Generic Base Architecture and FOBEX

In September last year a wrote about the Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA) and how it is probably one of the smartest things the MoD has done recently, how it will have a profound effect on future costs and capabilities in the vehicle fleet and that the MoD will receive almost no publicity or credit for doing so.

FOBEX
FOBEX

In addition to vehicles, the same concept has been applied to bases and soldier equipment as part of the Land Open Systems Architecture (LOSA)

LOSA
LOSA

GBA is defined in Def-Stan 23-13 as an open standard that defines interfaces to power, data, water, waste and fuel.

Forward bases are the stock in trade of an Army, at the end of Herrick IX in April 2009 the British Army had 55 in Afghanistan and by November 2010 this number had risen to 132. Fuel in particular is a major concern, with these forward bases in 2009 accounting for only 3% of actual fuel used but 25% of the fully burdened fuel cost, this latter figure includes the cost of transport and force protection.

Base Laydown
Base Laydown

The various life support needs such as water, waste and hygiene are considerable and where numerous systems exist in isolation waste and incompatibility will be the result.

Force protection needs, Base ISTAR for example, all need to be united into a coherent environment.

GBA, therefore, seeks to define all elements of a base into single system rather than a collection of disparate parts. The ultimate goal is to reduce construction time, personnel used for life support activities and fuel usage whilst offering capability improvements across each element.

LOSA
LOSA

Ambitious

So, GBA is as important as any major project, despite it being a low key and poorly funded activity.

LOSA will be the major theme of this year’s Defence Vehicle Dynamics event.

GBA2 (FOBEX) was a demonstration exercise that involved many organisations and had a wide ranging remit.

FOBEX10 is seeking to identify potential enhancements to the Tactical Base (TB) capability, specifically in the establishment of an integrated system of a ‘30 person Patrol Base (PB)’and (tba) Control Points (CP) from ‘green field’ to levels 1 and 2, and the subsequent removal/disassembly

FOBEX 10 could provide a specific experimentation opportunity for interoperability and infrastructure rationalisation around ground based ISTAR and ‘Sense and Warn’ equipment.

FOBEX10 will be an evaluation of industry claims that FOB’s can be built differently (i.e. quicker, better, cheaper, or better managed). These alternatives constructs are to consider, but not be constrained by, the themes of the Land Open System Architecture functional model, and current thinking on sub-component elements includes addressing the following:

  • Improved quality of infrastructure
  • Waste disposal
  • Power supply and distribution, including vehicle delivered power
  • Water management including treatment testing and bottling, recycling and storage
  • Alternative Force Protection Engineering approaches
  • Precision air dispatch,
  • Immediate medical support
  • Integrated Survivability Systems
  • Helicopter Landing Site (HLS) dust reduction
  • Expedient resurfacing
  • Laundry
  • Winterisation
  • Cover from view capability

 

Team Castrum was led by Selex Galileo Battlespace solutions and included Marshall Land Systems who provided perimeter surveillance using their Trakkar unmanned ground vehicle (based on the Hobo) fitted with a 3m Clark mast, Roke Resolve EW package and Chess Dynamics Owl surveillance equipment.

The Trakkar has also been demonstrated with a Nordic Power Systems fuel cell auxiliary power unit

Silent diesel fuel cell generator developed by Nordic Power with Marshall support installed on a Trakkar
Silent diesel fuel cell generator developed by Nordic Power with Marshall support installed on a Trakkar
Marshall Land Systems TRAKKAR
Marshall Land Systems TRAKKAR

From the press release

The fuel cell generator is targeted at users requiring virtually silent auxiliary power to keep batteries at peak operating condition.  In the situation depicted on the stand the fuel cell, producing 1kW, is providing sufficient power to maintain the batteries of Trakkar® at peak power so that when the vehicle needs to operate in silent mode it is ready to do so.

The diesel fuel generators are based on a Nordic Power patented technology, named “Cool Flame”. The primary role of the generator is expected to be as an auxiliary power unit to extend and enhance silent watch capability and duration.

“The current development programme is producing an integrated standalone advanced technology demonstrator.  At present it is producing 1kW, sufficient to charge batteries, but as the technology is scalable our long term ambition is to produce up to 10kW

The diesel fuel cell at present produces 1kW has a 28 volt output, noise levels of less than 45dBA at 2m and is at least as efficient as a standard diesel generator.

Marshall LS also demonstrated their Safebase deployable armoured sangar.

Marshall Land Systems Safebase Armoured sangar at FOBEX
Marshall Land Systems Safebase Armoured sangar at FOBEX

Base security was provided from a Marshall Safebase deployable armoured sangar fitted with a Selex remote weapon station. A sensor fit could also be deployed.  Safebase is based on a 10ft Marshall shelter with a rising sentry position, which can be lifted into position in 30 seconds.  Once deployed the space in the base of the tower can have multiple uses.  It can for example serve as a mini operations room or as an RWS control station

The Selex RWS was the Enforcer model.

Also on show, the Observer 100 is a trailer borne surveillance system using thermal imaging, daylight cameras and radar than can operate for 30 days without refuelling (when operating off grid) and setup in no more than 10 minutes.

Selex Observer 100 at FOBEX
Selex Observer 100 at FOBEX

Other partners in Team Castrum were IBM, Paradigm, SELEX Communications, MIRA, Rolls Royce, DRS Technologies, NSC, Hertel, BAE Systems and SELEX Galileo.

The recent PowerFOB exercises in Wales and the Episkopi training area in Cyprus demonstrated appropriate GBA technologies but with a focus on power efficiency. Over 30 companies showed a wide variety of technologies.

PowerFOB recognised that a range of technologies would be needed to meet the desired objective of a 50% reduction in fuel use. Better management of generators, renewables and storage would all play a part.

The trials were split into three load classifications; 500W plus for sensors, 5KW for small tactical bases and 50KW for medium tactical bases. Although these thresholds were set for the trials it was emphasised there is nothing typical about each base, solutions should be scalable and modular.

All equipment was required to be transportable in 20ft ISO containers, robust and able to operate with minimal supervision or skilled maintenance personnel. All the solutions would ultimately need to be GBA compliant so that performance and usage data could be transmitted to a single situational awareness display or to other locations.

Using a baseline provided by a similar sized FOB in Afghanistan (FOB Catina) the demonstration showed;

  • Energy storage produced a 22 per cent fuel saving
  • Energy storage plus demand management produced a 37 per cent fuel saving
  • Energy storage plus demand management plus renewables gave 40–50 per cent fuel saving depending on mix of renewables that were used.

CK Solar showed a solar thermal collector

Kraft Maus showed an 8KVa mobile hybrid wind/solar/fossil power platform.

In fuel burn tests, a conventional, 2kW light generator burned 0.6l/kWh of diesel, whilst the Kraft Maus 8kVA burned 0.2l/kWh on its first run of 36 hours, with a total output of 53kWh. It provided 84kWh totally fuel free power for the five day performance test.

Kraft Maus 8Kva Wind and Solar Generator at FOBEX
Kraft Maus 8Kva Wind and Solar Generator at FOBEX

Tradewind Turbines showed their transportable wind turbine.

Tradewinds turbine being unloaded from an ISO Container at FOBEX
Tradewinds turbine being unloaded from an ISO Container at FOBEX
Tradewinds turbine at FOBEX
Tradewinds turbine at FOBEX

Silicon CPV had on display an integrated solar/conventional power system.

Silicon CPV at FOBEX
Silicon CPV at FOBEX

As a means of reducing power demand energy efficient shelters were also shown, the Fortis Shelter from Hertel for example.

Even relatively minor improvements in energy use all add up; moving to lower voltage DC instead of transforming AC down, induction hubs, LED lighting, solar helicopter pad lights that charge during the day and are used at night, glycol refrigeration and low power laundry systems.

