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A One Sided Partnership


As we all know, the British Army Watchkeeper UAV system has been developed by a consortium of companies, U-Tacs (Elbit) and Thales, in roughly equal ownership.

Thales are a French company head-quartered in Paris

The French government own 27% of Thales and the public sector, 26%

Dassault also own 26% of Thales

Dassault are owned in roughly equal proportions by Airbus and Dassault Group

The French government owns about 12% of Airbus

The French Véhicule Blindé de Combat d’Infanterie (VBCI) vehicle is built by Nexter (formaly GIAT) and Renault Defence.

Nexter are owned by the French Government

Can you see a common thread here?

There has been lots of talk of the French buying the Thales Watchkeeper if the UK buys the Nexter VBCI.

The latest news is that Watchkeeper, which had previously not been destined for deployment in Afghanistan, because, why would you, may well be now on after all. That deployment, reportedly, will also include French personnel.

Are we really going to fall for this scam where the main winner is the French taxpayer and government, encouraged by the spivs in Government and the current generation of Army leaders going weak kneed at what the French did in Mali with the VBCI?




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150 Responses

  1. “Are we really going to fall for this scam where the main winner is the French taxpayer and government, encouraged by the spivs in Government and the current generation of Army leaders going weak kneed at what the French did in Mali with the VBCI?”

    Do EU trade missions speak with German accents?

    Hasn’t it been the British way since the end of war to hand over everything we have to Europe to join a club that resents us? And if not the Europeans the US? If an alien was to come down without knowledge of who won WW2 and look at modern Europe it wouldn’t say the UK would it? Look at what British have developed since WW2 and then lost. Surely won’t REL go the same way as out last space programme? Rockets whose ancestry is found in British technical innovation fly from French Guiana and not Guyana.

    The reason why VBCI is suited to operations in Africa isn’t because the French have been canny at reading the current or trending world situation. VBCI is suited to operation in Africa because of Françafrique. We Brits shutdown the empire and retreated; the French just up gave government in her colonies and stayed put. I do wonder how much revenue France still gains from her former colonies despite EU laws and how much we British lost because we played by the rules.

    Note the South African always favoured wheels too. so let’s not give the French to much credit there either for not going tracked.

    Perhaps Mark or Chris B can tell us just how joint Jaguar, Lynx, Gazelle, and Concorde were in reality, who gained technology, and who gained from work share?

    All for sharing and joint efforts. As long as everything is fair. And history shows us that France (quite rightly) puts herself first.

  2. We tried the French model and ended up with expensive mediocrity.

    We are also not being VBCI, just a trial.

    Is the French taxpayer the main winner? Thales may be based in France but it has a massive UK presence and only a fraction of the cash washed through the UK arm makes it back to France. Most of it is paid to UK staff and suppliers who in turn pay tax in the UK.

    The mess that is ownership of French industry is a product of a series of desperate efforts to prop-up up an unsustainably large structure. It will and is shrinking.

  3. For once, I won’t agree with you. Not only cause I’m French, but you should have right figures …

    However, what ever the taxes you/we may pay in order to be sure British / French troops can do their job (protect old Europe, including islands and aliens), your article means that what matters is the origin of the product, not its effiency. In that case, you should ask your government not to buy any weapons, avionics, electronics, missiles,etc … which is not strictly 100% British. You should ask to remove British officers, NCOs, soldiers from any aliens/euro agencies – operations – ceremonials too.

    As long as I read your other posts, I thought you were an open-minded person. Maybe I was wrong. Sorry, I’m from the continent. ;-)

  4. Not sure I’ll ever understand this obsession with REL. It has all the hallmarks of Concorde, a project that while technically brilliant was very expensive and never really proved economical. Meanwhile the rest of the world is concentrating on commercial viability, just as the Amercians did with their airline industry back in the day.

  5. It has one advantage over Concorde as a going concern: The application of the technology isn’t limited to aerospace.

  6. From what I know, we actually did a lot of the really difficult stuff on Concorde, and the fact that Airbus’ centre for wing development and manufacture is in the UK and not France would suggest that we have retained and improved upon that kind of knowledge better than them. Also Rolls Royce; France, or Europe in general has nothing on them.
    Thales has a huge footprint in the UK, large sections of the company being formed almost entirely from former British companies. And although I share people’s skepticism about work-share, I would have thought an awful lot “could” be done in the UK, whether that will be written into contracts by HMG is another matter.
    Alsthom’s lopsided merger with GEC, now there’s a travesty; half the UK operations were shut down within a few years and the GEC name quietly dropped. No doubt a fair few patents and technology drifted back to France in the process.
    Then again, even centre-right French governments are far more left-wing in their industrial and economic policies than any govt of ours since the 1970’s, and you certainly don’t see many people on TD clamouring for that.
    Although Bob I have to agree with you, I think the French defence sector is a bubble that may well burst.

  7. I’m in the odd position of rather liking both France and the French, but being distinctly uneasy about the EU…not least because given wholehearted support from that quarter the City would be as much of a world-beater as German manufacturing and French “lifestyle products” (awful expression, but you’ll know what I mean)…but I’m afraid my overall impression is that they mostly want to shut down the City and beggar us (no doubt for our own “good” as they see it, much as the SNP want to make CASD unsustainable for the same reason)…and because our own political leaders seem in these instances to be like the sad kids in the class so desperate for acceptance by the in-crowd (the Franco/German Axis) that they have been pretty much willing to put up with anything.

    In the end, I’m drawn to the belief that having not joined at the beginning we should have left well enough alone…as we would have done had more than a decade of economic mismanagement and craven surrender to the Barons of the TUC by Labour not reduced the UK to a near basket case by the early 1970s…and even then it was only on the basis of much talk of free trade and none that I can recall of ever closer union that the vote was won…

    Damned If I’ve any idea what we should do now though, although perhaps a second vote might at least clear the air and provide a nice juicy existential crisis to deal with…answers on a postcard please?


  8. Personally I don’t mind deals like this happening if the other side has something we want, then I see no problem with a tit for tat arrangement.

    However the unit cost of the VBCI is 2.7m Euro’s, and was rejected already after trials for not being suitable. How many Watchkeeper units will the French need to buy to make the deal worthwhile as we would be purchasing 100’s of compromised vehicles, along with the associated running costs such as Renault engines which I don’t believe are used in any significant numbers in the armed forces.

    And I won’t be surprised if the carrot of fitting out the vehicles with Bowman etc will be dangled as a way of justifying the fact that they will be produced in France.

    The other thing that concerns me slightly is that we are only trialling the VBCI and not any of the other contenders, so the trials team only point of comparison will be the Mastiff and it won’t be hard for any 8×8 to be more impressive than the Mastiff when it comes to cross country performance.

    If the only reason for this trial and purchase is Watchkeeper then it’s a mistake, if we do not do a proper trial with all the contenders involved. As a side note we could do Mali tomorrow with the equipment we already have we do not need buy an 8×8 for those sort of missions alone.

  9. I don’t really give a monkeys about the politics of who owns what. I will say one thing for France though, they stand up for themselves and put their nation first, where the political class in the UK only want to appease and apologise.

    As for the kit, this VBCI. Is it any good? Is it a good price? Could the army use it? Can we get decent numbers and save on reinventing the wheel yet again with some Gold plated home built kit that will cost the earth and be years late?

  10. Have just read David Niven’s post above mine who is obviously far more knowledgeable than I on this. My questions answered. Its cack!

  11. If a wheeled APC is needed, then apart from the VBCI, the Patria AMV ought to be a contender, along with the Boxer and whatever version of the Piranha GD is building NOW, not five years in the future. Possibly the IVECO SuperAV as well. Maybe even something from the Ukraine?

    That we have already bought the CT40 as a sop to the French does worry me slightly. Granted the company is nominally a joint venture, but it’s based in France and all the work is done there.

  12. At what point exactly did the Common Market stop being the Common Market and become the European Union? I just missed out on voting for the former and would welcome the chance to vote on the latter. I think we should have a referendum on this issue every 25 years, so each generation gets a say.

    Anyway, armoured personnel carriers. There’s loads of them about; is it really so difficult to just pick one? Here’s an idea: round a few of them up and trial them against each other. Buy the winner.

  13. I am reminded of an earlier competition. In 1984 the Jet Provost was up for replacement. As I understood at the time the position at the end of the trials was that the RAF strongly favoured the only British aircraft in the mix, the Turbo-Firecracker (, because it best matched the dynamic of the jets the students would next fly, and it was robust and simple to support. MOD favoured the Pilatus PC-9 because BAE had organized some offset with Switzerland on behalf of MOD that was quite valuable. The Thatcher government chose Tucano because 1) it was Belfast assembled and NI needed the jobs badly, and 2) it was a thankyou to Brazil for giving our Vulcan back. In the end it really doesn’t seem to matter what is best for the job, its what gains most political brownie-points that wins.

