SDSR 2015 Talking Points – Mass or Speed

I am a strong believer in maintaining as much of a balanced force as possible, if nothing else as a hedge against uncertainty and strategic shock.

The problem with maintaining balance though, is one ends up with very thinly spread jam, or a lack of effect and resilience.

Without veering into the RUSI strategic raiding nonsense there is a question of focus.

Would the UK be best served by de-emphasising balance and investing in rapid response capabilities rather than maintaining the ability to deploy an armoured division?

Think along the lines of a significant uplift in air transport and amphibious capabilities but fewer personnel and a concentration on air deployable vehicles, for example.

I know this might sound like the undead corpse that is RMA, FCS and FRES making an unwelcome return and despite the Ukraine, are operations in Africa a likely future norm, those that require strategic and tactical mobility?

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Phil
March 17, 2014 10:21 pm

What’s going on in Russia should caution us all as to the perils of going light.

Chris
Chris
March 17, 2014 11:25 pm

I have perhaps an unusual suggestion, possibly unworkable, but it potentially avoids the either/or decision.

1. It has been said the biggest cost, especially in the Army, is that of personnel pay and training. Smaller numbers of personnel making big savings.
2. UK already has mothballed equipment in long term storage ‘just in case’.

Suggestion then is could units be trained to be competent on both heavyweight and rapid-reaction equipment, such that they could perform either task once issued with the necessary hardware? Can the soldier remain current on very different equipment at the same time? Clearly with the current restructuring units are being moved wholesale to very different platforms and as a consequence learning a new set of tactics, but does this mean if they were given their old mounts back they’d be ineffective in them? I’m guessing not…

In which case the costs would be in procuring or retaining equipment/platforms, and the additional training to keep units current on both rapid and heavy equipment.

While I can see this as a possible in the Army (units operating either Challenger or Jackal as needs demand, as an example), I am less confident about RN platform flexibility due to a) the lack of a big shed full of ready-to-go ships and boats, and b) the more intimate relationship between crew and vessel, where knowledge of the layout, routes, services and equipment are a significant factor in survivability. I’m also pretty sure the RAF would be unwilling to use fast jet pilots on transport aircraft; equally unwilling to move pilots between fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Maybe the need just doesn’t arise as both RN & RAF are aiming to staff the right numbers to operate all serviceable assets?

But possibly an option for the Army.

Jackstaff
Jackstaff
March 17, 2014 11:28 pm

,

Apologies — fat thumbs gave you a latte instead of a pint. We seem to be singing lustily from the same hymnal about many of these issues, these days.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
March 18, 2014 12:06 am

I think the days of keeping large quantities of kit in storage for SHTF scenarios is long gone for a number of reasons.

1. The Treasury accounting system charges interest on money invested in kit (or something like that – I know it’s punitive)

2. Equipment obsolesces much faster now. Equipping a newly reconstituted light regiment with WW2 25 pounders would have made sense in 1966. Assuming we had plenty of light guns in store, you would really need to keep them updated to the latest standard, complete with electronic position sensing and fire control systems etc.

3. A lot of modern equipment is much more maintenance intensive than WW2 kit simply because it incorporates electronics.

4. You would also have to keep sufficient munitions, which means using or discarding those munitions before their sell by date.

5. As modern wars are “come as you are” affairs, you would need to have reservists already trained to use your mobilisation only reserve equipment.

6. Spending money on climate controlled storage for mobilisation/contingency only equipment sets deprives you of money to spend on other things, like training with the kit you have in first line service.

Observer
Observer
March 18, 2014 1:24 am

Chris W is right in that electronics is the wildcard in the mix, and not only for vehicles.

I had the rather dubious pleasure this February to be posted to an old reservist unit and I found that they were not up to date on the latest electronic bells and whistles like the radio sets and sensors as the powers that be focused more on getting the regular line units up to speed, which limited the utility of the old guys. And the latest and greatest tools are damn tricky to use. I trained with the first generation system of the digital based radio sets and even I had problems keeping up with gen 2. Heaven help those guys who had to learn it cold.

One of the ways to address the equipment problem is to have a robust civilian manufacturing sector. If your manufacturing sector is big, retooling to mass produce electronics is very possible. Another facet is OTS technology. If it is commonly used in the market, a mass buy for installation would be a snap, similar to most military toys these days using AA sized batteries because they are so common and cheap to obtain from the market. Hell, I’ve seen many soldiers use items that are not official issue but so many people buy them OTS that it becomes de-facto “standard equipment”, things like Camelbak water packs and Silva compasses.

Training on the other hand…. good luck, you’re on your own.

Repulse
March 18, 2014 7:44 am

What the Ukraine situation has demonstrated is that we still need to produce scale when needed.

My 2 cents in this is that the UK should have the ability to deploy a small force rapidly, anything from an reinforced commando downwards, and focus the rest of the resources on scale but at a lower level of readiness. No rapid deployments of brigade level structures for example.

The reason why I say this is that with this the UK would retain the ability to react quickly to say a threat to the Falklands, intervene in a limited way to a low level conflict such as a Sierra Leone, support evacuating UK nationals from a war zone, provide humanitarian support and even provide a contribution to a multinational coalition.

Anything bigger will take time to organise and therefore it would temper the politicians lust for grandstanding without the means to back it up like as happened in Iraq.

jedibeeftrix
March 18, 2014 8:05 am

“Would the UK be best served by de-emphasising balance and investing in rapid response capabilities rather than maintaining the ability to deploy an armoured division?

We made this decision four years ago.

The question is only really relevant if we decide even 82,000 is bleeding too much resource from other key abilities, but then the question would read:

“”Would the UK be best served by further de-emphasising balance….”

Repulse
March 18, 2014 8:06 am

Following on from my last comment, I think the “scale” part should be based around being able to mobilise a Army Corps of 3 Divisions within 3 months in a once in a 50 year type operation. As such, it should be a good mix of regular and reserve forces (possibly on a 50:50 basis). The means to deploy and support should involve significant use of civilian assets and backed by UOR if needed; I.e. It needs careful forward planning but not necessarily a large amount of assets sitting idle. During peacetime outside of training, should be deployed on the necessary garrison duties.

Supporting RAF assets should be a combination of surging of existing assets for a short period and mothballing.

The RN should have plans ready to use STUFT and also a significant number of minor warships that could be upgraded quickly.

Ian Williams
Ian Williams
March 18, 2014 8:11 am

There’s also the matter of relative national interest and specialisation within a broader alliance. It’s been a long time since we could do everything, so it’s better to focus on our most immediate interests, do them well and leave the rest to others more directly threatened than ourselves. This doesn’t mean isolationism: within the European part of NATO, we can put relatively more effort into sufficient modern naval power, combined with appropriate air power, while leaving the North German Plain to those with a more proximate interest.

Repulse
March 18, 2014 8:31 am

For the Rapid Reaction capability I think the UK should focus on be able to deploy one of each of the following within short notice (a week) and 2 within a month anywhere in the world.

– A cruise missile armed SSN
– A multi role RAF squadron with supporting tankers.
– A reinforced infantry (para) battalion with light vehicles and artillery, plus attack helicopters.
– A RFTG based around an assault carrier, 2 squadrons of F35bs, a reinforced RM Cdo with supporting escorts / supply ships

Chris
Chris
March 18, 2014 8:32 am

ChrisW – on your first point – I have seen similar creative accounting in industry. A tale from days in Alvis; there was a spare Scorpion hull kept by the company, fully operable but without turret. CRW366Y if memory serves, but that’s not important. It sat in dusty corners doing no harm other than preventing other stuff being piled where it sat. When there was a need for marketing demos of new turrets, it was brushed down and loaded with the turret then taken out to show to the prospective client. All in all a useful tool that cost a tiny amount to keep. That is until new accountancy practices were brought in…

Under the new fashionable accounting methods, anything owned was assigned a value and that value was charged mythical interest. Overnight the books looked so much better – all these extra unpaid interest bills owed to company coffers! Worth more than a round of redundancy! But then realization dawned that these mythical debts were 1) owned by the company, and 2) never going to be paid by the inanimate equipment. So the new mantra was ‘Reduce inventory!’ Which led to ridiculous acts like scrapping perfectly operable test equipment that was in reality costing no more than its once-a-year calibration and hiring in at significant cost rental test equipment just for the periods required. Added cost in that each time a bit of kit was hired the latest variety arrived with different more complex operating instructions that the test team had to learn. At the time I left, CRW366Y was only being prevented from going to scrap (or for sale as a hobbyist/museum piece) by the loud arguments from the FV shop trying to convince the accountants that you couldn’t ‘just hire one in’ when a spare hull was needed… I have often wondered if it escaped accountancy la-la land in one piece.