Making sure generators are selected on likely loads rather than over sizing which then results in low utilisation and inefficiency is another challenging aspect.

With the increasing use of COTS/MOTS networking, data processing, storage and display systems in bases, a great deal of which is AC, we expend fuel cooling the device and suffer losses because the equipment itself can usually run perfectly on lower voltage DC. It is reckoned that saving 1 watt at the equipment saves another 3 in cooling and other losses.

Sun have a 2Tb storage server that uses only 300 watts for example but is any of this kind of technology being integrated into the numerous data systems, ground control stations and other equipment for example?

Bases start with construction, not smart sensors or wind turbines so a range of building and infrastructure materials have also been trialled, the ubiquitous Hesco Bastion being joined by modular building systems, matting and fortification materials like cuplock sangars or concrete cloth.

Concrete Cloth Layed by Soldiers at FOBEX Demonstration
Concrete Cloth Layed by Soldiers at FOBEX Demonstration

Enhanced Protection Systems (EPS), of Springer fame, showed the Stalwart protected weapon station.

EPS Stalwart at FOBEX
EPS Stalwart at FOBEX
EPS Stalwart at FOBEX
EPS Stalwart at FOBEX

Despite the allure of all this exciting technology we might achieve similar efficiencies if we simply manage what we have better, improve efficiency, make sure the dots are joined and never forget the human elements of leadership and good equipment care.

That said, the ubiquitous puffing billy might also be overdue for replacement, to the relief of eyebrows everywhere!

FOB life puffin billy

Hawkmoor Self Powered Water Boiler
Hawkmoor Self Powered Water Boiler

Read more about PowerFOB here and a few videos to end on.

It seems that no one system is a magic bullet, careful selection of technologies with integration between them with GBA compliance being the underpinning logic.

Although the MoD has perhaps been a little less bold than US forces who seem to be able to get kit into theatre on a trial basis much quicker than us the but are working to different constraints and the more cautious and considered approach means that kit should, in theory, get to theatre in a much more coherent manner with all the constituent parts having an effect greater than the sum of their parts. That said, the UK is far in advance of the US in other areas, generator use and management being one notable example.

LOSA
LOSA

There is loads of good work going on in with the parallel tracks of GBA, FOBEX and ‘system of systems’, let’s hope it survives contact with the MoD’s budget process and as we see the end of Afghanistan, projects like this sustained.

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David
David
June 17, 2012 9:21 pm

I dont know why they have not fitted solar pannels to the top of containers yet. They is around 160 sq foot of space on the top of them that could be used. As much again if they fitted them to one side or double again if put on both side’s. Put a hinge on the as well so the angle can be adjusted. so not only will they be able to supply power but can be used to transport hesco ect to the site as well?

Dave

Observer
Observer
June 18, 2012 8:34 am

Well, if you ship containers by sea, they’re stacked on each other. A plastic solar cell might not take too kindly to being sat on by another 20 ton container.

S O
S O
June 18, 2012 10:56 am

I wish Western forces would ditch the idea of forts altogether.

James
James
June 18, 2012 11:16 am

This thread has the potential to run and run to well over 500 comments:

1. Arguments about static vs manoeuvre warfare, or whether we should be in the country at all.
2. Lots of sexy ISTAR masts.
3. Machine guns.
4. Wind turbines and eco-stuff to save fuel and resupply (I think that’s a really good idea, if it works)
5. Gucci little robotic golf buggies for all sorts of infantry fun.
6. A pretty opaque idea of a “Base Area Network” with the ethernet and wifi replacing good old Don 10.
7. Containers and loggy shit.

I was pleased to see that the man who invented Hesco Bastions got some honour recently – that’s an invention that could have improved soldiers’ lives back in the days of the Roman Legions and ever since, but it took until the very 20th Century for a good old bluff Yorkshireman to make it happen. You haven’t seen the British Army in action until you see 2 Chinooks fly in and with a Sapper fork lift and mini tracked digger, a platoon of infantrymen, and quite a lot of sweat and shouting construct a perfectly functional and reasonably protected platoon patrol base in less than two hours. 82 Hesco Bastions is good going in that time.

Thanks, TD. :) I’ve got a veritable cavalry charge of all sorts of hobby horses to ride on this one!

Phil
June 18, 2012 11:24 am

“I wish Western forces would ditch the idea of forts altogether.”

And do what?

James
James
June 18, 2012 11:27 am

I just had to look up the “concrete cloth”. I’d never have thought of it. This is a completely genius idea, and there’s a British supplier who’ll even do you a prefab shelter in the stuff.

Only needs air and water (which of course needs to be trucked or flown in if in the desert), not a problem elsewhere in the world. 25 or 54 square metres of hardened shelter erected by 2 untrained men in an hour or so, ready for use a day later. What’s not to like?

http://www.concretecanvas.co.uk/

Phil
June 18, 2012 11:35 am

Because Im waiting on bad news about my car I will share what the FOB I was at had in the way of infrastructure. I won’t give troop numbers although they have almost certainly changed and for all I know its been handed over or taken down now. But it was basically a Company Group(-) sized FOB.

It was protected with a mixture of compound wall and good old HESCO with firing steps and a few ramps so JACKALs could be driven up to fire over it. It also had 5 sangars (fear not the locals even knew what number they were) made from HESCO and sandbagged roofs with cover provided by scrim etc.

It had a mortar line with at least 3 barrels (public domain) of 81mm and a big dark cavernous ammo bunker protected by two HABs. Inside there was the ANA camp, we’ll ignore them. And then there was the medical treatment facility in a HAB and the ops room in a HAB. We had a Cortez camera up on a massive pole and which some idiot had draped a camouflage net over the base of, presumably to camouflage a very high pole from the Taliban Air Force.

Power was provided by several light field generators I think they were called which were very reliable and were filled by jerry cans which were bought in on the CLPs. We had a POL point with Kero, a large fuel bowser and other POL. Water was provided from a spring although it was not used for drinking, that came in on the CLPs too. The water was used for cooking, I really don’t know why we weren’t to drink it it was used by the cookhouse to make screech. There was also a field kitchen which the ungrumpy and always happy to serve you chefs made delicious smash, day in, day out. We had a pump which served the showers but the heater element in it was broken for most of the tour and surprisingly ice cold showers even in 40 degree heat remained an unpleasant experience, in the winter, truly horrific.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
June 18, 2012 11:36 am

Mortar proof?
“25 or 54 square metres of hardened shelter erected by 2 untrained men in an hour or so, ready for use a day later”
– reminds me of the Swedish army testing igloos, whether they would dissipate incoming in the form of 155mm
– I think the contents survived, though the igloo came crushing down

James
James
June 18, 2012 11:43 am

ACC,

presumably, once it’s up the boys will continue to doll it up by pushing sand or earth over it. You can’t stop them – it seems pre-programmed in an infantryman’s brain to add more and more protection to his bedroom once he’s told he can’t move it every night. I don’t blame them.

I’ve emailed the link to a mate of mine who runs a place up in Scotland and was looking for shelters for the quads and other stuff out at the other end of the place, but not very impressed with what he had seen on the civvy market (it was the cost of builders and 3 weeks of laying foundations that really stopped him). Lay some turves and heather onto it and it will blend in completely in a few months – ideal when you’ve got rich Septics coming across and paying £Lots for shooting and stalking.

James
James
June 18, 2012 12:01 pm

I always thought “Don 10” was some form of MoD-mandated target for the numbers of insurance-claimable destructive fires that were needed to balance the books. A bit like the Atlantic Conveyor sinking naturally because of the total tonnage of equipment that various Quartermasters claimed were on board in order to get the BoI to authorise write-offs.

@ TD, re Defence Cell

honestly, is there no limit to the ingenuity of Sappers? If only they had charm and a good line in conversation in addition to their undoubted broad range of talents, they’d be worth inviting to dinner. They wouldn’t be able to make it of course, due to testing some new technique of digging, but still, you always want Sappers about.

