SDSR 2015 Sacred Cows #2 – Royal Marines and Parachute Regiment

So I know most Paras and Royal Marines would rather rub shit in their eyes than entertain the idea but this is a perennial sacred cow subject, even more so than the Red Arrows, but still, the question should be asked.

Does the UK get more than the sum of its parts from the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines?

We like to talk of tradition the modern Royal Marines actually have a short(ish) history and the Parachute Regiment, likewise.

Both have their own training methods, ethos, specialisms and fighting spirit, but is the duplication justifiable when in reality, amphibious and airborne assaults are looking increasingly unlikely? (a questionable comment by the way, but one for discussion) and at the end of the day, they are both light infantry?

Is there that much difference between the two and other infantry units, did the Rifles perform any differently to 2 PARA or 3 CDO in Afghanistan?

Is the ‘creative tension’ between the two advantageous to both and the UK’s wider defence needs?

Would there be any savings by amalgamating the two anyway?

What would happen to the specialist knowledge that resides in both?

How would any such move affect special forces?

What would an amalgamated force be called, Para Commando, Rangers or something else?

What about drill, regimental silver and buttons?

And of course, what colour would the beret be?

Parachute Regiment
Royal Marines beret

In your own time…

 

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Paul Busek
Paul Busek
November 20, 2014 9:21 am

GRENADE…………..!!!!!!

Hohum
Hohum
November 20, 2014 10:17 am

The Para/Marine then SFSG then SAS/SBS/SRR part of the British land forces is about the one thing that looks sensible and well constructed given how the country seems to want to use its forces. It should be left well alone. If you want to chop something start with the regular Army, protected (relatively) from the previous round of cuts, we are also unwilling to deploy it- so take the axe to that.

monkey
monkey
November 20, 2014 10:26 am

“And of course, what colour would the beret be?”
PURPLE of course!
Joking aside an RM takes a single phase thirty-two week course at Lympstone which cost £54k (2011 figures) and is fully deployable straight away except for local familiarisation.
‘Infantry soldier from recruitment to graduation from the Infantry Training Centre Phase 1 is in the region of £31,000.’
‘Infantry—Phase 2 (includes Infantry Battle School) costs £17,420 to £29,000’ So an infantry soldier to be deployable cost for Phase 1 and 2 from £48,420 to £60,000. So slightly cheaper to slightly more expensive than a Royal Marine. Keep them.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm101116/text/101116w0004.htm
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120612/text/120612w0002.htm#12061375000013

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 20, 2014 10:26 am

So you kick off with a relatively dubious assumption – “amphibious and airborne assaults are looking increasingly unlikely” and then compound that with another “at the end of the day, they are both light infantry”. Not the best start….

Lets have a look at the first one – if amphibious assault or airborne assaults (and you have not defined what either of those things are) are increasingly unlikely, how exactly are ground forces of any kind to be inserted into a theatre of operations? What you are suggesting is a totally permissive environment where APODs and SPODs are freely available, as required, when required, with no interference. Doesn’t quite tally with what the world actually looks like at the minute to me, unless you are suggesting that all amphibious ops are Corporate or bigger and airborne ops are Market Garden equivalents. There is no longer the UK critical mass to do that scale of ops, but if push came to shove, NATO or the EU can collectively provide a significant capability (UKNLLF is a prime example, as are the biennial exes with Fr, Sp & It) – unless of course we all individually adopt the Homer DPA, which is where you’re headed.

The light infantry thing is true in terms of the end effect delivered once inserted. However, the thing to remember is that the value of these units is not necessarily the end combat power deployed, but the ability to insert that combat power initially (and withdraw it), understanding the limitations of the environment and method of insertion and the logistics involved. You might as well suggest disbanding the RA or the RAC on the basis that at the end of the day they’re light infantry – it’s equally applicable.

Frankly, if the incentive to either call them sacred cows or amalgamate / get rid is the fact that they’ve got their own recruitment and training centres and different berets, that’s a pretty poor argument. If we’re only going to insert a force in a completely permissive environment, with no time pressures and/or complete access to HNS you could probably argue we’ve got too many LI units in the army as it is. Get rid of 30% of them as well and you’ve got a real saving. That is not an argument I’d make btw…..

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 20, 2014 10:34 am

Lunacy.

You may as well say using Armour is increasingly unlikely.

Are other countries removing theirs?

Soon HM forces will be just another military, if we keep removing institutions like these that other countries respect.

Ace Rimmer
November 20, 2014 10:41 am

I can’t ever remember talking to anyone who joined the Parachute Regiment to spend a life at sea…

Cards on the table, there are always savings to be made anywhere, but then most accountants see the cost of everything yet the ‘value’ of nothing! Its not just what these units do, its the capability and effectiveness of the individual soldiers that these kinds of units attract. These berets aren’t given, they’re earned!

If anything I would create a third force, a Ranger force, that wouldn’t have a specialism like Para’s or Marines, but would have a similar selection course and an increase in pay to attract the right calibre of people. Then seeing how this force performs you can adjust the numbers of the others to suit accordingly.

Topman
Topman
November 20, 2014 10:53 am

Let’s say this goes ahead, how much do you think it would save? How much duplication is there?

Chris
Chris
November 20, 2014 11:04 am

Ace – ref “accountants see the cost of everything yet the ‘value’ of nothing” – a brief anecdote. Alvis had a couple of stock vehicles that were used for marketing; for example when there was a need to demo a new turret, one of the stock hulls would be given a shiny new paint job to match and would be sent out to put in front of the customer. Most of the time the vehicles hid away in the corner of quiet workshops or sheds at the test track. The Accountants moved in to make the company (as they put it) more efficient. In their view efficiency was exclusively related to how much profit would be made against how much equivalent value was stored in company assets. Therefore, in true Accountant logic, they demanded the stock vehicles were scrapped so that their cash value would be removed from the ‘assets’ total. This of course meant that there were no marketing tools for demos, so either other customers’ vehicles would need to be ‘borrowed’ before delivery, or extra vehicles would need to be built to demo. After the demo of course the Accountants would demand they were scrapped no matter how new if a paying customer didn’t want them. In truth the stock vehicles owed the company nothing; they cost nothing to store as the corners of workshops existed anyway.

So if you really want sacred cows to cull then I suggest removing the accountants…

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 20, 2014 11:26 am

“If you wanted to defend this duplication, tell me what is common between the two, and what is unique. Lets say 50% is common and 50% is unique, a figure plucked out of my @rse”

Personally, I’d start with an assessment of the relative cost savings to be made in the “common” bit. So – if the RM and Paras provide unique elements, but the rest of the army infantry provides only the common bits (potentially at more cost, if Monkeys PQ figures are to be believed) and the rest of the infantry is bigger, then the obvious cost saving is to cull that where you’ve got huge amounts of commonality.

How many capbadge regiments do you reckon that will be?

rec
rec
November 20, 2014 11:29 am

Leave well alone, they work and are internationally respected, if anything they should have more investment and be expanded, and be our major contribution to any coalition action.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
November 20, 2014 11:41 am

‘if anything they should have more investment and be expanded’

For what purpose? and in what way would you expand them?

wf
wf
November 20, 2014 11:48 am

Moving the rest of the RM support units into the Army would save a lot of money, since the members would only have to do the All Arms course rather than the full commando course then trade training.