  14. One needs to ask first do we need a vehicle like this at all? Second I have no idea if this vehicle was rejected because we wanted it rejected on trials for some pet project or because it really didn’t work.

    What is absolutely clear in my mind is if the army piss about for another decade + in the search for onubtanium then the issue of horses to said units should be undertaken without delay and they can adjust there tactics accordingly.

  15. One needs to ask first do we need a vehicle like this at all?

    Yes because we need to replace the FV 432 series of vehicles and we may as well purchase something with more strategic mobility for the medium weight units, that can bridge the need for both Afghan style ops and fighting a peer enemy for an adequate logistics cost.

    Without a doubt the Army have pissed about and know it seems the politicians are going to decide for us. We had already had design input into the Boxer (MRAV) with a few hundred million quid to boot, with the reason for its rejection being that it was not transportable in the C130. Now after combat experience we have discovered that it is hard to get a vehicle with decent levels of protection that can carry a section for less than 20t. The C130 is being retired and the the A400 is now the benchmark that all vehicles are set against in terms of airmobility. The Boxer should have been the automatic choice once the C130 requirement was dropped, it will have logistic commonality with FRES in terms of engine and has deployed to Afghanistan.

    We could produce the rear modules in the UK to keep some jobs and armour manufacturing experience.

  16. Well a UK built under licence , Iveco Super AV would be my first choice.
    Though I do admire the way French politicians from the hard left, through the centre & on to the hard right, will all come together to back an industrial/infrastructure project that is “for the glory of France”.
    I wish out useless/clueless political/mandarin class had the same attitude to backing Britain.

  17. This banter of the French always getting more out of any deal is strange in the light of the real ‘hollowing out’ of the UK defence industry, and especially the R&D part of it, being due to the growing reliance on US companies. No mergers, save for the possible demerger of BAE, subsidiaries only. No say in governance, huge difficulties in the control of IP and practical rights, e.g.modding and ‘nxt-gen’.

    Very nice graphic from RP, thx!
    -Kockums located strangely though, and MTU perhaps mixing old and new status?

  18. Can only agree with all that DN says in the post that popped up above mine.

    To add something: put a oneman French CT turret on it, at least on 1 in 3. There’s the deal…ohh, they are more expensive than some equally good wagons! Hmmm

  19. Just as background, procurement is pretty purple, and heavily leavened with the Civil Service. Politics, industrial policy, and broad government agendas get in the way.

    The MRAV IPT had less than 10% Army people in it, DEC DBE at the time was under the cosh for a Euro-collaboration project by Gordon Brown as Chancellor. The FRES IPT was under remit by SofS to increase personnel survival rates while he completely ignored the serial delays on A400M, which meant that increasing weight for protective purposes was completely incompatible with desired in service dates of 2003 (UV) and 2009 (SV) with strategic mobility delivered by the Air Component. FRES is a Joint programme, people forget. Even the Andrew are part of it with a separate volume on FRES in the original MARS requirement.

    To say “the Army has pissed around” betrays that the commenter has not got a fucking clue about how things work.

  20. Before it all goes one way, I do remember an incident with France and the purchase of a set of carrier plans that were… premature. :)

    Fact is, with the small number of units each nation will purchase for some items, a totally new research project is uneconomical for countries to go about it alone. This does translate into arguments over cost sharing and workshare. Even if a country does not directly buy the item, they’ll still want to build it in country due to tangential benefits like jobs and economy, especially now when the jobless ratings are being watched like a hawk.

    Only way out I can see is to really turn it into the Solomon solution and get the vehicle developed in pieces, engine here, turret there, then design the central body around the pieces inhouse. This way, it’s not a totally new design project but more of a systems integration project which might make it economical for a country to solo. (And yes, I know that Solomon really didn’t chop the kid up in the end)

  21. Nice to see the sticking up for your service RT but come on how many trials how many lets have a bit of this no no let’s have bit of that. At then end of the day all the excuses in the world of who did what when and where can be trotted out simple fact is no vehicles bought hundreds of millions pissed up the wall. Youll be telling us next that the navy have been in charge of buying army trucks. Other countries just got on and bought one and increased numbers as budgets allowed if the army wanted vehicles then it’s nobody’s fault but the senior army leadership to make sure it got them.

  22. Observer, your descrjption fits the FRES SV prgrm perfectly? Except that the central body is the new electronics std, not the lump of steel .

  23. Nice to see RT continues on his one man mission to blame the civil service for all the Armys problems… :-)

  24. ‘To say “the Army has pissed around” betrays that the commenter has not got a fucking clue about how things work’

    From the sounds of it pretty shit, for a major land component to have have less than 10% input from the army is an indicator in itself.

    And like I said as soon as the C130 requirement was dropped it was pretty much a no brainer. We are now in the situation where we are once again trialling a vehicle we know the abilities of for political reasons.

  25. Mark, the FRES UV “Trials of Truth” resulted in a clear recommendation for a winner, a “acceptable but not desired” middle option, and a positive non-recommendation.

    Unfortunately, they were in the wrong order for Lord Drayson who had a wider industrial policy that he was pushing.

    No further trials were done. It all went political.

    He was also responsible for the utterly ludicrous stipulation that all design rights and IPR had to be vested in the UK MoD. In response to Sir Humphrey above, that was not a decision taken in the military domain: why would it be? Given that the wagons were all already in service in some lower variant in a number of other Armies, with 2 of the competing manufacturers based in other countries, the UK’s planned purchases not exceeding 30% of a pan fleet total for any manufacturer, that was a bit of a bollocks requirement. I know that 2 of the 3 manufacturers decided to ignore that, assuming the MoD would drop it quietly. Stupidly, the MoD did not. So, a FRES winner was selected, and after 2 years of legal wrangling, they walked away from the contract / were sacked, depending on who is briefing you.

  26. I am not sure what it is about posts like this, where I have to explain what I meant in the original post, perhaps I need to go back to school and retake my English O Level!

    It was not a commentary on past Anglo French industrial relations (may they always be strong), it was not a swipe about Anglo French military cooperation (long may it continue) and it was not a not absolutely anything to do with FRES (long may we talk about it)

    It was about the very specifics of making a sale of Watchkeeper contingent on a sale of VBCI and who would be the principle beneficiary given the the relative size of the two purchases and corporate ownerships of the organisations involved.

  27. I understand you, and I agree that the British fighting vehicles must be built in the United Kingdom, with Intellectual property based in the UK. As France will not give you the commercial rights for a British version of VBCIs, it is quite normal that you to do build by GDUK the Piranha V for your FRES UV. But globalization leads to different parts of vehicles come from Germany, Austria, Spain, etc …

  28. We are drifting,but it has been a most informative discussion. On the open thread, the parallel discussion on foreign proc of IFVs has the Swedes cutting the French off from supplying Russia, Russia themselves cutting Italy off, Russia wanting to buy turrets for the Russo/French/swedish IFV on false pretences, dangling the deal of a complete system purchase as a carrot. NATO as a whole of course living up to its acronym, as recently floated by a removed Observer.

    Isn’t the Anglo-French co-operation tidy and a runaway success on this scale?

  29. @DavidN

    Be fair to RT, most procurement decisions really do have a ratio like that. The 10% are usually requirement setters, then it’s all in the hands of the politicians, economists, engineers, researchers, business managers and salesmen. Too many hands in the pie I would say. To solve this, you either need to have a totally neutral end personnel or you need to make it into a pure army decision and let Parliament be a cash cow only. Which will drive politicians up the wall, knowing what control freaks they are.


    Yup and FRES was a project for one country only at a budget one country can afford. The problem with FRES from what I can see was not cost, but an inability to make up their minds, running up man hours in pay with study after study for no result. The cost spiral was a side effect, not the main cause. Solution? Name from a hat as I suggested before. 500 million pounds for the tests tossed straight into a random name solution would have gotten you about 150 units out and in service, which I do believe servicemen would appreciate more than imaginary protection from an imaginary vehicle not yet in service.

  30. Oh as an add on comment, time does not seem to be on the side of any military procurement, the delays in your FRES program leading to cancellation on cost basis was one example, India’s delayed M-777 buy (which jacked up the price by almost 30%) is another and the Philippine’s Maritime Support Ship is one more.

    It seems that the longer you wait, the more the price rises and the higher the chance of a later cancellation. Hit them hard and fast before the price goes up needs to be the way to go.

  31. TD said “It was about the very specifics of making a sale of Watchkeeper contingent on a sale of VBCI and who would be the principle beneficiary given the the relative size of the two purchases and corporate ownerships of the organisations involved.”