David
David
June 18, 2012 12:23 pm

Observer said, “Well, if you ship containers by sea, they’re stacked on each other. A plastic solar cell might not take too kindly to being sat on by another 20 ton container.”

Like TD i also have a container fetish. They are types where this would be no problem at all. Also under the floor of a container there is space where you could install batteries. For use of a night as well.

Dave

James
James
June 18, 2012 12:43 pm

Looking at the concrete canvas shelter specs, you can fit 16 of the 25 sq M versions in flatpack into a standard ISO. It’s all fork-liftable. Whether for dragging out into the desert on a DROPS wagon, or for having on board an RFA ready for disaster relief, not bad at all.

(Sandwich-at-desk lunch ending soon, so enough browsing fetishistic engineering and concrete websites!)

x
x
June 18, 2012 1:05 pm

@ James

Action messing would sound a bit more colourful if you were under desk under fire…… :)

James
James
June 18, 2012 1:16 pm

X,

Life’s not fair. During 107 hours of GW1, all I ate were some biscuits, a couple of chocolate bars and some oranges that we had in a wooden box behind my hatch (BV bust***, too busy to stop and cook, you can peel and eat an orange while on the move). And yet I saw a documentary in which the Andrew were eating cheesy eggy hammys, bacon butties and similar under the “Action Messing” category. I’m telling you, life on board is too soft, carpets, foam seating and proper beds, and you get fed properly… ;)

There was a VC winner in Korea called Pte Bill Speakman, who when he ran out of ammunition started throwing tins of food at the Chinese who thought they were grenades. Now that’s a real lunch break!

***The BV being bust would normally in peacetime render a vehicle inoperable and liable for base repair. We didn’t have Paul G available however, so had to crack on.

x
x
June 18, 2012 1:59 pm

@ James

With the civilising of catering at HMNB what sailors gain afloat food wise, ashore the Sealords taketh away……

Derek
Derek
June 18, 2012 2:17 pm

Generic Soldier Architecture is more interesting…

paul g
June 18, 2012 2:27 pm

sorry james, i would’ve been there but due to being late back from canada (delayed because lifeguards had spent 6 years riding nags up and down the mall and needed extra help the usless tw@s0) so although still at 7 armd assigned to 22 bde not 7.

Any hoo, this thing has lots of legs particularly since some boffin attached to Dod in the states worked out they used 70 gallons of fuel to deliver 1 gallon in the sandy places, hence dollars ahve been diverted to solve this. I remember eading somewhere they are genuinely looking at small nuke reactors in ISO’s (show me your hands TD!) for company sized FOBs, estimates at less than 10 years away. In the meantime it’s the shape of the turbines the are playing with as shown above it’s not your 3 bladed affair often seen static off the coast (well that’s what i see most days,waste of fu**ing money) some brit has come up with a design that can be best described as a lawn mower blade vertical, which works in very low speed winds which gives it consistency.
Pedal power has been looked at well, voltage and keeping fit in a oner, bonus!!!

James
James
June 18, 2012 2:43 pm

Paul G,

you often run into problems with the paramilitary wing of the London Tourist Board.

I wasn’t SCOTS DG or in 7 Armd Bde at the time – I was still 16/5L. Tell you what, we had the most fantastic EME and also Omlette, and the Tiffys as well. There was of course a limit to what they could do, but it was not very much that they couldn’t do. I’ve seen some REME shambles in my time (and they’ve probably seen some of mine, to be fair), but it all worked like clockwork in 16/5L on the REME front for GW1.

Best little vignette: broken down Scimitar on Olly bar tow by Samson. Both come under 12.7mm fire from half right, both traverse off and reply with MG, and blow me, hit the ruddy target and destroy it while still moving themselves. Squadron Leader directed that the kill be recorded in favour of the Recy Mech, with 10 cases of beer for the Fitters when we got home paid for by Squadron funds. Band of brothers, that was. Happy to have that crew along.

Phil
June 18, 2012 3:16 pm

“During 107 hours of GW1, all I ate were some biscuits, a couple of chocolate bars and some oranges”

Poor Officer admin!

James
James
June 18, 2012 3:37 pm

@ Phil,

ha! You may very well be correct. But before you castigate me entirely, consider some alternative possibilities (in addition to the BV being bust):

1. Don’t like cold compo, except in an emergency. War does not qualify as an emergency.
2. Having too much fun to eat. You don’t get too many wars occurring in your life when you are at the peak of your physical prowess aged 26, in the most fantastic desert environment, against an enemy you are almost guaranteed to beat, and surrounded with mates of all ranks you’ve spent 7 years training alongside.
3. Kate Adie’s Landrover crew took one of our boxes of compo shortly before STARTEX, because they had none.
4. I like oranges, also chocolate. Not so much the biscuits, but you need some roughage.

To be serious, it actually was not much of a hardship I noticed at all. After ENDEX, we all crashed out for 12 or so hours, having none of us had any kip at all during the 4 1/2 days. Woke up absolutely f**king starving. SQMS arrived with some fresh stuff. Fried up something like 20 eggs on the primus stove for the three of us to fill our bellies with banjos until we could take no more, drank between us my last bottle of smuggled whisky, then went back to sleep.

S O
S O
June 18, 2012 7:30 pm


“And do what?”

* patrol
* pull 360° 24/7 security
* be unpredictable

* avoid wars that are against so thoroughly incapable opponents that they can’t even rape a stationary target (because such opponents are clearly no threat to us)

Phil
June 18, 2012 8:43 pm

Completely unrealistic in such a campaign.

S O
S O
June 19, 2012 6:15 am

Unrealistic is the idea that you could “win” such a campaign from forts while your opponent patrols and is in intense contact with the population.

Phil
June 19, 2012 7:29 am

They’re not Mordor. There’s plenty of interaction. We used to invite folk round for tea and a chat. Christ we even used to hire stuff from them. Your doctor doesn’t work in a field to make him accessible do they? They just come up to the FOB and knock like a building with a door.

Observer
Observer
June 19, 2012 10:09 am

Be fair S O, you need both kinds, static and mobile, in an army. There is a season for every reason.

I for one would hate to have to sleep out in the open in semi-hostile territory, or do maintainance bare arse naked out in plain sight of any sniper, or refuel/rearm without cover from anyone with a RPG or MG with incindary/tracer rounds.

Of course, no one ever won purely on the defensive (or none that comes to mind), but fighting from fortified areas gives you enough of an advantage that frees up more of your forces for aggressive action.

“* avoid wars that are against so thoroughly incapable opponents that they can’t even rape a stationary target (because such opponents are clearly no threat to us)”

They don’t need to hit you, they just wear the latest in desert fashion that goes boom.

Martin
Martin
June 19, 2012 12:54 pm

Agreeing standards are vital of course to interoperability, but single/centralised approaches are not the only way to do this. There are significant costs to agreeing and maintaining agreed standards, not least of which is the time it takes to negotiate what happens when new components or interfaces need to be added. Are they added without agreement, or delayed until agreement? These costs need to be traded against the supposed advantages listed above, not lost.

To get around these problems, such standards can rapidly become too watered down or abstract to be of any practical use, and simply act as another layer of trivially-fulfilled requirements as, say, frequently happens with MODAF.

Or they are bypassed as we see with the situation awareness descriptions that require descriptive text, because the land data model is insufficient even in Helmand.

As an exercise in discussing and working through the integration problems: Good. As an output requiring prescriptive compliance: Bad.

S O
S O
June 19, 2012 4:37 pm

@Observer
“Of course, no one ever won purely on the defensive (or none that comes to mind), but fighting from fortified areas gives you enough of an advantage that frees up more of your forces for aggressive action.”

The share of troops in forts easily exceeds 80%, in some cases 95% of deployed personnel in AFG. A fort is a place to hunker down, not an economy of force wonder.