Apart from that, I agree with @NaB. We can’t assume there’s always a convenient permissive port and airfield. Sometimes, you have to seize them first, and a brigade of marines and another of para’s (including their reserve units) is the minimum. As the former says, there are plenty of light infantry Bn’s which we cannot afford to equip with vehicles other than 4 tonners, and a distinct lack of jungles in which we want to fight (FIBUA is obviously no longer a “light” task anymore. Disband the surplus: loads of savings.

grunt
grunt
November 20, 2014 11:51 am

The sacred cow I would bin is the majority of the artillery, and invest in further infantry battalions. The Arty have spent HERRICK/TELIC primarily working as poorly trained infantrymen, so why not re-capbadge and retrain some of them as infantry, and keep a small core of drop shorts for any potential conventional engagements?

If we invested in smart targeted munitions, then the Arty would have a stronger case, but since the RAF like to ring fence precision strikes as their core business, that is not likely to get signoff is it.

As for the Paras/Cdo – if it’s not broken, lets not try and fix it – 16Bde works well.

a
a
November 20, 2014 12:05 pm

I am reminded of Slim’s bit in “Defeat into Victory” about how specialisation could go too far –
“Any well-trained infantry battalion should be able to do what any commando can do . . . This cult of special forces is as sensible as to form a Royal Corps of Tree Climbers and say that no soldier who does not wear its green hat with a bunch of oak leaves stuck in it should be allowed to climb a tree.”

When was the last time that the UK ran a major amphibious operation? 1982. And who were the first troops ashore? The amphibious specialists of 40 and 45 Cdo – and the non-amphibious specialists of 2 and 3 Para. Hard to point to something that the Paras did wrong at San Carlos because they lacked commando training.

Nick
Nick
November 20, 2014 12:10 pm

Chris

Ace – ref “accountants see the cost of everything yet the ‘value’ of nothing” – a brief anecdote.

As an accountant (not a book keeper) or rather Financial Manager and Adviser to my colleagues (who all too often cant see the $ from their pet assumptions) I have to take exception (mildly in good spirit :) ).

You’re actually describing the way Corporate Raiders think. There sole interest is not the investment in the business, but actually how much they can make before they sell on. That’s short termism of the worst kind (which has affected UK and US Corporate culture far to much in the last 30 years).

Any decent accountant (who doesn’t have to comply with what their boss wants) would talk about spent costs, marginal costs. Essentially if you spent the cash already, its not coming back unless you can sell it. So long as your frequently using that sort of asset for a good commercial reason it should be a no brainer.

The problem arises if Ops cant explain that or have lots of stuff lying around doing nothing, which has a value on the accounts. That’s tied up unproductive “investment”. Knowing the difference between the two is the difference between good and poor management.

Peter Elliott
November 20, 2014 12:21 pm

In terms of the fighting effect of the inidvidual batallions there may be little to choose between them. And any amphibious assault these days has a large air-mobile componant anyway so the skills are complementary (as we found in 1982). Given the commitments to both SFSG and naval Force Protection either brigade would anyway need to be reinforced by the other for a serious fighting operation. And we only have enough rotary assets to support a single light mobile brigade anyway. So in effect we already have just one deployabe ‘elite’ brigade but with a choice of two specialist headquarters.

The value is in the specialist headquarters themselves. Al Faw worked well not becuase of the colour of the fighting soldiers hats but becuase of the experise of 3 Cdo HQ. I’m sure 16x has similar specialist knowledge of airbourne and air-mobile warfare. Keeping the separate hats and separate training regimes is worth doing to the extent that it supports the force genertion of the specialist officers who add all that value in the brigade HQs.

Developing the argument further if we need to chop dead wood lets look at the skeleton brigade HQs knocking around the Adaptable Force with no specialist knowledge and little depolyability. That looks like a job creation scheme for second and third rate Brigadiers, Colonels and Majors to me. AF needs no more than 2 Brigade HQs which will still give the army a choice of 7 overall: enough for either a sustained roulment or Division+ best effort.

Challenger
Challenger
November 20, 2014 12:31 pm

Elliot

‘AF needs no more than 2 Brigade HQs which will still give the army a choice of 7 overall: enough for either a sustained roulment or Division+ best effort’

Agreed, but do you still see a need for some kind of localized ‘footprint’ in the way that we have maintained up until now with regional brigade headquarters which the 7 adaptable force formations are supposed to be replacing?

Chris
Chris
November 20, 2014 12:39 pm

Nick – I would hope there are accountants that can see the latent value of inventory. I have met more than a few who claim there is no value but instant debit/credit balance. Which type would you surmise sits in the Treasury demanding budget cuts? I’d guess the latter. Which would explain the various privatisation efforts over the years where things you might consider vital and strategic assets were sold of to the highest bidder (water supply, electric generation & distribution, rail network, ports & airports etc).

a
a
November 20, 2014 12:49 pm

Which type would you surmise sits in the Treasury demanding budget cuts? I’d guess the latter. Which would explain the various privatisation efforts over the years where things you might consider vital and strategic assets were sold of to the highest bidder (water supply, electric generation & distribution, rail network, ports & airports etc).

Well, that’s one of three possible explanations. The others are
“the government of the day was ideologically committed to the belief that the public sector was inherently unjust and immoral and tyrannical, and private sector must always be more efficient at everything, and so privatisation was a good thing”
and
“privatisation allowed members of the government of the day to do favours for their mates, by selling them underpriced public goods in return for bribes and lucrative sinecures”.

Peter Elliott
November 20, 2014 12:54 pm

@Challenger

Not sure we do. A single Corps of Infantry HQ should be able to do whats needed effectively enough. What do the Regional Brigades actually do except pushing paper? Local Presence should be devolved down to the local Army Reserve fomration itself supported at national level by either Corps of Infantry HQ or AF Divisional HQ.

Regional Brigades were introduced in the Napoleonic War and persisted through the 19th and 20th century becuase of the threat of invasion. Despite the deteriorating international situation I don’t see that threat now or in the future. In the event of a major civil requirment like the Olympics, Catastrophic Floods or Foot and Mouth, then one of the deployable brigade HQs can be given a short term civil tasking. Other than that I just don’t see the need for this layer of bureacrcay to exist in what is effectively a force generation pool.

Ian Hall
Ian Hall
November 20, 2014 1:36 pm

If I am not mistaken aren’t some of the Royal Marines trained to parachute? If so can the Paras be trained to climb cliffs etc? Its rather akin to why do we need all 3 services to have overlapping helicopter services?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 20, 2014 1:43 pm

“When was the last time that the UK ran a major amphibious operation? 1982. And who were the first troops ashore? The amphibious specialists of 40 and 45 Cdo – and the non-amphibious specialists of 2 and 3 Para. Hard to point to something that the Paras did wrong at San Carlos because they lacked commando training”

Sierra Leone and Telic (acknowledging the jump-off points for some) spring to mind.