Obs – I do understand the electronics issue, and it is significant. Electronics is also in my experience the least reliable bit of any manufactured kit, particularly if it runs software. (Point to note here – old fashioned hardware used state-determined logic, as in the continued presence of a voltage signal was constantly registered and its presence controlled the appropriate logic states. Software ridden electronics is generally edge triggered – the change of voltage state trips a different route of software – such that thereafter the state is not monitored or acted upon. A missed edge is not corrected; noise on a signal line creates software brainstorms. State-triggered logic tends to be much much more resilient.) Anyway. Electronics obsolescence is an issue when it comes to stored equipment. So, that being the case, and electronics being so small (pause to stop laughing) it seems a simple enough task to port in new electronics to replace old worn out electronics as and when required? Plug & play, right? That’s what sort of kit all the manufacturers have been proclaiming they’ve been making for the past 30 years, so it must be easy to swap stuff out. What? Not true? Not easy? We’ve been sold lies?

Clearly its not easy, I suspect often due to – um – corporate turf protection. “Our new blankty-blank electronics box is *so* advanced it couldn’t possibly be backward-compatible to legacy interfaces…” But in concept terms it should be a simple task for example to pull the comms kit off your current heavy platforms and transfer them to your new rapid reaction platforms. And ECM kit. And CBRN kit.

It must be about 20 years since I discussed with the defence scientists the use of OTS mobile phones (as they were then) with military SIMs to connect to military owned base stations as a replacement for monster comms programmes. Yes they’d chatter incessantly. No they wouldn’t obey radio silence. Yes there would need to be a network of comms nodes making up the military cell network. But the civilian development of mobile technology would be very quick to adopt, and much cheaper than trying to develop another set of green radio boxes, and the reliability would be known, and the functionality available to each mobile device user would far outreach that of the custom comms now in use, and the signal signature would be entirely lost in the morass of civilian mobile network chatter. No-one it seems took the suggestion seriously; their problem not mine. Hey-ho…

Observer
Observer
March 18, 2014 8:34 am

The question on how to equip intervention battalions is also a perplexing one. There are a few types of “intervention” that can happen and the threat affects the equipment that is suitable for the mission.

For example, Mali, where it is basically a localized mess. In cases like that, you’ll need equipment suited for COIN and a lot of intelligence gathering, Special Branch style. In cases like this, as an example, MRAPs can be used for frequent patrols of the areas.

This is the opposite case for an intervention to prevent something like Kuwait where you face off with IFVs and cast off MBTs. The MRAP I used as an example would be totally unsuitable here with a low IED threat but high direct fire threat and you need less intel and a lot more immediate firepower and less patrolling and more fortifying in the defensive.

So what kind of intervention are you planning for?

Chris
Editor
Chris
March 18, 2014 9:17 am

Chris, re Alvis CVR(T).

They were still useless pieces of shit. You should have gone around the factory floor telling the “engineers” that they were utterly crap, kicking them solidly in the head until they fitted an engine that didn’t break down every 200 miles and telling the electronics geeks that they had a future in Nissan, or on the dole, but no business in the armoured vehicle industry.

I can still hyperventilate gently when I recall the utter pile of total fucking mediocrity that was Alvis, and happily translate that to BAE Systems. And the same goes for the Thales ANR headsets.

dave haine
dave haine
March 18, 2014 9:32 am

@ Chris

I don’t think its an unwillingness on the RAF’s part, pilots can and do regularly re-role, but on a tour basis. Its all to do with how complicated the platforms are now and the differences in skillsets required- flying a FJ (think ‘man and machine as one’ type thing) requires a different set of behaviours to flying a air transport (System manager). Both sets can be learned/ taught, but it’s not an instant thing.
The best example would be new fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain, sent to the sqns with only 7 or 8 hrs on single-engined fighters, the loss rate was horrendous, both to accidents and combat. By the middle part of the battle, sqns would rather put up a depleted formation than risk inexperienced pilots. Put simply, if a pilot started the Battle of Britain as an operational fighter pilot, statistically he was more likely to survive until 1941, than one who joined straight from training during it. The operational training,of course added an additional task to sqns, who frankly were already under a great deal of pressure.

I can imagine exactly the same situation applies to the andrew- it must take time to ‘convert’ from one type of vessel to another, and be proficient.

How would we achieve the surge for the RAF? Why not reintroduce Royal Auxiliary Air Force flying sqns- the ‘County’ sqns had a proud and successful history. You could have an auxiliary partner to each regular sqn, which in time of war would split into two formations , with regulars and auxiliaries in both. Or you could equip auxiliary sqns with something like the Hawk 200 (or Gripen) and let them get fully proficient, over time in that aircraft. Although, I have to say the US Air National Guard seem to manage quite well with current kit.

The andrew, i suppose presents a whole different set of challenges- Unless you keep the type 23s, for example, in reserve and personnel do time in the reserves on those vessels, hopefully being the ones they served on. After all, an older ship with a experienced crew, has got to be better than nothing.

dave haine
dave haine
March 18, 2014 9:36 am

@ RT

You?….hyperventilate?…. you do surprise me…..

Chris
Editor
Chris
March 18, 2014 9:49 am

@ DH,

Not normally. It’s just Alvis that has that effect. And Thales ANR headsets, and new recruits who don’t know of my dislike for GPMGs with the gas plug set on 3, or vehicle commanders who don’t properly conduct first parades on their wagons each morning, or currently the Commercial Manager of NATS.

Topman
Topman
March 18, 2014 9:52 am

@ DH

I don’t think Auxiliary Sqns as in the past would work. They were binned off in 50’s because you can’t really do ‘part time’ flying. Keeping the pilots flying is only part of the problem, you would have to man the Sqns. They’d be full time in all but name.
The USNG are a bit of a strange one, only because of their historical and political past do they have such an arrangement. They don’t really function on their own in a reserve only sense, lots of their personnel are full time.

dave haine
dave haine
March 18, 2014 10:02 am

@RT
Commercial Manager of NATS? You’re not the reason they’re advertising for a new one, are you? ;-)

@Topman
I was afraid someone would say that :-( Still never mind, another brilliant idea, from history, binned by reality.

Tom
Tom
March 18, 2014 10:14 am

Repulse – you have basically described exactly the sort of Reaction Forces that FF2020 will give us.

dave haine
dave haine
March 18, 2014 10:18 am

@RT

Can’t blame the recruits- we was always taught to set everything on 3- I quote:
‘If you need anything other than that you’re a c**t, ‘cos you haven’t cleaned your weapon properly, now give me fifty c**t-jumps (star-jumps, whilst shouting ‘I’m a c**t’-range use only…)

Although Cpl ‘Geordie’ Brown, a 5’5″ package of barely-suppressed, existential northern fury, was a proponent of a slightly different protocol:

‘F**k the return springs, and f**k your shoulder, only pooves have it light, open the the bloody thing up…feel the f**king weapon…’

The armourers hated him- rumour had it that they put a ton bounty up for anyone who tried to shoot him…

Tom
Tom
March 18, 2014 10:20 am

Topman and DH – There are some flying Reserve/Auxillary sqns: http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafreserves/squadrons/622-reserve-aircrew-and-ops-support/

Doing something similar with fighter squadrons would be tricker, because of keeping the pilots current. Its tricky enough to keep regular pilots up-to-date and getting enough logged hours.

wf
wf
March 18, 2014 10:44 am

@Topman: tried to find the link unsuccessfully, but there are former active fighter pilots flying as reservists. About 50 as I recall. Given an active RAF pilot will get no more than 240 hours a year flying, with 180 as a minimum, flying one weekend a month and two week annual camp won’t get you someone operationally ready, but especially if flying is their day job, it would get you someone who can become so within a few months, and gives the RAF more depth.