@TD:
I do not recall that divisions on campaign in WW2 built forts when they weren’t at the front-lines.

The real reason for my opposition isn’t performance or non-performance in fghanistan. It’s the bunker and fort mentality, this indoctrinating that easily visible, predictable, durable, stationary, above-ground objects could provide security against an opposing force.

A capable enemy would massacre the troops in their forts. The forts alone are reason enough to pull all Western troops out. Pull ’em out before they add even more such small wars nonsense to their experiences.

Phil
June 19, 2012 4:45 pm

“The share of troops in forts easily exceeds 80%, in some cases 95% of deployed personnel in AFG. A fort is a place to hunker down, not an economy of force wonder”

You’ve just made that figure up.

You need check points to interdict Taliban movements. You won’t believe how much land a check point can dominate, it is far more effective than patrolling through an area, even regularly.

But you also need mobile strike forces to strike deep, and we have those too.

You definitely need both. And you’d be surprised how well a check point locks down Taliban movement, especially when it has a camera.

Wondering around the ulu is not a good way to conduct any campaign. How do you interact with the locals if they don’t know who you are and you don’t build relationships and they don’t know where you are going? This is well before the security issues Observer brings up which you can only solve by moving about like a slow ponderous caravan unable to access many areas because you’re bringing your supplies with you. You just can’t do it.

You combine static units who do local patrols and mobile striking forces.

And also there’s the issue of the heat, patrol all day in the Afghan heat?! Right.

And don’t think the Taliban are ninja’s in the night either, they have their bed down areas and little bases.

Phil
June 19, 2012 4:49 pm

. Were the generators on trailers and slope sided, stealth style. These are called Field Electrical Power System or FEPS, supplied by Rolls Royce under a PFI. If they were the smaller ones like this the Light Field Generator from HGI”

Yes FEPs! I don’t know where I got the LFG thing from. And yeah we had the little buggers for the check points. Noisy bastards and broke a lot, try sleeping next to one running for two weeks at a time. But the one in one PB ran on a full load I think, we have a fridge, the chargers, a camera, a radio and believe it or not a widescreen TV (there was no empty wall bracket in the new BSN cookhouse missing a TV…) and a PS3.

Phil
June 19, 2012 4:51 pm

“I do not recall that divisions on campaign in WW2 built forts when they weren’t at the front-lines.”

Arguably they should have done. And quite often they actually did. And besides, its a very different context. Nobody built any FOBs in 2003 or 1991.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 19, 2012 5:27 pm

Fortified bases are common throughout history esepcially when occupying hostile areas. However, they historically work as “launch pads” for mobile forces; Norman Castles for knights, Cavarly forts on the US western frontier, etc.

On the other hand I vaguely remember a British Officer using “flying” armoured coloumns in Iraq, getting away from fixed bases. Anybody have more information on the success, or lack thereof, of this?

James
James
June 19, 2012 5:54 pm

re forts vs constant mobility.

I think there’s a very strong correlation between the type of war. We wouldn’t have dreamed of building a structure during GW1, because (1) we’d have been on the move again within 30 minutes, scarcely enough time for a decent argument about siting and arcs of fire to start, let alone get resolved, and (2) the job was to go and kill Iraqis, not let them come to us, and (3) HMtQ very kindly provides mini-forts with tracks and guns pre-attached.

On the other hand, once the job is to dominate an area in all senses from fire to providing protection to enabling infrastructure / normality etc, the job is measured in time and space, not in striking at static points or a meeting engagement. It takes time, and if you’ve got time, so has the enemy to work out cunning ways of attacking you, so you need some protection.

Is this also now time to open up the intelligent “just in time” logistics solution for forts, based on an intelligent data network and all sorts of smart meters providing status of fuel supplies, etc, or is it more comfortable to stick with the daily standard load and shedloads of spare capacity, because it guards against things like the weather socking in the choppers or the Pakistanis closing their border so the trucks don’t run? Pros and cons of both, I’d imagine. I was kept very clear of logistics matters by the Army, and rightfully so as they are important.****

**** I was once asked to fill in a form for spares needed for my Troop prior to a Gunnery Camp – normally the Troop Sergeant, the magical Mick Bode did that. I decided we all needed new rubber episcope blinds, so 48 for the four wagons. There was a set of boxes to fill in the quantity, so being intelligent and well educated I filled in “48”, leaving lots of blank boxes. Got one of the boys to rush the form over to the QM(T) department, and he was sent back with a flea in his ear to give to me. Turned out I’d tried to order something like 48 million blinds, as the incompent OCR software in whatever loggy IT system they were using interpreted blanks as zeroes. I sell that sort of stuff nowadays, and let me tell you, our’s is brilliant, never makes that sort of mistake… ;)

paul g
June 19, 2012 6:04 pm

@james, that would be like the time i was advance party (qty 1, i lived 30 mins away) for adv training in capel curig and the had a shed floor to roof with black bin bags, bloke ordered 100, thing is they come in boxes of a thousand, so he got 100 boxes = 100,000 bin bags! No-one questioned the order, and we wonder where the money goes.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 19, 2012 6:12 pm

@ James – interesting problem. Perhaps certain products are pushed forward, such as food, water, etc which are consumed pretty constantly while others are ordered when they reach a certain level, with a built in safety margin?

Phil
June 19, 2012 6:14 pm

Bet they’re still there! Not the time to talk about probably a quarter of a million pounds of DRASH tentage left stuft and broken in Towthorpe Lines up near York. Lazy fucking civvy storemen. They looked like rats but not as industrious or intelligent.

They also had crates and crates of NBC casualty bags which made me feel odd.

James
James
June 19, 2012 6:19 pm

Paul G,

the ending of the story is that the RQMS(T) had taken the form from the Trooper, and he had enough brain power to work out my mistake. He told the QM(T), who then had great pleasure at very loudly relaying the sorry tale to the Mess at lunch, cueing gales of laughter from everyone else present at not only my stupidity, but also the fact that I was filling in such a form to start with, when I had a perfectly reasonable Toop Sergeant and also two young thrusting Corporals who were looking to get themselves a Troop Sergeant slot. The Ops Officer took me to one side and told me to stay off the tank park and go for a run or a TEWT instead – “that’s why you’ve got NCOs”. Joys of being a 20 year old sprog Troop Leader, and all a learning experience.

Phil
June 19, 2012 6:28 pm

Sir how would you go about putting up a flag pole if you had to?

Well Sgt I’d find a pole, dig a foundation, put the pole in the foundation and shore it up. Maybe using concrete.

No no no Sir!

What do you mean Sgt?

Sir, you say, Sgt, I want a flag pole there.

Observer
Observer
June 19, 2012 6:43 pm

Good one Phil.

SO, if you want the 80% to be outside fortified areas (I so agree that number is made up) and the Taliban have yet to be located…

Doesn’t that mean your troops are sitting around outside instead of sitting around inside? Or worse, driving around in circles aimlessly and burning up gasoline?

And afganistan is not a mobile war, it’s COIN, which is a totally different situation. I even had an argument with Phil last time in that I really prefered mobile war, while his opinion is that in a saturated environment, war will end up turning static, but even a biased observer like me would never dare suggest doing without secure areas. Under constant strain of combat without a rest, troops go loopy. Look under trench warfare in WW1. Now imagine it without the trenches.

S O
S O
June 19, 2012 10:41 pm

“You’ve just made that figure up.”

You wish, I wish. Not real, though.

We actually don’t even need to dig up all the unofficial reports about the problem (I doubt ISAF is going to admit it officially): We can make a quick plausibility check.

Take the tooth:tail ratio, which is about 2:1 to 3:1. OK, say 2:1 (which is VERY optimistic).

Now this one third (the teeth), how much of its time is it going to be on patrol, how much is it going to rest/train/be sick/in forts?
Want to use an optimistic 1:3 ratio for this?