    So you want us to discuss one instance of Anglo-French trade relations in isolation without context as if the affair is happening in a vacuum? OK.

  32. @Observer
    ‘Be fair to RT, most procurement decisions really do have a ratio like that.’ something need to be done then, as even the construction industry, which is the most confrontational sector in the economy has for decades been slowly changing the way it does business with clients and to mitigate waste.

    Ref Boxer and army procurement

    The first Boxer prototype was delivered to Germany in 2002 and was subject to evaluation trials in Germany.In July 2003, shortly after the start of the Iraq war, the UK Ministry of Defence announced its intention to withdraw from the Boxer programme and focus on the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES). Each partner in the programme (including the UK) was to receive four prototypes by July 2004.

    ‘In 2006, Britain started purchasing a trio of very different vehicles intended to helps their army patrols in high-threat areas. Their “Urgent Operational Requirement” orders were part of a general trend among Western militaries toward blast-resistant vehicles, in response to the widespread use of explosives by enemies in Iraq & Afghanistan.’

    Must have pulled out due to the cost of all those snatch landrovers, and that no further money was available for FRES R&D and lets not forget those bloody civil servants. ;-)

  33. The French paid EUR 100mil for CVF plans, and have now been strong-armed to spend EUR 200-300mil for FASGW(H) development, even though they can’t afford to buy the damn thing when it comes out.

    They’re also covering for the UK’s capability gaps in carrier aviation and maritime patrol.

    So TD, that’s a rather cheap post IMHO. Penny wise, pound foolish “cooperation” is not the way to go. You’ve got the Germans for that. Try cooperating with them and let me know how that works out for you!

  34. I like FRES, it is a one word veto to any Pongo stupid enough to want to discuss procurement. How much have we spent so far without a design even being agreed on?

  35. ‘How much have we spent so far without a design even being agreed on?’

    Too fu**ing much!

  36. @H_K

    You think we should have let the French build a Carrier to our design for free then? Like the French did with those Mistrals for Russia, ogh no wait they are actually building them.

    Name one CDG tasking that has covered for us?
    MPA, yes and many other nations have also assisted.

    As for FASGW(H), they signed up for it and their continual faffing about means we may need to extend the service life of sea Skua.

  37. P.S. I think this “VBCI for Watchkeeper” deal is also the French testing whether the UK is really serious on FCAS.

    FCAS is the real strategic cooperation, and both sides need to show some give & take to build mutual trust ahead of that negotiation. Especially after the CVF failure, where the UK showed zero flexibility (not to get into a debate about the rights & wrongs of that..).

  38. APATS, one might argue that that’s exactly what CDG was doing off Libya, covering for the RN…

    Nothing wrong with the French paying for CVF plans. Actually meant it as an example of “good” cooperation, i.e. one that puts practical considerations over endless wrangling over workshare.

    FASGW(H)… well the UK could have gone ahead but chose to wait for the French to open their wallet. Debatable whose getting the best deal out of that, both sides are unhappy… which probably makes it a good cooperation!

  39. @ H_K

    “APATS, one might argue that that’s exactly what CDG was doing off Libya, covering for the RN”

    Considering the fact that at no point were we actually short of assets to fill the ATO I hardly think so. We actually had more assets than targets a lot of the time.

    The French signed up for FASGW(H) then changed governments and then stalled as they do not have a platform for the missile until approximately 2020. That is not cooperation.

  40. OK, the first part is debatable then
    “They’re also covering for the UK’s capability gaps in carrier aviation and maritime patrol.”
    -are there any facts on the maritime patrol part?
    – I really don’t see why the UK focus could not be just the open Atlantic, there being so many NATO allies along the coasts of the North Sea and the Bay of Biscay
    … which takes us to the planned basing of the US Tritons, and how nicely some flying out of the UK would plug a gap (not saying: theirs or ours, but we are evaluating the unmanned option, actually the evidence given to the Parliamentary Committee a year or so back seemed to be very much skewed into that direction?))

  41. APATS, don’t forget that under the SMART Procurement Initiative (I know, misnamed, but blame someone else ;) ), 10% of acquisition costs were meant to be spent in the Assessment phase. So £1.3 billion, given the Nov 2004 Initial Gate Business Case approval of a £13 billion programme for 3,300 vehicles. So think yourself lucky that we only did spend £550 million!

    The sad truth is that a decision was made by the Army, IPT and endorsed at all levels up to the Defence Board. In Nov 2007 the GD Piranha was chosen for UV. Pretty good wagon, everyone felt. Ask soldiers now, they’d still be happy to go with it.

    The reason that it was not ultimately taken forward was multiply complicated, but there are 2 main elements to a political decision. Risk and casualty aversion coming from increasing casualties in Iraq/Afghanistan which drove non-Army experts such as DSTL, QinetiQ, and the Centre for Human Sciences to insist on ever higher levels of protection, enthusiastically supported by the Labour Party. This drove weight to the 27 tonne range, making A400m risky. The second was an insistence that GD vested all IPR in the UK.

    I don’t blame the Andrew for the total strategic cockup that is Carrier Strike, I blame the people who made the decisions, only some of whom ever wore naval uniform. Perhaps you should think of that before assuming you know how and why FRES has ended up where it is.

  42. RT makes a good point there. Civvies who give a monkeys don’t take kindly to our boys being blown to bits in thin skinned wagons when thicker skinned wagons were available for not much more money which would have resulted in nothing worse than bruises and a headache. Governments get away with a lot less nowadays. Blame the free press, erosion of the class system or whatever you like, but there it is. And we’ve adopted the American habit of suing.

  43. @RT

    !0% has always been a ludicrous position. 1-0% of the budget to design something as simple as a single IFV versus something as complex as CVF?

    As for Carrier Strike and cockups, well all I will say to you is what I say to still serving Pongos, FRES and ohh we launch the first one in a couple of months :)

  44. APATS, you might be launching the first in a couple of months, but it still hasn’t got a job to do, and based on various ASTUTE-type comedy calamities, will probably hit some rock or something. After all, if the lead skipper of ASTUTE was such a wally (and I know him from being in the same syndicate at JSCSC, where he was serially a wally), there’s not much to suggest that the hobby armed service are going to get anything else right.

  45. It’s worth noting that while the French like to buy all-French built military equipment, they did authorise an export version of VAB allowing foreign sourced parts in order to keep it competitively priced.

    Any British buy of VBCI, or VBMR, could be made dependent on allowing British or British-based automotive parts companies to bid for contracts on the British export model. It would benefit both countries. The UK could potentially get the vehicle cheaper than the French army by allowing competitive bidding; as well as having British industry continue to support the vehicle throughout its years in service. The French would be happy as the vehicle would still be coming off a French production line.

    It was suggested above that VBCI would have no commonality with any other British Army vehicle. A British VBCI wouldn’t necessarily have to have the same engine as a French VBCI. Potentially an engine already in British service could be used, as long as it fits. The feasibility and benefits would obviously have to be balanced against the cost of changing the production line.

    The issue of commonality is largely why I don’t think we’ll buy VBCI though. We’d be introducing a new vehicle type that would do much the same as Warrior or some variant of ASCOD, and wouldn’t really Improve on what was already available and in service.

  46. @RT

    I think we have done the astute Class grounding to death on here and I actually summarised the incident report with my old FOST N head on. The overwhelming outcome being human error.

    Andy made a mistake in oversight and trust, what is often overlooked is he had a an excellent drive of Turbs prior to his Astute appointment.

    As for CVF employment, we argued and won, I wait for someone in the army to even manage to argue successfully for a FRES baseline.

  47. @APATS

    ‘I wait for someone in the army to even manage to argue successfully for a FRES baseline.’

    Are you suggesting that you don’t see a need for a FRES (medium weight multirole) type vehicle?

  48. @DN

    No I just await them doing so. In the last 5 years I have ridden in the back or front of US or UK vehicles in both Iraq and Afghanistan, most of which were UORs none of which were FRES and all of which involved me doing an Operational Ground tour in Support of an elective ground war. Army Officers doing operational Naval tours please feel free to comment.

  49. APATS, would it be fair to attribute the completion of Project CVF to the prowess of the RN argument when we all know it was a matter of public record that the SDSR process more or less agreed they should be cancelled and it was only the discovery that it would cost more to cancel that saved them.

    Nothing to do with persuasive argument and more to do with the sharp pencil of BAE’s contract lawyers

    And why would Army Officers doing naval tours have anything to do with the argument, defence main effort and all that

  50. ‘TD

    Nope, far more to do with me having fun, oh and finally a Government that ensured we would get what we actually need for a change.

