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Overseas
Overseas
July 14, 2013 8:31 pm

What an exceedingly glossy update. Love the buzzwords, no doubt dreamt up by some marketing goon who gets paid a wad and a half to brainstorm nonsense for a living.

Telling quote:

‘The Army must be able equally to react to an enduring stabilisation operation and engage with partner nations overseas to develop their military capacity to address causes of instability as demonstrated by the ongoing military training programmes in the Horn of Africa’…

Tell me that the army actually couldn’t do this five year ago, before the 2020 guff what first propagated? Absolute drivel. Tell it like it is Army chiefs, its going to be a Homeland Defence Force, with a micro-USMC brigade thrown in to allow us to partner US, France etc, for foreign intervention.

Not that to say we really need full on expeditionary warfare, big old army, lots of tanks and multiple divisions as in the past. But basically this means the only expeditionary assets the UK armed forces have will be in the RAF and RN. End of. No more invading, only stand off bombing.

That said, its certainly a very shiny package. No expense spared in trying to tell us why expenses have to be spared in all the fun and crucial departments.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 14, 2013 9:04 pm

Military training programmes have been ongoing for over a decade. Spent time on one in a country in that area beginning with a Y and ending in an N but that was an RN/RM programme.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
July 14, 2013 9:10 pm

Quick question: How big is the Airborne taskforce? Batallion? Smaller?

Phil
July 14, 2013 9:39 pm

Excellent. I am re-assured that at 0001 1 Jan 2020, the Army will at long last attain perfection.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 14, 2013 9:45 pm

Very nice. Almost makes you confident that the plans will deliver the expected force.

There’s a nod in there towards the uncertainty of vehicle programmes. Force troops supporting protected infantry in the AF left relying on unprotected vehicles.

Chris.B
Chris.B
July 15, 2013 12:05 am

– Some really odd things about that structure, like the imbalance in the size of the adaptable brigades. Presumably 1 of the brigades with a light recce unit will be paired with one without during their cycles, which begs the question as to why not just reduce the number of brigade headquarters in the first place?

– If we’re going with a fleet management system that only has a certain number of Challengers actually in use at any one time, then why have we cut the number of armoured regiments in favour of “Heavy Protected Mobility”, excepting of course the desirability of more infantry for COIN work?

– “Homeland Security”? Fuck off. Maybe Phil the spreadsheet has been working his way through the West Wing DVD’s or something.

– What was the point in rebranding all the Scottish regiments as the “Royal Regiment of Scotland” if they’re going to persist in using the old names still? What a pissing waste of money that all was.

– And on the subject of names, given how hard the army has fought to save regimental cap badges why was the fairly iconic 7th Armoured Brigade just dropped into an infantry brigade? There are three armoured brigades now, how much of a stretch would it have been to just use 7th armoured as one of them?

– 25% uplift in blank ammunition. So there’ll be almost three and a third magazines of blank ammo per man now.

– Is anyone buying the general “this had nothing to do with cuts in the budget, this was all about a long-held vision for the army” theme? Anyone?

jed
jed
July 15, 2013 2:13 am

I think the most telling line is the one that states the UK’s economic position is a strategic threat !

The one thing that confuses and annoys me is the virtual removal by stealth of a Battalion of the Parachute regiment into the “special forces support role”. With both the RF and the AF training and readiness cycles on a 36 month “rule of 3” – and of course with 3 x RM Cdo’s this also applies to 3 CDO Brig.

However instead of giving the third Para Battalion back to the Air Asslt, Brig for the exact same training and readiness cycle as everyone else, they have some weird 2 battle group “1 on, 1 off” setup !

I am sure we could have afforded 300 to 600 less redundancies across all the services with a tri-service “SF Support Group” being set up from those qualified.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 15, 2013 6:40 am

Aren’t there four Cdo’s, as one was stood up to cover the stealthy removal of the roulement army bn?
– the fourth one having special duties, and hence not part of the cycle?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 15, 2013 6:42 am

Good one, TD. I could not believe that they are still refurbing those

Peter Elliott
July 15, 2013 7:02 am

Agree that tha AF only really needs 2 or 3 deployable brigade headquarters – enough to fill the roulment cycle. All the rest is just administrative overhead and could be boiled down to a Force HQ in an office somewhere.

Other one to look at is the Rapid Reaction forces. Surely a single deployable Brigade HQ commanding whichever 4 manoeuvre units of the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines are at highest readiness, plus a comprehensive logistic support package, would be more efficient from a planning point of view? Either of the existing brigade formations is likely to need support from elements of the other in order to deploy rapidly and in fighting strength. So why not recognise reality and save the duplication?

Tom
Tom
July 15, 2013 9:27 am

@PE – re RM and Para Brigade HQs – Because they do different things. “Rapid Reaction” is not a skill or particular type of unit. We have a airborne/air assault specialist force and a amphibious warfare speciality force.

Further to that the Royal Marines don’t just deploy Commando Groups, they also deploy smaller groups for maritime security tasks (part of the reason for brining 43 Cdo under 3 Cdo Bde HQ). They also have to work with the RNs timeframes and deployment cycles.

Mike W
July 15, 2013 10:57 am

“What an exceedingly glossy update. Love the buzzwords, no doubt dreamt up by some marketing goon who gets paid a wad and a half to brainstorm nonsense for a living.”

and

“Tell it like it is Army chiefs, its going to be a Homeland Defence Force, with a micro-USMC brigade thrown in to allow us to partner US, France etc, for foreign intervention.”

Got it in one, Overseas. So, 20,000 personnel are withdrawn from the regular Army but the real loss of capability is glossed over by the language of subtle propaganda. In fact, in places it is made to seem that we can do the same or even more! What utter bilge! Does it remind you of Orwell and “1984”?

“It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week . And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it.”

Chris.B

“why was the fairly iconic 7th Armoured Brigade just dropped into an infantry brigade? There are three armoured brigades now, how much of a stretch would it have been to just use 7th armoured as one of them?”

Agree absolutely. No sense of history or tradition.

Peter Elliott
July 15, 2013 11:03 am

Do we have the means or doctrine to deploy 3 Commando as a seabourne brigade any more? With 1 QEC, 1 Albion and 3 Bays we are talking about a single Commando group aren’t we? Anything else will have to follow on by Points, STUFT or Air. In which case you might as well send the RF Army brigade with its heavier punch.

Similarly for 16x have we got the assets to air deploy and sustain even a two batallion demi-brigade by air? And for an operation wouldn’t we want to add more manoeuvre units anyway to form a more serious fighting force? Thus making it even less air deployable.

If either force is tasked to deploy just its single high readiness battle group by its chosen means fine but that’s not a brigade deployment and will be pretty constrained in the tasks it can undertake. Is a single light battlegroup (even a scary elite one) really enough to secure a port or a major air head long enough for the Army RF to arrive? I fear not.

So from my persepective if we are serious about being able to project a light brigade with serious fighting power, self deployed at a disatance, it is always likely to be an ad hoc formation of both RM and PARA, depolying from a mixture of amphib ships, helos and transport planes. Such a formation would have a much better chance of securing theatre entry and defending itself long enough for the RF and other allied forces to arrive than either 3x or 16x acting alone.

Organisationally I am aware that both 43 Cdo and 1 Para have special duties and are therefore out of the equation. That leaves 5 manouvre units of elite light infantry. Assume 1 unit is doing forward engagement, public duties, civil defence or otherwise standing down for some reason. The other 4 are always going to provide the teeth of any serious light rapid reaction force. So why not organise and train together for that scenario? And practice sustianing each other logistically from whatever balance of air and sea support is available?

One of the great strenght of Slim’s 14th Army was the ability to switch seamlessly on demand from air supply to land supply to coastal and river supply lines as the tactical situation demanded. Shouldn’t our light forces practice doing the same today?

Peter Elliott
July 15, 2013 11:19 am

Actually the question above raises the point: what are brigades really for?

Are they an operational task organisation? Or are they about trianing and force generation?

Putting 43 Cdo under 3x for reasons of training and culture looks like a real fudge. Becuase it will never depoly with them as part of a formed brigade.

You could then ask will either 3x or 16x ever again deploy to the field in its specialist role (as opposed to taking a spell in roulement)? Or are they just there to generate single battle group each at high readiness that will then be tasked ad hoc? If so then do they need spearate specialist tactical brigade HQs?

Same question for the AF brigade HQs. Are they really needed for operational tasks? Does ‘homeland security’ really justify that many sets of red tabs? Or would some form of corps command suffice for force generation purposes?

And if we do need a core desingation for specialist force generation shouldn’t be the regiment? 43 cdo could then remain under the RM ‘regimental’ command for trianing and force generation. Even though it never will deploy with 3x or any other formed brigade in the face of the enemy.

FWIW the confusion is historical and comes from the evolution of the UK Forces from a small professional force to a mass imperial army and back again. But it would really benefit from being sorted out if we want to get the overhead back in line with the level of tasking we now aspire to undertake.

Peter Elliott
July 15, 2013 11:56 am

We’ve had Joint Force Harrier, Joint Helicopter Force, Joint Force Lightning, Permenant Joint HQ, Joint Forces Command. UKLF has been around for a long time.

Why not Joint Elite Light Force ??

[ “J – ELF” Think Legolas at Helm’s Deep]

They can even keep their separate regimental HQs and different coloured hats if they want. But why perpetuate the fiction that we have two deployable light brigades when we clearly don’t?

Rocket Banana
July 15, 2013 11:57 am

Isn’t the “homeland bollocks” supposed to be TA?

x
x
July 15, 2013 11:58 am

@ TD

When you say light role do you mean it in the world wide accepted sense as in true light infantry (paratroopers, commandos, mountain troops, etc)? Or in the British sense as all-we-can-afford-is-a-four-tonner-to-mount-them-in-if-they-are-lucky? :)

Repulse
July 15, 2013 12:03 pm

@RT: “Concentrate on capabilities not organisation” – couldn’t agree more. I would like more thought (or transparency) in what structures / numbers mean for capabilities. Not just for the army, but across all three services – the world is purple you know :) Also, would be good to get some true capability training exercises – when was the last time the RFTG / ARG trained with a full Army brigade?

Peter Elliott
July 15, 2013 12:12 pm

@Simon

No the “homeland bollocks” is the excuse for why we still need so many AF Brigade HQs.

x
x
July 15, 2013 12:15 pm

@ Simon

No, not for a long time.

Google the Norwegian and Danish home guards. Especially the latter.

Peter Elliott
July 15, 2013 12:18 pm

Argee with that – would like to see our elite light forces seize and secure a beachead followed by a RF brigade decanting out of the Points and onto dry land across some sort of mexe pontoon-pier.

Doesn’t have to be anywhere exotic. From Warminster to Marchwood to the Isle of Wight would do to prove the concept.