There we are already at 2:(1/3) = 6:1
That’s 6/7 inside the wire. 85.7% in this quick & dirty plausibility check.

Reality IS worse for the large forts, and not much better for the small outposts. The troops are almost only hunkering down in those fortifications. The only major exceptions are the “offensives”, that are sweeps without proper cordon. These can see a thousand men in the field for a while. The total force is two orders of magnitude larger, of course.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 19, 2012 11:46 pm

@ S O

I think you have a very weird idea of what a COIN campaign would entail. I seem to remember a historical example of a British coloumn trying to march a great distance across Afghanistan once. I think that ended with everyone dying? How would you supply such moving coloumns? Food, water, batteries, ammunition, just to start? What’s stopping the enemy from just downing tools, waiting for the coloumn to pass, and then reasserting themselves once the sweep has passed?

Obsever
Obsever
June 20, 2012 4:51 am

The opfor downing tools is the least of my worry. I’m more araid that without secured rear areas, they’ll just slip into my “tail” bivocs and slit everyone’s throats. Then you’re left with the “teeth” and no supplies. 3 days is how long a force can usually sustain itself before shortages kills efficiency.

SO is really making weird suggetions.

Observer
Observer
June 20, 2012 6:52 am

Sorry about the spelling in the last post, my keyboard was acting a bit strange.

@SO

Not only are your numbers made up, they’re also low and messed up, and you are also operating under a number of mistaken assumptions.

Tooth to tail ratio isn’t 2:1. It’s more like 10:1 and climbing these days. And before you go on any bulls-it about “fat, lazy, moneywasting etc” crap, the reason is the proliferation of support systems like fire-finding radar, UAVs, air support generation, anti-missile systems, intel generation, vehicle maintainance etc.

Just because people are “support” or “rear line” staff does NOT mean they are useless like you are assuming. Without them, you can kiss your COIN campaign goodbye. As well as the lives of most of the troops on the ground. “An army marches on it’s stomach”. Sounds familiar? And some of the staff are WAY to valuable to be walking patrols. You want a pilot on point? He catches a bullet, there goes millions in training costs, not to mention a 150 million dollar plane sitting in the hanger doing crap all because it’s pilot died. All because of a 5 pence bullet. Pioneer Engineers walking patrol? One ambush and you’ll lose a large chunk of mine clearing capability. Guess you’ll have to do the “commando way” of clearing minefields/IEDs then. *stomp, stomp… ok safe…next!..*

Your idea of “combat troops” seem to involve forming every Tom, Dick and Harry in a line and have them charge at the enemy. You sure you didn’t train under the ChiComs?

Jim
Jim
June 20, 2012 6:57 am

Chris B

That was the retreat from Kabul in 1842. Over 16,000 killed or captured and only one William Brydon escaped.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Elphinstone%27s_army

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Brydon

Phil
June 20, 2012 6:57 am

“The troops are almost only hunkering down in those fortifications.”

That’s just plain wrong. In my experience across working with Danish and US.

Observer
Observer
June 20, 2012 7:20 am

@Jim

And the 2nd incident in that sorry play (or was it 3rd?) was the British camp being set up in an undefensible shallow depression and getting shelled. More arguement for defences IMO.

He’s working on some very wrong assumptions. Like “every man a swordsman”, or “advance in a phalanx”….

S O
S O
June 20, 2012 7:59 am

“Tooth to tail ratio isn’t 2:1.”

You probably got it the wrong way. Admittedly, I was a bit misleading here.
I meant to write about 1/3 teeth and 2/3 tail, which is a generous value for Western forces. Below 30% combat and forward observer personnel is rather normal in our technicised armies. I used the generous assumption to ensure nobody who’s discussing with good intent comes up with a disagreement about the exact figure. After all, using 2:1 instead of 3:1 was influencing the calculation against my point.
The actual accurate ratios depend on the specific force, even location.

“It’s more like 10:1 and climbing these days. And before you go on any bulls-it about “fat, lazy, moneywasting etc” crap, the reason is the proliferation of support systems like fire-finding radar, UAVs, air support generation, anti-missile systems, intel generation, vehicle maintainance etc.”

10:1 is incorrect, and the whole discussion would be pointless if it wasn’t. After all, I was mentioning that the vast majority of troops sits in the forts.
You don’t need to lecture me about support. I know support. Point being, almost only the personnel outside the wire exerts influence in the country.

“Just because people are “support” or “rear line” staff does NOT mean they are useless like you are assuming.”

Poor strawman attack. They’re not useless in my opinion. They’re merely not of relevance to the population, and Afghanistan’s conflict is very political. The quantity of mechanics has no political effect.

“Without them, you can kiss your COIN campaign goodbye.”

WRONG.
WESTERN troops are too incompetent to do away with support. More adaptable or simply third country troops could simply live off the land as did occupation forces for thousands of years.
WESTERN troops failed BADLY in counter-insurgency with their technicised approach, and the Russians failed as badly unless they had mroe troops in country than there were indigenous people. The only Western “COIN” success is Iraq, whose people coincidentally happened to sort out most of their conflicts with ethnic cleansing while the Americans “surged”.

““An army marches on it’s stomach”. Sounds familiar?”

Sure, but keep in mind 30 million people in Afghanistan do not starve without flown-in hamburgers. Guess why.
In fact, I doubt that the Taliban have even a single mess hall with climate control.
Maybe they would lose, not win, the political fight if they had?

Phil
June 20, 2012 8:23 am

Actually the tail does benefit the Afghans. There’s several thousand locally employed civilians in Bastion alone, not to mention the jingly convoys and the locally placed orders and all the tradesmen that ply their trade around the bases. We used to hire Afghans to work on the mud walls of the compounds and clear trees and build us roads.

Western troops are not incompetent. You’re being provocative on purpose. You know as well as I do that bases are a necessity and the Taliban have them too. We even discovered a hospital. In fact the less the population suffer them the more they need based too. No they don’t have air conditioned food halls and yes some places have become excessively luxurious but it’s been the private contractors driving that as much as anyone and they organise the pizza huts and so on off their own back since a lot of them work in these bases for years.

I can tell you in my FOB the only two people who never went out the wire were our two chefs and one of them wanted to but wasn’t allowed he was too important!

Alex
Alex
June 20, 2012 8:55 am

SO – the Royal Marines tried roughly what you seem to be suggesting a few Herricks ago. “Mobile Operating Units”. Administratively self supporting column based on a company group, marching about trying to surprise the Taliban and being resupplied by C-130s.

Phil
June 20, 2012 9:33 am

Really the goal isn’t to defeat the Taliban it’s to undermine them and dissolve their influence. Very different things. Going out to kill Taliban in mobile columns on its own achieves little. Using them to strike deep and disrupt them whilst holding ground and building influence works best. It’s a cliche but the battlefield is the Afghan population. You can drive around brassing up Terry for 50 years and achieve nothing unless you have a firm footprint on the ground. As ever, it’s a subtle mixture of techniques in a spectrum rather than one end or the other.

Observer
Observer
June 20, 2012 10:10 am

@SO

If only troops on the ground “outside the wire” influence the campaign, I wonder where all the airstrikes that have been called in come from? A dirt lane in the desert? And what do you think an airbase is but a fort with hangers and a runway?

You say you know “support”, and that the Taliban can survive without food, that is wrong. They get their supplies by “taxing” the people. a.k.a robbing them. You think that would work well for the International forces?

And I really like to see you tell the Medical personnel that helping the local population is not “influence”.

BTW SO you said you were support, you with a QM unit?

Phil
June 20, 2012 1:42 pm

That’s just not how they work. They are tied to families, tax bases, defended compounds and areas of operation just like us. In fact they are less mobile since we can go wherever we want, they can’t if the local population are hostile. All this ninja stuff is just rubbish. The majority of the Taliban are local thugs and they stay locally. The whole flip flops and flight by night stuff is a myth. They can avoid combat certainly, but they can’t exist in a peripatetic fashion and still be effective.