As for Corporate – listen very carefully – no-one (sensible) is suggesting that the Paras get folded into the Marines or vice versa. What IS being suggested is that 3Cdo and Para Regt are somehow luxuries that could be lived without if only the “sacred cows” could be sacrificed. The argument is between having specialist enablers and saving capbadge regiments.

No-one is suggesting 2&3 Para didn’t contribute to the success of Corporate. Are you suggesting that they could have planned and executed the landing without 3Cdo?

oldreem
November 20, 2014 1:58 pm

, @Nick,

Chris seems to be illustrating the practical effects of ‘Resource Accounting’, one of the numerous commercial practices the MoD introduced (on the advice of overpriced consultants?). Hence selling off lots of UOR purchases at the end of the Op, only to find (surprise, surprise) that something similar was needed a few years later for another Op. Ditto ‘slow-moving stock’ which would have moved faster had there been an Op involving the equipment concerned, or would have been needed at the end of the initial contractor support phase for a new equipment or as the equipment got older (and perhaps had been bought for those very reasons before the limited duration production ceased). Sure, there has been a lot of stuff rightly disposed of (horseshoes?; spares etc for kit that had long gone out of service), but all too many idiocies – partly because the beancounters called the shots, the storekeepers obeyed and the equipment manager professionals weren’t consulted. Example: the complete repair pool of electronic black boxes unique to AS90 – part of an “efficiency saving” – you couldn’t make it up.
As the old saying goes, “There’s a difference between f*rting and splitting your @rse”.

Steve Stubbs
Steve Stubbs
November 20, 2014 1:58 pm

If you want major savings then hand over the RAF helicopter fleet to the AAC. Their fundamental job now is army support, the AAC is there to do that.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
November 20, 2014 2:06 pm

@TD an excellent proposal not for itself as it will never happen, but think of all the difficult but useful changes that could go through whilst the brouhaha played out.

What ever next merging Sappers and Gunners?

Martin
Editor
November 20, 2014 2:14 pm

True Military power comes from being able to impose your will on an enemy without the need or permission from others. At the end of the day China and Russia have very little power because they are unable to project much of a force beyond their own boarder and could only do so with the permission of a neighboring host nation. The USA is a super power because it can put a large force anywhere in the world that has a coastline.

The UK cannot be all things to all men and we need a degree of specialization and we must be prepared to leave some aspects of war fighting to our allies. In my opinion theatre entry by air or sea is a specialization we should keep because no one else in NATO excluding the USA and to a much lesser extent the French can do it. If we really need to make cuts in light infantry then they should come from the infantry battalions in the adaptable force and we need to accept that we will be unable to sustain a large force in theatre indefinitely.

If we look at the recent wars we have fought we did pretty well in the initial phases like Afghanistan in 01 and 02 and Iraq in 03. Most of our f**k ups came much later. so maybe we should accept that we are pretty good at kicking the door in but not so good and fixing the place up and stick with what we are good at.

I have heard many on here says it’s naive to think that we can go in at the start and leave the clean up to allies but the reality is that our allies have been far far more willing in the past to provide follow on peace keeping and reconstruction forces than forces to take on an initial assault.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 20, 2014 2:43 pm

But TD – no-one has defined what a major amphibious operation actually is. One school of thought is Overlord, Inchon, Musketeer, Corporate and nothing else. Another might have it as deploying a Cdo+ sized group at a long distance from home base primarily from the sea. Almost no-one sensible would define it as purely a beach landing.

I notice you haven’t managed to identify why we would need 30 infantry battalions if we had no means of inserting them into any sort of non-permissive environment yet. Nor how many capbadge regiments we could do without by removing duplication in the “common” capability bit before we started mucking about with the “unique” (and apparently less expensive) bits yet. Nor where universal adoption of the Homer DPA will leave us.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
November 20, 2014 2:44 pm

I think the RM would be the better of the two to disband, as the recent ‘Royal Marines Commando School’ was by far the lesser programme to ‘The Paras’ of 1980’s fame. ;-)

Gareth
Gareth
November 20, 2014 2:58 pm

I love both and do believe it would be a straw man to say we don’t need amphib or para capable forces…I suppose the blue sky bit could be fleshed out as 1. Australia which has excellent armed forces and equipment has moved to expeditionary warfare yet without the names para or marine… 2. if the move is always downwards the French have done a neat job of making their elite 2 REP company level specialists http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2nd_Foreign_Parachute_Regiment#Organization

The French follow this model for their marines:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commandos_Marine

Just to be confusing in addition you also have the French SAS

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_Marine_Infantry_Parachute_Regiment

All of these come under a USSOCOM, style COS.

If we are following our new best buddies the French this might be a good way of keeping skills but not scale..

TM that “Skills not Scale”

However one thing note about the Para / Marines debate is that the Para’s have been made too small with 16 AAB a joke with 2 Btn?

Meanwhile 3 Cdo Brigade have the numbers and scale to be a Bgd.

If any lesson could be drawn from Iraq Afghan it would surely be you need skills but also scale?

Topman
Topman
November 20, 2014 3:27 pm

@TD

I see that you are just chucking this out there to get people thinking, but first thought would be why are we doing it? If it’s money, then is it worth it? How much moeny are we talking about? I know it’s not down to the pound, but are we talking £50k or £50m? Stuff like this causes a real hooha, is it worth it?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
November 20, 2014 3:41 pm

I don’t think the Paras or RM need merging or disbanding. I do however think that we need to do away with the idea of having a brigade of each, the CS/CSS unit could be released and the RM and Paras then provide battle groups as when required for specific ops and to the SF.

I would be happy to see the Army inf reduced and the remaining btn’s fully mechanised with more impetus placed on deployable medium units. The intervention brigade should be a Foxhound/Panther mounted units that can either go alone or quickly reinforce either the RM or Paras during an initial ground seizing op with the medium units being the mainstay of any enduring op with the heavy units providing reinforcement/support as and when required.

The RM are our littoral specialists and should be used as such, the Paras are our airborne (not helicopter) and should also be used as such. Neither units should be used to deliver aid or patrol dirt roads.

TD, ‘If only to get rid of the shared shower ballbag washing scenes on endless repeat in every single RM documentary ever’

Amen to that!

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 20, 2014 4:09 pm

“3CDO and 16AAb are too light”

Too light for what though? By definition, an air assault / air mobile force must be fairly light, unless you plan to carry lots of vehicles, in which case you start being air-landed and knocking on to the delivery means.

Amphibious forces have a bit more leeway, in that Mr Archimedes offers some advantages in ability to carry payload and in many cases the “insertion gap” is shorter (ie ship to shore, cf APOE to objective), so that the penalty of carrying and fuelling more vehicles is reduced.

It’s all down to the threat you expect to overmatch. Don’t forget an amphib force will have tactical airlift (helo), surface lift (LC) protected mobility (ATVP), artillery (29Cdo and NGS), CAS (WAH64 and FJ), ISTAR (30Cdo), Logs, and Air Defence (if required – MANPADS, Ship-based AAW and CV-based FJ) if required and mostly organic to the force. If absolutely necessary, can even bring tanks/other armour. A pure airborne op won’t necessarily have all of that – but it’s heavily dependant on the distance from mounting base to objective.