  51. RE “a new vehicle type that would do much the same as Warrior or some variant of ASCOD, and wouldn’t really Improve on what was already available and in service”
    – except that available Warrior numbers have maxed out for the various conversions
    – so this new type would come at half price of the (all new) alternative (ASCOD-based)

  52. @TD again
    And why would Army Officers doing naval tours have anything to do with the argument, defence main effort and all that”

    So now it is tri service is it? Well I merely ask as it seems the ability to contribute outside our own environment is not equal. After all why should Naval officers do army tours ?

  53. RE “more to do with the sharp pencil of BAE’s contract lawyers”
    I would not be absolutely sure (is that a nice variation on “allegedly”?) that there wasn’t collusion on both sides of the negoatiating table, to make sure the contract could not be cancelled, whatever election outcomes might be coming?

  54. I’m dying to hear what post an Andrew filled. If it wasn’t G3 (or J3) Ops it doesn’t count as terribly important. Just like in a boat the cook doesn’t get to drive, so the other staff branches are only there to feed the G3 monster.

    Maybe that is just me. I always was a G3 snob, but then I only ever did G3 operational roles ;)

  55. ‘Army Officers doing operational Naval tours please feel free to comment.’

    I doubt they’d have the time what with all the advice they’d be giving out on how to shape a beret and reminding them that not everything done in the Navy is a highly complex process.

    But simply put, most of those UOR vehicles could not keep up with a battle group and are just as limited in carrying equipment as the 432 series and legacy vehicles they should replace.The 432’s and legacy vehicles have had problems with the growth of equipment carried by the units since the late 90’s (post pallets mounted to the top of 432’s to carry kit is not uncommon).

  56. @RT

    I try not to do specs operationally but one was an MA job and the other not, both should have been Army, I have also been N3/J3 but in a NATO maritime HQ the only presence i saw was a WO2 geo guy. Never mind at sea.

  57. Maybe a bit more than that “most of those UOR vehicles could not keep up with a battle group and are just as limited in carrying equipment”?

    There is never enough of infantry, and a bn in Mastiffs, to me, looks like a mobile reserve. Not as mobile x-country as a normal mech. BG, but more mobile (speed-wise) to get to where it is needed on the brigade-scale map of Ops?

    That the kit-carrying versions share the same automotive parts is a plus (until UV replaces Mastiff, and that plus is there no more, even though the vehicles are likely to stay for many more years to bridge the gap between BG and soft-skinned rear echelons (I am aware that there are many others where the cab can be uparmoured, but look at the speed those prgrms are moving).

  58. ‘There is never enough of infantry, and a bn in Mastiffs, to me, looks like a mobile reserve. Not as mobile x-country as a normal mech.’

    Not a very mobile reserve, unless by mobile reserve you mean roads and dirt tracks which will then limit your options. the Mastiff and their sorts are adequate (although I do think the Husky and Foxhound have more utility) but will need to be replaced with something that can be used in both a peacekeeping/COIN environment and can also offer the ability to step up in terms of capability in a general conflict scenario.

    The kit carrying versions are not general issue to every ( I never saw a Javelin unit with a Wolfhound for instance, but I may be wrong) unit, and by kit I am referring to section levels of kit and not G4 or any additions. You would be hard pressed to live as a section from a Mastiff in a mechanised scenario as there is not a lot of volume for rations, ammo etc. (Afghan is fine when you are working from PB’s and FOB’s to got back to at the end of the day or in 3-4 days) but for 3-4 weeks constant movement, I don’t know.

  59. If push came to shove the deploying 3Div brigade would take another 3Div brigade’s Warrior as a substitute for Mastiff. Why Mastiff is mentioned is in 3 Div’s material orbat makes no sense. I would chop the third infantry battalion (and the Mastiffs) from each of the armoured brigades and collect them up in to a brigade specialized and trained for peacekeeping/policing work at short notice. (But only to places where the infrastructure is robust enough to take Mastiff’s weight and the streets are wide enough for its bulk. :) )

  60. @ACC

    ‘Stryker Brigade Concept

    The SBCT is a full-spectrum, combined arms force with an offensive orientation, but it also can conduct defensive and stability and support operations.’

    The Stryker Bgdes are all provided with the same base vehicle and therefore all the units are as mobile/immobile as the next, any unit can follow the same route at the same speed as the one before which make route planning easier. The Mastiff is not as capable in the offensive role as the other vehicles designed for the task. And we have not got enough infantry to allow some units to be used as the Saxon units were during the cold war purely as reinforcements for a defensive war.

    I see no problem in using the 432’s in the mechanised role (up armoured in the telic configuration and there’s still plenty of them) until FRES UV is purchased. The Mastiff can be used in the support roles and the reserves (who under army 2020 have no mechanised infantry at all) and then used for peace keeping/coin as required. It’s bad enough now with the lead units in the battlegroup having to wait now and again for the 432’s to catch up without adding the Mastiff to the mix.

  61. x – ref “But only to places where the infrastructure is robust enough to take Mastiff’s weight and the streets are wide enough for its bulk.” – Seconded. Keeps the occupants safe while not necessarily being able to get them to where they need to be. Which I suspect to many non-military liberal minded people is in itself a safety measure because the soldiers never get to put themselves in harms way. No doubt when asked “What then is the purpose of the military?” these same non-military minded individuals would respond “No purpose at all! As we always said! Disband the military! Spend the savings on big windmills!” But of course that’s just cynical conjecture on my part.

  62. @ DN,

    i agree with what you say, especially as 500+ refurbed Bulldogs ‘stand idle’.

    But you did not read further down in the lkinked article (than your quote)? The statement about same type of vehicles is not true (hence the supply will not even try to keep up in offensive operations). Those supply vehicles are huge, they are too nighly automated in their off-loading function and the whole concept is Just-In-Time!? So very few guys, very few vehicles in number, about one per Coy to be supplied, if you allow for 4 of the 14 to be going back forn resupplies.

    But with all of that we come to the ” never enough infantry”. In my mind it is crazy to expect those lumbering vehicles to do their own force protection with some cabin armour and an MG added on top. Part the mobile reserve will be needed for this purpose from time to time (one Coy?).

    Going back to x’s comment, rather than permanently have a stabilization/COIN oriented bde, you can have an instant one by pulling the Mastiff bns together from tye three RF bdes. After all, we are not going to be doing it soon again… But will have go be able to, without dedicating too much of the scarce budget. Contingencies, contingencies, in forever ending permutations.

  63. @ACC

    ‘But you did not read further down in the linked article (than your quote)? The statement about same type of vehicles is not true (hence the supply will not even try to keep up in offensive operations)’

    I think we are talking about differing parts to the formations, my primary concern is the lead units hence the quote about the unit being full spectrum and capable of offensive operations. I agree with you on the protection of the supply vehicles, for which the Mastiff is well suited maybe we could give a few to a couple of reserve infantry units and give them a force protection role? We used to have the pioneer corps that could fulfill this role, but they stopped sending them through the combat infantry mans course about 10-15 years ago I think.

  64. @DN,

    Again we agree. Yes, I am thinking/ talking at the bde level,minimum a reenforced BG, and everything that needs to keep it in action. E.g. Operation Serval was on this scale, first the initial counter-offensive and then the mopping up operations in the North, against the main base, and in the East, separately.

    Only mentioning it as an example of being able to swing from full intensity into COIN with the same equipment.

    Why is there not a fourth bn, called up from reserves, exactly for the mobile reserve and force protection roles, where wheeled would do, indeed be ideal? That used to be the British wartime footing, increasing also arty batteries proportionately, but does not come up e.g in the lengthy Army 2020 document.

  65. @ACC,

    I think we are on the same page, and I think that Op Serval highlights the need for a 8×8 type vehicle than can be both used in both high intensity and COIN without the need for two separate vehicles and the added logistical cost that comes with it.

    I agree, army 2020 seems to have completely binned the 432 from the mechanised infantry role? (unless someone with more knowledge can put me straight) which leaves the purely light role units without any dedicated vehicles (apart from MAN SV). The same said units from the reserve will then be expected to reinforce mechanised units (either Warrior, Mastiff and Foxhound) without any prior experience of using vehicles in the role. Train how you mean to fight and all that.

    But then again we would not be having this conversation if the Army/MOD had got its act together and procured the FRES UV. The time lime a gave earlier where we pulled out of the Boxer programme in 2003 and then started to purchase Mastiff in 2006 says it all. We could have just ramped up production of the prototype Boxer as is, using both core and UOR budgets and made incremental design changes as when experience dictated like we did with Mastiff.

  66. @ ACC re coin brigade and pulling batts

    Um. Yes. My thinking was we had one brigade from which one (high readiness) battle group could be pulled in rotation. Has been said here lots of times now by lots of us the Army will send whomever its needs with with whatever kit needs without any reference to nicely ordered orbats and charts that we armchair generals love so much. This feeds back to RT’s comment elsewhere that we always end up talking about kit and my part of response that is a good measure of capability. Even if the Army ignores (not the right word but it will do) orbats it can only do as much as on ration strength and material allow it do. Um. Again that is why I thought it silly to list Mastiff amongst 3 Div equipment as it will never be used. I can’t see HMG ever having the need for the deploying 3 Div brigade to ditch Warrior and take the other two brigade’s Mastiff.