Observer
Observer
June 20, 2012 2:25 pm

SO… you’re basing your entire premise on a web burp.. not even an article, but a burp, from something called “GROG NEWS”??

It reminds me of something a co-worker of mine once said.

“If you say ‘gullible’ slowly, it sounds like ‘orange’.”

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 20, 2012 4:24 pm

@ Alex – ” the Royal Marines tried roughly what you seem to be suggesting a few Herricks ago. “Mobile Operating Units”.”

Any reports on the effectiveness of this?

Phil
June 20, 2012 5:17 pm

“Any reports on the effectiveness of this?”

We’re still there!

My opinion for what it is worth is that such operations have merit in certain circumstances but definitely pissing into the wind if they are anything like your main effort in theatre. If you have sufficient force density you shouldn’t even have to operate like that so in the big picture their use does represent a big failure.

S O
S O
June 20, 2012 9:16 pm

@Observer:
“If only troops on the ground “outside the wire” influence the campaign, I wonder where all the airstrikes that have been called in come from?”

Do you deliberately show off an incapability to understand what I wrote?

I wrote
“They’re merely not of relevance to the population, and Afghanistan’s conflict is very political.”

Airstrikes do NOT win the political fight, in fact they’re widely and officially acknowledged to be (if relevant at all) more of a problem than an asset in it. Combat troops leaders who need air power support against rag tag fighters like the Taliban should be sent back to basic.

“SO… you’re basing your entire premise on a web burp.. not even an article”

You’re playing with a strawman argument again. I have no respect for this, you are a useless discussion partner to me.
You have NO, absolutely NO idea what I base my conclusions on since I did not disclose this info, and it’s extremely arrogant to think or suppose otherwise.

Fact is the Western forces replay the big failures of the Soviets DESPITE the knowledge about their failures. They hunker down in bases, use lots of armoured vehicles, use airpower, focus on population centres and roads. They accept the secondary challenge (combat) happily and apply their instruments with marginal imagination.
Meanwhile, they are a near-total failure on the primary challenge, the political one. They neither got the “friendly” government to function properly nor do they defeat the opposing political force. It’s a 100% failure and all those stupid forts are horrible monuments of the superficial thinking about the conflict.

The really bad thing is of course that all this crap influences thinking through lessons learned. A generation of soldiers will expect lavish fire support as self-evident, not understand the challenges of formation manoeuvres, not understand the importance of the indirect fires threat, overestimate the importance of mines and bullets and they learn to consider easily recognizable above-surface cover as effective.
We could just as well tell them to shoot themselves in case of major war, at least we’d get over the next one quickly this way.

Phil
June 20, 2012 9:23 pm

“Combat troops leaders who need air power support against rag tag fighters like the Taliban should be sent back to basic.”

Been pinned down by a Taliban ambush amongst a bunch of frightened civilians lately Kommando?

“They hunker down in bases, use lots of armoured vehicles, use airpower, focus on population centres and roads.”

You have been told and have not countered the argument that they DO NOT hunker down. Mobile patrols sweep lightly populated areas and protect routes. Airpower is sometimes a necessity and is now rarely used.

“They neither got the “friendly” government to function properly nor do they defeat the opposing political force. It’s a 100% failure and all those stupid forts are horrible monuments of the superficial thinking about the conflict.”

Nobody is interested in the friendly government operating properly. All they have to do is keep enough of a lid on the criminal thugs people call Taliban to stop them allowing terrorist groups a haven to plan mass destruction at their leisure. The details of the government are otherwise completely immaterial.

You completely and utterly misunderstand the mission and so you cannot judge success or failure.

“A generation of soldiers will expect lavish fire support as self-evident, not understand the challenges of formation manoeuvres, not understand the importance of the indirect fires threat, overestimate the importance of mines and bullets and they learn to consider easily recognizable above-surface cover as effective.”

Right, you base this on what? Maybe in your neck of the woods mate but over here the Army is already getting back to basic warfighting operations and preparing for austere entry contingency operations.

Its back to living out of your Bergan.

Everybody in this mans Army recognises the Afghan model has not changed the fundamentals of warfare.

You’re just making stuff up.

S O
S O
June 21, 2012 1:22 am

“Been pinned down by a Taliban ambush amongst a bunch of frightened civilians lately Kommando?”

See? That’s the problem. You have apparently no idea about other means of avoiding or solving such a problem than with support fires. That’s why you have no clue why the need to call for air power etc in such a situation is a display of incompetence.

“You have been told and have not countered the argument that they DO NOT hunker down. Mobile patrols sweep lightly populated areas and protect routes.”

You have a computer screen which should allow you to read how I wrote that almost all of them do. I did not claim all do so at the same time. The many troops sitting in forts do no doubt hunker down there to avoid the risks that wait outside the wire. Face the reality. They don’t confine themselves to the relative safety of a base only because it’s so nice to be close to each other or for other non-risk-related reasons.

“Nobody is interested in the friendly government operating properly. All they have to do is keep enough of a lid on the criminal thugs people call Taliban to stop them allowing terrorist groups a haven to plan mass destruction at their leisure.”

That’s the same, and it’s is not happening after a decade of Western presence. That’s an utter failure even by ISAF’s own standards of the past decade.

“Right, you base this on what?”

Thousands of years of military history and the continuity of psychology. Compare the troubles of the British against the Boers after dozens of small wars, for example. Add WWI to the pile.
We’re ingraining the wrong ideas in our troops.

Similar story with peacetime exercises and indirect fire effectiveness. Difficult to simulate properly -> rarely “experienced” phenomenon -> badly underestimated. This example is a decades-old, recognised problem.

“Everybody in this mans Army recognises the Afghan model has not changed the fundamentals of warfare”

I doubt that you can speak for “everybody”, for it’s a quite large bunch. Still, even if it was true – lots of subconscious and conscious impressions are in effect and the bureaucracy spends much attention and many funds on the occupation business.
Feel free to point me at any large-scale (Div+) conventional warfare exercise in the field, with long marches on short notice and all the difficulties needed for conventional mobile warfare.

Your claim that I make stuff up coupled with bad misunderstandings (at best) of your own is not exactly compelling.

Observer
Observer
June 21, 2012 5:36 am

SO, Phil’s been to Afganistan, so has James I think. If I wanted to know the conditions on the ground, I’ll ask them. Not fantasy land you.

A lot of what you wrote is simply anti-war bullshit and displays a shocking lack of understanding of COIN and “political” acumen. Killing off your opposition electorate while ensuring free play for yours sounds like a vote winner to me. And avoids the problems of them going “vote for me or I kill you.”

And people calling for support fire should be sent back to basic? Where did they dig you up from? Ancient Rome? Is your name Publius Quinctilius Varus, by any chance?

Your lack of understanding is shocking. Ask Phil or James if they understood what I posted as opposed to your ranting. Then ask them who’s the strawman, Emperor with no Clothes.

Phil
June 21, 2012 7:35 am

SO. You’re obviously against the war, fine, but your arguments are based on vapour and stereotypes and they are very confused. You hate that we hunker down, which we don’t, and then we’re incompetent when we get caught in ambushes. So what do you want? We’re not bumbling into smushed because we don’t know what we’re doing, we’re being ambushed because we’re patrolling populated areas and we’re interacting with locals. You cannot do that whilst doing a leopard crawl down an irrigation ditch. If the mission does not call for interaction then a more tactical patrol posture is used. Airstrikes are used to end TiCs because our main job is not to go out there and brass up but to undermine the Taliban and work with the civilians. You call in strikes or mortars to shut them up so you can get on with the real job.

You just haven’t a clue. You disagree with the war fine but your basing your assumptions on myth and bollocks frankly.