Rocket Banana
July 15, 2013 12:26 pm

x,

I got the impression that was what we were moving back towards?.. With the new balance of “reserves” being part of the adaptable force, which looks to me like a non-expeditionary home defence force?

All this swapping and changing is very confusing ;-)

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 15, 2013 12:55 pm

@ Jed – “However instead of giving the third Para Battalion back to the Air Asslt, Brig for the exact same training and readiness cycle as everyone else, they have some weird 2 battle group “1 on, 1 off” setup !”

Agreed.

16AAB should have three principle maneuver units based on para’s so that it can work to the same routine as the other reaction forces: work-up / deploy / work-down.

Tom
Tom
July 15, 2013 1:12 pm

“The other side of me thinks this is less important that might be thought because if history is anything to go by, deployments generally get cobbled together with whatever units are needed, not how they are organised in peace time.

Concentrate on capabilities not organisation”

Exactly TD. Too many people (incl myself at times) read too much in official orbats, which always go out the window when something actually needs to happen. The Army 2020 organisation is just a convenience to try and manage an organisation of over 100,000 people.

Show me any organisation that can do better.

Tom
Tom
July 15, 2013 1:31 pm

– But your missing the point of specialist forces – it doesn’t just apply to the battalion level organisations – it applies to higher formations as well. They are centres of defence excellence.

– HQ 3 Cdo Bde is the specialist HQ for amphibious and Arctic and Warfare operations.
– HQ 16 AA Bde is the specialist HQ for major Air Assault operations.
– Armoured Brigades are specialist HQs for armoured warfare operations, etc, etc

Any of those forces can be a “general” HQ for a variety of operations (as seen in Iraq & Afgan) commanding a variety of units with different capabilities, but its useful to have these specialist HQs so that we cover all the bases, and have somebody with more authority than Lt Col to act as champions for these specialist capabilities.

“One of the great strength of Slim’s 14th Army was the ability to switch seamlessly on demand from air supply to land supply to coastal and river supply lines as the tactical situation demanded. Shouldn’t our light forces practice doing the same today?”

And they can/do. A jungle trained light infantry battalion will have trained to move via helicopter and by small boat.

Peter Elliott
July 15, 2013 1:40 pm

Depends on the assumptions. The three mechanised RF brigades have between them a dual role of generating a single VHR battlegroup AND a HR deployable brigade.

What this structure uncovers is that the purpose of 16x is different. Under FF2020 16x appears to have the sole purpose of generating a single VHR light battlegroup. The brigade isn’t to be a deployable fighting formation itself any more: it would have to be augmented ad hoc and worked up if it was ever actually going to deploy.

FF2020 has at least 4 different animals masquerading under the name of “brigade”, and they are really quite different creatures.

“16AAB should have three principle maneuver units based on para’s so that it can work to the same routine as the other reaction forces: work-up / deploy / work-down.”

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 15, 2013 2:19 pm

The “Air Assault Brigade” originally had two light infantry, air-mobile battalions paired up with the two para battalions to make up a combat brigade.
It looks very much like that original idea is dead and buried. There’s no mention of battalions rotating through that role, and there’s specific mention of the on/off readiness between 2&3 para.
The brigade certainly seems to have changed from an “air assault” role to “rapid reaction” role. Less about parachuting and rough landing C130s into battle – more about having a lead company with their bags packed for the Voyager flight.

x
x
July 15, 2013 2:19 pm

Peter E said “Putting 43 Cdo under 3x for reasons of training and culture looks like a real fudge. Becuase it will never depoly with them as part of a formed brigade.”

They are all RM. There will be no cultural differences. 3 Cdo is a joint RM and Army formation. 3 Cdo isn’t a synonym for the Royal Marine Corps.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 15, 2013 2:48 pm

What strikes me most is that despite substantial cuts to manpower, we seemed to have settled for an army where such a big chunk (the AF) looks quite anaemic.
Half a dozen light protected (Foxhound and other bits n’ bobs) battalions, nine light infantry battalions, three light cav (Jackal) battalions. Three garrison battalions, and the reserve infantry battalions and yeomanry get Wolf and WMIK Landies.

Thousands of redundancies, but we still seem to have been left with an overlarge army considering that the only bit that looks to have retained any fightiness are the three armoured brigades. Even 16AAB looks anorexic and past its best.

I think I’d prefer to see a bit of mechanization in that adaptive force. Six APC battalions – something that could at least support the armoured infantry. And perhaps three regular, and three reserve light protected battalions – which would give us a substantial pool of protected vehicles. The remainder in the light role, with the Air Assault roulement restarted. That’s a modest improvement, adding a bit of extra oomph. Not to drastic?

x
x
July 15, 2013 3:11 pm

Jedi said “16AAB should have three principle maneuver units based on para’s so that it can work to the same routine as the other reaction forces: work-up / deploy / work-down.”

Um. Think of it this way. If the RN sends a minimal ARG to sea once a year for six months. We will have one at “sea” even if t is about to go, one working up to go to sea next year. And one returned. That is a lot more sea time than RM have had for a long time and about the same length of time as a USMC MEU (though not quite.) So 3 for 1 works.

Considering not all Parachute Regiment soldiers are jump qualified. We don’t have a large number of C17s etc. They don’t really have lots of trick kit to shift. Then I doubt any emergency will find us sending the whole of a battalion. If it is some rescue mission in a Libya like scenario and the SAS are going and say an airport needs to be secured they will send personnel from 1PARA. They will be some notice to go. I don’t think Parachute Regiment’s skills suddenly degrade and they will main competent at the core skills if troops from other battalion need to go because troops from high readiness battalion are missing. If a whole battalion is needed for 6 months or so send the battalion from high readiness reaction brigade mounted in Mastiff. And the ARG might be close to the point of crisis anyway or could be moved. Of course lightening does strike twice. And if they want helicopters to play with in serious numbers they would have to be moved into theatre anyway so that is the heliborne assault business up the wazoo. (What you need for that ideally is a ship to land them on. Yes that is the ideal platform. A Landing Platform Helicopter if you will……)

What I am sort of driving at is if we had a bigger pool of C17 so we could move a xPARA battlegroup at will, a long with some fancy kit (Wiesels, Stormers whatever), and other support elements then it would be having 3 Parachute Regiment battalions in an new air assault/rapid deployment brigade. The working up, high readiness, and stood down model would work. But we don’t. And so they are wasted. Just the same really that we don’t quite have the shipping to do an ARG properly in a mini-MEU style; say 3 JC/Canberra’s fand 3 fast LPD’s.

So the UK has good troops that could head off all sorts of crisis and stop them becoming more expensive but we don’t have the assets. A bit like having a wonderful car but having no wheels and/or needing to lease an engine. Something I have been saying all the time I have been commenting here. Better a standing army with tanks and heavy kit times three than an army that can be deployed anywhere tout de suite.

Rocket Banana
July 15, 2013 3:14 pm

BB,

I thought that about the AF until I included all the “Force Troops” stuff.

As for 16AAB. I think this is what we can deliver either by copter or by fixed-wing. It’s obvious that it is designed as a true sharp-end brigade.

However, I do agree with your last paragraph. I preferred the 5 x adaptable brigades of the original design. Seems more sensible for roulements too. I guess it didn’t work because of the way they wanted to shoehorn the TA into the structure. This new one leaves the TA/reserves in a slightly less “hard” organisation that look like they will either stay at home as a home guard or do the expeditionary logistics and support work (there are a few exceptions to this of course).

Mike W
July 15, 2013 3:59 pm

@Brian Black

“Even 16AAB looks anorexic and past its best.”

You’re quite right. 16 AA Bde has lost two infantry battalions and, I believe, its Air Defence troop some time ago. Now there is some talk about D Squadron The Household Cavalry Regiment, which has been one of its units, also being withdrawn from its organization. Only a rumour and I have been trying check it out but the document TD included in his post: “Transforming the British Army – An Update – July 2013” now seems unavailable. Hope it’s nothing we’ve said! Could be adding another update, I suppose (“10 Infantry battalions restored to British Army” or some other piece of good news!).

Surely all this hollowing out is bound to enfeeble any Army, isn’t it?

Chris.B
Chris.B
July 15, 2013 4:04 pm

Another concern, the incentives for recruitment seem a little skewed.

Join certain regiments and you have an increased likelyhood of deployment to a “war”. Join others and the only fighting you’re likely to see is part of another Afghanistan/Iraq COIN deployment. Which one has historically been more successful and which has historically resulted in lower casualties? That’s a tough sell trying to convince someone to join the adaptable force over the reaction force.

Meanwhile the reserves have gone from “we’ll only call you when we really need you” to “we plan to call on you on a semi-regular basis to fill up the shortfall in regular manning, even for tasks like overseas engagement which probably don’t really require you”.

The whole thing looks like a plan drawn up on a paper napkin down the pub during someones lunch hour.

Tom
Tom
July 15, 2013 4:07 pm

BB – As I understand it, the original 5 Multi role brigade concept went out the window for few reasons:

+ Money – We couldn’t afford all of the kit to make it work properly.
+ Basing – Because all of the armour would of been concentrated in Salisbury Plain/Catterick, the brigade based in Scotland would never of been remotely close to its heavy forces.
+ Jack of all trades, master of none – the MRB concept was fine if you want to do is send a mixed bag of forces to theatre, but not if you want to send a well trained and worked up armour brigade.

Chris.B
Chris.B
July 15, 2013 4:08 pm

@ Mike W,

You’re right, the link is dead now. I saved a copy of the document to a folder though, so until the link comes back up if anyone has questions that need checking, leave it here and as I dip in and out I’ll have a ganders.

Chris.B
Chris.B
July 15, 2013 4:20 pm

And just to spam the shit out of TD’s thread a bit more, a new transcript for an evidence session in front of the defence select committee has just been released. This would have been done last Wednesday I think, on army 2020:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmdfence/uc576-i/uc57601.htm

wf
wf
July 15, 2013 4:27 pm

@Brian Black: seconded. All these “light” bns aren’t going to be much use unless the preferred deployment is with the UN. Raise properly manned and equipped units, and if there’s a shortage of money, cut the number of units and cap badges be damned

Chris.B
Chris.B
July 15, 2013 5:03 pm

Just reading that house of commons session. It’s fucking hilarious. At some points it literally goes along the lines of “What’s your plan B if plan A doesn’t work?” “… we don’t have a plan B. We believe – despite any evidence or questions to the contrary – that Plan A will work. If it doesn’t, we’re fucked”.

Phil
July 15, 2013 5:10 pm

1. The AF brigades are exactly that – pools of units to be used as and when that between them generate 6 units every 12 months to go off and play or stand ready to play. The regional brigade system is not a luxury – plenty of things need doing at Bde level. Also don’t forget that only 3 of those 7 brigades are going to have deployable HQs and I believe actually only are needed for on-going operations. I also imagine that a lot of factors come into play with what units are under what brigades and I am equally sure that if you got down to the spreadsheet nitty gritty there are good reasons for it.