I suspect the biggest issue here would be how to dovetail such practice with airline flying hour minimums. @dave haine: care to comment?

Anyone here with good knowledge of the ANG? There are a lot of reserve units there, and they seem to work just fine. Writing them off because we think it impractical seems a tad parochial to me :-)

Finally, why don’t we move most of our flying training to the US or Australia? Better weather == shorter pilot pipelines == faster regeneration + lower costs.

martin
Editor
March 18, 2014 11:00 am

If Ukraine tells us anything it is perhaps that we need to spend more on defence. We have drunk a little too heavily from the peace dividend.

Restoration back to a core budget of 2.5% of GDP with the deterrent paid for separately seems more sensible. Its impossible to answer the fast verses light because you can guarantee when you don’t have one you will need it. And when you need it no matter how much you have it wont be enough.

Personally I would like to see the Regular Army concentrate more on the light. Trying to use 4 para to make up the numbers in 16AAB is wrong in my opinion. 16AAB should be the Army’s premier rapid reaction formation and if 1 para is still needed for SF support group then set up 5 para and add back the AAC battalions engineers etc.

We lack enough Air transport to deploy a brigade by air but one possible solution could be TD’s A400M MPA. If we purchase another 10-12 A400M’s and used a modular set up then they would also be available for air transport.

I think having at least one armoured brigade in the Reserve makes sense. These are the formations that we will need once in a blue moon and generally if they are required it will be a limited time scale intervention such as 1991 when they will probably be fighting other reservists or conscripts.

I also don’t really like the sustainment section of Army 2020 and possible considering re moulding 7th infantry brigade back to 7th armoured infantry brigade which could beef up the First Division if the Reserve Armoured Brigade is deployed along side.

Topman
Topman
March 18, 2014 11:07 am

Reservists yes, but many are full time. Quite a few infact on Hercs. Reservists aren’t per se an issue it’s the part time nature of the flying. What ever their title or unit name it costs a lot to keep them current. As above the Sqn that supported them would need to be full time as well, it’s not something you can dust off. If you send them to a regular Sqn then you have to be ready to carry more personnal on strength for when the extra pilots arrive.
I’m not knocking the idea, just the costing it’s not very cheap and you can’t really do it part time.
Although possible we are at cross purposes, I am talking of FJ. Adding pilots onto AT is something that is happening now so not really a drama.

We did used to cost put an end to that, Goose bay and Deci I think were near full time stations. Posting people overseas is expensive, of course there is a boost to better weather. I guess someone sat down and worked out it wasn’t worth it. The Germans do it, they are stationed out in New Mexico.

Brian Black
Brian Black
March 18, 2014 11:15 am

“I think the “scale” part should be based around being able to mobilise a Army Corps of 3 Divisions within 3 months”

Crikey! Is the third world war coming?

martin
Editor
March 18, 2014 11:15 am

@ David Haine

I agree about the reserves and the RAF. The US seems to do fairly well with its air national guard. I bet there are alot of pilots leaving the RAF to work for airlines that would quite like to keep flying FJ’s just on a less regular basis.

I see transferring Tranche 1 Typhoons to form two reserve squadrons as a good start. Might even find commercial pilots are better at chasing down airliners than the regular guys on sovereign air patrol. Base the formation near Heathrow and I bet their would be no shortage of pilots.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
March 18, 2014 11:21 am

@Dave Haine – I have argued before that Home Defence – within which category I include much North Atlantic activity, and mine-sweeping – should be constructed around the RNVR. Obviously there needs to be some permanent components – including high-end work to keep the CASD safe as it comes and goes, and keep an eye on what the Russians are up to – and a proper Coast Guard (owned by the RN, often manned by the RFA and with the various enforcement agencies embarked as required) using vessels that can be tooled-up if things take a nasty turn – but the need to run convoys through the Western Approaches or protect ferries full of tanks in the Channel or on the North Sea is not going to arise overnight….there should be ample time to embody the reserves and bolt containerised missile batteries to the decks before we get to that stage.

I’m not sure I would give up on the RAAF either – the 1950s were the last gasp of mass-production mass labour industry requiring diligent shift-workers and nine-to-fivers; In these days of self-employment and portfolio careers – and trustafarians – and people with cash making lifestyle choices – being a highly dedicated fast jet pilot part-time and at some considerable expense might be just the thing Tarquin wants to spend Daddy’s money on to increase his hit rate with the Annabelles at Annabelle’s…and in fairness those sort of lads did pretty well in the Summer of 1940, and subsequently; and if Taranis goes well, we can probably fill a Milton Keynes full of Tin Sheds with uber-geeks recruited from every suburban attic in the Country…what does need looking at, however, is how to integrate a new generation of reserve recruitment with current patterns of education, employment and lifestyle…

GNB

Observer
Observer
March 18, 2014 11:22 am

If you are short of air lift, wonder if you can simply get on the phone and charter a AN-124 for a one way trip to your AO instead of having to buy more planes or wait for your transport to return for another trip. I know Germany has 2-4 on contract. No AirTanker contract, just a one off hire for the run in. There are quite a few companies that operate them and if you are intervening, things have not kicked off yet, so should be rather “safeish”.

RT what’s wrong with 3? It’s not like you’re going to throw the damn thing. :)

Repulse
March 18, 2014 11:22 am

: Depending on your interpretation then possibly yes. What I have done though is scrapped the idea of preparing for any reactive or adaptive brigade level structures.

@BB: That’s the point, we don’t know and going light all over leaves us too exposed.

Chris
Chris
March 18, 2014 11:25 am

GNB – ref “how to integrate a new generation of reserve recruitment with current patterns of education, employment and lifestyle” – cue my favourite Bill of Responsibilities. Include within the universal responsibility to assist the defence of the state…

TED
TED
March 18, 2014 11:44 am

Um no

Fighter pilots may only get a few hours in aircraft these days, which is criminal, but the rest are spent in simulators, rehearsing tactics ect. Its not the same as the TA.

You may be able to have reserve tutor, vigilante, viking pilots and indeed they do and are very good. But that is just flying an aircraft whilst doing some instruction. So you could have been on reserve that can fly an aircraft (to an extremely high level of proficency) but it does not mean they can fight the aircraft.

There are plenty of people for the RAF to call up… all the trained pilots they have holding!

As for changing aircraft type yes it is done but over long periods of time. The bigger the difference the more training required. And keeping pilots current on several aircraft at the same time is costly and time consuming.

So to be clear your Kevin cannot jump out of his F35 and fly a C17 straight away. By and large.

It would be madness to have a just light force (cough FF2020) we as a country really need to get our act together and start actually paying for defence.

Brian Black
Brian Black
March 18, 2014 11:56 am

Would a reserve RAF squadron with cheaper combat aircraft be of some use? Rather than giving them Typhoon, give them Hawk or even Tucano, both of which RAF pilots would already have flown.

My thinking is that the super-expensive premier jets in the RAF would be the first responders to any crisis, but if a deployment only requires dropping the odd 500 pounder on peasant militias, then you have a much cheaper tool to use in their place.