Wibble
Wibble
June 21, 2012 7:45 am

Interesting article.

I think a few people have got distracted by the criteria for making all this kit fit in an 20ft ISO. That is just to make it easy to get into theatre, once its there it they may be able to lowload it into to place but it will also all have to be airportable and within the performance limits of the current/planned SH fleet.

The main problem I see with all this will be it wont directly replace the old kit, it will supplement it. You will still need the older kit for your main bases and exercises (plus the Army always seem against you using any of the good kit on training in the UK) so this will just add to the overall inventory adding costs, REMF manpower and expensive but useless civilians.

The size of the MODs inventory is important because Blair/Brown forced the MOD to sell off/scrap lots of its war stock (only to have to buy it back or produce new kit a few years later) it operated with the “Just in Time” system which basically means they wont hold a proper stock of this equipment or spares. Therefore, it is likely that only training units will ever see it and that when the next war comes it wont be ready in time, nor enough people trained on it, so we take all the old kit anyway. Then there will be the extra bureaucratic, lengthily logistics supply, contracts for spares and so on which you can always trace all problems back to a poorly written civilian contract.

Just to give you an example.

If a member of the RAF is told they are deploying to Afghanistan they need to go to stores and give them their clothing sizes at least 8 weeks in advance. 8-10 weeks later the kit arrives, you go to stores and try it all on only to find that your boots don’t fit because they are made by a different company to all your other boots. You then have to wait another 8 weeks for your new boots to arrive as stores are not allowed to hold spare kit for these eventualities, deployment equipment is all centrally held.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 21, 2012 9:27 am

Wibble, That is a single service problem mate. Certainly not existing in the RN where you can choose you desert boots from a couple of makes and try on different sizes. Although only a couple of stores issue deployment kit.

Wibble
Wibble
June 21, 2012 9:36 am

The navy will not have the same numbers of people needing deployment kit as the RAF plus all this kit is controlled by the Army.

Phil
June 21, 2012 10:05 am

No such problems in the Army either apart from when they change something or bring in new kit it takes a while for the pipeline to catch up. Also with newer kit I believe that whatever issuing authority there is starts to send new kit to theatre once initial allocations are done so stragglers sometimes met their mk7s in theatre for example.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 21, 2012 10:06 am

Hi, Phil.
“Nobody is interested in the friendly government operating properly.” – The Anglo-Afghan Enduring Strategic Partnership Document, signed on 28th January might suggest otherwise.

As for the Afghan Taliban allowing terrorist groups a haven to plan mass destruction at their leisure, if you’re alluding to the 11/9 attack, that was conceived in Hamburg and planned in the main in Germany and the United States.

The Afghan Taliban were only in power for five years, during which time the US and Taliban headed down the route of mutual antagonism. If the US had been more diplomatic; rather than refusing to recognize an Islamist regime while concurrently issuing demands to that regime, then they might have got more cooperation in shutting down the terrorist leadership in that country before 11/9.

Rather than not being interested in the government of Afghanistan, the West has been overly concerned with just that for centuries.

Phil
June 21, 2012 10:35 am

We are not interested in the detailed internal workings of the Afghan government.

They may well have been planned in those places but come on its disingenuous to say that AQ in Afghan had nothing to do with them. It’s kind of like saying that NHS reform is planned in details amongst the trusts and ignoring the massive looming influence Parliament has over the process. It’s the same sort of relationship.

x
x
June 21, 2012 10:43 am

Wibble said “The navy will not have the same numbers of people needing deployment kit as the RAF plus all this kit is controlled by the Army.”

There haven’t been that many more RAF bods in Afghanistan over RN bods. Or are you talking about the future?

And though on principal I believe the MoD should supply all uniform and that it should be the best available, I can’t believe you would not go out to spend your own money on boots.

Wibble
Wibble
June 21, 2012 11:22 am

X

The boots was just in example of the issues of centralised/pooled stores,logistic supply lines etc, please dont get too hung up on the specific example.

RN numbers in the stan will fluctuate depending if the RMs are out there at the time but with the removal of the SK4s then there has been a drop in overal RN manpower in theatre in the last 12 months.

x
x
June 21, 2012 11:41 am

@ Wibble

I wasn’t fixating on the boots. I know you were using them as an example. I had gone off on a tangent. So you are not a RAF bod then? It doesn’t matter what the job what you have on your feet is very important.

As for RN numbers in Afghanistan I think there have been about 1000 there. And about 1600 RAF bods. 3Cdo won’t be going back to Afghanistan and their deployment viz a vie kit is a different matter. Perhaps I should have been specific and used the word “sailor”?

S O
S O
June 21, 2012 2:46 pm


“(…) we’re being ambushed because we’re patrolling populated areas and we’re interacting with locals. You cannot do that whilst doing a leopard crawl down an irrigation ditch.”

I didn’t propose the same, so that’s just another strawman attack.
Is use of microterrain the only thing in your repertoire against ambushes or being pinned down? If not, why should it be the only thing in my repertoire?

“ambushed” and “pinned down” aren’t the same anyway. The discussion was about the latter. I’m not impressed by your inability to focus on what was being discussed.

There are tactics to address the “pinned down” problem on the squad to company leadership level. Those who cannot address it properly were either sent on a poorly devised patrol (higher leadership failure) or did/do not use good enough tactics. In either case – go back to basic. Some solutions to the problem have been known for more than 2,000 years.

It’s sad that what Western forces in Afghanistan call “we’re pinned down by fire from multiple directions and need urgent fire support” was known as “we found the enemy and feel forward to get a better picture” not long ago. (Not meant to be exact quotes, of course.)

Phil
June 21, 2012 2:58 pm

You’re an abrasive fellow aren’t you.

No there’s several other methods of keeping an eye on events but without using precision strikes there’s not much that can be done about a couple of blokes on a scooter who drive to cached weapons, have a crack and move. You can watch them, you can follow them, but you cannot allow them to prevent you interacting with the population as that is their goal. To undermine you and make you look like cowards. So you suck it up. Tough shit war is hell.

I suppose, Komnando, you went to the Conan the Barbarian NCO school where fire power and using your advantages to mitigate theirs is frowned upon? Otherwise I cannot see why you think using precision strikes are such a bad thing. You think we should feel forward against an enemy several hundred metres away and who can in any instant drop their weapons get on their scooter and be speeding off at 40mph. How could you then counter them I wonder?

I’m unimpressed with your extremely poor idea of what actually goes on over there. Every argument you have presented has been countered. We do not hunker down, we are not incompetent at small unit tactics, strikes have a role, patrolling openly is a requirement and it is impossible to chase the Taliban on foot.

Deeply unimpressive all round really.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 21, 2012 3:16 pm

I am no expert on small unit tactics(in fact far less than an expert!) but so far I have not heard SO propose an alternative to what we do now. SO can you explain how you would go about doing Afghanistan Ops differently?

Observer
Observer
June 21, 2012 3:42 pm

Hah, all the bulls-it acusations of strawmen attacks SO? You using a mirror?

First, you set up an imaginary situation with made up numbers, which bears no resemblence to reality or requirements, then castigates others for your imaginary scenario. Who’s doing strawmen attacks here? And I call bullsh-t on your “other sources” if they are of the same quality as the “Grog News” (that you linked to support your argument BTW.)

BTW, you American? Interesting that you would cite an “article” on the American Revolution if you were British. Very odd sourcing.

x
x
June 21, 2012 3:59 pm

One of the reasons why I thought the RM column idea was good because it demonstrated to Mr Taliban that UK forces weren’t going to scuttle back to base after a patrol but stay out on the ground.

Perhaps we needed a few chaps on MXs who could run these moped-mounted-Taliban down?

Do you think Phil life would have be easier out there with twice the number of troops on the ground? One half doing the interacting and the other screening?

Phil
June 21, 2012 4:06 pm

“Do you think Phil life would have be easier out there with twice the number of troops on the ground?”