    @ Chris re Mastiff

    It is a niche vehicle. Surely the lesson from the French adventures is that the every infantry section in the British Army needs a wagon to fright from, to live in, and to move in. (A small army should be properly equipped . A small army isn’t necessarily by extension a cheap army.) And I think that perhaps the abstract higher concepts bluff guff rhubarb spued out of staff proposals and think tanks and arms manufacturers’ marketing departments have moved away from those three simple needs I just listed. Somewhere between Foxhound’s £1 million price tag and the £2 million to £3 million for a modern 8×8 that has to be an innovative answer. Saying that the Army should just buy something off the shelf and stop messing around wasting money and time.

  67. When I look at modern agricultural equipment, its cost per unit, its engineering content, its sheer size, its capabilities, and finally its price I am often left feeling military equipment manufacturers are taking the pee slightly. Look at say a JCB Fastrac. Imagine something similar with a bullet proof (!) cabin module for 4 soldiers then compare it to Foxhound for the best part of a million.

  68. @x

    I think that’s the stance being taken by BAE/Iveco with their SuperAV.

    From an interview with John Swift, Program Manager for the vehicle, by Solomon on his blog:

    The next question I had concerned whether the vehicles parts would be mil spec or commercial. My thinking was that mil spec parts are always of a higher standard. John stated that contrary to popular belief, in many cases commercial parts are of better quality than mil spec. He explained it this way. Iveco is a large truck manufacturer, and those vehicles can rack up a hundred thousand miles a year or more. Military vehicles often will travel only a couple hundred. The BAE MPC is being designed to utilize off the shelf components wherever possible but not at the expense of durability or reliability.

    Source: BAE’s Marine Personnel Carrier… An interview (SNAFU! Blog, 2012)

  69. I believe the real issue with commercial parts in military equipment is through life support. If both built with COTS components, when both commercial vehicle and military vehicle start off they would be as reliable as each other, probably as reliable as a full mil spec machine. Within the first three years the military vehicle will have covered something between 2,000 & 10,000km. Within the same three years the commercial vehicle will have covered somewhere between 1,500,000 and 3,000,000km and will be pretty worn; the initial operator would at this point trade to new vehicles. By the time they are 10 years old they will be rough and if still running might already be serving the locals in West Africa or similar. Support for the COTS parts will be all closed down. And in the EU within three years the emissions regulations may well have moved so far that the ‘old’ technology is not to be supported by law just to move them out of the EU. This pace of modernization does not sit well with military equipment of projected 40 year service life.

    So unless you believe the military fleets will be replaced at 3 or 4 year intervals they either need to be manufactured with dedicated military grade components (with the security of supply that brings) or the COTS components will need to be made supportable either by holding generous stocks of spare parts all bought while still available, or by essentially ‘militarizing’ the COTS part with dedicated military support (meaning re-design and component re-manufacture) programmes run by the manufacturer. I doubt either of these are significantly cheaper than the full mil-spec option.

  70. @ TOC

    Yep. In the US there is lot of talk within the AR community about the term “mil spec” and what it actually means. The uninformed often take “mil spec” to mean “high spec” when in reality it is just “a spec” and you may not be getting the best. Mostly I take “mil spec” to mean “robustly adequate”! Que witty remarks re lowest bidder…….

    I used to work with a chap who did a lot of fishing. He used to buy an awful lot of military surplus stuff like sleeping bags etc. and he wouldn’t be shaken from his belief that he was getting the best for a bargain purely because the British Army had bought them.

  71. The SUPERAV would be very interesting for the Royal Marines, but it is produced in Italy, I believe, this changes nothing with VBCI, they are all conceived abroad, I thought your problem was the place of manufacture of vehicles ? Or so I don’t understand about your problem, it is very possible.

  72. With the SUPERAV we would get a similar deal to the Panther CLV (Iveco LMV) so it would be produced in the UK by BAE at the soon to be closed Newcastle site. So is a good deal for jobs.

  73. Thank you as, It would be great for your industry :) I hope that your government will make the right choice.

  74. @ Chris

    If thought is given to a decent chassis with room for upgrades and changes then your argument only goes so far. Engines and transmissions don’t change much size wise. Pax stay the same size. Large goods vehicles are built in class sizes that don’t radically change If a particular set of components is bought off the shelf for the initial production run, lets say the army buys a vehicle based on a particular civilian vehicle, then that vehicle will probably be on the market for what 5 years? And then legislation says spares have to be available for I think 10 years after the end of production. Even if HMG has to ensure supply of parts for longer than that 15 year period, just as it would with custom parts, it would be starting from a better place as it would be making initial savings from not going with custom kit in the first place.

  75. as,
    Is a deal like the Panther CLV what we really want? A procurement cycle so long one war was started, ran for longer than the second world war then finished before it was brought into service. Even after it was finally deployed I wouldn’t exactly class it as a resounding success.

    I’d consider giving the production contract to someone like Nissan or JLR who have large UK automotive manufacturing concerns.

    At the same time, I would advise caution in eschewing military specifications in favour of civilian spec parts. In many cases they may be cheaper and as good, or could be adapted to be so, but there are military requirements that civil kit will not meet and why BAE included their get-out clause of “but not at the expense of durability or reliability.
    For the sake of example, look at your consumer electronics and see what temperature they go down to (or up to), then go and look at what Mil-Std 810 refers to for temperature range.

    The other similar case is normal materials/parts and aerospace grade parts. The two are in many cases exactly the same, but the aerospace grade will be guaranteed for a given level of performance.

  76. If our governments are agree, we could think to a cooperation, like the agreement with Russia, producting VBCI in the UK factories, with an engine and components for the different versions that you want.
    It is possible, I’m not saying it will happen.

  77. @Frenchie

    Yeah its possible, It would not be my first choice but its a decent enough wagon.
    It is not the origin of the design that I do not agree with but the blackmail of if you buy it we will buy Watchkeeper, it has to be an agreement that suites both sides and for equipment we both want/need :-)

  78. @Frenchie: I’ve got no issue per se with buying French equipment. As per @DavidNiven, it’s the political stuff that tends to saddle us with crap we don’t want or need that’s the issue.

    That being said, given how large and heavy wheeled IFV’s are, I’m willing to bet that outside of Africa, where force densities and routes are higher, any wheeled solution will be bogged down off the roads in short order. Fighting against locals with more than the odd sharpened kiwi fruit when you cannot effectively outflank without extensive and slow engineer preparation might not work out too well.

    BTW: the words “agreement with Russia” should probably be avoided for here on in :-)

    Negotiations a tous azimuths can be taken too far!

  79. “After all why should Naval officers do army tours ?”

    Too many ships, APATS?

    Too many of those big grey cold war relics which have little utility when fighting militias in Afghanistan, Mali, or elsewhere.

    I also expect that Royal Navy whinging would be deafening if sailors weren’t allowed to take part in the war of the moment due to some trifling detail, such as the war taking place in a landlocked country.

    Perhaps the main reason why Army personnel do not often do tours with the Navy is that the Navy (being so incapable of doing Army-like things themselves) have been given a little army of its own. That little army, called the Royal Marines, does the soldiering for the Navy which the Navy can’t do for itself.

  80. “APATS, would it be fair to attribute the completion of Project CVF to the prowess of the RN argument when we all know it was a matter of public record that the SDSR process more or less agreed they should be cancelled and it was only the discovery that it would cost more to cancel that saved them.

    Nothing to do with persuasive argument and more to do with the sharp pencil of BAE’s contract lawyers”

    I think we all know that QE was being eyed up for cancellation for a number of reasons – none of which had anything whatsoever to do with persuasive arguments, capability requirements or any SDSR “process”. In no particular order those reasons were :

    1. It was probably the biggest single ticket item (apart from MRA4) that could be canned near-term, which would help achieve the objective of cutting the budget in early years (believe FSTA spend is spread, so not as effective).
    2. It would satisfy a significant number of Tory MPs with army-centric constituencies who had bought the Dannett and co inspired myth that QE was somehow all about a job creation scheme for Gordon Browns constituency, when even cursory examination of the timelines and The Great Financial Genius’ actions showed otherwise.
    3. On the basis of the myth, they could pin any resulting job losses on the GFG and generally make hay at his expense – politically very attractive at the time.

    There is also no point attempting to blame sharp BAES pencils. To do so ignores the significant pressure put on BAE/VT/BVT/Babcocks/Thales and others by Paul Drayson to downsize, merge, rationalise or have no order. In those circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that they made sure that the Government could not turn round and shaft them.