People need to understand that amphibious does not necessarily equal Overlord or Corporate, in teh same way that airborne does not necessarily equal MG.

If you really want to go after sacred cows, I’d suggest you flesh out exactly how many light inf battns you think we need, what rotation / sustainment if any is required and then identify the cap badges that will have to go. Preferably via the medium of the Telegraph letters page!

a
a
November 20, 2014 4:10 pm

I think the most startling thing here is the news that it costs about as much to train a RM Commando as it does to train an army infantryman. Well, I was surprised anyway.

“. If we really need to make cuts in light infantry then they should come from the infantry battalions in the adaptable force and we need to accept that we will be unable to sustain a large force in theatre indefinitely. ”

Just rereading Tom Ricks’ “Cobra II” about the invasion of Iraq, and it’s worth remembering how, from the moment they got in to about April 2003, Bush and his cabinet were utterly convinced that enduring ops were bad and unnecessary and they would never have to do any. Bush ran for election on an anti-military-occupation platform, remember – Condi Rice made speeches saying that the 101st Airborne should not be escorting kids to school (bit of a weird thing to say for a woman who grew up black in the South in the sixties, but there you go).
No one actually wants to do enduring ops, they just creep up on you. We’re doing several right now, remember: TOSCA, ELGIN, the garrison commitments around the world, possibly GRITROCK. I really would not want to bet that we won’t have to do more.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
November 20, 2014 4:36 pm

TD’s best since putting forward: Which service should the RAF be merged with? Discuss! … and what happened then (I don’t want to remember).

This is about the reality (by PE):
“any amphibious assault these days has a large air-mobile componant anyway so the skills are complementary (as we found in 1982). Given the commitments to both SFSG and naval Force Protection either brigade would anyway need to be reinforced by the other for a serious fighting operation. And we only have enough rotary assets to support a single light mobile brigade anyway. So in effect we already have just one deployabe ‘elite’ brigade but with a choice of two specialist headquarters.” Primary (first) method of access being implicit in the ending sentence.

This (by DN) could be an improvement
“The intervention brigade should be a Foxhound/Panther mounted units [something… a bde] that can either go alone or quickly reinforce either the RM or Paras during an initial ground seizing op”
That would be an additional bde in the intervention force. But,
– it would not need to be a permanent formation
– think of concentric circles; within the adaptable force, to have enough of units so equipped (we have them & the kit);
– to train together at times, to be deployed as a bde [presto! adaptable]
– as these units go through their readiness cycles, we would need a total 2-3 times higher than would be deployed at any given time

If the NATO/UN/ EU forces can be double, or triple, hatted… where is the problem? Except in the doctrine and flexibility of organisational thinking.

a
a
November 20, 2014 5:05 pm

any amphibious assault these days has a large air-mobile componant anyway so the skills are complementary (as we found in 1982). Given the commitments to both SFSG and naval Force Protection either brigade would anyway need to be reinforced by the other for a serious fighting operation. And we only have enough rotary assets to support a single light mobile brigade anyway. So in effect we already have just one deployabe ‘elite’ brigade but with a choice of two specialist headquarters.

So, if any amphibious assault is really going to be an amphibious/air assault… why do we need two specialist headquarters?

Rocket Banana
November 20, 2014 5:06 pm

Wow! TD, you are brave ;-)

In a nutshell we could probably assume that if we either disbanded 3CDo or 16AAB we’ll lose just about all of our “door kicking” capability. This means we either need to mobilise the entire British Army which means we no longer have a rapid intervention force.

I would suggest that our intervention force is probably the most valuable thing we have (save mainland defence stuff) as it is the ultimate diplomacy tool. Simply being able to disrupt someone long enough to dictate the course of events could be the difference between the lights staying on or not.

Merging 16AAB and 3Cdo is almost a good idea if there is enough overlap. How often do RM parachute out of an aircraft clutching 2 days supplies and a rifle? How often would we expect 2Para to yomp over marshland after being dumped on a beach with a 100lb pack, a rifle and an ATGM?

They are pretty exclusive skill sets, but would be used at much the same time and should really be coordinated by the same command. Perhaps therefore we should have Sixteen-Three Commando Assault Brigade (16-3 CAB)?

Finally, in order to put to rout the notion that it should all merge with the British Army we should probably find out just how many army bods can pass the Commando training course and the equivalent AAB course. All those that pass should then be put on the Mighty O, sailed 8000 miles and inserted under British Army command to take, say, RAF Mount Pleasant in a two-week long mock war.

If they do it. Disband/merge 3Cdo and 16AAB.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
November 20, 2014 5:14 pm

@Simon

‘In a nutshell we could probably assume that if we either disbanded 3CDo or 16AAB we’ll lose just about all of our “door kicking” capability. This means we either need to mobilise the entire British Army which means we no longer have a rapid intervention force.’

You’ve lost me, why would we lose our door kicking ability without 3Cdo or 16 AAB? and why would we need to mobilse the entire army if we do not have them?

Would we not just task a normal brigade with the rapid part?

Peter Elliott
November 20, 2014 5:17 pm

Good question “a” and one that I asked last time this subject came up for discussion. In the case of 16 AAB it probably comes down to the specifics of planning and executing parachute ops, (including preparation, training, logisitics and sustainement – not just the drop itself). And remember such things might not be happening anywhere near the sea.

Which isn’t to say a single brigade HQ staffed by people of both hat colours couldn’t work, once the bragging rights had been sorted out. But when you throw in the arctic warfare specialism as well it does seem to be putting a lot of eggs into one basket. You probably wouldn’t save many posts overall and sod’s law says you end up diluting the skills base in exactly the one area you end up desparatly in need of next.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
November 20, 2014 5:20 pm

@Simon, how does this “I would suggest that our intervention force is probably the most valuable thing we have” rank order on the list of (in no particular order):
– deterrent
– strike at range/ theatre interdiction
– sea dominance
– sea denial
– SF (immediate effect)
– intervention force (rapid effect)
… add anything to the spearhead that might be needed, for it to be effective (= have a lasting, or decisive effect)?

Phil
November 20, 2014 5:30 pm

What about the loss of a Brigade HQ? More and more, what we are able to bring to the table in a coalition are units like Bde and Divisional HQs. If they have unusual ways of arriving, well, doesn’t that make them even more valuable?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
November 20, 2014 6:27 pm

As I understand it the RM and Parachute Regiment provide both the selection/recruitment/training/esprit de corps elements provided by the big “cap-badge” regiments AND the basis of a specialist operational HQ (3 Commando/16th Air Assault))…why not go the other way by having all the “Big Regiments” double task in the same way…would that not reduce numbers of staff posts, help to build relationships between the said “Big Regiments” and their recruitment areas, and provide a vehicle for forward engagement in potential areas of deployment?

As innocent civilian retreats to bunker donning tin hat… :-)

GNB

Rocket Banana
November 20, 2014 6:29 pm

DN,

You mean a normal brigade untrained to do parachute jumps into hostile territory or go “amphib”?

As for my “entire army”, I think I got ahead of myself when writing. I meant we’d need to mobilise the British Army along with their entire logistics tail, which is heavy and slow to deploy, which ultimately means you lose the “rapid” part.