The denser the force structure the better. But you kind of create a false model in your second bit, on a patrol only a few of the members would have a reason to interact one on one the rest of them provide the protection. So for example we might do a patrol to assess how the locals are doing building our road, and so CIMIC would come along and the OC of the company and they’d do most of the talking while the rest of us pulled cordons and blocks and overwatch whilst being jabbered at by Afghans for hours.

I am particarly fond of having a snotty kid 50cms from me repeatedly counting to ten for five hours.

So there’s two levels of interaction, shall we say the more general type, ie us just being there as a group and the more focused stuff where people talk business and have chai and shura’s and so forth. So no need to split like you say.

But dear God the more troops the better allthough not necessarily British troops now. More Afghan troops the better. Obviously they interact very well.

paul g
June 21, 2012 4:16 pm

i knew one day the COD players would find their way onto a grown up site!

yeah yeah loads of smoke, up the middle and bosh. sorted

Phil
June 21, 2012 4:18 pm

“yeah yeah loads of smoke, up the middle and bosh. sorted”

Stop quoting from PAMs.

x
x
June 21, 2012 4:48 pm

Phil said “More Afghan troops the better. Obviously they interact very well.”

But what about resentments between the many Afghan peoples?

One more thing. When air support was called in how often was ordnance dropped, and how often was it one of those show of force fly bys?

@ Paul G re COD

More like fish finger…….. :)

Phil
June 21, 2012 5:03 pm

Every country has resentments. That’s something for them to sort out themselves. The resentments tend to manifest itself in the Taliban so what is often labelled Taliban might be one village screwing over another. It’s so complicated and so local.

From our tour, we didn’t use air that much. We used mortars shit loads and we used Apache’s a lot. We called in some A10s a few times and I think it was a French Mirage dropped 2x 500Ibs on a compound for us. We did one show of force that I know of.

But to be honest we only used them when we were on a “smash” most of the time we used mortar ambushes, very, very effective. But that was the nature of the unit I was with, the OC made liberal use of the mortars I think its down to the personality of those in charge.

But judging from the RAF operational reports I sometimes read, its rare for a bomb to be dropped and from the J-Chat thing I used to read which had contact reports from RC-SW overall bombs are used less than you’d think even by the Americans.

That said for the first 6 weeks of the tour there were A10s firing non-stop just to our north disrupting the enemy in the brigade battlespace. And I mean non-stop, every day for 6 weeks. Brrrrrp, Brrrrrrrrrrrrp. I wonder if they hit a bloody thing because every time we went north we had a hot reception.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 21, 2012 5:13 pm

SO is German and I’ve just done bit of browsing on his sight. He is obviously against “wars of choice” but he does have some very lnteresting articles and theories. I think you are being a tad harsh on him. Having said that, I think he needs to explain his prefered strategy/theory for Afghanistan, above the obvious withdrawl.

@ SO – what would your strategy/tactics be in Afghanistan? From reading some articles on your site I’m guessing they would be based upon your Jagdkampf/light skirmishing idea? If so how would this work against a non-peer adversary such as the Taliban? If not, what are you proposing?

Observer
Observer
June 21, 2012 5:17 pm

What calibre motars?

As for mobile strongpoints, wasn’t the Scots DG doing something similar with the Hogs? Move, set up all round armour (I avoid the term overwatch/defence as they were mostly sleeping… ), camp for a while?

I wonder if the Viking 120mm Motar rear module can be used for a Warthog, I always thought bringing your own fire support was a fine idea.

Observer
Observer
June 21, 2012 5:22 pm

Before you go on to all the “KILL!! KILL!! KILL!!!”, you first need to FIND the bloody enemy, something he has missed out on GJ. It would be a real clown show if you “advanced to contact”… in the opposite direction.

And to do that you need:

1) Humint
2) UAV observation
or
3) Overwatch from long term positions, either a hide or a fort like the ones he kept dissing.

Where is his site? I would love to see how he came up with this insanity.

James
James
June 21, 2012 5:23 pm

Observer,

I’ve no knowledge at all of the specific operation you refer to, but I can guarantee to you that SCOTS DG (all capitals, BTW) would not have been slacking or sleeping on the job. It’s a cardinal sin in the Regiment. Also, the CO on that tour was a direct contemporary of mine whom I’ve known for 25 years – and he’s completely mustard when it comes to professionalism.

Sorry, but if that was a dangle to wind me up, it worked.

Observer
Observer
June 21, 2012 5:32 pm

James, I meant at night when all the good little boys and girls SHOULD be sleeping, not during a stand-to or overwatch.

Think there was a documentry out on their daily life somewhere on youtube?

Phil
June 21, 2012 5:33 pm

Your question to SO misses the point. The point is this, combat is secondary to our main effort. Discussing what small unit TTPs are most effective in bringing about the desired end state in Afghan is like talking about what the best type of engine in a car should be. You can have awesome TTPs and an awesome engine, but on their own you wont have progress and you wont have a car.

Defeating the Taliban militarily is simply not possible.

There’s no TTPs that can differently influence the outcome in Afghan because combat is not a decisive factor.

So we are talking about something that makes no difference as long as your TTPs are more effective than the enemies and even the ANA manage that on a daily basis.

paul g
June 21, 2012 5:42 pm

he’s right, they were on tv, formed the hogs into a square for the night, stags obviously sorted, 360 protection. It was notable because the subby climbed out of dossbag in harrods PJ’s!!!

PS the loads of smoke quote was given by my mate to a DS when we were on our senior carde, oh how we laughed as went up and down, up and down the hill!! (and it was not directed at anyone with the same first name initial as me)

Phil
June 21, 2012 6:03 pm

“as went up and down, up and down the hill!!”

Did you have anything better to do…than go UP and DOWN the hill?!

James
James
June 21, 2012 6:12 pm

The Taliban don’t see themselves as soldiers, but as social reformers and leaders. It’s a fundamental misconstruction to think of them as being a military force.

Yes, they are armed, but most Afghan male adults are. Yes, they plot attacks and lay IEDs, but they do so in their eyes as an organisation seeking to protect their social values against in this case western liberalism. It’s a subtle difference from thinking of themselves as an Army.

What the Taliban want is for us to go away. What we want to to come home, but we cannot because the central Government power is completely ineffective in the countryside, and we’ve said we’ll allow them time to grow in capability.

I heard a radio interview with an English-educated Afghan a few months ago. He predicted that within 24 hours of the UK leaving (assuming a dramatic “up and gone” scenario, not a phased withdrawal), the Taliban would emerge and take over from where they left off 11 years ago. I really think that would drive me to real tears at the thought of the 419 UK soldiers dead and thousands gravely injured, all for nothing.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 21, 2012 6:14 pm

@ Phil – very true. I personally believe SO is wrong on this one but I think he should have the chance to explaon/expand on his comments.

I believe Forts/FOB’s also have a political/psychological role; like the Medieaval Castle, they are a statement of power and intent. For this reason being visible is important. Against an opponent woth serious firepower then being mobile, stealthy or going underground would make more sense.

x
x
June 21, 2012 6:19 pm

paul g said “It was notable because the subby climbed out of dossbag in harrods PJ’s!!!”

I find it oddly reassuring that high standards are being maintained in the field. :)

Observer
Observer
June 21, 2012 6:23 pm

So true James.

Reminds me of the saying, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Down and up the hill? :)

On a more important point, other than the military tactics, I really have difficulty seeing how we can improve the situation with regards to their government position. The global situation, yeah, one less terrorist training location, and for them, no more Fundamentalist government. But where do we go from there? How do we improve the living conditions there to a point where people would get fed up with sniping and IEDs and rather do 9-5 and go home to wife and kids? Economic improvement, surely, but, how? Less corupt government/police, improve army loyalty and morale, but how do we get to these goals?