I’ve suggested before giving the Red Arrows some modern combat Hawks. Nine to fly about in pretty patterns, perhaps another nine for Typhoon pilots to cycle through to train for low-intensity conflicts. If you need the Hawks, drop the displays and use them; if you need the more complex jets, there should be enough to respond while you put the Hawk pilots back in Typhoon to train for the later RAF tours.

The RAF’s high-end jets are over-specified for a lot of potential tasks, where any aircraft with a load-carrying ‘combat wing’ would do; and they are phenomenally expensive to operate.

In recent years, flying hours for British and French fast-jet pilots were both reportedly cut. If the RAF had a Hawk unit for pilots to do short attachments to, the first-responders with Typhoon and Lightning could have more intensive training. Holding the cheaper Hawks in the already existing display unit would both help to minimise the operating costs of those additional aircraft, and help to justify the display team’s existence.

Mark
Mark
March 18, 2014 12:11 pm

If you want to go for mass then your tolerance for casualties and attrition of equipment will have to be quite high. If your tolerance is low then you need more tech to protect your people and equipment and as such you numbers go down and you concentrate on speed.

Tubby
Tubby
March 18, 2014 1:07 pm

I am not sure if we want to make binary decision of either rapid reaction and no heavy formations or heavy formations and no rapid reaction. From what I can tell from lurking here and elsewhere, the “borders” of Europe is becoming at the very least unstable and potentially hostile:

We have weak governance and real terrorism risk coming from North Africa;
We have a leader in Turkey who is slowly ousting all his perceived and real enemies, both secular and religions, and is clearly in the long term looking to cement his power base in the same way as Putin has;
The Middle East where the long simmering Sunni/Shia tensions look like the may boil over into state on state conflict; and
We have Putin who has rejected closer EU ties and whose end game looks like creating a new Russian federation which will almost certainly involve bringing back into the fold most of the Ukraine (mostly as Kiev is part of the mythos of Russian identity), along with Moldova, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and which may well involve Poland, and if it does, given our demographics, it would be a real issue for the UK.

I think, despite being on the other side of Europe to all the risks, that while we keep our UNSC veto and are part of the EU that we will need to invest more money in defence and make sure we retain a wide spectrum of defence capabilities. Even after several years of lurking on Think Defence, I still not sure I understand the capabilities required by the Army, but saying that it seems to me that the most urgent purchase would be a large buy of FRES UV including a wheeled scout, a missile armed over-watch variant and a tank destroyer, so that we have the ability to deploy “medium weight” mechanised infantry using the European road network to any point between Estonia and Bulgaria without having to worry about using tank transporters to bring up our heavy tracked vehicles in.

martin
Editor
March 18, 2014 1:34 pm

@ Brian

“Would a reserve RAF squadron with cheaper combat aircraft be of some use? Rather than giving them Typhoon”

I would say no. We would be adding in the cost of an extra aircraft for a start. We are not short on platforms to lob the odd 500 pound bomb on some Jihadi. It would offer almost zero additional combat power to the RAF.

We already have the Tranche 1 Typhoons to give to the reserve force so we won’t need to buy anything new. A reserve Typhoon squadron could easily cover the Southern Sovereign Air Patrol. The Northern one would be more difficult as their are probably few people locally that could serve but its not insurmountable. The US manages to provide such forces in Places Like Portland Oregon. That would give the RAF 5 Squadrons of tranche 2 and 3 Typhoons that could be used in the strike role.

Its not going to be cheap, It would cost at least a couple of hundred million a year but it would be a decent lift in RAF combat power bringing us back up to 9 Squadrons and 200 FJ’s. It might also help us get a better return on our investment in pilot training. Its a bit annoying watching pilots worth 5 million quid walking out the door and heading to BA.

I bet if we offered apprenticeships for ground engineers and aircraft handlers with a reserve contract maybe 10 years we would have a queue a mile long out of the recruitment office.

Topman
Topman
March 18, 2014 1:41 pm

Just to clarify, when the idea about reservists are used, do we mean part-time or FTRS?

Topman
Topman
March 18, 2014 1:45 pm

Edit:

By FTRS I mean full time reservists.

wf
wf
March 18, 2014 1:46 pm

@Tubby: not sure buying hundreds of new wheeled vehicles likely to be unable to match Russian armour really makes much sense, and will take a decade. Why not buy more tank transporters and run exercises in deploying armour to say Latvia via the sea *and* Germany’s and Poland’s rail networks?

Tom
Tom
March 18, 2014 2:00 pm

Martin “I bet if we offered apprenticeships for ground engineers and aircraft handlers with a reserve contract maybe 10 years we would have a queue a mile long out of the recruitment office.”

Unfortunately based on my companys experience of recruiting and retaining apprentices, despite a excellent pay package (for the job) and real career prospects, getting people to want to do technical apprenticeships is a real struggle.

GNB
GNB
March 18, 2014 2:22 pm

@ Topman – One Reservist I know comparatively well is an IT Specialist with the Signals…he is an active member of a TA unit who has done a number of tours …but he also does some civilian contract work for the MoD, and I know him because he does some business development for a community owned enterprise I am involved with, and various other ad hoc bits and pieces…those seem to be the sorts of arrangements we need to foster and recruit people into…but I’m not sure if that makes him full or part time as a reservist…but it does look like a good way to integrate a self-employed portfolio career sort of world into HMAF (Reserves) needs.

A bit like the Yeomanry any time up to the 1930s, when Landowners and Gentlemen-Farmers simply integrated their responsibilities there with running the Estate, and upped the Tempo of military activity as war loomed (Great-Uncle in the Sherwood Rangers from the middle 1890s until he rode with Allenby’s Cavalry Army, Father with the East Riding Yeomanry from the time they were mechanised, so I’ve an idea how it worked)

GNB

Topman
Topman
March 18, 2014 2:53 pm

@ GNB

For some trades/branches it works well and no doubt will continue especially when there is a civi cross over and little difference to the military role.
I’d be wary of people using that to try and get it to work everywhere, some roles just don’t work that way because of the nature of that particular role.

anon
anon
March 18, 2014 3:42 pm

Latvian railways are built to the Russian gauge of 5ft just to stop that sort of activity.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
March 18, 2014 3:51 pm

The history of reserve forces in the UK has always fascinated me and I recall looking into why the 21 squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (and army co-operation and FAA reserve squadrons) were disbanded, to the point of reading the Hansard’s of the day.

Basically they were faced with a move to higher performance aircraft that would have put increased demands on pretty much everything. At the time many of the squadrons operated from relatively undeveloped bases (one in Cheshire out of a WW1 wooden hangar). It was necessary to move onto active RAF bases which were not always geographically ideal given the demographically biased distribution of the squadrons. The idea of sharing regular squadrons’ aircraft was also suggested (presumably partly to avoid the purchase of around 400 additional Hawker Hunters). The show-stopper turned out to be the fact the flying would take place on weekends when RAF bases were effectively stood down.

At the time there was an extreme reluctance to cut any reserve force due to the fact that WW2 was still in everyone’s memories, the cold war was raging and many MPs had recent military (or current reserve military) service. For example, when the HAA, LAA and LAA/SL regiments providing area coverage when AADGB were disbanded in 1955, a “Mobile Defence Corps” was formed to soak up the available manpower and provide aid to the civil power in the event of a nuclear attack – it wasn’t a successm the H-bomb effectively obsoleted it and it only lasted a few years, disbanding in 1958. The RAuxAF was kept on in an anti-invasion role to which its obsolete aircraft were thought suited.

What finally killed the RAuxAF was the Duncan Sandy’s defence review of 1957 in which it was expected that there was only an all out nuclear threat to the UK was to be expected. Only a token conventional trip wire and some airspace policing was needed – eventually to be replaced by missiles (how that would work was not explained). That not only resulted in the RAuxAF squadrons disbanding, but also 14 day fighter, 8 night fighter and essentially the entire home-based light bomber force. We weren’t alone – the Russians did the same thing the next year, scrapping their entire IL-28 light bomber force, so that when they had to supply some to Cuba c. 1960, they had to use embargoed examples intended for the Hungarian Air Force.