Cutting to the point in your final statement I guess it all depends on if the BA can actually do “fast”, “light”, or “small” in the same way 3Cdo or 16AAB can. If they can then, as I said, disband them both.

x
x
November 20, 2014 6:31 pm

That’s already happening, google The Rifles……

Rocket Banana
November 20, 2014 6:34 pm

AAC,

This is copied and pasted from my SDSR analysis which lead to my SDSR2014 post here on Think Defence. It lists in increasing order of importance the things we need…

7. Large/division enduring fighting force [Army, Air Force, RFA]
6. Medium/brigade enduring fighting force [Army, Air Force, RFA]
5. Small/battalion enduring logistics force [T/A, RFA]
4. Intervention/protection force (battalion-brigade depending on duration) [Navy, Marines, Carrier, Amphibs]
3. Home defence force [T/A, Fighter Command, Coast Guard]
2. CASD [SSBN, Trident]
1. Sea patrols [Frigates]

It doesn’t quite put your list in order but it serves to illustrate my perceived levels of importance.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
November 20, 2014 6:45 pm

@X – The Rifles…do they now have an operational Light Infantry Brigade HQ, as well as a particularly well-developed sense of Big Regiment identity? I didn’t know…

GNB

x
x
November 20, 2014 7:05 pm

@ gnb

No. A joke that has been doing the rounds for a while now that the plan is for all infantry to be merged into The Rifles.

The thing with HQs and amphibious operations are the decision points when the operation moves from sea based to land based. There are some subtleties there that can get glossed over. For example the operation can be in its land phase with the HQ still afloat. Very complex stuff. Better if we keep it to simple things like RM and Para both carry rifles and have good fitness levels, just one rides on a “big boat” and one rides in aircraft.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
November 20, 2014 7:14 pm

Simon

‘You mean a normal brigade untrained to do parachute jumps into hostile territory or go “amphib”?’

No I mean a normal bde, you do not need either Marines or Paras for any door kicking operation, it’s harder without the option but it is not a necessity. To kick the door in you need some form of ground troops to take and seize territory and to destroy their army through close combat, how your troops get there to begin with is entirely up to you. 3 cdo and 16AAB can’t do door kicking in isolation either, even the invasion of Iraq required both to be reinforced/supported by heavier units.

‘I meant we’d need to mobilise the British Army along with their entire logistics tail, which is heavy and slow to deploy’

An entire logistics tail is set up whenever an operation is launched regardless of the unit, 3 Cdo and 16AAB do not have their own, they are plugged into the larger logistics system. British army logistics is quite nimble to be fair and I agree heavy units are not quick to move by nature of their kit but an army light infantry btn would be no slower than a Cdo.

Rocket Banana
November 20, 2014 8:36 pm

DN,

To me the idea if being able to deliver a light battalion suddenly one night by air is pretty valuable. The idea of being able to do it again, even when their defences are “up” seems ideal in being able to misdirect them at a critical moment. If the British Army can do this then great, disband 16AAB.

Similarly, the idea of operating over both land and sea seems fundamentally important to mounting an invasion where there are no neighbouring countries in the right location. The idea of them being trained to live and fight 50 miles into a riverine system also seems pretty useful. If the British Army can do this* then great, disband 3Cdo.

* I’ve deliberately omitted the idea of winning the beachhead as I’m not sure we can do that anyway.

Phil
November 20, 2014 8:41 pm

16X isn’t meant to do anything like an old fashioned opposed airborne or air-landing operation. It was touch and go when we did it with airborne divisions with several armoured divisions backing them up. Not going to happen now. The Yanks are the only ones who could even countenance it.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
November 20, 2014 8:53 pm

We need both.

Pity that not one of them went to a decent school, or knows anything about seduction, nor can speak a foreign language like a native, or navigate their way through a desert.

What we don’t much need anymore are large and useless lumps of armour.

NG
NG
November 20, 2014 10:12 pm

Why not combine REME and the RLC and have only one logistic battalion for a brigade instead of 2

oldreem
November 20, 2014 10:29 pm

@NG – What would that save, beyond a handful of Bn HQ/admin posts, if the respective workloads remained the same? You can’t have a trucky or blanket-stacker making engineering decisions or giving engineering advice. It was considered important enough to separate out the engineering elements from RAOC and RASC – and some RE – to form REME in the middle of WW2 (followed by RAC and RA fitters/tiffys shortly after), so the logic of re-combining is hard to find (although I’ll admit to not being totally unbiased).
Same logic as with the original question – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Kent
Kent
November 20, 2014 10:30 pm

The para beanie above looks pink. Is it just me? :D

I can see having a core (not corps) organization for Paras and another for RM Commandos where subject matter experts reside. I can also see having two brigade headquarters that specialize in their respective operations for planning and control. You could use cap-badge outfits for follow-on forces after the Paras/Commandos establish the airhead/bridgehead. I would also think that you need an (or two) armored recce unit(s) to train with the Paras and/or Commandos to provide support of their operations (like the Scorpions/Scimitars in the Falklands only more of them). Heavier forces can follow immediately or not, depending on the opposition.

For the USMC, they have the Light Reconnaissance Battalions (LAV-25) that can be deployed to support landings. I think a Stryker Battalion should be added to each of the BCTs of the 82nd Airborne Division/101st Air Assault Division or have a Stryker BCT added/attached to each division. (My personal choice, if restricted to US gear, would be an LAV-25 (or upgunned LAV-30) battalion with a company of Stryker MGS attached. They are C-130 air transportable and CH-53/CH-47 liftable.)

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
November 20, 2014 10:32 pm

@RT: “big blobs of armour.” So, we’re back to FRES SV, then . . . ;-)

Kent
Kent
November 20, 2014 10:44 pm

@RT – “What we don’t much need anymore are large and useless lumps of armour.”

What about little and useful lumps of armor? How large and useless are the other “lumps of armor” when they bad guys have them or the bad guys have “forted up” in cities or well-camouflaged bunker complexes? Do you think steely glares and fixed bayonets are going to impress, I don’t know, Russians in the Ukraine or Crimea, if it comes to that?

Repulse
November 20, 2014 10:49 pm

I do not feel either should be scrapped, just smaller to match our broader ambitions and capabilities, and refocused to specialize on smaller “raid” ops and closely integrated with our SFs.

GW
GW
November 20, 2014 10:49 pm

As the original e-mail was designed to be gently provocative, I’ll respond in kind. Extend the VAT exemption scheme for Defence contracts to apply to all items purchased by the military. Think about Income tax exemption for military salaries and pensions and reduce the salaries etc accordingly (or maybe even a bit less so they get a well-deserved pay rise!). All of this is just pointless paperwork as the government is just moving the money round in circles. That should pay for some Marines and Paras!

Kent
Kent
November 20, 2014 11:02 pm

@NG – The heavy combat brigades in which I served in the US Army each had Support Battalions that provided trucks for logistical support (rations, fuel) and direct support-level maintenance and parts support for vehicles, ordnance, electronics, etc. Y’all have two battalions doing that stuff?