Really though it doesn’t matter because no AF Bde is going anywhere without a 12 month workup so they’ll draw units across the pool.

2. AF versus RF – personally I think the AF will see more opportunities to go and do something than the RF and more than likely people will be cross and trickle posted anyway. Other armies across the world manage just fine with that sort of arrangement.

3. Names. No idea what the motivations are. Sometimes I think there are the traditionalists who want all the names to stay and those who want a nice tidy numbering system that breaks with the past. There definitely seems to be a conflict betwixt them. I’m pretty sure all the numbered brigades have seen some action and 7 X has been disbanded and chopped and changed several times.

4. As for 16X – you join the PARAS to get lobbed into some shithole on your own and with next to no support ala Market Garden or HERRICK 4. You don’t join to prance around on “other tasks”. It looks to me like the PARA units have been excused a lot of the other taskings line units do so they can concentrate on being one off and one on. Seems logical to me.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 15, 2013 5:29 pm

cheers Chris:

“Q172 Sir Bob Russell: Is there anything the Defence Committee should be doing to help make sure that you have sufficient funding to implement Army 2020 or do you think everything at the moment is-

Lieutenant General Sir Adrian Bradshaw: The answer to your question is that there is sufficient risk in the programme for us to conclude that if the current resourcing were to reduce again we would be in the business of looking at whether these plans are achievable.

Q174 Sir Bob Russell: I am grateful for that as it leads me into my next question. What happens if you do not get a real-terms increase in your funding from 2015, in other words after the next general election?

Lieutenant General Sir Adrian Bradshaw: I think the degree of risk then increases and we would have to look at that stage at whether the plan was deliverable.”

Rocket Banana
July 15, 2013 5:47 pm

Can we get an entire AF brigade into one Point class?

Excluding the troops of course.

Mike W
July 15, 2013 5:50 pm

.B

“so until the link comes back up if anyone has questions that need checking, leave it here and as I dip in and out I’ll have a ganders.”

Well, you could, if you have the time, Chris. look to see whether D Squadron, The Household Cavalry Regiment is listed at all and if it is, whether it is shown to be still a part of, or supporting, 16 AA Bde? Ta very much.

Chris.B
Chris.B
July 15, 2013 6:12 pm

@ Mike,

There’s no indication on that chart of a Household Cavalry presence in 16AAB, just the whole regiment as part of one of the reaction brigades. There could be a number of explanations for that, but it does seem on the face of it that they’ve been removed.

Phil
July 15, 2013 6:13 pm

Can we get an entire AF brigade into one Point class?

The whole point of an AF brigade is that it is adaptable. There’s no fixed ORBAT to wonder about fitting on a ship.

Mike W
July 15, 2013 6:16 pm

.B

Many thanks for that, Chris. As you say, there could be several explanations for that but on the surface it does not look too good.

Phil
July 15, 2013 6:33 pm

“Q172 Sir Bob Russell: Is there anything the Defence Committee should be doing to help make sure that you have sufficient funding to implement Army 2020 or do you think everything at the moment is-

I know I sometimes sound like an apologist for the Army but all that is being said here is that the Army is cutting its cloth according to its means and if the means are reduced the cloth gets re-assessed. It makes perfect sense to design a force that gets the most of a budget and is tight.

Everyone knows that any significant contingency funding or cushioning would not only reduce defence capabilities it is in reality just going to be so much carrion for the Treasury.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
July 15, 2013 6:40 pm

OK – a few questions; being just a civvy I want to just make sure what roles the different battalions are to perform, particularly in high intensity warfare. Obviously the C2 and Warrior and scout battalions are a given, but…

1 – The Airborne taskforce will be battalion sized?

2 – What roles will the a) heavy and b) light protected mobility battalions perform?

3 – What roles will the Light Cavalry perform?

4 – What roles will the light role infantry perform?

Rocket Banana
July 15, 2013 7:49 pm

Phil,

Sorry, I meant an armoured infantry brigade from the RF.

The one with the 56 Chally2s, Warriors, CVR(T) and Mastiffs.

Mike W
July 15, 2013 9:05 pm

Your first paragraph makes perfect sense to me:

“and if the means are reduced the cloth gets re-assessed. It makes perfect sense to design a force that gets the most of a budget and is tight.”

Agree absolutely. The re-configuring of Army resources for 2020 is not a bad job in itself, given our present poverty-stricken national state. However, my previous arguments on this thread have been to the effect that it is only an increase in global funding that is going to retain our capabilities. To argue otherwise i.e. that cuts will not reduce capability, as official publications appear to do in places, is sophistry of the worst kind.

It is your second paragraph that I cannot understand fully (and it is probably my fault in that I am not in possession of certain pieces of information ):

“Everyone knows that any significant contingency funding or cushioning would not only reduce defence capabilities it is in reality just going to be so much carrion for the Treasury.”

I fail to see, in at least one case, how contingency funding will actually reduce defence capabilities. Take the example of the protected mobility vehicles procured under UORs for Afghanistan (Mastiff, Ridgback, Warthog, etc.) I know that it is the case normally that the Treasury eventually claws back money for kit purchased as UORs but in this case, haven’t those very vehicles proves to be a lifeline or godsend to the Army, in that it is placing them in the Core for future use. Surely in this case it must be that the Treasury has actually helped the Army solve a problem and, presumably, the money will not be claimed back (or if it is, then the cost of those vehicles will be less to the Army than if they had to buy new?) I am not in full possession of the facts, Phil, but that’s what it seem like to me. Or have I completely mistaken your argument?

CBRNGuru
CBRNGuru
July 15, 2013 11:08 pm

@TD
“The homeland bollocks is just a lifebelt to a drowning man, the civil resilience sector don’t need the Army”
That is a totally incorrect statement TD.
TRF are a key component to a multitude of scenarios that involve multi-agency tasking.
The military have specialist ability way beyond the capabilities of MAIAT. Your assumption that Ryton, the New Dimensions and HART programmes do provide certain assets for certain tasks that were bought at great expense and those assets are being re-evaluated, but for more than a decade the military has been entrenched to deliver critical First Response components.

jed
jed
July 16, 2013 12:07 am

I believe my comments ref Para Battalions and 16 AAB might have been misconstrued. It has been acknolwedged for some time that we no longer have a “parachute brigade” but with the removal of 2 x light inf battalions 16 AAB is no longer meant to deploy as a brigade with 3 to 4 manoeuvre units including Apache regiments etc, instead it is to generate a high readiness battle group, just as the 3 Commando’s of 3 Cdo Brig are to provide a single battalion sized battle group based on a single Commando and supporting units.

However with only 2 battalions surely only a reinforced Company sized very high readiness battle group can be sustained ? This may well fit in with the amount of personnel we can maintain as parachute trained, and deploy from remaining RAF fixed wing transport assets; BUT a full battalion would offer greater operational flexibility, particularly as we have enough Chinooks and Merlins to deploy them. Don’t forget the non-parachute, non-air assault role played by the Paras in the Falklands as elite light infantry deployed from the sea.

I just think when the whole of the rest of the Army (both RF and AF) and the RM is on a 36 month 1 in 3 cycle, the Paras are not, it just seems “cheap” as my son would say !

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 16, 2013 7:22 am

“I just think when the whole of the rest of the Army (both RF and AF) and the RM is on a 36 month 1 in 3 cycle, the Paras are not, it just seems “cheap” as my son would say !”

agreed.

Rocket Banana
July 16, 2013 7:49 am

I don’t see what the problem is with only two paras if they are never considered “deployed”. It’s only when they are working on cycle that they need the train/deploy/rest cycles. If they don’t actually deploy then it’s just train/rest – train obviously also means “ready” for contingency operations.

So I read it as 16AAB is never expected to remain deployed. Similarly I read that 3Cdo and/or the RF is intended to remain deployed for long periods on roulement. I especially liked the original five brigade concept as that meant a less strenuous roulement with the inactive brigades forming a training/home defence force OR the ability to surge up to three brigades into theatre and roll one in and one out. I don’t see how this is achievable using the new structure.

East Anglian
East Anglian
July 16, 2013 8:20 am

What has happened to the link? Could someone point to a copy?

Thanks

Tom O'Shea
Tom O'Shea
July 16, 2013 9:02 am

http://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/Army2020_Report.pdf

To me 16 x needs another regular battalion. I know they say para training is expensive, yet it would be very simple to convert one of the Gurkha battalions to a parachute battalion. Then 4 para could be used to reinforce in a more appropriate way. The training/deploy/rest cycle is critical even for paras.

a
a
July 16, 2013 11:41 am

As for 16X – you join the PARAS to get lobbed into some shithole on your own and with next to no support ala Market Garden or HERRICK 4.

Still depressed that when Stuart Tootal said this: “‘running out of supplies when surrounded was part of our history. When I talked of what conditions must have been like for paratroopers who held the bridge at Arnhem for nine days against ferocious German assaults, having only planned to hold it for two, in 1944, people got the point that I was making.’”

no one in the press conference stuck their hand up and said “Colonel, didn’t the Paras lose at Arnhem?

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 16, 2013 12:25 pm

“… convert one of the Gurkha battalions to a parachute battalion. ”

Gurkha Para battalions date back to WW2, 153(?) Battalion serving with particular distinction and Imphal as I recall. Later, 2 Para had a Gurkha company as recently as 2001 (?, memory is getting worse) because of problems recruiting native Brits.

Might be a better idea to recruit a new Gurkha battalion, than convert an existing one. At least there will never be a problem with recruiting and the little buggers are guaranteed good in a scrap.

Observer
Observer
July 16, 2013 12:39 pm

Good idea Llama, that is if their government was not cutting down on the recruitment of mercenaries to clean up their image internationally. There was a bit of a scrap a few years back on that.

BTW, image cleanup is not my idea, blame it on their government. Their image was never bad in my opinion.

Edit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/9153296/Gurkha-service-in-Britains-armed-forces-under-threat-from-Nepal-government-bill.html

Found a link for that.

x
x
July 16, 2013 12:52 pm

The idea of the UK ever conducting helicopter warfare like the US was completely potty. Firstly you have to have enough helicopters. Secondly you have to get them into theatre. Thirdly, and mostly, you would have to have a very bizarre extraordinaire reason to actually want to do it. Who would you be fighting not a peer and it would be overkill against terrorist insurgents? So what scenario. 16AAB went to four units for the same reason 3Cdo went to four unit because that was being operated on the ground in Afghanistan; there was never ever an intention for 16AAB to be a mini-101st. All this talk so many light infantry battalions this and parachute battalions that isn’t realistic. It was all about attaching 4 manoeuvre units to one brigade HQ. An instance thereof organisation not capability.

