they cease to be reserves….

March 11, 2012 10:51 pm

I hear that Mogadishu (after Black Hawk down) has now finally been err, stabilised by a 30.000 strong OAU force RE “not least because the third world shitholes that need stabilising are generally speaking, quite populous and concentrated in cities, hence the focus on operations in urban areas.”

March 11, 2012 10:55 pm

Hi x,

the military maxim about keeping 30% of your force in reserve (what a coincidence there with the SDSR) and once deciding on committing it, you better be right (or you will have lost) is very different from having 30% of your total force based on reserves?

March 11, 2012 11:06 pm

Mark we agree vociferously on something. In fact I have let myself down I usually jump on the 82k figure and point out as you have done that the figure is 112k.

It’s this integration of figures which to me signals an intent to get the TA to provide formed combat units.

All is just a hunch though.

March 11, 2012 11:18 pm

Hi Phil,

I really enjoyed your piece on the Danish Army,their use of reserves (contract) as a layer between the conscripted and the fully-pro, and learned a lot.

I hope you will do a “Take 2” on your TA piece, after all the comments?

March 12, 2012 12:21 am

RE” the SDSR that has seen the Army drop to 82,000 personnel and a political climate that seems, at least for the short term, to be somewhat anti enduring commitment.

It is these two factors that I think have pushed General Carter to weigh up alternatives that seek to preserve combat power, as many cap badges as possible and at least try and address those two very serious factors of political will and number of personnel”
– this must be the key (not a pre-announcement?)
– formations must be, or quickly to be configured, fighty
– I think I can see a lot of activity, which is seeking to put the UK in the enablers “slot” which means money spent that the other nations can’t afford
– but at the same time means a contribution that leaves the expensive manpower ready for other deployments … and most of those enablers can be redirected to the national priority

March 12, 2012 10:15 am

@ Phil – “If it is decided that forming a heavy brigade around a IBG won’t cut the mustard, I think we’ll see the end to the 6 month tour and go down the 4 IBG and 1 Heavy Bde route.”

As an outsider I can certainly see the attraction of a 3:1 deployment ratio based on 9 month tours.

The logical consequence of this is:
1. 4x IBG’s composed of a BRR and three line infantry
2. 1x Armoured brigade capable of providing four Combined Arms Battalions (see US BCT)
3. Use what left to provide a heavy training/mentoring force that can operate alongside the fighty element.

Whether it actually makes sense or not………….?

March 12, 2012 10:33 am

it gives you three force elements for the day to day ambitions of:
“The new Defence Planning Assumptions
envisage that the Armed Forces in the future will
be sized and shaped to conduct:
• an enduring stabilisation operation at around
brigade level with maritime and air support as required, while
also conducting: ((IBG+enablers))
• one non-enduring complex intervention (up to
2,000 personnel), and ((3Cdo/16AAB battlegroup))
• one non-enduring simple intervention (up to
1,000 personnel); ((re-roled Combined Arms))
• for a limited time, and with suffjcient warning,
committing all our efgort to a one-of
intervention of up to three brigades ((one intervention, one IBG, one Armoured)), with
maritime and air support.”

March 12, 2012 12:11 pm


I see no point in combined arms battalions, we fight in battlegroups anyway. It’s worked very well for 60 odd years.

If we are going down the stabilisation route then we are going to need units for the OMLT role. I can only think that the regular establishment will take that force from the IBGs and top them up in turn with TA units. I think closer integration of TA and these brigades is inevitable.

Your intervention list.

The mon complex op is the bag of the SLE which is basically light infantry rather than a battlegroup. The complex will be ABTF or AGTF.

Many many questions. But we can see its being though about.

But some things are clear. Enduring ops will be at the heart of the Army and the reserved are going to be more closely integrated somehow.

March 12, 2012 1:45 pm


You could of course have that armoured brigade equipped with only ascod variants in much the same way as the US equips it’s Stryker brigade if you wanted to be bold and radical.

March 12, 2012 1:52 pm

Like I said concentrate all Warrior into one brigade.

March 12, 2012 1:57 pm

I don’t have enough of an interest in kit to know what’s best on that score.

March 12, 2012 3:34 pm

I might well be entirely wrong, but for the little the press suggests about General Carter’s thinking, he just plainly scares me because none of the two variants of his plan that the press reported about (one on 4, one on 10 brigades) seem to make sense.

The point about cutting back on engineers and CSS, using more contractors and reserves particularly puzzle me.

“Don’t start a battle that you can’t sustain and supply” springs to mind.
My fear is that the handful of infantry battalions he (eventually) saves actually deliver less concrete capability for lack of proper enablers and support.