The Americans are now in a position that they no longer have sufficient hand-me-down aircraft from the regular USAF to keep ANG squadrons going. More and more are either sharing regular squadron’s aircraft, becoming UCAV ground stations or going to non flying roles altogether. With limited numbers of F-35s coming down the pipeline it is looking more and more likely that the powers that be will seek to get the most out of them by having them flown by full-time regulars. The very existence of ANG flying squadrons is controversial and has been for decades. Part of the reason for their survival is lobbying by their respective states. On discussion fora, regular USAF flyers sometimes refer to them disparagingly as “flying clubs” – much the same as TACs uses to be regarded as “drinking clubs” over here. However, the units deployed on operations invariably seem to have done as well as if not better than their regular counterparts.

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 18, 2014 5:05 pm

Hello everyone,

For respond to the question, in France all our equipment is designed for external operations, we produce deployable equipment by A400M.
For example our VBCI is the equivalent of your Warrior with ten tonnes below, our plans for a reconnaissance vehicle talk about a twenty five tonnes vehicle and for replace the VAB we will vehicles from ten to twenty tonnes.
We are preparing ourselves to asymmetric conflict, while you are prepared for conventional war.

Currently our equipment is obsolete, such as yours, and we will have modern equipment not until 2020, Putin could come to Strasbourg, we could not afford to stop him.
But to speak seriously, we are too alone in Africa, we would like to assistance of the United Kingdom, so a brigade equipped with light vehicles from you would be good for us. If you don’t see it of interest, Africa is a continent in full growth, there are business to do.

I hope not to disturb you with the problems of the French army.

Best regards.

The Other Chris
March 18, 2014 5:21 pm

Great to have you commenting here!

Given our recent mutual defence treaty I think the needs of the French Armed Forces are definitely important to the United Kingdom and vice versa.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 18, 2014 5:35 pm

Hi Frenchie,

Are here as many articles in the French press about the joint Anglo-French intervention force as there are here… meaning none at all?

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 18, 2014 5:40 pm

Thank you Chris for your reception :) ,

Well, i think always that you have a variety of too heavy and too varied vehicles, which result logistical problems that will cost you expensive in the future, but I don’t criticize, this is your doctrine.
From our side we would not weight in a conventional war against the Red Army. There are points of cooperation in both directions effectively.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
March 18, 2014 6:01 pm

Hi Frenchie :) Whilst you definitely emphasise deployability (and even more so the marketability of your indigenously produced equipment on the international market) you are not entirely focused on assymetric as your force structure still includes tanks and IFVs (albeit wheeled ones) and you still have SP artillery, MLRS etc. About the closest you can get to a European country entirely devoted to assymetric would be Denmark which has given up MLRS and all artillery.

Mark
Mark
March 18, 2014 6:09 pm

A cheaper air vehicle to drop the odd 500lb bomb on something when the typhoon goes home any one for a reaper flown from blighty.

The only way a reserve sqn capability might work is if you have a shadow sqn essentially a reserve sqn shares the jets with the regular sqn making sure everyone’s up to speed maybe tricky but could it allow you to tap into an increased manpower pool without significant increased cost.

Phil
March 18, 2014 6:25 pm

A continental force is a relatively cheap force. Expeditionary forces cost very large amounts of money because as has been pointed out you’re never sure where you’re going, when and what for. So that requires varying pools of kit and training serials which adds up. This is before we get into the cost of the actual movements into a theatre which can be anywhere and the infrastructure needed to support that.

Remove the OOA requirement and you free up a lot of resources. The problem is this. Six months ago we were globally engaged and had global interests and were moving more toward having a force structure entirely geared to OOA operations beyond civil contingencies. That is still the case now. But what we have suddenly seen is a new problem which just adds to our woes.

We have global commitments. We have continental commitments. Neither are just going to go away either. To take your force to either extreme is not an option.

So I believe we should remain globally committed. But we should retain key heavy war-fighting provisions such as CVF, SSNs, ASW, Armoured warfare and FJs. Steps to escalation would be the following:

1. First of all increase investment in the deterrent.
2. Then re-raise a reserve based ARRC Framework force (CS and CSS are cheaper)
3. Then if things are still going south then we’ll need to regenerate UKLF and the Home Defence districts.
4. Then we begin to rebuild a continental armoured force based around fleshing out the ARRC into a new British Corps.

The ground forces cannot be wholly or mostly reservist unless you want to repeat 12, 23 and 46 division experiences.

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 18, 2014 6:33 pm

Hello Chris Werb :) ,
Of course, we have Leclerc tanks, AMX-10 RC, Sagaie, VAB, VBL, but all that is 30 years old, only VBCI, Caesar, MLRS and Vikings are modern vehicles. I ask myself how we will make a joint land force that works.
We can do joint exercises but it is a joke to believe that it would be efficient against a real enemy.
Only maritime and aerial maneuvers are interesting.

Chris
Editor
Chris
March 18, 2014 7:17 pm

Frenchie,

It may be of some comfort to you to know that the vast majority of the operational analysis and scientific modelling to support the FRES Initial Gate Business Case was done with African scenarios, although of course using countries from Anglophone Africa. A400M was involved in most scenarios (2000-2003, when I ran the FRES SV ISTAR end user requirements). That was not to say that we ignored other regions of the world, just that African interventions were then seen as most challenging for conventional heavy armoured forces, and indeed for FRES.

I have a soft spot for the French Army. My boss for ten months in Yugoslavia was GCA Bernard Janvier, and he arranged for me to spend a few extra months as a platoon commander in his old Battalion, 2eme REP who at that stage were FREBAT 3 in Sarajevo. And I still have a favourite lunch that I adopted from him, which he ate nearly every day: tomatoes with olive oil, covered in Dijon mustard.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
March 18, 2014 7:59 pm

Leclerc not modern? I must be getting old! :)

Jonathan
Jonathan
March 18, 2014 8:10 pm

If you take a lesson from history, the key to British world influence has always been based around security at home and in europe. When we have forgotten this our world influence has wained.

We lost the American war of independence because we were not winning a European battle.
The list goes on from there our world influence highs and lows reflecting how secure we were at home.

Having a badly balanced defence stance, as in all focuses outside of Europe runs the risk of damaging our long term world influence if Europe or the near east becomes de stabilised due to lack of a close to home focus.

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 18, 2014 8:18 pm

Hello Red Trousers :)

I’m not sure but i believe that in 2003, the FRES project was the SEP project, that is to say very little vehicles de 25 tonnes wheeled and tracked, very far to ASCOD SV and perhaps VBCI UV.
Our industry is going to manufacture little wheeled vehicles with a maximum of common spare parts with the old vehicles existing, and the two projects (EBRC and VBMR) themselves.
It is very economical in terms of logistics.
While your MoD will spend billions of pounds by mixing Warrior, FRES SV and UV, vehicles very similars, but without commons points at a mechanical level, except for the turret . It’s a nonsense at a logistic level and a financial abyss. And i don’t know if all this enters in a A400M.
For the moment our two land forces are obsoletes, it’s very sad.

Sorry to criticize your MoD.

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 18, 2014 8:27 pm

Werb,

Leclerc is 20 years old, it is not very old but it has never been used on a field of battle, and it must be upgraded.

dave haine
dave haine
March 18, 2014 8:54 pm

The problem with having airline pilots as reservists is two fold. All flying hours have to be included in the totals (except basically light singles) and generally airlines are very good at maximising pilot hours (they have to be- it costs roughly £250k a year per flight crew), consequently there is usually very little slack.
That being said ‘Hoof’ Proudfoot (RIP) used to be the Chief Pilot for the Fighter Collection, whilst becoming a very respected senior captain at my airline. Adrian Gjertsen ran Classic Jets too.