Observer
Observer
November 20, 2014 11:29 pm

Kent, think RT was just having fun at the general gist of the topic. He had fun in the Gulf riding around in a Warrior, so I doubt he’s suggesting that he walk through all that desert instead.

My opinion on a lot of this is that armies tend to come with a lot of baggage and I don’t mean the logistics kind. There is a lot of history behind a lot of units and that can be hard to let go at times. Maybe what we really need is a comprehensive clean sweep and reorganization of the army based on goals and starting with a clean sheet of paper and build up? Then we’ll get what is needed though I suspect it will look a lot like the current orbat.

Chris
Chris
November 20, 2014 11:49 pm

Kent – ref no use for armour – clearly when faced with the massed ranks of the Soviet hoards bowling over the plains towards the massed ranks of the King’s Own Russet Trews the brave lads would rush over to the speeding invaders to assault them with sticky sockfuls of explosives. That’d show them! See http://www.tubechop.com/watch/4132209 for historical precedent.

On a slightly more sensible note, I have the naive belief that a half decent opposition force would work its tactics to exploit whatever weakness was presented to it? Hence fielding a defence that clearly lacks an expected capability would result in precisely that capability being desperately needed. I doubt it matters whether the missing capability is heavy armour or bridging support or effective command or air superiority, if an element is missing then that’s the weakness that would be focused upon.

NG
NG
November 21, 2014 12:35 am


I think it would streamline support for each battleground and brigade and yes it would eliminate a Lt. Col and his staff. Then use that man power and set up a new support unit. 2 headquarters + 6 support units becomes 1 headquarters and 7 support units. A small change but you have to start somewhere.

NG
NG
November 21, 2014 12:44 am

@ Kent
I don’t know about heavy brigades but yeah combine all those MOS’s into one support battalion instead of across REME and RLC battalions or we could do whatmy branch does and have the close support in each battalion and have a higher level support unit that takes care of all the harder stuff

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
November 21, 2014 1:09 am

Observer,

Wash your mouth out with soap. I went to war in the Gulf in one of those lardy useless CVR(T)s, not the even lardier Warriors. The chuffing wagon was hugely over-engineered for what should have been a stripped out Rover task. And also shockingly built by those unionised gits in Alvis sometime back in the 70s, an utter crapmobile.

It weighed about 8 tonnes, about 7.5 tonnes more than it should have done.

And I navigated my whole Regiment through a thick mine belt at night and in a sandstorm without GPS, going on bearings and odometers. 45 separate turns in a ten metre lane, and none of us blew up.

The ruddy gunners can’t do that. It takes a recce man.

Obsvr
Obsvr
November 21, 2014 2:05 am

A few thoughts:

In days of yore, any old infantry battalion could be nominated as a ‘maritime regiment of foot’ and spend some years at sea aboard HM ships. Out of this eventually sprang the RM.

I’d suggest that the specialist training of a RM Cdo is no greater than that of an armd inf battalion (possibly less because armd warfare is somewhat more complicated than light infantry).

Bde HQs are basically small and cost peanuts. It’s a Comd, a handful of staff officers and some staff clerks. It was a bit more complicated when Bde HQs were actually ‘Bde HQ & Signal Sqn’. Obviously a deployable bde HQ needs comms and other elements, and they need to be trained together, but that’s what AF lead times are for. Bde HQs also have attached elements, eg an arty Tac HQ from a field regt, similar from RE, etc, etc. This is what bulks them up.

I also have a suspicion that some staff officers in regional bde HQs are actually retired officers, who are even cheaper because you’re paying their pension anyway. The annual costs of these HQs are probably less than a handful of Paveway 4.

Ace Rimmer
November 21, 2014 8:20 am

Unfortunately my long comment was eaten by the ether….shortened version..

I wonder how much a House Cavalry trooper costs, including horses, tack, equine training, shovelling crud etc compared to the cost of a para or marine?

wf
wf
November 21, 2014 8:30 am

@Ace Rimmer: funny you should say that, Kings Troop RHA have just passed my location :-)

oldreem
November 21, 2014 8:50 am
Reply to  NG

What’s ‘your branch’, NG? Sounds not unlike what we do already.

a
a
November 21, 2014 10:36 am

And I navigated my whole Regiment through a thick mine belt at night and in a sandstorm without GPS, going on bearings and odometers. 45 separate turns in a ten metre lane, and none of us blew up. The ruddy gunners can’t do that. It takes a recce man.

As I suspect Observer would agree, I don’t think it’s really recce when you’re doing it from inside an eight-ton truck that makes its own tea. That’s more “caravanning”.

Allan
Allan
November 21, 2014 2:11 pm

“The RM are our littoral specialists and should be used as such, the Paras are our airborne (not helicopter) and should also be used as such. Neither units should be used to deliver aid or patrol dirt roads.”

Hmm..as an outsider looking in – that means given recent operations, that the RMs and the Para’s are in fact an expensive luxury as there was plenty of patrolling of dirt roads and moving aid etc……

……so if the RMs and Para’s are not supposed to be used for that….well clearly that gap has to be filled by more ‘proper infantry’ and that costs…..

…..so perhaps the RMs and Para’s ought to be merged and the cost savings passed on to the ‘dirt patrolling’ bits of the Army so they can have more kit and manpower.

Still, I’m just an outsider looing in but may I note with the greatest of respect that there haven’t been chaps falling out of aircraft on any scale since Suez and the chaps in boats haven’t had a major deployment onto a beach since the Falklands…..

Allan
Allan
November 21, 2014 2:15 pm

“And I navigated my whole Regiment through a thick mine belt at night and in a sandstorm without GPS, going on bearings and odometers. 45 separate turns in a ten metre lane, and none of us blew up. The ruddy gunners can’t do that. It takes a recce man.”

Hmm…just two most respectful thoughts….

….what is with the self-praise….have you developed some sort of American virus, Sir, that makes such shouting necessary…..

…and after making all the necessary turns, how did Sir feel when he ended up back where he started?

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
November 21, 2014 2:28 pm

7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery
23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault)
2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment
3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment
4th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (Army Reserve)
Pathfinder Group
3 Regiment, Army Air Corps
4 Regiment, Army Air Corps
13 Air Assault Support Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps
16 Medical Regiment, Royal Army Medical Corps
7 (Air Assault) Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
156 Provost Company, Royal Military Police
216 Parachute Squadron Royal Signals
613 Tactical Air Control Parties (Parachute)
616 Tactical Air Control Parties (Parachute)

All the support units are specialised as well so that they can easily deploy with the infantry units.

The same can be said of the RM, on top of which the RM supplies a number of niche capabilities in terms of small ship based units for boarding etc.

Kent
Kent
November 21, 2014 2:31 pm

@Observer – I don’t know; RT sounded pretty serious when he whin…complained about the CVR(T). :D Maybe he should campaign for these http://www.rokon.com/index.php?p=1_4_Trail-Breaker for all his Recce lads to pop around on.