Again it this issue of parachuting that everybody gets hung up on. I think it has been proved now that the average British infantry soldier (though he is an above average soldier!) can climb in and out of helicopters. I know. Frightening. I have seen them do it! It really isn’t a speciality and certainly not a skill you can build an organisation’s legend (in the more prosaic sense) unlike jumping out of a perfectly serviceable aircraft doing several hundred knots several hundred feet above the ground. I don’t like to the use word elite too much as it is perhaps a bit loaded; rather like how the word hero has become loaded of late. There may be little need to jump into theatre of operations (though the French find reasons, then there was the RLI), we certainly don’t have the aircraft to land a large force and sustain it, and yet it is something I believe we should keep and nurture just in case and most importantly as a differentiator that separates the Parachute Regiment from the rest of the British infantry. We don’t expect Grenadiers to spend their days throwing grenades, fusiliers to spend their day lighting fuses, we have lancers in heavy tanks, we have rifles acting as heavy infantry, destroyers that are frigates, and fighters that drop bombs. Tet we, some of us, get very hung up on that word parachute and expect parachutists well to parachute. We don’t have the resources for a (demi-)brigade based on the Parachute Regiment to be a mini-101st. I hope the irony of the Army’s largest brigade being its supposed lightest and it dwarfing the other light formation (that could be moved anywhere and had its own organic helicopters) by a few thousand isn’t lost on everybody. But we could move a battalion-lite if we so chose. **

As for affording things we, well HMG, choose not to spend money on defence on our behalf. HMG choose to borrow £10bn to give the DfID a budget; I will use £10bn to make the maths easier. How much value the UK taxpayer gets from that budget has been discussed a lot here. And we might as well discuss it again. I would wager that we could buy just as much influence with a well managed £8bn as could we that budget of £10bn. Really nobody really knows what that £10bn gets us. I do know what £2 billion on the MoD equipment budget could buy us spent over 5 years. It could buy us enough vehicles to mount 5 brigades in modern (Third World friendly) MRAPs, a modern (Third World friendly) cavalry vehicle, and some modern light artillery. It could buy us enough C17 so we could move a light parachute battalion based somewhere with enough stores and a clutch of light support vehicles. And it could buy us 3 modern fast LHD/LPD. If the UK get to the point of crisis more quickly and be more of a threat to the villains to the Third World we might actually derive some real value from the DfID budget.

Sadly HMG won’t do any of this which means Army 2020 is basically about maintaining a core capability. And really it is a very core capability,. Keeping a few thousand men who know how to shoot, do extreme camping, and play with HE. Just in case. As I said above a car without wheels. It could be so much more just spending money we already borrow in a different way.

** Really is there is no excuse not for the MoD not to “own” to one or three aircraft so that all Parachute Regiment soldiers are parachute qualled. Would it take more than one say Islander? I wonder how many of that specialist RAF Reg squadron are not parachute qualled? Again the MoD chooses to maintain 2800 RAF Reg bods. What’s that? Enough to operate all our Bays for a year. So please none of this we can’t afford to do stuff.

Challenger
Challenger
July 16, 2013 12:56 pm

Their is a lot to commend in Army 2020 and I think in a broad sense they have tacked the severe manpower reductions and new strategic priorities well.

The one thing I still struggle to wholeheartedly get on board with is the presence of essentially 3 armoured brigades as the Army’s principle manoeuvre formations. They may be officially termed ‘armoured infantry’ but in composition they have a weight and structure which most would recognise as armoured formations through and through. If it were down to me I would have tried to have a single armoured brigade and generate 1 heavy battle-group at constant readiness and on rotation alongside 3 Commando and 16 Air Assault, with 3 more medium balanced, mechanized brigades to provide 1 at high readiness for operations in the same ‘rule of 3’ rotation.

I understand that circumstances have made it very difficult for the Army to get the right balance and structure that it needs to future operations, but I do despair a little at the continuing focus on heavier armoured warfare. A single armoured battle-group would enable quick reaction to any sudden crises that flares up, and the entire brigade could be brought up-to scratch and deployed with a few months notice. Considering we would only ever really want and need a single armoured brigade in action and those kind of Granby/Telic style operations have a fair amount of warning and build-up I fail to see a problem with the idea of a singular armoured formation.

P.S

I would definitely seek to have three manoeuvre battalions for 16 Air Assault.

Also I quite like the adaptable concept and see no real problem with a force split between a larger amount of essentially regional ‘static’ brigades but which can act as parent formations and generate units for active deployments, but also a couple of brigades earmarked to be larger and more comprehensive formations which could with sufficient notice work up and then slot in with the 3 regular brigades for a long enduring rotational operation (should we be as unfortunate as to get stuck in that situation again).

Sgt Pep
Sgt Pep
July 16, 2013 12:56 pm

How long would it take to deploy the whole Rapid Reaction Armoured Division (3 armoured brigades) plus other support troops to the European mainland i.e. Poland for example?? should Ivan decide, however unlikely in the near/medium term, to pay an uninvited visit to Baltic countries or Poland.

Considering
(a) British treaty/political/unofficial commitments to defence and deterrence in NATO/EU.
(b) British heavy forces are not expected to be used in UK territory but to be deployed far away from home.
(c) the inevitable future creation of EURO armed forces due to budget cuts, European political integration, etc.

wouldn’t it make more sense to leave the Armoured Division forwardly deployed in Germany? where it could train in state of the art facilities/camps with the old masters of armoured warfare and other EU allies. leaving the light infantryand 16th AA in UK territory they are easily deployed anyway.

Integrating the armoured infantry divisions/brigades of Germany, UK, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Poland now that would be a force to be reckoned with.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 16, 2013 1:09 pm

Mr Observer,

From that article you quoted:

“Padam Lal Bishwakarma, chairman of Nepal’s Parliamentary International Relations and Human Rights Committee, last night told the Daily Telegraph he wanted the recruitment to end but not until the country could offer the men alternative jobs which matched its pay.”

I don’t think the UK need worry yet about the supply of Gurkha recruits drying up. There are some other social issues that the UK needs now (since Gurkha soldiers were granted full UK pension rights and the right to remain) to think about, but really they are trivial compared to the continued immigration of people who have never and never will contribute to the common good. Not many Gurhkas living in self-imposed ghettos and planning terrorist attacks in the UK.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 16, 2013 1:19 pm

Sgt Pep,

Leaving British Armour in Germany to contribute to a counter to a possible Soviet thrust into Poland or the Baltic States, would be eminently sensible, but only if the UK had any intention to go to war to protect Poland etc.. We did that once before and it didn’t turn out too well. We will never do it again. NATO is now a nonsense, a paper tiger, a talking shop. at best an over-arcing HQ for out of area operations by coalitions of the willing.

Sgt Pep
Sgt Pep
July 16, 2013 1:33 pm

What’s the point of retaining an armoured division then?! if not for conventional warfare and defence/deterrence.

So Britain has absolutely no geopolitical/economic interests to protect in Europe then? good to know.

Observer
Observer
July 16, 2013 1:44 pm

Sgt Pep, not that the UK doesn’t have interest in Europe, but that there are very little problems that can be solved with the addition of a sabre squadron. Now if only parking tanks on the front porch of the Greek parliment can get people to see sense (for both sides, politicians and protestors), then that might be a good idea, but as getting people to see sense is about as likely as Her Majesty adopting me as her long lost son, I’d give that idea a miss.

More likely usage areas for them are Africa and the Middle East. Still a bit of a Wild West frontier over there.

Llama, just pointing out where the winds are blowing. Might be a future problem.

And quit calling me Mister or I’ll return the favour and make you sound like a character from a children’s book. :P

“Look!! It’s Mr Llama!!”

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 16, 2013 1:44 pm

@Hurst lama

Your comments on NATO are amusing given the fact that it operated exactly as it was meant to in order to provide 2 component commands, Air at Izmir and Maritime at Nisidia commanded by a US and Italian 3 star respectively. Operating under the umbrella of JFC Naples.
We also have the even more recent example of Germany, US and The Netherlands all deploying 2 patriot batteries to Turkey which are operational under NATO command.
Then we have ongoing TF 508 ops in the GOA, Afghanistan, former Yugoslavia.

Yet you have decided that we will simply discard article 5?

x
x
July 16, 2013 4:48 pm

The other thing is I can’t see a 3Div Reaction Brigade ever deploying with 2 x Warrior and 1 x Mastiff. Another brigade’s Warriors will go in the Mastiffs’ places. Seeing the time taken between the balloon going up, decision to send them, put ships in position, move vehicles to Marchwood, ships from Marchwood to who knows where, from the port there to the base, and so into action will take weeks and weeks I can’t see the need for the brigade to be held at high readiness. That is high readiness in a QRA or fire engine or ambulance or doctor on call sense. It will be never as quick FIW and they weren’t moving heavy vehicles. So two brigades working turn and turn about should cover it. I would go down two (one actually but let’s meet them halfway) armoured brigades I would put the Mastiffs into a third brigade that was working split into three battle groups under a work up, deploy, rest rotation. Keep one scale of equipment at Marchwood. Split the rest of the kit between three battalions for training. And then if there is a need for a rapid intervention with protected vehicles, again say a Libya style scenario and the Army is evacuating refugees, ex-pats, whoever then all we need is a Point or a Bay or Albion or a combination. Again not ideal but we have to work with what we have.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 16, 2013 4:50 pm

Mr. APATS,

Never have I said we would discard Article 5, I said we (the UK) will not go to war if Poland, the Baltic States or, come to that Bulgaria were to be attacked. Do you think we would? What about some of the other NATO countries? Belgium, for example, think they would join in?

Do, please, read again what Article 5 says. There is no actual requirement to go to war, only to take such action as each member state deems necessary and to jolly well tell the UN Security Council. The days when it was all for one and one for all (if they ever existed) have long past.

You cite the example of three members moving anti-aircraft batteries to Southern Turkey under NATO command. Suppose, in a year or two, Syria decided to attack Turkey. Local attacks, you understand designed to drive “rebel” elements back from the border regions. Which NATO countries do you think would send in troops/planes in the spirit of Article 5?

In 2006 the NATO countries agreed to keep their defence spending at at least 2% of GDP. How many have done so?

Sorry, old boy, but NATO is now a paper-tiger.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 16, 2013 5:02 pm

@Observer

Fair go, on the Gurkhas, Mr. Observer (bugger; sorry, I forgot – I can only claim a lifetime of being polite to officers, at least I don’t call you, “Sir”) , but I don’t think we need worry just yet.

As an aside have you seen this article:

http://thediplomat.com/flashpoints-blog/2013/07/16/the-submarine-race-in-the-malaccan-strait/

All about submarines in your back yard. I’d be interested in your views.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
July 16, 2013 5:12 pm

@HL

“You cite the example of three members moving anti-aircraft batteries to Southern Turkey under NATO command. Suppose, in a year or two, Syria decided to attack Turkey. Local attacks, you understand designed to drive “rebel” elements back from the border regions. Which NATO countries do you think would send in troops/planes in the spirit of Article 5?”