The other prob is that the airlines are also the surge air transport capacity- every play & real war whilst I’ve been in airlines, has involved huge amounts of us civvies, from troop trucking to large ambulance aircraft (B737-204, G-BAZG, ‘Lady Florence Nightingale’)

So the airlines aren’t a source of reservists- Apart from AirTanker- who are all RAFR, anyway :-)

The RAuxAF were the air equivalent of the yeomanry, with the same attitude and when it came to it, the same willingness to step up to the mark.

Bear in mind, that in the thirties, the average private plane was a DH Gipsy Moth, a 90kt biplane…a few sportier chaps had a Mew Gull (130kt monoplane). But they all went to war in Spitfires….

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
March 18, 2014 10:08 pm

I’ve been meaning to write a post (well several) about rapidly deployable forces for awhile but can never find the time…

I mentioned this RAND report in the Stability battalions thread because I saw strong parallels with what was suggested; if we structured it right could we have a force for both rapid deployment AND stability/COIN operations?

“The RAND team recommends a three-component first-week ground force of Army and Marine Corps units that would incorporate modern doctrinal concepts emphasizing agility, dispersal, networking, and precision fires. Although JTF details would vary, the concept calls generically for an Early Allied-Support Force, a Light Mobile-Infantry Force, and a Light (or Medium-Weight) Mechanized Force.”

http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB7110.

Challenger
Challenger
March 18, 2014 10:28 pm

‘The ground forces cannot be wholly or mostly reservist unless you want to repeat 12, 23 and 46 division experiences’

I’ve read that if Churchill (as First Sea Lord but general noisy voice in the cabinet at the time) had gotten his way practically every reservist and new volunteer not more than a few weeks in uniform would have been carted off to the continent during the phony war, making a 20+ division BEF which would have looked lovely on paper but most likely have provided either great target practice or a lot more POW’s for the Wehrmacht.

Considering what unfolded the decimation of 12, 23 and 46 divisions (plus the loss of the 51st) should probably be viewed as the British Army getting off lightly.

Martin
Editor
March 19, 2014 2:28 am

@ Frenchie

Its always good to get a perspective from another country. However I seem to remember issues with the French division that was deployed in 1991. Because it was too light the Commanders did not know what to do with it.

Surely the current situation in Eastern Europe shows we have gone too far down the COIN/ light forces mix and are in need of a bit of heavy stuff.

we have always talked about how are EU partners have lots of Cold War relics and heavy forces but it’s starting to not look like the case and many of them have given up armoured warfare entirely.

Rocket Banana
March 19, 2014 7:24 am

Good question.

I’d like both mass and speed.

I’d like our forces to be structured so that 33% of the money is spent on something that can kick the doors in quickly but probably only to battlegroup level with the latest technology and support kit, 33% would then be spent on a division sized capability using much cheaper and less capable kit but with huge numbers and 33% somewhere in the middle delivering a credible brigade with armour.

The net split is that each subsequent layer delivers the same force just distributed over more units and delivered much slower. Furthermore the larger and slower force would be delivered to theatre using STUFT, contracted kit (e.g. Points) and recycled yesteryear assets that are still hanging around.

Lastly, there’s no reason to just have my above three layers, it could be four at 25% per layer.

I think the problem comes when we try to over-kit the large/slow layer – it just gets too expensive.

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 19, 2014 8:21 am

Martin you are right,
At the time our AMX-30 were inferior to T-72 of iraqi army, today this will be impossible because our Leclerc is as good as any tank.
However your 16 AAC brigade is interesting, like your 3 commando brigade, but their ground equipment is not sufficient, and the cuts are very inappropriate, if there are many units that do not make cuts, it’s them.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 19, 2014 8:38 am

Wasn’t it “Because it was too light the Commanders did not know what to do with it” a brigade and it was used as a flank guard, deep into the desert, for which it was ideally suited.

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 19, 2014 9:06 am

Yes, we had only light fighting vehicles, like Sagaie, AMX-10RC, and tanks built in 1966, however, the french troops engaged in 1991 in the gulf war don’t include conscripts. It was very hard to create a division with only professional soldiers.

Tubby
Tubby
March 19, 2014 1:12 pm

re: “@Tubby: not sure buying hundreds of new wheeled vehicles likely to be unable to match Russian armour really makes much sense, and will take a decade. Why not buy more tank transporters and run exercises in deploying armour to say Latvia via the sea *and* Germany’s and Poland’s rail networks?”

Fundamentally I do not disagree with you that we should buy more tank transporters and we should carry out more exercises in Europe, indeed I think we may well need every tank and IFV we have, and I am wondering if we shouldn’t look at permanently basing some of our armour in Poland. However, and in this respect I am quite likely wrong, think that a medium weight wheeled mechanised unit (consisting of vehicles equivalent to say the Centauro and Freccia in 25-30 tonne range) might be able to self-deploy fairly rapidly, buying us time to mobilise our heavy brigades if required.

As a complete aside, and not a specific comment to WF, I am wondering how long it will be before:

a) a rump state of the Ukraine joins NATO
b) the US starts giving military aid to Poland, who as matter of urgency will be replacing their Su-22’s (which are nearing the end of their service lives) and Mig-29’s with suitable Western types, and upgrading their ground based tracking capabilities – I put money on hearing very shortly of a further F16 sale to Poland, and redoubled effort to offload German Tranche 1 Typhoons to Poland.
c) the US reverse it’s decision to take the A-10 out of service and forward bases A-10 in Poland

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 19, 2014 1:53 pm

Yes, it’s a great idea, Putin comprising only strength, but this will be perhaps the start to a new Cold War.

Tom
Tom
March 19, 2014 2:00 pm

Tubby (and others) – I think there’s a lot more we can do before we need start camping a NATO Army on Russia Border. All this will achieve is ramp up the tension. As an example, reducing or eliminating our (i.e. Europe’s) use of Russian gas would decrease Russia’s power to influence European politics, and substantially improve our ability to isolate Russia politically and economically.

Brian Black
Brian Black
March 19, 2014 2:09 pm

Something to beware of; if we had three air-portable light brigades in the reaction force, instead of the armoured division, we could risk outstripping diplomacy and commonsense in our deployments.

We already have rapidreaction forces in the Army. The Paras, with the RAF, had a battalion (or two plus one companies) in Sierra Leone in under 72 hours of the order being given. The current Reaction Force can have the Air Assault brigade and lead armoured brigade deployed in three months, from a cold start.

Would we gain anything positive from having the force structure and transport assets to put an entire light brigade on the ground within 72 hours? I’m sure we could do it, but what then? The government would necessarily have had to ignore parliament to move that quickly. We’d find ourselves with a major military commitment without any extended thought or debate on mission or exit strategy, and we’d have a large and light force deployed that would quite likely not be much use for anything other than holding position.

I do think that 16AAB should be fleshed out from the two infantry battalions that it currently consists of. Not necessarily so it could deploy a bigger force, but so that commanders would have a bigger selection of air-portable units from which to select the leading battlegroup.

Attaching a light cavalry regiment and/or a light armoured support group -with personnel carriers, mortar carriers, ambulances- to the brigade alongside the two parachute battalions would allow the lead air-mobile battlegroup to be formed with more appropriate tools for any particular job, without limiting the wider army by equipping with lightweight kit across the board.

Lightweight vehicles such as Viking or the French VAB replacement could fulfil these roles.

We should keep heavy brigades of some sort; and while we do need light and reactive forces, they don’t need to be on the same scale.

Martin
Editor
March 19, 2014 2:16 pm

@ Frenchie

I agree that cuts to 16AAB and 3 com were the wrong way for us to go. These are probably the forces we will always use the most.

@ Tubby

How about EU military aid to help Eastern Europe buy Typhoons or Rafales.

It would solve alot of problems for both eastern and Western Europe. I think the Germans are paying airbus around a billion euro’s to get out of their tranche 3 b buy.