    That we have largely avoided slash and burn is to be applauded. That the execution of the QE procurement is a potmess is obvious, but never forget that a significant part of that potmess was caused by people arguing against the ship purely because it was much bigger than the CVS, rather than any rational debate as to its long-term capability or the actual effect of size on cost. Coincidentally, many of those same critics are busily arguing for more people, without any compelling evidence that it would make a capability difference and against the certain knowledge that something like 45% of the current defence budget (more if you exclude depreciation etc) is spent paying for people, providing accommodation and training areas for people and supporting that estate.

    “Too many of those big grey cold war relics which have little utility when fighting militias in Afghanistan, Mali, or elsewhere.”

    But lots of utility when it comes to operating off Libya, FYR, Iran, Somalia and dare I suggest it, containing Mr Putin’s upcoming people’s paradise by making sure alternate energy supply routes remain open?

    “I also expect that Royal Navy whinging would be deafening if sailors weren’t allowed to take part in the war of the moment due to some trifling detail, such as the war taking place in a landlocked country.”

    I expect that the whingeing from the Army when it discovered shorfalls in air cover, lift, signals, IED clearance and medical support caused by the RN not being there would be fairly extensive as well, but don’t let that stop you!

    “Perhaps the main reason why Army personnel do not often do tours with the Navy is that the Navy (being so incapable of doing Army-like things themselves) have been given a little army of its own. That little army, called the Royal Marines, does the soldiering for the Navy which the Navy can’t do for itself.”

    It also seems to do proportionally much more soldiering (based on contributions to Telic & Herrick) with a much smaller establishment than the army manages to do with 15 times the manpower……………

  81. @NAB

    ‘It also seems to do proportionally much more soldiering (based on contributions to Telic & Herrick) with a much smaller establishment than the army manages to do with 15 times the manpower……………’

    I have no problem with credit where it is due but to talk as if the navy have done more than their share in Afghan pushses it slightly, out of 19 Herricks of which only 6 onwards were brigade deployments into Helmand, 3 Cdo have done 3 tours( so 3 out of 13 ), not forgetting that the brigade is composed of roughly half army personnel.

    Also at what point were the NAS deployed? from the beginning or later after we reaslised we did not have enough rotary lift? I mean I know they are just Pongo’s who would be at least doing something for their country losing their legs in Helmand (rather than being the chavs on the street corner) but I would have thought that even the senior service would not begrudge the use of some of their assets (who are as we know unbelievably highly trained compared to the other services purely due to the very complex nature of their jobs) to help out.

    like to add once again I am not saying the Navy have not provided a valuable contribution, but to try and imply that you have done all the heavy lifting at the expense of fighting, who? in defence of the nations shipping routes is up for debate atleast.

  82. All well and good NaB but my point was a simple one, what ultimately saved CVF was not some elegant superiority of the requirement, but contract conditions that made them more expensive to cancel, ToBA for example.

    It just is what it is.

    On balance, I actually think the industrial approach it is a good thing because it keeps the skills and production capacity in place, although it might sometimes produce anomalies and problems elsewhere

    Would also add, tread lightly when making points about why the Army found itself a tad short of HT CIED personnel

    Also, don’t forget the RM have a limited span of trades compared to the Army so a better comparison would be to look at them against the Infantry and then remove their logs, engineering and artillery components

    The Naval Strike Wing very definitely carried a big burden with Harriers before Tornado deployed but don’t forget, its a big old joint world anyway, JFH and all that

  83. In no way suggesting that the Navy have done most of the heavy lifting – far from it. Merely trying to illustrate the disparity between BBs post and the actualite. Ditto your third paragraph, where no-one (least of all me) has suggested that the RN begrudge assets to support the main effort.

    As for NAS, 800 (remember them?) went on Herrick in 2006, as did the NSW later. 845/846/847 and 854/857 have been out there for several years now, not just doing lift.

    It is absolutely true that the army makes up a significant proportion of 3Cdo, but 3/13 is still a major effort from a force where there are only three battalion sized combat units – even with significant additional batts from the army.

    Absolutely not a suggestion that the RN have done all the heavy lifting, more a reminder that a significant contribution has been made despite “trifling details” of geography, while still (mostly) being able to do the day job.

  84. “All well and good NaB but my point was a simple one, what ultimately saved CVF was not some elegant superiority of the requirement, but contract conditions that made them more expensive to cancel, ToBA for example.”

    Would not dispute it. It was the suggestion that cancellation was the product of some sort of “process” (thereby implying any sort of rational look at required capability, rather than “quick cancel anything that looks expensive”) that I was countering.

    Of course the ToBA was a direct result of the doings of Paul Drayson and his DIS, as referred to above, rather than sharp BAE lawyers.

  85. “but 3/13 is still a major effort from a force where there are only three battalion sized combat units”

    That leaves 10/13 for the army, and assuming the same ratio of three battalions covering each means that the Army would need to have well over thirty infantry battalions before we see the three Marine battalions providing a disproportionate infantry contribution.

    Does the Army have thirty infantry battalions?

    And returning to the Navy; if the Navy are routinely doing “army” tours, and the converse does not apply, then the logical conclusion is that the Navy is overmanned and the Army is undermanned. Too much Navy.

  86. BB, you can never have too much Navy. I just wish they had the right sort of boats to be actually useful.

    I nearly typed that with a straight face. ;)

  87. I think Drafty would say the RN has more gaps than an unused noughts and crosses board. Games in the Sandbox have just exhabated the problem.

  88. “Does the Army have thirty infantry battalions?”

    Not post Army 2020 – combined Reaction / Adaptable force EXCLUDING Army Reserve indicates 29. But throughout Telic/Herrick, yes – by some margin.

    One might also suggest that the principal reason you don’t see army doing navy (or RAF tours – although I know some who do) is that a number of core RN/RAF skills (flying, EOD, signals, med etc) are transferable across environments, but the converse does not apply. That is the logical conclusion, rather than facile suggestions that the RN is overmanned.

  89. ‘but 3/13 is still a major effort from a force where there are only three battalion sized combat units’

    3 battalion sized units from a pool of over 8000 marines, the senior service might have her priorities a bit skewed if you are having trouble finding matelots to man your ships. All but 2 of the NAS you mentioned were part of joint commands, granted you did manage to fulfill all this while doing the day job and I have to admit those Caribbean drug smugglers could give the Taliban a run for their money.

    I don’t recall the RAF and the Army claiming that they had done all the heavy lifting after the Falklands campaign, which was as we all know an amphibious operation, different times I suppose.

    PS Last comment got eaten by the spam monster, I suppose there are some terms you cannot use to describe the Navy ;-)

  90. It is a navy site afterall… All those stories about TD being RAF are only a smoke screen.

  91. Can’t help feeling that if our next antagonist is likely to be Russia, rebuilding Naval and Air Forces sufficient to keep them at a safe distance is going to be a lot easier than building up an Army big enough to make any serious difference…both financially and otherwise…although @RT and others are going to be royally pissed off when recalled to the Colours to serve as deckhands for Andrew or Cocktail Waiters for Kevin. My assumption being that we can get “extended readiness” items back to sea and rebuild squadrons by retaining items earmarked for disposal and purchasing other people’s unwanted production slots but will need more people accustomed to military discipline to backfill on less skilled roles than trained Sailors and Airmen…

    That said, we will need Soldiers to secure some important submarines on the Clyde, or conduct COIN operations in Edinburgh New Town…

    A dystopian Gloomy :-)

  92. @DN

    “3 battalion sized units from a pool of over 8000 marines, the senior service might have her priorities a bit skewed if you are having trouble finding matelots to man your ships.”

    They have a 4th “Battalion” sized formation in 43 Cdo or FPGRM with 800 personnel in it and indeed the Cdo Logistics Regiment is Battalion sized. 1 Assault group accounts for more personnel as well.

  93. So a further 800 and 400 ( Cdo log is navy/army) plus 110 for 1 Assualt group (although we do have 17 port and maritime who could operate all the landing craft, and leave the hovercraft and raiders to the royals) and a further 500 for recce/int

    So a further manning requirement of 1810 plus the 3 Cdo’s at 800 each = 4210 say 4500 for training staff and petty cash.

  94. GNB,

    I have a truly massive ego and a winning way to get other people to do what I want. I also failed to bash up the cliff face with the inshore patrol vessel when doing the Junior Lt’s Andrew Navigation course, which is considerably better than even some proper Andrew officers.

    What other qualities are needed to command a boat? I’m quite looking forward to the call up. :)

    I’m not cheap however. I want a truly massive boat with a big flat roof on it for doing potted sports, and for launching helicopters from. A boat with a Royal name on it, I think.