Ourselves, the US, the Dutch, the Italians amongst others. I respect your opinion, though find old boy a bit condescending.

My opinion differs and I have worked within the NATO organisation extensively over the last 4 years.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 16, 2013 5:29 pm

“Ourselves, the US, the Dutch, the Italians and others”

Wishful thinking there, in my view. However, aren’t there 28 members of NATO? What will the others be doing? The same as the UK will do if the Sovs steam into, say, Bulgaria – making speeches at the UN, calling for a cease fire, issuing press releases and generally giving every support short of actual help.

Have you seen that Georgia has today declared that it will join in NATO reaction force from 2015. Silly sods. If they think that will save them the next time Russia wants to give them a slap they are in for a disappointment.

P.S. Sorry if you found the “Old Boy” condescending. I didn’t mean it to be. Observer found being called “Mr” objectionable too. Guess I am getting too old for the internet.

Observer
Observer
July 16, 2013 5:47 pm

“at least I don’t call you, “Sir””

That’s even worse. :)

As for the arms race, well, welcome to the war. It really has never ended, just cooled down and went a bit shy.

As for locking up the Straits, possible, but the shallow waters will really cripple the sub’s abilities. You want them to play, look at the other side of the countries. Surface ships and preferably ground artillery can lock up the Straits of Malacca at the choke point, the sub/surface ship playground is the entrance and exit. Look at where Malaysia based its subs, Sabah, not the mainland.

Not to mention you want to keep the lanes open, not interdict them, so a sub/surface fleet to keep the South China Sea approach open as a deterent is needed.

You got to remember that to the countries in the area, there are 2 enemies. China and their neighbours. Each have their strengths and weaknesses. Diplomatic ties have improved a lot, but all it takes is one racial riot or international incident to screw up the whole deal. Which means keep your friends close, and your possible enemies within smacking range army wise. Hence the arms race.

As for more subs, not likely. All the countries involved are still digesting their aquisitions and formulating tactics and doctrine of usage, logistics and maintanance. Apparently, one of the Malaysian Scorpenes have a bit of a diving problem due to defects. They will sort it out in time, but this is the kind of problem that illustrates why time is needed to digest aquisitions.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
July 16, 2013 5:47 pm

@HL

What do you base you opinion that we would ignore an article 5 issue on? NATO has been reinvigorated by Libya last year where the command system worked very well. It has had more ongoing ops world wide than ever before.
It still runs operations in former Yugoslavia from JFC Naples. I am curious as discussions I have had with both NATO political appointees, my old boss (UK 2 star), and his boss (German 3 star) would indicate none of them share your concerns.
remember that any non response to an article 5 violation equals the end of NATO. It is not something that can be shrugged off.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 16, 2013 6:41 pm

@Observer,

Thanks for that. I had thought that the local countries wanted to subs etc to ensure that the Straights stayed open am I right in thinking that they do, but also want the ability to close them?

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 16, 2013 6:59 pm

@APATS

I repeat what I said earlier, I don’t believe the UK would ignore an attack that would invoke Article 5, any more than any of the other 27 countries would. I just don’t believe that the UK would go to war over an attack on Eastern members of the alliance, firstly because there isn’t much we could do and secondly I don’t think the UK public would stand for it.

Please do re-read Article 5, it does not commit any member of NATO to go to war in support of another. As I said, it does commit all members take whatever action they deem necessary to support the attacked party and restore the integrity of the NATO area, and, of course telling, the UNSC. Should the Russians go into Bulgaria the UK would join Belgium and others, including, I suspect, Germany (your 3 star boss not withstanding), in calling for a cease-fire and possibly tabling a motion at the UN, every assistance short of actual help.

If all those members of NATO took their commitments so seriously as to be prepared to go to war why have so few honoured their commitment to maintain defence spending at a minimum of 2% of GDP?

Observer
Observer
July 16, 2013 7:08 pm

Sorry Llama, no one wants the Straits closed. No one benefits from that. Just because the equation works in one direction does not imply it works automatically in the other.

As for NATO, I think you might be a bit too hard on it. NATO is primarily a defensive alliance, why it had no chance to show off recently is due to the lack of aggressors, hence lack of focus. An attack on any member country will be having the whole lot very, very focused on a target and drooling to show off. Like pit bulls, if they are sleeping, they don’t look that impressive but if you disturb them, expect big bites. Any chance for action will have officers all dreaming of promotions and raring to go. For now though, all they have are COIN-like bushfire wars.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
July 16, 2013 7:13 pm

@HL
“I just don’t believe that the UK would go to war over an attack on Eastern members of the alliance, firstly because there isn’t much we could do and secondly I don’t think the UK public would stand for it”

On the first point, a squadron or 2 of Typhoons/F35/Tornado depending upon time frame and other actions show our political determination. It does not require an instant armoured brigade, think tri service.

I am well aware of what article 5 says and even more aware how it is interpreted in the corridors of power.
Obviously you know more about a likely German response than a 3 Star Admiral, I respect that.

The whole 2% thing is something that has to be justified every year, a response to aggression (what the alliance was set up for) is a once in a generation response.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 16, 2013 7:20 pm

@observer

Thanks for the clarification about the Straights.

As for NATO, sorry that my views differ, but I see nothing to persuade me that all members of the Alliance would do more than honour the letter of the treaty.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 16, 2013 7:25 pm

@APATS,

We are going around in circles here. You believe that if the wheel falls off, everyone will muck in and go to war to protect, say, Bulgaria, and I don’t. Let us leave it at that because to continue we would be wasting each others time.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
July 16, 2013 7:32 pm

@HL

Indeed and I have validated the reasons for my opinion. What brought you to yours?

x
x
July 16, 2013 7:51 pm

Isn’t that we are letting all the Bulgars and Romanians come here in the new year so they can live on a nice island protected by an update nuclear deterrent? That is what we call a cunning plan……..

http://content6.flixster.com/question/56/30/21/5630216_std.jpg

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 16, 2013 8:00 pm

Proposing scenarios of an invasion of NATO is simply being over-dramatic.

NATO is a defensive organisation. When Austria or Ireland begin massing their armies against NATO’s borders, then NATO would deploy the relevant force package to deter the threat. Just like sending Patriot batteries to Turkey, when a possible threat emerges NATO positions itself accordingly.

Observer
Observer
July 16, 2013 8:33 pm

BB, most likely. And proves that an ounce of prevention is better than tons of MBT “cures” moving around, though much less spectacular.

@x

Have you recently taken upon yourself the role of resident devil’s advocate? :)

x
x
July 16, 2013 8:41 pm

@ Observer

The older I get, and in your Earth years I am very old, the more I discover there is an exception to every rule, a contrary argument to every logical assertion, and a proof for every impossible formula.

I don’t do pedestrian thinking.

If I you find me insufferable now you would never have coped with the younger mentally healthy me…..

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 16, 2013 8:51 pm

X, I didn’t really follow the point you were making on 16AAB earlier. Seemed to poo-poo the idea of parachuting and air assault generally, but ended with a call for more parachute training.
Smaller aircraft are already used for various parts of jump training. But falling out of little aircraft half a dozen at a time does nothing to prepare aircrews, for whom airborne operations apparently become very complex very quickly – multiple aircraft, multiple waves of aircraft, low level tactical flying, night flying, field landings; I can imagine it’s quite tricky stuff to pull off.

Adding further couple of light infantry battalions to the para battalions would not make it a UK 101st Airborne, which is a division. And having four battalions is not a result of the Afghan war; 16AAB was formed in the 90s, years before New York exploded, with the Paras, Gurkhas and Royal Irish.

In relation to the 101st, their brigade combat teams consist of two rifle battalions and a light cavalry battalion (and a support battalion with artillery, HQ, medics etc). Despite several units disappearing, and several thousand redundancies, someone somewhere determined that the Army should maintain an ‘air assault’ brigade; so is it wrong to expect it to be capable of air assault? In an army where there is an apparent requirement for an air assault brigade, an army of 112,000 warfighters, I don’t see how a brigade on the scale of a 101st BCT would be disproportionate. As it is, 16AAB is not keeping the infantry and cavalry that it used to hold.

If there isn’t a need for an air assault brigade (there’s plenty of light infantry that can ride the Chinooks, and perhaps with modern helicopters parachuting has become a niche special forces technique) then why keep this unremarkable little half-brigade. We could cut one expensive Para battalion at least, shift the remaining to the SFSG, JHC retaining the attack helicopters.
I don’t understand what the Army’s idea is, and why it isn’t either beefed up or gotten rid of.

Observer
Observer
July 16, 2013 9:05 pm

As I said BB, he’s just being a devil’s advocate :)

“I don’t do pedestrian thinking.”

No, I dare say you would probably be the reckless driver, as opposed to the wreckless driver.

“you would never have coped with the younger mentally healthy me”

No worries, as far as I know, no one has ever met a younger, mentally healthy you either.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 16, 2013 9:51 pm

Hi PE,

Agree with this one:
“Depends on the assumptions. The three mechanised RF brigades have between them a dual role of generating a single VHR battlegroup AND a HR deployable brigade.

What this structure uncovers is that the purpose of 16x is different. Under FF2020 16x appears to have the sole purpose of generating a single VHR light battlegroup. The brigade isn’t to be a deployable fighting formation itself any more: it would have to be augmented ad hoc and worked up if it was ever actually going to deploy.”

And it is a much better solution than to have an air assault bn in each of the RF bde’s – with not enough helos. Not to mention the CoE aspect, which I think is perfectly valid, and other units can benefit from training with them.

x
x
July 16, 2013 9:57 pm

@ Observer

I am actually a very careful and safe driver. Go figure.

@ Brian Black

I shall break it down for you……..

1) Parachute training isn’t for everybody. I said it should be retained as a differentiator to reinforce the Parachute Regiment’s status as an elite regiment. Even though I feel uncomfortable with the word elite.
1a) To reiterate my other point Grenadier Guards don’t spend their days just throwing grenades. Parachute Regiment soldiers may rarely jump into battle, but that doesn’t mean we should remove the Parachute Regiment from the ORBAT or change its name. Even though it something that has come about in living memory it is still historic it still carries weight.
1b) I was talking about training the soldiers to jump not the aircrews; transport aircraft crews are trained to drop supplies by parachute, I don’t think dropping cargo that has loaded itself should be much different.

2) We don’t have the aircraft to deploy a brigade by parachute and sustain it. We could though just as the French have done in Mali perhaps drop a company or two in very specific situations if needs be.
2a) But if we had enough transport aircraft we could say a couple of companies and light equipment to an airfield to cover evacuations, secure a humanitarian aid station, or basically draw a line in the sand to stop an aggressor. Deter an aggressor you need aggressors of your own. You need formations that your enemies may have heard of whose reputation if not to be feared then certainly respected.
2b) Light scales of kit mean it could be shoved into ships as wells as planes to back 3 Cdo as in ’82.