A 100 + Eurofighters for Eastern Europe could probably keep production lines open long enough to gain more foreign orders.

if we tapped maybe 25 to 30 Raffales on to keep the French happy its got some real potential of passing the EU.

Simon257
Simon257
March 19, 2014 3:10 pm

How long would it take to regenerate a fully equipped Armd Brigade against a light Mechanised Brigade?

If it takes longer to train and equip a new Armd Brigade over a light mechanised one. Then we have to go Heavy.

We can quickly mass produce 500 light Armoured vehicles, whether that be Foxhound, Jackal or the Bronco. How long would it take to mass produce 300 plus Chally 3’s or 300 FRES or 300 new Warriors, if we had an urgent need to. Because the last time I looked we closed our last tank Factory a couple of years ago!

If, we were to go to War tomorrow, next week or in three months time in Eastern Europe, We will go to War with what we’ve got. Not with what we might have in two years time!

Observer
Observer
March 19, 2014 3:44 pm

Simon, in terms of training or in terms of equipment?

Training, I’d say about 6-8 months for basic, a year for advance, but if you are in a tearing great hurry, think advance training can be shortened to 3 months more or less, so give it 9 months to train someone from scratch.

As for tanks, I can only testify to IFVs and our 8x8s but I can visually see them being constructed in batches of 20 or so in the assembly line at STK. They have a fairly open factory layout and it’s easy to sneak a peak as you go by.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/24/us-usa-defense-ohio-idUSBRE84N1DW20120524

There is a line in the report that claims the Lima plant in the US can churn out 2.5 Abrams tanks a day, but it’s not stated if it is a SLEP or new build. Moot point though, a Sabre squadron has only has 16? tanks and I think brigades only usually get one heavy squadron each though that is flexible. So multiply that with your 4 adaptive brigades, that is only 64 tanks in total for the current army. I believe you have about 200 CR2s stored away? More than enough to triple your heavy armour size in times of war.

mickp
mickp
March 19, 2014 4:23 pm

@Observer – last I thought was Sabre squadron was 18, 3 to each armoured brigade (Type 54) and three brigs currently so that’s 162 allocated? Thought we had about 220-250 in total so some should hopefully be in spare!

Someone correct me if I’m wrong

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 19, 2014 4:40 pm

Right now recce vehicles of 16AAB are scimitars and jackals, I am very sorry but they are rolling coffins for me. In the future, vehicles recce of the 16 AAB will not be Ascod SV, you should fast, light vehicles and armed with guns of 25 or 30mm, and with a stand frame protection level 3. In France we think much to the CRAB for paratroopers recce regiment for replace the Sagaie, they don’t enter into a Chinook but they are air droppable.

Simon257
Simon257
March 19, 2014 4:42 pm

Hi Observer

Not so much Manpower. Although, It would be interesting to know how many people have joined and left the Army/RM since the events of Sept 11th?

A Recalled Tank Driver for instance who left a year or two ago, isn’t going to forget how to drive a Tank. Well I would hope not anyway! Ditto for most trades, the only problem you may have is fitness levels!!

On the stored Cr2’s, I wonder how many are actually good to go and how many have been cannibalised to keep the rest of the fleet going? I would like to think that we could put most, back in the field within 6 months, I’m probably being overly optimistic!

In the event of things going Pear Shaped in Eastern Europe. It’s the building of new Cr2’s which is the problem. The Royal Ordnance Factory in Newcastle was closed by BAE. I know that it was taken over by another Defence Engineering Company, but can it still build replacement Cr2’s?

The Other Chris
March 19, 2014 5:07 pm

A question for those who know far more than I about the Reserves:

Is there any scheme for those coming to the end of their careers with the armed forces, either voluntarily or due to closures, to encourage and/or facilitate them to “transfer” (want of a better term) to Reserves?

If not, should there be?

If so, is it sufficient a scheme? How could it be improved and enhanced?

Knowledge and skills retention is a massive portion of resource management in civvy street. For example look at the museum and restoration schemes that Rolls Royce get involved with, encouraging and facilitating current engineer staff to join up with retired engineers on projects such as the various Midland Air Museum displays (Blue Steel) or the Vulcan to the Sky Trust to stimulate skill transfers.

Are the armed forces doing enough of this?

Phil
Phil
March 19, 2014 5:54 pm

There’s all sorts of initiatives to attract ex regulars. OP FORTIFY has a relatively open wallet and an open mind as to how to get people through the door.

Repulse
March 19, 2014 8:00 pm

@BB: ” Something to beware of; if we had three air-portable light brigades in the reaction force, instead of the armoured division, we could risk outstripping diplomacy and commonsense in our deployments.” Completely agree and was the point I was trying to make earlier.

monkey
monkey
March 19, 2014 8:07 pm

Given a ‘the reds are coming’ scenario (i won’t say which end of Asia) but how long would it take to replace a 100 Typhoons ,24 A400M,48 Merlin, 2 QE CV, 6 T45 , 12 T26 ,6 HK SSN or 200 Challengers ? Or what with in the interim ? The present MOD philosophy is quite rightly to build the expensive slow to construct most capable first line defence force which can kill as many of the armed hordes before going down in a blaze of glory whilst we pull out of reserve what is there ,reman and train it up. We push our kit to hard before retiring it and don’t due to grossly in sufficient budget generally mothball it properly.We should keep a few or one type in service i.e. a T23 crewed only by reservists full time which would be rotated with one of the mothball fleet every few years .In essence perhaps the budget needs to be refocus on a what happens when all are shiny toys are now burning scrap and their crews god forbid it POW’s at best.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
March 20, 2014 12:27 am

The British Army of the Vistula has a nice ring to it I think… :-)

Observer
Observer
March 20, 2014 5:00 am

Gloomy, want to take bets on how long it would be before some wag changes it to the British Army of the Fistula?

Egad, mick, you’re right, I missed a level of organization (regiment), multiply by 3 to get a more balanced (and logical) force distribution. You still got enough to double your force in a hurry though. As for long term vehicle storage, the hulls should be ok, seen them mothball vehicles before. They remove the batteries, the electronics, drain the fuel tank and coolant and store the vehicle “dry-clad” in controlled storage, so not much can actually corrode. Upon activation, someone comes along to reinstall the battery and electronics and top up the POL. It’s a fairly simple process actually. Provided someone did not misplace the batteries and electronics in the intern.

Brian Black
Brian Black
March 20, 2014 6:27 pm

Do we really need more tanks though?

Tanks have been heavily employed by NATO countries a couple of times against Iraq. Those experiences suggest that massed armour is useless against air-superiority.

Instead of building more tanks to try and reenact Barbarossa, we would surely be better off building more combat aircraft and air defence units for next summer’s war with the Soviets.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
March 20, 2014 7:29 pm

To be fair, what Granby and Telic demonstrated was that static tanks were of limited use against an enemy with complete air superiority in desert conditions.

Tanks in a European weather environment where the airspace in theatre and locally is contested will still provide a very potent anti-armour capability, for both sides.

wf
wf
March 20, 2014 7:36 pm

Aircraft and air defense missiles won’t take a country away from you, nor in the long run prevent someone else from doing so. If the Russians have lots of tanks, and we want to both stop them and throw them back, we are going to need some. Guess what, 3 battalions worth (which is what we will shortly be reduced to), is absolutely fuck all…..however many fighter aircraft and MLRS batteries we might possess :-(

Chris
Chris
March 20, 2014 7:52 pm

BB – an interesting point , but skewed in this amateur’s opinion? True heavy armour is a target for ground attack air assets, but equally aircraft are targets for ground-to-air missiles aren’t they? And I assume Vlad the Invader has more than a few ex-Soviet SA2, SA3, SA4, SA5, SA6, SA8, SA9, SA10, SA12, SA13, SA20 and SA21 heavy-hitting anti air missiles to shoot? Its a good job on our side we have lots of Bloodhounds still in service.