@RT – One of my old platoon sergeants in the 3/4 Cav had his M48A2C run over a US GP 500 lb bomb that Charlie had dug up and used as a mine in the road. (An original IED.) It cleaned all the track, roadwheels, etc., off that side of his tank (except for the sprocket and compensating idler), and cracked the hull, all without killing or seriously injuring anyone on his crew. They replaced the torsion bars, roadwheels, fenders, and tool boxes. Then they secured a cable to one of the tie down rings on the hull, ran it over the idler wheel and tied it off to the sprocket. The driver started the tank, put it in “low,” and turned the wheel* like he was turning away from the cracked side. The sprocket tightened up the cable which pulled the crack closed. With the cable under tension, the battalion maintenance welder patched the crack and welded additional plates over the repair. Bob finished his tour on that same tank. (His evacuation for wounds was because when 122mm rockets started landing while he was off his tank, all he could think of was to get back under armor. He caught shrapnel in his @$$ as he was climbing aboard.)

*(The M48 series tanks had steering wheels.)

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
November 21, 2014 2:37 pm

@Engineer Tom

How many of those units can we drop in one go? would it not be better to reduce all the support units such as artillery and engineers and just have the Paras used as and when we need to seize some ground or rescue nationals? same for the RM reduce their CS/CSS units to the numbers required to support a battlegroup and not a brigade.

This is the sacred cow part IMO, we have Foxhound mounted light infantry in the adaptable brigade when they should be the spearhead unit’s. The RM and Para’s are raiding units and we have not reduced their formations to match what is our present doctrine of an airborne and amphibious battlegroup. This is because it would attract bad headlines from the press when the general public and average MP are not aware of the make up of the two formations.

monkey
monkey
November 21, 2014 2:57 pm

@Allan
“that means given recent operations, that the RMs and the Para’s are in fact an expensive luxury as there was plenty of patrolling of dirt roads and moving aid etc……”
On my earlier post the initial costs of the RM and Paras are pretty much the same as regular infantry, specialization training costs and pay, rank for rank, are identical throughout the services so…….

Observer
Observer
November 21, 2014 4:21 pm

Kent, your Platoon Sergeant should probably be glad he wasn’t “front facing the enemy”, that might have been a lot more painful. :)

RT, query. Whose mine belt was it? Yours or theirs? :P

Kent
Kent
November 21, 2014 4:58 pm

@Observer – When during the course of an evening of drinking at the NCO as guys start comparing battle wounds, it’s time to quit when someone stands up and starts unbuckling his belt, saying, “Wait’ll you get a load of this one!” :D Bob was a SFC/E7 when I, as a PFC/E3, met him. I was a SGT/E5 tank commander when he rotated out. I ran into him in Germany when he was a tank company 1SG/E8, and I was a tank platoon leader 1LT/O2E. I ran into him again in Germany when I took command of a tank company as a CPT/O3E and he was our battalion operations SGM/E9. He had a heart attack while we were there, and I haven’t seen or heard from him since.

Phil
November 21, 2014 5:18 pm

…and after making all the necessary turns, how did Sir feel when he ended up back where he started?

Heh heh heh. Gold.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
November 21, 2014 5:28 pm

Just realised I forgot to put the opening sentence on my previous post:

The strength of 16 AAB doesn’t purely come from the Paras but more from the joint nature, having all the support units together and capable of deploying as a single unit.

@ DN

To seize ground you don’t just need some infantry you need all the support elements as well, and to maintain a rapid deployment capability you need at least 2 or 3 times as many personnel as you plan on deploying. So to rapidly deploy an airborne battlegroup (based around an infantry battalion) you would need at least two battalions of infantry as well as any supporting elements such as RAMC, REME, RE, RLC, RA and RS personnel needed, in small numbers.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
November 21, 2014 6:07 pm

@Engineer Tom

UK air assault brigade draws down
http://www.janes.com/article/38327/uk-air-assault-brigade-draws-down

‘Under the new concept, 16 Brigade is focused on generating one Air Assault Task Force (AATF) that is held on 72 hours’ notice to move. The two remaining infantry units, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of The Parachute Regiment, will take turns as the AATF for 12 month long periods, with only a company-sized group of troops trained in the parachute role at any time.’

As I said earlier reduce their CS/CSS units to the numbers required to support a battlegroup and not a brigade. Do we need a 5000 strong brigade to support a battlegroup? why do they need 105mm guns and a regiment of engineers plus RMP etc? And lets not forget that a parachute btn once dropped is not that mobile by modern standards.

As I said earlier they are our airborne specialists, so seizing ground so that we can rapidly reinforce them with a Foxhound/Panther formation is what we should be looking at. So if the Paras are not going to be dropping as a brigade why have an airborne brigade at the scale we have and why not make a Foxhound infantry unit the spear head? it is light, deployable by air and has true mobility at the other end. The defence planning is also only for an amphibious battlegroup so the same question can be asked in reference to 3cdo.

Observer
Observer
November 21, 2014 6:26 pm

DN, think the problem lies in that their logistics need to follow their route as well, which makes them rather specialized and you can’t really tell if you can supply them by land if they went in by air, hence their need to bring everything including the kitchen sink, resulting in a rather bloated support component.

Besides, their support units are a lot bigger job scope than the regular CS ones, for example, engineers. Think Airborne engineers have historically been thrown into assaults and do breaching more than they do bridging.

NG
NG
November 21, 2014 6:28 pm

@ oldreem
I’m in Army Aviation. unrelated but unfortunately the army is cutting an aviation brigade at ft Campbell

McZ
McZ
November 22, 2014 4:17 pm

Isn’t it awful, that we seem to talk more about cap colours than capabilities.

So, I ask…

With 80,000+ army bods + 7,000 RM, are we in a position to have specialized branches at all? Or: are we in a position to have any soldier remaining not being capable of doing a Paras or a Marines job, if required? I guess, the Paras and the Marines would be much more sanguine about being amalgated, if that would be the case.

The army as a whole should aspire to have the worlds best trained infantrymen. The specialist capabilities – amphibious, arctic, jungle, air assault, tanks, sappers, recon, air defence etc. – are to be developed and trained by specialist excellence centres, with the ‘specialist role’ rotating through the brigades every one or two years. Such a system could also work at part-time, TA level.

The AAC should remain separate as such a excellence centre and take the RAFs and Merlin HC3 helos, too. I would also give them the Reapers.

The Other Chris
November 22, 2014 5:29 pm

It’s quite the genius move by the Royal family when you step back and look at it: Reduce the Parliamentarian Army to skeletal levels whilst boosting Their Majesty’s Royal Maritime and Royal Aerial Regimental troops, allowing them free to do away with the politicians!

;)

Chris
Chris
November 22, 2014 5:41 pm

TOC – do away with politicians? Obviously Poly-Ticians are Ticians of many faces, so I looked up Tician: http://www.kabalarians.com/Male/Tician.htm – illuminating, huh? Points 4 through 10 seem particularly apt. It is regularly reported that the Civil Service of Victorian times was considerably smaller than it is now, and yet it ran the Country and the Empire adequately well, all without the use of labour-saving IT systems. I would happily believe the politicians of the day also took on more responsibility than each does now and worked more effectively. You have to wonder why it takes so many IT enabled officers these days to do less than the smaller organisations did 150 years back with pen, paper and postage stamp?

x
x
November 22, 2014 6:04 pm

Surely the fact the forces all wear sensible footwear is enough grounds to merge them all into one organisation?