3) I mentioned the 101st because they specialise in helicopter warfare. I was talking about the role of the formation not its size. The difference between 16AAB in any of its various formats post 5 Airborne is that the 101st has always had lots of organic helicopters. Oodles of them. The US Army oddly is the world’s second largest air force because of the number of helicopters it operates. Not only do they have lots of helicopters but the US also has lots of transport options to move the helicopters which we don’t have. They even have extra helicopters prepositioned. 4 battalions in a brigade call “Air Assault Brigade” doesn’t magically make them an “Air Assault Brigade” because without the helicopters they are just light role infantry. And in British parlance that doesn’t mean one step below SF it means we can’t afford enough vehicles. In Afghanistan and Iraq units other than those of 16AAB have been climbing into helicopters. being flown to a spot, getting out of helicopters, and doing their job. Or do you a sort of Vietnam scenario where a flock of Merlins lands in a field under heavy fire disgorging dozens of death dealers? Do you know how much a modern transport helicopter costs? And you want to expose it to mass fires? Eek. How would it work against a peer enemy? Do you realise it takes 18 Chinook lifts to move a battalion?
3a) Similarly 16AAB can never be like the 82nd Airborne in terms of parachute capability because we don’t have the aeroplanes. How many C17 do the US have? 170 or something or more? Are we up to 7 or something? It is mass UK brigade or battalion sized operations that I question for the UK because we can’t do them.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 16, 2013 9:58 pm

Hi Simon, I must disagree:
“I preferred the 5 x adaptable brigades of the original design. Seems more sensible for roulements too. I guess it didn’t work because of the way they wanted to shoehorn the TA into the structure. ”
– the multi-bde’s were not fit for a hot war
– now we have something better (even if less of it), plus lots to back it up with

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 16, 2013 10:05 pm

Hi Mike,

Surely this will turn out positive: ” talk about D Squadron The Household Cavalry Regiment, which has been one of its units, also being withdrawn from its organization.”
– instead of having such a customer-facing (i.e. fighting) unit, they will introduce an enabling, corporate-level (for any part of the bde) unit, just like the one in the RM … not a unit for doing stuff on its own
– and allocate all those 50+ generation2 Scimitars, or whatever they are called (as they are for several roles, not just recce) to it

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 16, 2013 10:10 pm

Hi wf, isn’t that the way the Irish army is set up:
“All these “light” bns aren’t going to be much use unless the preferred deployment is with the UN.”
– so we are following suit… it is a multi-lateral world now… hey kids, play nicely! And that will do it (not)

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 16, 2013 10:22 pm

Hi Phil, well, yes, despite the good contributions, what keeps coming up is that “there must be good reasons” over and over again… I’ve never asked what they might be; but been tempted
RE “I know I sometimes sound like an apologist for the Army but all that is being said here is that the Army is cutting its cloth according to its means”
– as a comment, other than the vehicles bit (SPGs included, not so much the behemoths… or MBTs, as they call them) the job ( a Road Map?) looks not so badly thought out

Mark
Mark
July 16, 2013 10:23 pm

A400m can transport uk helicopters and uk helicopter forces have shown self deployment capability to both operation highbrow and pallister if I’m not mistaken.

Observer
Observer
July 16, 2013 10:25 pm

ACC, but most war tasks are not “warry”, you don’t do an assault every day followed by dinner and repeat the next. Most of the time, it is simply patrol, patrol, patrol and that is what light battalions do best. Patrol and defend sensitive areas while the razor sharp teeth of armour and mechanised infantry go bite into the enemy.

There are units for attack and units for defence. Light infantry are defensive units usually. And no. Urbans are best dealt with by mechanised infantry, not pure infantry. They need the firepower to blow through strongpoints or the armour to push past MG chokepoints.

Chris.B
Chris.B
July 16, 2013 10:28 pm

Is there not an opportunity here? Build up the surrounding area around Marchwood a little, park a battlegroup in hangars nearby, claim a chunk of the new forest for the high readiness battlegroup to do troop level exercises on? Just a thought.

And I can’t see major Syrian aggression against Turkey going unpunished, if it ever comes to that.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 16, 2013 10:34 pm

Hi Tom,

How can that ” yet it would be very simple to convert one of the Gurkha battalions to a parachute battalion”
be simple when the one in the Folkestone barracks and the one (acclimatised Theatre reserve, is that still a valid name) in Brunei have a roulement of their own: to swap places every three years?

x
x
July 16, 2013 10:38 pm

@ Mark

Never said didn’t we have aircraft that can’t carry helicopters. The US Army has 400 or so Chinook and more than 1000 Blackhawk. The UK being able to summon up two or three Chinook to move a company is hardly high end helicopter warfare. How many hours would a Chinook be in bits after flying 2000 miles? And when it gets to the other end of those 2000 miles how did the spares, tools, fuel, maintainers, FP, command elements etc. etc, get to be in place to service the self deploying helicopter?

x
x
July 16, 2013 10:41 pm

I thought there was already a training ground close to Marchwood?

SPTA or something….

:)

Observer
Observer
July 16, 2013 10:46 pm

x, if you are talking about logistics, then won’t the Chinooks of the USAF have the same problem if forward deployed beyond established logistical bases?

Mark
Mark
July 16, 2013 10:48 pm

x

Funny enough we’ve done it now on numerous occasions heck we have even more than 2 or 3 right now in afghan. We deployed nearly twenty to the gulf. We will have a fleet of 60 chinooks and a similar number of merlins and apache I’m sure we could find one or two to use.

How do the maintainers spares arrive most likely how they always do by raf air transport.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 16, 2013 10:55 pm

Hi x,

Are you sure you have bought into this idea that there are no fixed lines which to defend and which to attack? – Like an infantry bn can hold 3 km of front line for x days, until it needs to be rotated

If, just hypothetically, we say that a single brigade’s sphere of influence might be 70 miles from its not defined, but not-so-hard to calculate central point, and the threats not to be well defined across that area. And then, if you commit your units on tracks towards one side of that overall area, is it not a good idea to have a full manoeuvre unit that can traverse a good distance at two or three times the speed that they can sustain? Should the situation change
– I must have mentioned this “mobile reserve” positioning for that bn before

x
x
July 16, 2013 10:58 pm

@ Observer

Well if you look the USAF have bases everywhere, the US has leverage to get the USAF into places where they don’t have bases, and still oddly have a need for lots of ships to keep them supplied.

Chris.B
Chris.B
July 16, 2013 11:13 pm

@ X

I’m talking a 5 min walk on your doorstep. It’s also another excuse just to pinch a bit of real estate for military use.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 16, 2013 11:32 pm

I was not sure what to make of x’s long expose of helicopter warfare, so I just wanted to chip in the statistics for the scenario when they are your “B” class (is it? soft skinned) vehicle substitute: Total helicopters destroyed in the Vietnam War was 5,086 out of 11,827

1 205 was destroyed (Air America)
270 AH-1G were destroyed
1 AH-1J was destroyed
1 BELL was destroyed
14 CH-21C were destroyed
2 CH-34 were destroyed
1 CH-37B was destroyed
1 CH-37C was destroyed
7 CH-3C were destroyed
7 CH-3E were destroyed
94 CH-46A were destroyed
58 CH-46D were destroyed
83 CH-47A were destroyed
20 CH-47B were destroyed
29 CH-47C were destroyed
12 CH-53A were destroyed
2 CH-53C were destroyed
9 CH-53D were destroyed
9 CH-54A were destroyed
2 H-37A were destroyed
21 HH-3E were destroyed
7 HH-43B were destroyed
6 HH-43F were destroyed
2 HH-53B were destroyed
7 HH-53C were destroyed
147 OH-13S were destroyed
93 OH-23G were destroyed
45 OH-58A were destroyed
842 OH-6A were destroyed
3 SH-34G were destroyed
8 SH-3A were destroyed
3 SIOUX were destroyed
60 UH-1 were destroyed
1 UH-1A was destroyed
357 UH-1B were destroyed
365 UH-1C were destroyed
886 UH-1D were destroyed
90 UH-1E were destroyed
18 UH-1F were destroyed
1313 UH-1H were destroyed
1 UH-1N was destroyed
6 UH-2A were destroyed
6 UH-2B were destroyed
176 UH-34D were destroyed

Source: http://www.vhpa.org/heliloss.pdf

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 17, 2013 12:54 am

“The UK being able to summon up two or three Chinook to move a company is hardly high end helicopter warfare” – x

The bumf mentions the Army’s plan to purchase an additional 14 Chinook (I guess that’s not the same 14 Chinook the RAF were getting…). As Mark mentioned, it’s been done before.

“In late June and July [2009] we took part in Operation PANCHAI PALANG. We landed in a one-wave assault with 350 men” – CO 3SCOTS

“Do you know how much a modern transport helicopter costs? And you want to expose it to mass fires?” – x

I don’t want to expose any British vehicle to mass fires. Are you suggesting though that we shouldn’t have any transport helicopters? Should everyone be driving everywhere?

“we don’t have the aeroplanes. How many C17 do the US have? 170 or something or more? Are we up to 7 or something? It is mass UK brigade or battalion sized operations that I question for the UK because we can’t do them” – x

What happened to the 22 Atlas? Or this release from this year’s Joint Warrior…

“1,300 troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade, the British Army’s rapid reaction force, and 300 French troops from the 11th Parachute Brigade arrived by air in the West Freugh area of Scotland.”

You seem to suggest, x, that four battalions would have to go everywhere together either all by helicopter or all by parachute. Air assault can be any combination of helicopter, parachute or transport aircraft. And that’s what was envisioned for 16AAB from the moment it was conceived. Further infantry units would help with readiness and training cycles; cavalry would add flexibility. But just like the armoured brigades, you wouldn’t be obliged to take all of it every time you want to deploy.

You seem to suggest that as any fool can fall out the back of a Chinook, we don’t need any units specifically filling an air-mobile role. You can apply that simplistic logic to anything. Any fool can fall out the back of a MRAP, but we’re still going to have battalions earmarked as protected mobility. Why not scrap the Royal Marines, just get the handiest army light infantry battalion to chopper in from a spare aircraft carrier? We have rolled units to have them ready the moment they’re needed.

Observer
Observer
July 17, 2013 1:07 am

BB, x just acts as the voice of dissent here, don’t take him too seriously. He was being a bit tongue in cheek about scrapping the whole armed forces and pouring the funding into a supernavy somewhere earlier, so you can guess how serious he is about all this. Or not. :)

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 17, 2013 6:56 am

He is serious about the supernavy, Observer. We’d all be bobbing around in little boats if he had his way.