  95. @RT – I don’t doubt you would handle the responsibility admirably, but I was only joking…I had you pencilled in to lead “Breeksforce” from Berwick upon Tweed up the Great North Road…

    Daftness aside, I’ve floated a couple of more serious ideas that you might want to think’on of a non-kit nature over on the open thread…


  96. “I don’t recall the RAF and the Army claiming that they had done all the heavy lifting after the Falklands campaign, which was as we all know an amphibious operation, different times I suppose.”

    Um. During that spring when I heard the war discussed by Mr and Mrs Man-in-the-Street it was often in terms of the RAF shooting down Argie planes, the Army shooting Argies, and the RN having ships sunk (even when the ships being sunk weren’t “strictly” RN)………..

    When this topic comes I often wonder whether Ward was right and not just being a bit loony when he complained about the RAF medal count and presence at memorialss for the conflict.

  97. ‘Um. During that spring when I heard the war discussed by Mr and Mrs Man-in-the-Street it was often in terms of the RAF shooting down Argie planes, the Army shooting Argies, and the RN having ships sunk (even when the ships being sunk weren’t “strictly” RN)’

    And I dare say Mr and Mrs Man-in-the-street would say the same today, this forum however attracts people who are interested in defence and therefore have at least a working knowledge on the subject.

  98. There were about 5-6 infantry battalion equivalents from about 2008 in Afghan per roulement until I think 2012.

  99. Using ‘Sharky’ Ward as an unbiased indicator is a little unwise I think. Having read his book he comes across as a somewhat bitter and twisted, and somewhat forgetful of how many RAF pilots flew Sea Harriers, during the ‘unpleasantness’ on Dartmoor South. (Not withstanding the contribution of 1 sqn). Indeed, the andrews capability for forgetting the ‘Flight’ bit of the highest scoring pilots rank, smacks a little of sour grapes.

    Although, his comments about the dismissive attitude of the andrew to the capabilities of the Sea Harrier and fixed wing naval aviation were enlightening, in the light of some commentators stated opinions blaming the RAF for the disposal of the harriers.

  100. Oh and by the way… (In a desperate, and ultimately doomed attempt to drag the threads helm back onto the line of march, and correct altitude and heading) :)

    I still think the Centauro/ Freccia combo is the answer for our mechanised brigades.

    You could keep a traditional Challenger/ Warrior/ AS90 heavy division- for those times when there’s nothing quite like a f**king great MBT sitting outside the presidential palace, for getting a message across.

    The rest of the divisions could be rapidly deployable Freccia/ Centauro units.

    Specialised versions of the Freccia would replace most of the CVRT range, and most of the other myriad of vehicles we are currently equipped with, keeping Foxhound and Jackal and passing Warthog onto the RM.

    (I have said this before- way before TD nicked my Idea :) )

  101. @DH, I guess the RF bdes put together will tick one of the bo/es.

    The Freccia & co run is so small that unit costs are in line with US Strykers – without all those gizmos that give you integrated fire confrol across the whole area of a unit’s operation. Otherwise a solid piece of kit.

    Once you take the TES kit away (why would you?) From Warthogs, they might be able to swim…quite essential in the RM use? This whole notion of an armour support unit is window dressing… It is protected transport. I won’t even say protected mobility (try to tally up the kit and capacity, and see what kind of unit could go onto them, as a whole).

  102. Reading the comments above re RM major units and manning of around 8000 regulars.
    I too was puzzling myself over this just recently.

    By my count the RM have 7 Battalion or Regiment sized formations, 2 of which, the SBS and 1 AG, I count as Regiments but much smaller.

    Add to this CTCRM, 539 Assault Squadron, postings elsewhere, the RM bands, RM working in positions at the MoD, I struggle to total the manpower up to the 8000 total?

    Where are they all?

    Anyone more knowledgeable than me out there to enlighten me?

    On the argument about service priorities, to me the RN and the RAF should always get priority, the RN more so, as these are the power projection forces.

  103. @Daniele Mandelli : according to the latest manpower figures, the RM are actually 5650 or so. The additional manpower is from the Army

  104. @ david haine

    I take everything with a good dollop of skepticism.

    But nothing annoys me more (fibbing there lots of stuff annoys me more!) than the RAF pilot flying SHAR fandangle, The majority of pilots were FAA flying FAA cabs from RN decks. If FAA FJ pilot numbers hadn’t been eviscerated due to drawn post CVA cancellation then there wouldn’t have been a shortfall. Didn’t one of the RAF pilots see the light and transfer?

  105. Ah X, you mean Dave Morgan?

    A good bloke, but he did not see any lights nor drink any dark blue cool-aid. He originally wanted to be in the FAA, and even went through naval cadets. Seems like somewhere along the line, he could not get into the FAA, probably due to the post CV01 drawdown.

    Reading his book, tells you a great deal that on a working pilot/crew level, there is little animosity other the the usual, but there was in the upper levels, from Mr Wards level upwards… towards the end of Morgans book, it is quite saddening to read how things went.

    It goes both ways, always does.

    And this has been done to death and brings up the silliness.

    As with our ‘one sided’ relationship – can you blame a nation for putting its interests first? lol happens all the time, only rarely does a requirement actually benefit both parties… for example the New ASM. But that’s before we get to the “who builds it, where” part :D

  106. @ mike

    Just making sure the thread covers all the bases. Only medium range bomber and small arms calibre to go………..

    BTW I am well aware of Mr Morgan, but to say he wanted to be FAA prior to joining wouldn’t have helped me cause now would it? Though it does show as I said about FAA FJ pilots and draw down.

  107. @ Chris

    Have you ever looked at the USMC AAV replacement? Now there is subject worthy of study. Can you design a faster AAV that isn’t as expensive as the aborted EFV?

  108. x – I’m sure I could… but haven’t yet. The underlying engineering is very flexible and can be configured with minimal impact any way that suits the vehicle’s role – in this case a floating APC/IFV. The Soviet designed BMP & BTR series vehicles are good in water – they float level which is a good start – but achieved that by keeping armour light for the size. This I suspect is the real issue here; the displacement vs. mass of armour is generally biased towards (very) negative buoyancy (!) Maybe its just easier to fit the things with breathing air tanks and let them drive on the sea/lake/river bed? Certainly if the current levels of protection were to be mandated the chances of creating something that floats and that is physically smaller than LCU are slim.

  109. Chris,
    Vapourware is always better than real systems, so of course your vehicles are better.

  110. @chris
    The Kurganets 25 the Russians are developing as part of the Armata programme based on as much commonality between their new MBT and their heavy IFV / wheeled BMP/BTR replacement as they can manage (what a good idea! Who’d of thought it!) Can it swim like its predecessors ? With what level of protection fitted?
    Can the protection upgrade be stripped off quickly whilst a water crossing is attempted and then quickly refitted ? (by quickly I mean less than 1 hour or will it rely on active defence?)

  111. MrFred – I agree; we all need to start somewhere and it makes no sense designing in bad ideas just to make the things look more real. One of my colleagues many years ago was asked how reliable his proposed design was. He responded it was completely reliable; he had never designed any unreliability into any of his projects – that was added when the designs were implemented. Anyway I’m flattered you agree they are better…

    Monkey – I don’t know I haven’t looked into these yet. Although I believe the up-armouring of BMP3 and BTR90 pretty well wiped out the amphibious capability (although I may be wrong) – so mixing in MBT scale mechanicals and protection will have little effect on the (lack of) BMP/BTR ability to swim. I took a close look at BMP1 and the BRDM2 parked next to it in the Tank Museum recently – the steelwork felt no thicker than the Ferret halfway down the same hall, somewhere around the 8-10mm mark. When you see photos of BMP swimming the waterline is over the sponson; about 250mm from the hull roofplate. That really doesn’t leave much capacity to up-armour before buoyancy is lost. So unless the new armour structure is made of lighter material, or is as you say a lightweight base vehicle with tonnes of appliqué hung on it, I doubt floating is one of the characteristics.

  112. Its Sunday and i’m on my 3rd bottle of Veuve Clicquot (stop sniggering RT, budget dictates) so bare with me. I have it on authority from a rather portly female reporter sort that the VBCI is a go ahead and she is currently scrawling the acceptance story for release to the media. Read into that what you will but she did seem quite adamant. To be honest i don’t think its a bad thing, she seemed quite enthusiastic about the capabilities of the VBCI and who am i to argue with a civvy, they apparently know far more then us mere mortals.


  113. BV, it’s the reporter in her. Once they start writing, they transcend mortality (and morality sometimes) and attain Godhood and all us lesser mortals should bow before them.

  114. BV Buster,

    I wouldn’t worry about Veuve Cliquot. Danielle Pol Roger is a hottie and in addition to marrying Christian she has full rights over Chateau Cissac.

