The current Future Force 2020 structure for the British Army is in all honesty a bit of a dog’s breakfast. A process that started out with some very clever strategic thinking seems to have degenerated into an exercise to save as many cap badges as possibly.
While the Armoured Infantry 3rd Division seems to make sense much of the rest of the army will be held in the 1st Division with seven regional brigades of varying sizes.
Now its a given that any major operation the British Army is likely to be involved in will be commanded by the USA. As such it makes sense in my mind at least to model our forces on theirs.
The US Army has migrated its forces away from a divisional basis and instead adopted the brigade combat team.
The idea now is that a division will simply be a deployable headquarters and each brigade combat team can be plugged into any division depending on the needs of an operation.
An infantry brigade combat team has around 4,500 soldiers based in three infantry battalions. The formation is commanded typically by a Colonel. In addition the formation also has a reconnaissance squadron.
The 1st UK Division will have 15 regular infantry battalions and 3 armoured cavalry battalions in 7 brigades. So these could be re-rolled into 5 brigade combat teams with the 3 armoured cavalry battalions being split into 5 squadrons.
This formation could then provide a single infantry brigade combat team for enduring operations or could provide one brigade combat team to operate as part of the deployable division. So a one-off division sized deployment would probably comprise one armoured infantry brigade, one infantry brigade combat team and possibly 16AAB or 3 Commando.
On an enduring operation one of the brigade combat teams would simply be slotted into a US Army division. The same could happen in the event that a British division was deployed as part of a larger US operation with US Army brigade combat teams being slotted into the British division.
Obviously this is a simplistic view and does not take into account items such as combat engineers and other elements that are currently destined for the force troop. However given the size of the British Army it seems about achievable. It would probably reduce slightly the number of forces that could be deployed on an enduring operation yet enhance the ability to deploy a divisional sized force as its currently projected to take anything for 6 – 12 months for 1st Division to deploy a brigade.
It would also prevent the forces of the 1st Division being looked upon as a second class army. In addition replacing 7 brigades each commanded by a brigadier with 5 brigade combat teams each commanded by a colonel is bound to save some money.