The Other Chris
November 22, 2014 8:01 pm

Would be interesting to look at the differences the systems, while ostensibly the same, have to cope with and determine if the size of the state is still too large.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
November 22, 2014 9:16 pm

@ various, re desert navigation through minefields.

1. Their’s not our’s.

2. 49 kilometres, 19 separate minefields.

3. O’dark o’clock, nine hours.

4. Nothing marked. The knowledge of safe lanes was pure Int, gathered from God knows who or where and passed down.

5. Sapper recce support, held back 50 metres from my wagon, the rest of my Recce squadron 100 metres further back as immediate support.

6. During a sandstorm, GPS not holding a signal. So bearings and odometers.

7. Became the main supply route for an entire Armoured Division.

Chris
Chris
November 22, 2014 9:23 pm

TOC – but the state now is small in area and population compared to Victoria’s Empire. True the state gets involved with a lot more welfare than before (NHS, state education, social security and a raft of conditional benefits, State Pension etc) but the rest of the machinery of State is no more onerous, is it? Interesting to note the introduction of benefits into Civil Service remit resulted in a seven-fold increase in staff: http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/about/a-partial-history-of-the-civil-service/1900-1920-changing-the-nature-of-what-the-service-does

Topman
Topman
November 22, 2014 9:55 pm

@ Chris

I would think the country was wealthier and people expected more from the government. Therefore more people were required to do the jobs. People are better educated and informed than ever we need y amount of people to provide services that people demand.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
November 22, 2014 11:44 pm

….

8. And the only single best thing that I have ever done. Honestly, if I go to my grave tomorrow, that will be the one single thing that I have ever done that makes me proud.

Even better than having the world’s top wife and children. Or shagging a member of the displaced Austrian Royal Family. :)

Jesus, I was concentrating so bloody hard that I gave myself the only migraine that I have ever had. Quite seriously. And twenty minutes after I told the Colonel that we had reached the Release Point that he chose, we went into a full on Recce Battlegroup attack with MLRS and aircraft, and it was another 90 hours before anyone got any sleep.

And the worst thing is that it was the Andrew who taught me long distance navigation. Bastards.

Observer
Observer
November 23, 2014 2:17 am

“…and after making all the necessary turns, how did Sir feel when he ended up back where he started?”

Heh heh heh. Gold.

Have to admit Phil, that was a well timed and delivered one.

I thought that RT meant that he went THROUGH the minefields before I realized he meant around instead. Through the minefield, GPS isn’t the best thing for breaching. There is a …slight.. margin of error some times.

Jed
Jed
November 24, 2014 1:48 am

While only a standard dumb a old Matelot and then a Fat Stupid TA Bastard (TM) – I had the luck of having quality training time with the RM, of working with the old Commachio Coy and the old 3 Brigade Air Squadron, and have spent time at the old Arnhem Lines in Aldershot and even got to do training with the Pathfinders. All this building up to: all of you suggesting that any old infantryman can be trained to the standards of a Marine or a Para are completely on drugs. It is not just a fitness thing, it is also an intelligence thing, a fortitude thing, and an attitude thing. No disrespect to every other person in any other cap badge or uniform (including most of my old oppos) but there is a little something to the “elite” bit you know….. simply not everyone is cut out to pass the Commando course for example, or P Coy.

However, as we only aspire to single company sized battle group of parachute capable peeps who have a very limited number of planes to jump from, and one whole battalion of Para’s is in the so called Special Forces Support Group – why not just admit that any airborne (para) operation is Special Forces and their support in permissive circumstances ? In which case 16 Airmobile no longer needs Para’s to form a parachute capable battle group………. but wait there is more…..

As we have so many “General Purpose – Light Role” infantry battalions who can do nothing useful on a battlefield (except maybe replace the RAF Regiment !) why not give them a proper light role ? Strip out the AAC and make 16 Airmobile into “5th Para-Commando Brigade” with 2 x Parachute Regt Btln and 2 x other Inf Btln. I am not talking a simple re-roling of 2 battalions, but findng two battalions worth of guys who are “up for it”. In fact find another battalions worth, put all three through at least the all arms commando course and et volia, we keep two specialist brigade HQ’s and the brigades actually have 4 manoeuvre units to go through the training / deployment roulement like everyone else.

5th Para-Commando Brigades units can be deployed by helicopter, from land or from ship as required. If they need an additional specialism to make you all buy in, then I would say make them Jungle specialist and get rid of that real sacred cow – the remaining Gurkha units.

monkey
monkey
November 28, 2014 12:52 pm

Re posted from open thread
http://www.janes.com/article/46324/british-army-tests-mastiff-mraps-in-mechanised-infantry-role
Seems the Army are practicing using Airborne Paras to secure an area before heavier units can be brought up

MCRR
MCRR
March 23, 2015 2:42 pm

What is this ‘centralisation’ madness? How on Earth would merging two elite, distinct and different units save cash? Bootnecks are on a Naval budget, Para’s on an Army budget. We have already experienced numerical difficulty in sustained and prolonged in-theatre operations. All this talk of reducing two of the world’s finest ‘boots on ground’ fighting forces is stupidity. There appears to be a number of naive play station warriors on this blog! As for cutting one or the other….. Both have significant merits and specialities, and both get the job done. There are a number of means for reducing the overall defence expenditure, but alas, the reality is that when the day of the race comes it’s down to men on the ground. There was also an assumption that doing away with both units and replacing with regular army infantry, with maybe an All Arms course thrown in……!!! Of course there are many high calibre soldiers within regular army infantry units but as a whole, the difference between Royal / Para’s compared to such is ….. Let’s just say considerable, and to suggest such, simply means – you do not know. I’m also somewhat confused as to a lack of ‘blog’ awareness of what is actually going on in the world, and just how many military classed actions are taking course today. Patrolling gravel roads in hostile territory might sound ‘mundane’ to some of the armchair warriors here, but the reality is bread and butter ops to all infantry on the ground. To even suggest that such work does not require quality training, astute awareness and…I could go on, ,is a f*****g insult!!! They don’t walk round handing donuts out to kids, taking long, happy walks in the countryside singing songs. They are there to dominate ground, collect intelligence, sometimes hearts and minds and also to kill the enemy. Precision air strikes are all good, but it still takes men on the ground to conduct such operations. The UK has a tri-service military. This means various assets / knowledge / specialisation / with their respected command and control. Let’s get back to economics; Sure the UK will eventually reduce its overall military size. But this will only happen when united Europe stabilises fiscally and politically and we see new policy to support a more cohesive European military structure. Not the current NATO layout. I also observed mention of the French system…. Alas, France operates with Marines and 2 Rep FFL. JED’s point is worthy of merit, there are a few nuggets on here that live in the world of Disney.

PaulF
PaulF
May 12, 2015 11:47 am

We looked at this at a workshop not too long ago, infinite sense, only difficult choice is where to base both units when you smash them together and how much of a loan the government would need to take to compensate the local populace… Merge all the support units and command and you could save a fortune. There should be no sacred cows in SDSR 2015 and I think many in Defence are waking up to this.