    I’m quite enamoured with Kate Adie. I spent 6 hours in her company once during Gulf One, and I can report that she does not wear a bra, and is quite partial to cavalrymen.

  115. @ numbers : I assume a mastiff replacement, work it out, 3 Bns worth ish.

    @ Morality : It will forever remain in my mind watching a size 16 female squeeze into the commanders seat of a CVR, I shouldn’t have gotten aroused but with all that cannon and love handle action who wouldn’t have ?

    The interesting thing came from the BAE guy (who I didn’t know was BAE, so i slagged them off massively until the “Awkward” moment when he unzipped his jacket reveling his BAE polo shirt, this is turning in to some sort of Mills and Boon novel) he was involved in some sort CVR upgrade if SCOUT fails, i clearly mentioned that SCOUT is bigger then Jesus and wont.

  116. Hasn’t the entire British Army claimed to have been there :)

    Anyway, this whole VBCI thing, not sure about the timing. It has only been a few weeks since it was announced we were going to borrow a few to assess them. From that to some sort of accelerated FRES UV just seems a stretch.

    Am sceptical to be honest

  117. @ RT I’m glad to have your approval. You met Kate Adie? my god I was from the wrong era, I was happy to meet Fern Briton in TELIC, and i tell you she had to wear a bra. Sorry I missed the last part of your post, you imply that all woman are not partial to a cavalryman?

  118. @ TD, I passed through Bovie a few months ago, seemed to be a flap on about VBCI, I thought nothing of it until i met the chunky reporter C/S. I also think its all come too soon, somehow we will fuck it up and delay it by a few years. Message me for the full story.

  119. If we get them I will be glad. Makes my idea of a true rapid reaction mech brigade a goer.

    I am going off to see if these things swim……

  120. BV Buster,

    I think you are unfair. The only girls I shagged in Gulf One were from Yorkshire Television, a girl with a French TV channel, a Lance Corporal in the Pay Corps, and a Flight Lieutenant in the Air Force .

  121. GNB,

    Only keeping up the batting average. I was there for 6 months. I don’t even recall her name, which is pretty shameful, but I can report that the pull down desk in a Sultan command wagon can take the weight of a blonde LCpl in the Pay Corps and a cavalry captain. :)

  122. Hang on a minute DN, were/are you blond, a LCpl in the Pay Corps and anywhere near a Sultan during GW1?!

  123. I might have forgotten her name, but she certainly wasn’t called David Niven.

    I can recall that she was sent around to sign soldiers up with instant Wills (there is a proper Army Form for that), that she missed her Land Rover out, that she was from Newcastle, and that she had chosen to lady garden herself into a heart shape. And that she had a small scar in her left eyebrow. But I don’t recall her name, other than it not being David Niven.

  124. ‘but she certainly wasn’t called David Niven’ …………………………… Then

  125. If they are just about to order several hundred VBCI (and at this point I am of the opinion that something is better than nothing) what going to happen to all of the Mastiff and Wolfhounds we are bringing back, are they going to be reconfigured for support roles?

  126. You lot are missing the elephant in the thread.

    RT said something complimentary about an Alvis product.

    @ Tubby

    They will end up in disposal yards hopefully. Or artificial reefs. Or sold to police departments in the fly over states of the US.

    I am thinking we should buy 2 lots of the APC version and 1 lot with a turret and that crap French gun we are funding. Give the APCs to the Guards and the ones with crap turrets to the Household Cavalry. Mini rapid reaction mech brigade. The Household Div always end up whiling their way into the bunfight so they might as well as take the new kit.

  127. @X

    I get that Mastiff and Wolfhound are crap, but presumably if we can get them out of Afghanistan (assuming our recent issues with Russia doesn’t scupper our plans to move equipment out of Afghanistan) -could we use them as gun limbers or support vehicles for the Royal Artillery or use them in the UK to replace older unprotected vehicles like the landrover, as it seems prudent to keep them in case we need them?

  128. Tubby – these vehicles are pretty limited with regards mobility – roads and tracks of suitable girth only. Soft terrain is not really viable as they bog like the heavy trucks they are. Narrow tracks are difficult because of their width; weak structures like bridges struggle to support their axle weight. They’re OK in Astan, they’d do OK in north Africa I guess where the ground is firm and flat. But as a go anywhere asset they are not too clever.

  129. Could the Mastiff/Wolfhound be converted into a Half-Track? I don’t think we have ever discussed that option have we?

  130. @Chris

    While it has been clear that the Mastiff family are not good enough to fulfil the FRES UV role as they lack the mobility of a modern 8 x 8, I am just to trying to clarify if they are they to heavy and immobile to be used in a secondary capacity in the British Army. From what you have said it sounds like they do not really have a useful role. How about giving them to the RAF regiment for them to use on airbases, as from my experience generally the land around the run ways and taxiways is flat and well drained, so they should be okay for operating on an air base?

    This all presumes that the rumour of a VBCI purchase refers to a large buy to fill the roles originally intended for Mastiff in Army 2020, rather than us buying a small number for evaluation or a niche role.

  131. Tubby – I imagine airfield defence would be within their mobility envelope, although how many of the fleet could be used this way?

    Simon257 – one of my ex-bosses said this on half-tracks: ‘You look at the idea of a half-track and it looks good – the mobility of a tracked vehicle with the simplicity of support of a truck. The reality is different. On soft ground the front axle bogs. In sloppy conditions the steering effect of the front wheels is overruled by the traction of the tracks resulting in loss of steering. On roads the tracks wear as fast as any tracked vehicle’s tracks would. In truth the half-track offers the mobility of a truck with the support requirements of a tracked vehicle.’ This seems to be a valid assessment; maybe within the commenter pool there are owners of WW2 M3 or FAMO half-tracks who could offer first hand knowledge? Half-track Mastiff would be fun, it would look interesting, but it probably wouldn’t bring a seriously valuable capability.

  132. Mastiff and Wolfhound are good enough to be used as convoy escort (they have the same limitations as the trucks they are escorting) and as Tubby said some support vehicles for non front line units. I would hope that they are kept as both a reserve for any future use in peacekeeping etc and as a pool of vehicles for the reserves to train with, so that they can get experience in using/moving and living out of armoured vehicles.

  133. @ Chris

    The Israelis really loved their M3s. They saw halftracks as having unique qualities that neither a full tracked or wheeled vehicle possessed.

    I like these,

    or similar.

    @ Tubby

    I suppose giving them to the RAF to ride around in is one thing for what they would be good. Flat, level ground that is known Not much cover out there for dismounts so they would be better than Land Rovers. Better than spending more money than getting new Foxhound.

  134. x – Mattracks are interesting, although a bit like snow tyres probably best used only when necessary – I imagine their track life if used on dry roads would be measured in the hundreds of miles as opposed the thousands we all expect from much cheaper tyres? And of course the military are expeditionary (not returning to home base each night) so these devices would become cargo for the duration, and they are bulky items. And for nominal truck-sized tyres the law now says manhandling wheels is not permitted; mechanical handling is required. Which is why wheeled vehicles are moving toward tyre inflation systems/tyre sealant goo/runflat inserts in place of carrying a spare on the vehicle.

    As for the IDF and their halftrack experience? I imagine (don’t know because I’ve never been there) that the terrain is hard dusty & rocky, where the front wheels would not bog nor squirm in slime and where the traction of the track would propel the vehicle through terrain wheels would struggle to maintain purchase. Probably a good fit. Here is an example of another vehicle designed for similar environments:

    In the deserts along the northern edge of Africa in WW2 the Allies had difficulty squaring up to Rommel’s Panzers. Allied tanks were either fast and lightly protected, or well protected and slow. Something better was specified by the War Office and the US asked to build a suitably compliant machine. The result was TE18E2, known to the UK as Boarhound. It was best part of 30t, the size of a tank, carried a tank like turret with a 6pdr (57mm) gun. A bit like a wheeled Sherman. It was however well armoured and fast for its day (80km/h), ideal for chasing down Axis forces on the wide open hard-packed desert. As is the way with military procurement (particularly when undertaken by other nations on your behalf) it arrived late, at least in part because the US authorities pulled rank to get the Boarhound design team working on DUKW instead, so was ready for production just after the North African campaign was settled. However with a 3m width and 25m turning circle radius (50m/160ft turning circle kerb-kerb) it was completely unsuitable for use in the confines of northern Europe, and was never fielded. Just one of the thirty vehicles of the initial production run survived and is sitting in the Tank Museum’s new tin shed awaiting a bit of TLC.

    So even though the M3 was right for Israel, as were Mastiff, Ridgeback, Wolfhound, MRAP etc in Afghanistan, it may not be an indication that these sort of vehicles would be good options for other environments.

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