Defence for 2015 and Beyond – Part 8 the British Army 2025

A series of guest posts from AndyC

Coping with reduced overall numbers while integrating a substantially expanded reserve force and maintaining capability was always going to be challenging.  However, in spite of some criticism the design of the Army 2020 force structure is logical and compelling.

Dividing the Army into a Reaction Force, Adaptable Force and Force Troop Command enables it to maintain both a high degree of readiness and support for multiple missions.

Integrating both regular and reserve units on a three year rotation ensures that enough of them are available for potential deployment while maximising both individual and collective training.

Whether it’s dealing with threats in southern, northern and eastern Europe or global intervention the previous scenario analysis shows that the Army has the structures and numbers to fulfil its missions.  In particular the ability to deploy a Brigade size unit in the Joint Rapid Reaction Force and then scale up to full Division strength is very effective.

Enduring stabilisation can also be provided at Brigade level strength over the longer term.  However, with a higher threat level in Europe and fewer numbers in the Army compared to the last ten years it needs to be recognised that providing anything more than a Brigade at any one time would stretch resources too thinly.

One of the most significant new pieces of equipment currently on order is the Scout SV family of armoured reconnaissance vehicles.  Budgets permitting the Scout SV could equip all of the Cavalry Regiments in both the Reaction and Adaptable Forces replacing their CVR(T) and Jackals, as well as the Royal Artillery’s Stormer anti-aircraft vehicle and the Samaritan armoured ambulance.

FRES SV Scout
FRES SV Scout

Another significant new piece of equipment is the Watchkeeper UAV which will replace the Gazelle helicopter.

Watchkeeper RPAS Air Vehicle
Watchkeeper RPAS Air Vehicle

The Warrior infantry fighting vehicle is being updated to ensure its effectiveness and could then be used to equip all nine of the Reaction Force’s Infantry Battalions.

In addition, the Apache attack helicopter is being upgraded to keep it fully modernised and an assessment should be made into whether it can be armed with the longer range Brimstone 2 anti-armour missile.  The Wildcat helicopter also needs to be equipped with either the LMM or the Brimstone 2 to increase its versatility and give it a secondary anti-armour role.

With smaller numbers, the key to the Army’s success has to be its flexibility to operate in different combat environments.  In particular the Adaptable Force needs to live up to its name and train, operate and have the appropriate equipment to be effective in many roles.

An essential part of this flexibility is the ability to deploy the Army’s full force of Challenger 2 main battle tanks.  In addition to the Armoured Regiments of the Reaction Force some units of the Adaptable Force need to be trained to use surplus tanks that are now in storage.  Specifically eight Sabre Squadrons in four of the Cavalry Regiments should be trained to operate eighteen Challenger 2s each.  This would convert them into Heavy Cavalry Regiments.  These 144 tanks should be kept in storage in Germany with their crews being flown to them in a period of high tension.

If the Adaptable Force’s Cavalry Regiments are re-equipped with Scout SV armoured reconnaissance vehicles they should also receive training on the Jackal as a light alternative.  In this scenario the Jackals would need to be maintained in storage.

German Boxer vehicle on operations in Afghanistan
German Boxer vehicle on operations in Afghanistan
VBCI Mali
VBCI Mali

The Army needs to decide quickly on a Utility Vehicle (UV) to replace the aged Bulldog APC in all its roles and the Vector mobility vehicle.  The UV could potentially go on to equip all of the Infantry Battalions in the Adaptable Force if budgets allow.  In this situation Mastiff, Ridgeback and Foxhound vehicles would be maintained in storage to allow several Infantry Battalions to train and use them when they would be more effective.

The Royal Artillery needs to evaluate the Fire Shadow loitering missile to establish whether it will add to the capabilities of its long-range GMLRS system and AS-90 self-propelled artillery.  The CAMM-L mobile surface-to-air missile will be introduced to replace the Rapier and will operate in partnership with the high velocity Starstreak.

 

The major threat to the Army 2020 plan comes from the lack of reserve troops to supplement the regular forces.  This would clearly reduce the effectiveness of any combat group if troop units were significantly lacking in numbers and must be addressed.

It is also important that the Army trains with allied forces to ensure co-ordination of planning and maximise fighting capacity.  The Army should be prioritising joint exercises in Poland with both the Polish Army and rapid reaction units of the German and French Armies and deployment to Norway in association with the Norwegian Army and amphibious units.

The SDSR of 2015 will need to examine a number of options based on the size of the defence budget.  Option 1 is an analysis of what limited additional forces could be acquired if the defence budget were to be increased while 5 and 6 reflect what would need to be done if there are more cuts.

Army Option 1 – the biggest deficiency in military force outlined in the scenario analysis is the lack of main battle tanks and armoured fighting vehicles in general.  However, it would be too expensive to build and operate a larger fleet of Challenger 2s but it would be sensible to increase our anti-tank capabilities.  This could be done in one of three main ways:

  • retain the use of 24 Lynx AH9 attack helicopters which are currently due to retire in 2015 or
  • order 20 Reaper UCAVs armed with Brimstone 2 anti-armour missiles or
  • order 18 new Apache attack helicopters.

In addition, the Army would purchase 600 Scout SVs to equip all of its Cavalry Regiments and replace the Stormer and Samaritan plus 1,700 Utility Vehicles to equip all of the Adaptable Force’s Infantry Battalions.  Maintain surplus Challenger 2, Jackal, Mastiff, Ridgeback and Foxhound vehicles in storage.

Army Option 2 – purchase 600 Scout SVs to equip all of the Cavalry Regiments and replace the Stormer and Samaritan plus 1,700 UVs to equip all of the Adaptable Force’s Infantry Battalions.  Maintain surplus Challenger 2, Jackal, Mastiff, Ridgeback and Foxhound vehicles in storage.

Army Option 3 – purchase 600 Scout SVs to equip all of the Cavalry Regiments and replace the Stormer and Samaritan.  Order just 1,000 UVs to equip the majority of the Adaptable Force’s Infantry Battalions while keeping existing Mastiff, Ridgeback and Foxhound vehicles in service.  Maintain surplus Challenger 2 and Jackal vehicles in storage.

Army Option 4 – purchase just 250 Scout SVs for the Reaction Force’s Cavalry Regiments and to replace the Samaritan, while the Adaptable Force’s Cavalry Regiments continue to use the Jackal.  Order 1,000 UVs.  Maintain surplus Challenger 2s in storage.

Army Option 5 – the Adaptable Force is made up of a total of 36 Infantry Battalions – 28 of which are available for the three year rotation cycle while the others are available for ceremonial duties or posted abroad.  Counting the 3 Infantry Battalions posted in Cyprus and Brunei as part of the three year rotation cycle could enable their total number in the Adaptable Force to be reduced to 33.  This would represent a reduction of approximately 2,000 personnel and 2% of the Army’s numbers.  New orders would drop to 250 Scout SVs and 850 UVs.  Maintain surplus Challenger 2s in storage.

Army Option 6 – including all of the Battalions on ceremonial duties in the three year rotation programme and sharing some of their duties with other units could enable the total number of Infantry Battalions to be reduced further to 30.  This would represent a second reduction of 3 Battalions, about 2,000 personnel and 2% of the Army’s headcount.  New orders would be cut further to 250 Scout SVs and just 700 UVs.  Maintain surplus Challenger 2s in storage.

 

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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