Chris
Chris
July 17, 2013 7:13 am

Obs, BB – not a term I’d noticed before but it does have a ring to it:

“is it a bird? Is it a plane?? Is it a Spanish fishing fleet??? Is it an elephant, white, ridicule, for the use of???? No! Its a SuperNavy!!”

IXION
July 17, 2013 8:29 am

Actually the super navy makes some sence.

FAA take over RAF. Marines take over army. Sigle command automatically ‘Joint’. Not purpke but dark blue…..

Rocket Banana
July 17, 2013 8:44 am

We have (or will have) 8 C17s, 60 Chinook, 24 Puma, and 100 attack copters (Apache and Wildcat).

That’s easily enough to insert and support a parachute regiment and a “reaction” brigade with the available front line transport aircraft and copters.

wf
wf
July 17, 2013 10:19 am

@Simon: we don’t need parachute trained troops to be transported via helicopter, any infantry bn will do. That being said, 8 C17’s and 22 C130/A400 is enough to transport a couple of parachute bn’s methinks

Observer
Observer
July 17, 2013 10:41 am

The CH-47s are wonderful for basic parachute training though. No need to waste your time moving to an airbase to be loaded up for a single jump, just find an open field, climb aboard, pilot climbs to a decent altitude, jump. You can cycle a lot more training this way than waiting for a tactical lifter to be free or waiting for it to fly to the dropzone from an airbase and fly back for the next batch.

IXION, sometimes I really do think that having a long history can be a lot of baggage for an armed forces. Structurally resistant to change. FAA/RAF can be combined,but you will need a new name or they will start fighting to call themselves FAA or RAF :)

Marines, same thing, but much easier to work the other way, basic infantry skills taught by the army then subdivided into mech infantry, light infantry, armoured infantry, airmobile infantry and amphibious infantry (Marines) for subskills training, so it is actually easier for the army to absorb the Marines than the Marines absorb the Army.

Mike W
July 17, 2013 11:10 am

@Brian Black

“And having four battalions is not a result of the Afghan war; 16AAB was formed in the 90s, years before New York exploded, with the Paras, Gurkhas and Royal Irish.”

This is part of your reply to x, putting him right on when and how 16 AA Bde was formed. You are quite correct; it was constituted with four infantry battalions. If memory serves me correctly (and I am willing to be put right on this), 16 AA Bde was established in 1999, with originally the Parachute Regiment’s three battalions plus a Ghurka (?) battalion. Then the Paras’ 1st battalion was permanently assigned to the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) but for a long time after that the composition of the Brigade was fairly settled, boasting a fairly fixed or near permanent ORBAT, including four infantry battalions. The 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Rangers, the 5th Regiment, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Argyll and Southern Highlanders) and the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Ghurka Rifles took it in turn to serve as the other two (non-Para) battalions.

So x wrong on that, but brilliantly right in a comment in the same post when he says,

“As for affording things we, well HMG, choose not to spend money on defence on our behalf. HMG choose to borrow £10bn to give the DfID a budget; I will use £10bn to make the maths easier. How much value the UK taxpayer gets from that budget has been discussed a lot here. And we might as well discuss it again. I would wager that we could buy just as much influence with a well managed £8bn as could we that budget of £10bn. Really nobody really knows what that £10bn gets us. I do know what £2 billion on the MoD equipment budget could buy us spent over 5 years.” and he proceeds to describe how much it could buy! Right, right and right again, x.

Rocket Banana
July 17, 2013 11:25 am

Observer,

Completely agree with the Marine/Army “absorbing” thing.

I wonder if we should have all jets under something called the RAF, which is composed of three sub-branches: Fighter Command, Bomber Command, and the Fleet Air Arm? That way we keep all the names and stop any bickering.

x
x
July 17, 2013 11:33 am

@ Mark

Having though about it the point I was tortuously trying to make is that our light forces are only light for the last few miles. Whether helicopters (or anything else) got there under their own steam or in a ship they still cost a lot in all terms. What makes the Parachute Regiment light is the men not their platforms. And I think what I was driving at that for some reason here “helicopter” and “light infantry” get conflated. There is nothing light about the support needs of a helicopter. Given time you can get anything anywhere. Aren’t we all familiar with that recent RAF add that showed the young lady directing ops on that dusty Third World dock with all those Chinook?

@ ACC

Yes. I see what you are saying. But I have never said the helicopter wasn’t useful for that sort of thing. Have you read much on the RLI ops in their Bush War? They did mighty well with very few resources. All I said was that getting in and out of helicopters wasn’t a special skill that needs to be tied to one regiment whose raison d’etre is getting out of aircraft. And I am sceptical about the mass movement of troops in helicopters against a peer enemy who has the technology to track and kill large slow moving aircraft. What allows helicopters to be used in COIN as such great distances is the like of parity. If you remember it is me who constantly goes on about recce vehicles that fit inside helicopter to facilitate manoeuvre. What needs to be preserved is the idea of Parachute Regiment as an elite, the differentiator is “parachute quall” this idea of jumping head long into danger/battle, they need to be equipped with light equipment that can be stowed in aircraft and slung out of aircraft; and equipment with those characteristics will eminently be suitable for ship to shore movement so that they can be used to reinforce 3Cdo.

@ Brian Black

A helicopter is not an APC. The West has been able to use helicopters for secure movement because their opposition, the likes of the Taliban, have no effective counter. If the Taliban were suddenly to gain MANPADS and several batteries of radar laid guns then that freedom of movement would end. That is an example. Don’t go off down a rabbit hole discussing terrorist getting MANPADS. I am purely illustrating that the lack of a considerable threat allows the West to use helicopters. Let’s pick on a peer or near peer enemy in crisis situation. Do you think we would be glibly flying Russian AA sites or Chinese AA sites? And that if the helicopter force didn’t land they wouldn’t be countered and that is without the helicopter force flapping back over the enemy? Never mind having to go back and resupply them? War apparently is a risky business aircraft of all sorts are shot down all over the place. Helicopters are slow compared to other aircraft, they are loud, and they carry relatively little. It would be a waste of men and material to throw them at a peer enemy. The helicopter is best used flying over “relatively safe” territory to the read of the forward edge of battle. Not for nothing on Apaches built with armour.

As for any fool climbing out of anything. Wow. I think you should track down some of the infantry that have been deployed tactically from helicopters to mount such operations as vehicle checkpoints and re-enforcement that to get out of a helicopter require a maroon beret. I am saying that the average British soldier is competent and has been shown to be competent as getting out of helicopter yet you interpret that as me saying any fool can do it? How dare you twist my words? I went to pains to qualify that the standards of British infantry were such they can turn their hand to most things,

“Again it this issue of parachuting that everybody gets hung up on. I think it has been proved now that the average British infantry soldier (though he is an above average soldier!) can climb in and out of helicopters. I know. Frightening. I have seen them do it! It really isn’t a speciality and certainly not a skill you can build an organisation’s legend (in the more prosaic sense) unlike jumping out of a perfectly serviceable aircraft doing several hundred knots several hundred feet above the ground.

And though I have seen soldiers quite literally tumble out of the back Warrior into heap I think there is more to armoured infantry warfare training is a bit more involved that practising debussing. We have troops mounted in protect vehicles because that is all we can afford to have them mounted in; even though the back door of a Mastiff is someway off the ground. If you think getting in and out of vehicles is the bedrock of infantry training perhaps it is you who think are infantry fools?

Actually if you look I have speak often about battlegroups with a brigade standing up and rotating through various states of readiness. Oddly that is what ships do. Isn’t that where this started? All I said at the top of page was that 2PARA and 3PARA could work turn and turn about and that their “readiness” could be gapped without need for 1PARA to provide a rotation. Not ideal. But if the jumping off point every time is the UK then it could be done seeing as they are specialist troops used in specialist roles. Unlike say an RM Commando that will be away from home for 6 months. Further on this not deploying everything all the time given the UK’s small number of strategic lifters and other options I covered that as well……..

Considering not all Parachute Regiment soldiers are jump qualified. We don’t have a large number of C17s etc. They don’t really have lots of trick kit to shift. Then I doubt any emergency will find us sending the whole of a battalion. If it is some rescue mission in a Libya like scenario and the SAS are going and say an airport needs to be secured they will send personnel from 1PARA. They will be some notice to go. I don’t think Parachute Regiment’s skills suddenly degrade and they will main competent at the core skills if troops from other battalion need to go because troops from high readiness battalion are missing. If a whole battalion is needed for 6 months or so send the battalion from high readiness reaction brigade mounted in Mastiff. And the ARG might be close to the point of crisis anyway or could be moved. Of course lightening does strike twice. And if they want helicopters to play with in serious numbers they would have to be moved into theatre anyway so that is the heliborne assault business up the wazoo. “

Oh! For the record. Most Marines I know don’t think there is anything special about getting out of helicopters or indeed jumping out of aeroplanes. That all you see when it comes to amphibious operations is helicopters speaks volumes.

I take your comment about “little boats” as a complement because at least I am known for having a point of view. Even though I don’t know where it comes into a discussion about the Parachute Regiment. I would like to come up with a witty rebuttal in kind, but I am not sure what you stand for. As I say to Chris B and Phil if you don’t like what I say don’t comment about it.

Observer
Observer
July 17, 2013 12:02 pm

x, problem is that you have a rather roundabout way of getting to a point and tend to argue both sides of an argument at once so people do get confused about what your point is.

I for one support the designation of “light” forces, it helps to tell at a glance what you can use the unit for. Once you see “light” you know it is infantry and won’t send it to attack a position unsupported thinking that it was mechanised infantry. Less chance of any “Light Brigade” incidents.

As someone who has been heli-trained, there is actually a subset of skills you need to be heliborne qual, getting in and out is a small part of it. There is Terminal Air Guidance, where your infantry has to learn to direct helicopters, basically something like a traffic marshal for aircraft. Landing zone clearing, cargo loading especially belly loading (don’t physically touch the hull of the helo before you ground it, the static charge can knock you flat). Safety proceedure. Rappelling/fast roping. It takes a bit of experience. You can probably load any Tom, Dick or Harry on a CH-47 almost literally as cargo, anything less like Puma, I’d advise against it.

As for peer to peer fighting, yes you WILL use helos in situations like that, that is what you got them for. HOW you use them is a different story. If you use them like a light brigade charge, then the officer formulating the plan should be in the first bird and get sent off solo. He would really deserve to die for gross stupidity. Helos are tools in a much larger plan, not a lone ranger unit. You would go in only after wild weasels, SEADs, air denial, and you go in low to avoid giving missiles a LOS. That was why US UH-1s in Vietnam liked to follow rivers, it let them fly below tree top level and avoid giving SAMs a target.