I think it would be naive to hold certain that in any environment we would have absolute technical let alone numerical superiority. Which brings us back to needing to have balanced forces so that each has enough punch to look after the other. In my opinion.

Jackstaff
Jackstaff
March 20, 2014 8:29 pm

This is the difficulty with being able to take lunch at home and commute back to work in time, one gets reduced to saying “what @NaB (and ) said.” :)

Tanks remain both a vital hedge and combined arms asset when you do have to set to in the dirt, especially so when the other side is prepared to 1) act quickly ahead of Western powers’ paralytic logistical and decision-making curve and 2) show up to play with real fast jets and integrated ADA. In addition, for lower end or “hybrid” cases they anchor one of the few undisputed asymmetric *advantages* Western forces still enjoy — tough nuggets of professionalised combined-arms armour.

And there do need to be more of them in service, thank God the administrative ease of cold storage kept Georgie Porgie and Number 11 from squeezing harder to make those spares into razor blades just to make their decision stick. It was a grand bargain — save some “accounting money” and look trendy (when do the band rehearsals for Cold War Relics start, TD? I bags keyboard…) for Camerborne. For Carter as the functional head of the Black Mafia ( those not in the know that’s slang for the tendency of ex-Royal Green Jackets to get far up the Army hierarchy) it trims the cavalry and spreads it’s butter thin, on infantry terms, in order to help provide personnel slots for a bunch of under strength “light role” bns that exist to make the Army look busy and avoid further cuts (upstream engagement is best done by pith-helmeted privates don’tcherknow) and most importantly provide colonelcies and brigadier ships for infantry officers. Just like the notion that a new long era of (post) colonial gendarmery would go on forever it was sadly mistaken. The Army (and the Royal) absolutely need to be able to generate capacity to “do a Mali” or on smaller scale another Sierra Leone. But the bulk of the force needs to be about mass. Because the bulk of situations into which they’re *likely* to be sent, based on global trends, public attitudes, and political calculation are concerned (and I mean Redfor calculations not Westminster’s) are ones where “typical” will be a hybrid hornet’s nest like Lebanon ’06 and high end will be, well, high end.

In relation to that, they key is not mass vs speed. It is figuring out how to deliver mass (and here much as I root for Dark Blue FC who are vital to the delivery process, I mean heavy ground forces) much more swiftly. Air power and SF or acres of 8x8s are all very well but the central problem is the Wrst hasn’t figured out how to package and move the hard armoured stuff with the speed and punch necessary for the political time frames ahead.

Observer
Observer
March 20, 2014 9:08 pm

In some terrain, aircraft have a hell of a time spotting you or hitting you, for example forests. Leaves block any laser targeting very effectively, and while you have foliage penetrating radar, can you really be sure that any bomb you drop or rocket you fire won’t hit a tree first? Or urban terrain where normal logic says tanks avoid, but urban terrain is also very good terrain to get attacking aircraft off your tail. This means that to root out an enemy in such terrain, you have to send someone in to really dug them out. This is where armoured vehicles and poor infantry come in.

Flying fixed wing in urban terrain is like driving a car through a city at 200km/h with no brakes.

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 20, 2014 9:17 pm

In asymmetric warfare, air superiority is useless if you don’t have ground forces for separate warring parties.
In Africa, people are fighting with machetes and Kalashnikovs, there are no tanks to destroy, no aircraft, nothing.
If you don’t have a presence on the ground, it is useless, and the territory is immense.
If you want to do the war to Russia, it is not the same thing, they have the nuclear bomb, the war is resolved in few minutes. Apart joining forces in Poland to scare Putin, we can do nothing.

Opinion3
Opinion3
March 21, 2014 6:56 am

GW2 illustrates that speed is very very effective. Time and time again, technology and speed has been able to come up top trumps. Our defence businesses and technological base make speed and technology the best strategy.

However technology and speed struggle to hold territory and maintain order. GW2 and Afghanistan have demonstrated heavy and numbers matter.

The worry is we say reduce numbers, we have better technology and the fleet of the foot and later cuts are made to the equipment and training capabilities reducing our technological advantage as questions are made as to why our frigate costs X4 that of the Malaysian Navy.

jedibeeftrix
March 21, 2014 8:30 am

I am broadly content with the reaction/adaptable/support force structure.

Changes I would want:
3 principle maneuver units in 16AAB
3 light-cav formations removed from the adaptable force and turned into a light high-mobility brigade. Can remain with a recon/screening-force role.
3Cdo, 16AAB, and the new 3Cav to retain sufficient support to deploy independently with sufficient work up.
3Cdo, 16AAB, and the new 3Cav to deploy at current (half strength) in normal duties as a high-readiness formation.

Keep the three small Armoured brigades as currently constituted.

Reduce the adaptable force down to six equally capable/deployable infantry brigades.

End up with six Reaction force brigades (three heavy / three light) and six Adaptable force brigades (six infantry), rather than the five/seven split currently. No actual loss of battalions other than 3 light cav, just a rejigging to put them on an equal footing (only three are ‘useful’ right now, the others are really ‘Defence Engagement’ formations).

The three light brigades all have the ability to provide a supporting function to larger formations, and I am thinking in particular of my proposed 3Cav taking over the sabre squadron reinforcement for air and marine operations as was (is?) the case with 3Cdo and 16AAB (blues and royals?).

3Cav effectively becomes our africa specialist where you need high mobility over extremely dispersed terrain with a minimal support footprint, much as 16AAB and 3Cdo have their inherent specialisms.

My two pennies…

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
March 21, 2014 8:41 am

Hi Jedi, I could easily align with the proposed structure.

It preserves thenumber of command nodes, around which to build, depending on the situation. It could even go some way to make the FRES Scout numbers suffice, if you remove 3 rgmnts worth, by making those regiments light.

Frenchie
Frenchie
March 21, 2014 9:17 am

Your light brigades are very interesting with vehicles like Foxhound, but you are missing of a carrier troops vehicle more heavy, a larger Foxhound, which will can carry twelve soldiers. And also a light recce vehicle better than Jackal.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
March 21, 2014 11:12 am

Like the plan, Jedi – just two provisos – we don’t (ever!) deploy the Light Brigade to the Crimea – and at least one of the light cavalry regiments wears red trousers…

GNB

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
March 21, 2014 1:03 pm

A lot of the thinking above mirrors that of the RAND reports about rapid reaction options I have been re-reading – even with the huge strike firepower available to the US (all arms) they can not guarantee “halting” a large armoured force before it overruns large areas of allied territory. Due to the terrain and vegetation it gets even harder in eastern Europe (and South America).

RAND came up with the concept of deploying the force in “waves”
– the first part should be an Early Allied-Support Force to coordinate C4ISR and provide aircraft and missile defence;
the second part would be light (but mobile) infantry to perform a number of functions – securing high priority areas, denying regions, acting as spotters for strikes, screening follow on forces, etc (not necessary at the same time…);
thirdly a Light/Medium-Weight Mechanized Force, to support the already deployed and allied forces and possibly start to take offensive action against the enemy – possibly not direct fire fights as they would probably come off worse against heavy forces but use indirect high tech weapons against a foe who should already be weakened and disrupted.
Finally the Heavy Armoured units arrive via sea lift and finish the job by taking the enemy on directly and reclaiming the lost land.

I think this strategy has a lot of benefits; obviously we don’t have the the numbers and available firepower as the US but we already have a force divided in to light medium and heavy, and I can see with the idea of upstream engagement, Chris B’s regional commands and TD’s forward deployed forces ideas the basis for the Early Allied-Support Force.
http://www.rand.org/content/rand/pubs/research_briefs/RB7110.html
http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB7110/index1.html

They expand these ideas in another report including concepts similar to the USMC HUNTER WARRIOR and even a version of Air Mech strike…
http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1196.html