Defence for 2015 and Beyond – Part 4 NATO

A series of guest posts from AndyC

NATO is clearly the UK’s most important international defence obligation.  Our forces need to be able to operate in defence of any member nation whose security is under threat.  This requires a high degree of mobility and the ability to co-operate effectively with allies in many different terrains and environments.

The Ukraine crisis shows that we must plan for contingencies and possible future threats and maintain a high level of deterrence and preparedness.

Under existing plans the UK maintains a Joint Rapid Reaction Force in a state of high readiness made up of elements from:

The British Army including Special Forces, the Air Assault Task Force and the Lead Armoured Task Force with support from three Army Air Corps Regiments;

The Royal Marines consisting of the Lead Commando Unit with support from one attack and three transport helicopter Squadrons and;

The RAF providing support aircraft from one Squadron of C-17 Globemaster heavy transport aircraft, three Squadrons of A400 Atlas medium transport aircraft, two Squadrons of A330 Voyager aerial tankers/transports and five helicopter transport Squadrons plus ISTAR and AWACS aircraft.  The air combat element would be provided by one swing-role fighter Squadron.

To provide a minimum effective Joint Rapid Reaction Force requires:

  • At least 1 Brigade strength unit made up of elements from Special Forces, the Air Assault Brigade, Royal Marines Commandos and an Armoured Infantry Brigade
  • 2 Apache AH Regiments
  • 1 Wildcat AH Regiment and 1 Wildcat Marines AH Squadron
  • 1 C-17 Globemaster Squadron
  • 3 A400MC Atlas Squadrons
  • 2 A330MRTT Voyager Squadrons
  • 3 Chinook HC Squadrons
  • 2 Puma HC Squadrons
  • 3 Merlin HC Squadrons
  • 1 swing-role fighter Squadron
  • 1 E-3 Sentry AWACS Squadron and
  • 5 ISTAR Squadrons.

If further escalation is required the full complement of the Air Assault Brigade, Royal Marines Commandos and an Armoured Infantry Brigade would be deployed bringing the Reaction Force up to Division strength.  Two additional swing-role fighter Squadrons would also be deployed in support.

Next would come two Armoured Infantry Brigades and two Adaptable Force Infantry Brigades which would provide enough troops for a second Division.   In this planning scenario 3rd (UK) Division would form up around the three Armoured Infantry Brigades and 1st (UK) Division would be based on the Air Assault Brigade, Royal Marines Commandos and the two Adaptable Force Infantry Brigades.  Further swing-role air combat support would be provided by the Test & Evaluation Squadron.



The rest of the series

Part 1 – Introduction

Part 2 – Defence of the United Kingdom

Part 3 – Other Sovereign Territories

Part 4 – NATO

Part 5 – A Southern or Middle Eastern Threat

Part 6 – An Eastern and Northern Threat

Part 7 – Global Intervention

Part 8 – British Army 2025

Part 9 – Royal Navy 2025

Part 10 – Royal Air Force 2025

Part 11 – Conclusion

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John Hartley
John Hartley
July 12, 2014 3:43 pm

The Guardinog has an article on a MOD 100 page paper about global security trends out to 2045. Insects carrying diseases are one forecast weapon, along with corporate armies & micro sats. Oh & were all going to be fighting with lasers.

July 12, 2014 5:36 pm

@Andy C – A welcome series but perhaps one at a time would’ve been better?

The Other Chris
July 12, 2014 8:08 pm


This popped up in the Blog list rather than the Journal.

July 14, 2014 11:05 am

I am not sure that the composition of the JRRF is really the most important aspect of UK’s relationship with NATO.

SDSR2010 highlighted these as key points in the UK-NATO relationship (apart from ISAF)

• continue to support the generation of those skills and capabilities which allow the Allies to work together on operations, including, as appropriate, with non-NATO partners
• recognise the importance of NATO’s wider security role in responding to new types of threat such as those from cyber attack, including by supporting a renewed emphasis on consultation under Article IV of the Washington Treaty
• continue to reform NATO, including by improving how its headquarters work, rationalising NATO Agencies, and by developing command and force structures that can better deliver a robust and credible response to current and emerging security challenges
• build more efficient and effective partnerships between NATO, other organisations and states in order to combine civilian and military capabilities more effectively to improve the response to security threats
• in particular, foster better EU-NATO cooperation and ensure that both organisations can call on scarce national military planning and civilian resources; sharing expertise and developing complementary, rather than duplicate, skills and capabilities.

Although much of this is diplomatic blah there are some interesting issues which could/should be resolved in the next SDSR:

(1) Having relocated HQ ARRC to Innsworth, should the UK continue to support a 3* HQ as framework nation, or is this just a legacy vanity Command for the Army ?

(2) With a reduced number of escort surface combatants and MCMV, how can UK best support the Standing NATO maritime commitments ? Is it more important than sending a T45 to chase drug smugglers in the Caribbean ?

(3) Would the UK be better off buying into the NATO E-3 programme than updating its own ?

(4) Is there any practical way that UK can strengthen EU-NATO links, or is this just smokescreen ?

September 18, 2014 10:11 am

No mention of the RAF Regiment? I thought they were supposed to be part of the JRRF?