I think you underestimate the degree of difference between light infantry and air-mobile infantry.

x
x
July 17, 2013 12:43 pm

@ Observer

I know personnel have to be trained with all equipment whether it is boots or helicopters or SSBN. British infantry have been getting in and out of helicopters for decades now. We were doing it en masse before the Americans did it at a little event called Suez. The trouble is with this conversation is that others are conflating “light infantry”, “light role”, “heliborne infantry”, “parachuting”, and the “Parachute Regiment”. I won’t apologize for trying to unpick those terms and bit a more rigorous. Helicopters are damned important but they aren’t a panacea which many here seem to believe them to be especially when it comes to land warfare. 60 Chinook doesn’t mean we can have 18 assigned to one formation permanently; it doesn’t work like that. I set out trying to show we needed to keep the Parachute Regiment as a mobile light infantry force with a worldwide reputation; that parachuting is a niche skill these days but perhaps has a more subtle existential purpose as a delineator between the Parachute Regiment and the “rest”; that given the limitations of our hardware inventory that the idea of mass helicopter or airborne assaults is silly but what we do have allows us to do some far reaching stuff if we have a body of troops to call on; and that finally given the numbers in the Parachute Regiment, their skill levels, their current base and starting point for operations, plus once again our limited capacity to move stuff then we can get away with just 2PARA and 3PARA. And what I wrote bears that out. To be accused of saying the opposite and then to have a go at me for my preferred position on defence matters is a bit rich.

I have a friendly rambling style of informal writing my posts. If others don’t like it don’t comment or read it. What we write here will have no bearing on UK defence matters at all.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 17, 2013 1:21 pm

“… not all Parachute Regiment soldiers are jump qualified …”

Why are such called parachute soldiers? Do those that cannot jump (I assume they have all done P Company) wear a different cap badge? Come to that if its members are not all qualified to jump what is the basis for retaining a regiment called the Parachute Regiment? Could not a more accurate name be found? Or even, I suppose, just retire the regiment and recruit for the SFSG from existing units. After all nobody found it odd to remove archer companies when the long bow became obsolete, why should parachuting en mass be any different?

x
x
July 17, 2013 1:31 pm

@ Hurst Llama

We don’t expect Grenadiers to spend their days throwing grenades, fusiliers to spend their day lighting fuses, we have lancers in heavy tanks, we have rifles acting as heavy infantry, destroyers that are frigates, and fighters that drop bombs. …. some of us, get very hung up on that word parachute and expect parachutists well to parachute.

The reason why they have aren’t qualified is to do with money. Yes they would have done P Coy. SF are recruited from all the services; it is just that certain units (Guards, Paras, and RM) generate more SF recruits.

Observer
Observer
July 17, 2013 1:54 pm

x, ah, so that was what you were trying to say.

Your rambling sometimes goes into the opposite camp territory, which gets us confused on which side you are actually talking about. It ends up looking like you are actually arguing both sides of the situation and sometimes, people only caught the side that you do not support, hence the argument that you said the exact opposite.

Paragraphing for different sides of the argument might help a lot for us poor readers to keep straight.

x
x
July 17, 2013 2:42 pm

@ Observer

An argument needs more than one side. Everything can be defined equally as well by defining what it is not as what it is. How do you validate your own position if you have no appreciation of the other side’s position? And lastly and very importantly to me I may be just wrong; unless I explore the other side’s point of view how will I know?

A common misconception here is that I am pro-navy before all else. I would love the UK to have 200,000 man army with all the kit, a 250 FJ fleet, 24 C17, and a proper sized navy (you would call that a big navy.) But we can’t afford it. On a limited budget you need to select an option and go with it. The best compromise as I see it a maritime approach. Many here don’t have an opinion and default to a simple tri-service model based on “the army shoot guns, the airforce fly stuff, and the navy does ships”. Though what the RN does seems a mystery to many here why I don’t know why as does the importance of the sea to us maintaining our way of life.

I will confess that I am a bit naughty when it comes to the subject deploying land based air at a distance. I know it can be done and it is done often and we don’t always need ships to move them. But saying the reason why I am bit naughty is that it seems land based air’s (indeed any “air”!) long logistical tail is sort of conveniently ignored. During operations in Sierra Leone the RAF flew two Chinook a few thousand miles across Africa. They self-deployed. But it was just two helicopters. They were flying into a secure base. They flew over safe air space to get there etc. As I said further up it takes 18 Chinook lifts to move one light battalion. 18. Nearly 10 times as many as flew into Sierra Leone. So ten times the support effort. And as we all know support efforts rarely scale in a linear fashion because size brings problems all of its own. Remember it took 8000 tons to support FJ for Op Ellamy. All that stuff has to be moved. The route has to be secured. By that I don’t mean escort groups of ships and planes fighting off an enemy attack I mean secured in broad terms. That is somebody had to negotiate and spend capital (both political/diplomatic and treasure) etc. with those through whose territory you wish to move. That is a cost. Nothing is moved for free. A lot of our freedom of movement is derived from us being on the US’s side. I just some here would acknowledge that a bit more.

Sgt Pep
Sgt Pep
July 17, 2013 2:46 pm

What’s this obsession with air assault/parachute infantry?! It is a capability that should be retained for some special ops, absolutely, but it represents a tiny proportion of forces and possible defence scenarios.

Mind you, the Germans are also keeping only 2 parachute infantry regiments plus 1 attack helicopter regiment in their future force structure, and they are in far better economic shape than Britain. If 2 PARAs and 2 attack hel Bn’s are all Britain can afford so be it. There is no money for more. The Germans and Dutch are integrating their airborne/air assault forces in a unified command and Britain should consider it’s force structure in view of future integration with European partners in a EURO army.

Rocket Banana
July 17, 2013 3:06 pm

Sgt Pep,

For me, the obsession with 16AAB and 3Cdo is that I’ve been lead to belive it is those that will “kick the doors in” prior to arrival of the British Army for any rapid reaction requirement.

x,

You keep mentioning the 18-20 Chinook lifts but keep avoiding the C17s which could easily deploy a battalion, return home (1000+ nm) and then airdrop supplies. That does not involve projecting the “base” forward like it would to provide Chinook “service”. Obviously we really need both and having the paras deploy inland whilst 3Cdo get on with securing the beachhead. Once done we’d have all and sundry supportable from a complete lack of helicopter aviation ships the other side of the world ;-)

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 17, 2013 3:28 pm

@X

” … fusiliers to spend their day lighting fuses …”

*sighs*

Fusiliers were so named because they were equipped with fusils, a flintlock musket, rather than the more common, at the time, matchlock. The reason for the fusil was that the fusiliers job was to escort and protect the artillery and it was felt, not unreasonably, that having lit matches around kegs of gunpowder might breach health and safety regulations.

As a fine point of interest, the origin of the function of the fusiliers can be seen in the original name of the old Royal Fusiliers (7th foot, the City of London Regiment), which when formed in 1685 was called the Ordinance Regiment. If that isn’t as fine a point of interest as you require let me know; I can bore for hours on the Regiment’s history, including the disgusting merger of 1968 (posting a cockney into 1st Battalion of the RRF was cruel and inhuman punishment, who knew what the Geordies were actually saying).

Nothing to do with the point in hand of why we should keep the Parachute Regiment. I have this afternoon been reading up on the history of the Gilder Pilot Regiment. A very fine body of men, who in action performed superbly, but the Regiment was created in WW2 to meet the needs of the time; those needs went and so too did the GPR. Isn’t keeping the Parachute Regiment going just an exercise in military sentimentality?

Observer
Observer
July 17, 2013 3:32 pm

” Many here don’t have an opinion and default to a simple tri-service model based on “the army shoot guns, the airforce fly stuff, and the navy does ships”

Might I point out that for them to have that stand is already an opinion? :)

And I do agree that air logistics makes them dependent on airbases, which is why airfields and airports are critical strategic targets. It is hard to find a place without even a small airfield nowadays.

Simon, don’t fall prey to those buzzwords. You “kick the doors in” against a decent enemy before any friendly force is in support range, your men had better be very well supplied and good or they won’t be coming back out. Stabilization, maybe. Assault/raiding? Wait.

x
x
July 17, 2013 3:39 pm

@ Simon

I have mentioned C17 several times. How many C17s does the UK have? Have many paratroops does a C17 carry? How many tons of stores on the first drop? Any vehicles? How long in maintenance would the C17 spend on return? I assume that once in country they will remain static because of securing the drop zone? What I am asking is how exactly would you conduct such an operation? Say 3000 miles out from home?

“3Cdo get on with securing the beachhead”

I have never said this was an either or situation. I have constantly spoken of the need for the UK to have 2 well equipped light infantry brigades. That is so the UK can tackle two crisis or use air to rapidly reinforce the ARG. Sometimes I have even spoken of raising a third one. I know definitely I have spoken about another reason why we need spare capacity (not overload) on amphibs is so a force landed by parachute can be recovered to ships.

x
x
July 17, 2013 3:46 pm

@ Observer

Yes it is an opinion. Um. I was just hoping that if you come here you would live up to the website’s name. ;) I did realise what I sort of said when I said it.

The only person who comes up with anything truly different is young IXION.

As for airfields yes they are everywhere, damn them, damn them all. But there is a little more to it than a stretch of concrete tarmac. What about say, water? Fuel? Sanitation? Food storage? Accommodation? etc. etc. Again the RAF moved 8500 tons to an established base in Italy. How much more stuff would be need to be moved if say that had been Mozambique? Or northern Canada? Or somewhere else as equally as random?

Sgt Pep
Sgt Pep
July 17, 2013 3:50 pm

I’m with Observer on this. also skeptical of 16AA or 3CDO “kicking the doors in” against a decent enemy or organized opposition. May work in some African crapholes like Mali but highly unlikely against even semi organized opposition. If you want to “kick the doors in” in most scenarios you need ARMOUR.

x
x
July 17, 2013 3:54 pm

@ Hurst Llama

Whoops! Yes that is sort of coming back to me a bit now. But isn’t that what I sort of said? Is there a need for fusils equipped hackle wearing Toms to escort artillery? No. So shouldn’t we do away with the remaining RRF battalions or change their name. (Noting they lost a battalion as we lost our county regiment in the last review. Despite both units (as well XIX Foot) attracting lots of recruits unlike some regiments past the border up north.)

Observer
Observer
July 17, 2013 4:34 pm

x, if the unit is self-supporting, 8,500 tons. Support is the same amount to an established airfield or darkest Africa.

Deployment time to new airfield is 2 days if in a hurry, 3 on average, stores and all. We cheat though, Polet air AN-124 rentals :) Germany does the same thing in a NATO structure though they have theirs on a 2 plane full time charter.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 17, 2013 4:42 pm

Hi Sgt, hadmissed that German-Dutch integration. Do you have a source, not that I doubt it, but to read more?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 17, 2013 4:46 pm

Hi x, haven’t readabout RLI. A friend of mine was bored, and went and joined them. A couple of years later I was in stithes as on his retturn he was called for his conscription of 8_11 months.

But have read about the flying column tactics in Angola, may be the Bush Wars would make a nice post?

HurstLlama