But i guess the press can’t be trusted, and a judgement will only be fair once i see the real review document released…

March 12, 2012 5:35 pm

@ phil – a large armored brigade with four tank regiments and four armored infantry………?

….. Being quite happy to cycle through roulement providing specialists drivers for an ingredient mission, I.e. Adkins idea of the race as a trade rather than a profession.

March 12, 2012 6:44 pm

“I might well be entirely wrong, but for the little the press suggests about General Carter’s thinking, he just plainly scares me because none of the two variants of his plan that the press reported about (one on 4, one on 10 brigades) seem to make sense.”

I suspect that all we got was a snippet of the work he was doing. Probably not even option papers but more blue sky thinking as it were. I can’t see either one of those options matching the need for an Army built around enduring operations.

“@ phil – a large armored brigade with four tank regiments and four armored infantry………?”

That’s nearly a division! I would say it should be organised as 2 tank, 2 armoured infantry, a FRR and a TA war reserve akin to the reserve 1 Division had in the Gulf War. This would give the brigade depth.

March 12, 2012 6:51 pm

Then what the Army would have is a squadron of MBTs in each IBG, giving 56 MBTs. 2 Type 58 Regiments in the Heavy Bde giving 116. Plus the war reserve of 2 squadrons more giving 28 tanks. So we’d have a total of 200 MBTs. Is that about right for the number of CR2s we have left?

March 12, 2012 8:58 pm

227 Challenger 2
95 AS90
300 to 500 Warriors receiving upgrades (i highly doubt of the 500 figure, but i’ve seen that too), of which only around 250 will be IFVs getting the new turret and gun.
Some 120 Light Guns

FRES SV contract of course not signed, but original deal had options for a minimum of 400 and a maximum of 589 vehicles.
245 to 270 would be Scout, the rest would be APC and recovery and repair.

These are the hard numbers. Aside from the 82.000 regulars figure, they are some of the most important factors in the reshaping of the force. Whatever structure is chosen, those are the resources it has to do with.

“suspect that all we got was a snippet of the work he was doing. Probably not even option papers but more blue sky thinking as it were.”

I think that too, but until the document comes out, the press reports are all we have.

March 12, 2012 9:10 pm

227 tanks that include 32 in BATUS, 12 for A Sqn 1RTR, and of course there is whole fleet management to consider.

March 12, 2012 9:54 pm

Oh yes I forgot about BATUS and LWC.

March 12, 2012 10:22 pm

Cheers phil. Guess I’m slightly obsessed with supporting the 3:1 roulement. ;)

March 12, 2012 10:34 pm

There we go! Gently lead by the hand!

So the maximum we’d need at any one time would be

116 + 28
32 in BATUS
14 in LWC
14 in 1 IBG
= 204

Leaving 23 odd kicking around, to be fought over. Until the heavy brigade comes home (hopefully mostly intact) and the tanks are redistributed amongst the whole fleet.

March 12, 2012 11:20 pm

Contractors are probably fine for enduring operations. They are of much less value in contingency operations. And I think organic FP is the only way to go. You’ll never have enough troops to fight and guard LoCs no matter how big your Army is so best to bite the bullet and get the echelons to look after themselves.

March 14, 2012 3:29 pm

Interesting thread.

My understanding is that MRBs were formed primarily as an administrative grouping, then with a view that they would be of use in some stabilisation scenarios. Personally I think MRBS are a flawed concept and would echo @ Phil that we need to concentrate our armour capability.

I am not sure that enduring ops are the way ahead for us, simply because we are so small. Enduring ops was fine when we could look after an area sufficient in size to enable us a seat at the top table. That is no longer true. SO from a strategic perspective we take considerable risk for limited gain in volunteering ourselves for enduring ops.

The thread has highlighted what AGILE WARRIOR has exposed, namely that the UK Armed Forces are now too small to have significant strategic effect. Mass has a quality all of its own and we now lack quality in the mass department. Worryingly if the armed forces shrink much smaller we will threaten our significant strategic edge in SF. You need a large pool of volunteers in order to keep standards high. Diminishing the pool of volunteers will either result in lower nuumbers or lower standards. We have expanded SF considerably since 2001; now we are draining the pool it recruits from.

March 14, 2012 11:39 pm

@TD regarding logs and contractors. The current use of contractors works if we’re only ever going to do HERRICK type stuff, from a fixed, BFO MOB. We’re not currently manoeuvring a Bde Sp Gp around the AO, as we possibly might need to do in major Cbt Ops when we might want to operate at a distance from our point of entry. If we need to flex a BSG around, then we’re going to need all of those assets – water, bulk fuel, distribution, field repair, scoff – provided by blokes who can operate in a sporty environment. (Just seen Phil’s comment ref contingency ops – bingo)