Army 2020 Alternative, The Brigade Combat Team

British Army Soldier in Afghanistan Engaging the Enemy

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.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
June 14, 2015 9:35 am

: Agree with the general structures you propose, but not the Strategy to tie ourselves even closer with the US. It is time the UK developed an independent view of the world rather than tie ourselves solely to a declining superpower that sees decreasing value in us as a nation and to a European Union in disarray.

June 14, 2015 9:41 am

I don’t get this “second class Army” nonsense. I know people in the AF who have spent more time away from home than when HERRICK was on.

Martin I don’t think you’re proposing anything that can’t or hasn’t happened. Divisional HQs have always taken on different brigades and we’ve raised deployable brigades from random units before several times. No UK division has deployed as organised in peacetime since 1939.

June 14, 2015 9:49 am

The French army will be structured by the new generation of Scorpion equipment and will be articulated in two combat divisions composed each of 3 brigades with 7,000 soldiers each on average, 7 regiments each.

Thus each division will have :
– one high intensity brigades equipped with Leclerc, VBCI 8×8 and MRLS.
– one median brigades equipped with Jaguar 6×6 and Griffon 6×6 (amphibious) and Caesar 155mm.
– one light brigade (airborne or mountain) equipped with 4×4 vehicles to define, (CRAB, VBR, PVP, Sherpa, Bastion or a mix of each), Vikings (for mountain brigade) and Caesar 155mm.

An air combat brigade will be created with NH90, Tigre, Caracal, Cougar and HIL (replacing Gazelle).

June 14, 2015 10:02 am

@ Frenchie – the issue is for sustainment forces we need to formations of fives instead of 2 or 3.

@ repulse – I don’t see such a structure necessarily forcing us to work with the USA but the likelihood is that we will end up doing so. It may be better if the entire EU NATO forces used a similar method, UK division with a polish brigade combat team inside it for instance. Might be two much for nations like Denmark to swallow but then potentially they could supply a battalion to a Nordic brigade combat team.

June 14, 2015 10:34 am

@ Phil – My second class army concerns are for the future rather than today. It seems to me that the Future Force 2020 structure is too focused on the 3rd division and the units in the 1st division may become looked down upon and starved of resources. However if the 1st division can also deploy a brigade combat team to a rapid intervention mission as well as provide follow on forces then this certainly won’t be the case.

June 14, 2015 10:41 am

This force structure makes a great deal of sense to me and is one that is very flexible and will help integrate our whole force into a unified structure, as the majority of all assets should be purchased to support our land forces. (in reality 75% of the airforce and 50% of the navy’s assets should be aligned to this duty).

If we build this up further it would equate to a 3 Corps structure of 12 brigades. 8 Combat Brigades of circa 6k personnel split into 4 divisions and a further 4 brigades of logistical and specialist personnel. My take on this is that the reserve should be used in the logistical space as the UK has a lot of civilian capability in this area and can ramp up quickly. It is combat force that needs to be prioritised and when we say we are putting a brigade in that brigade has 6k combat troops not 2k and a load of support.

Each Corps would have 1 high, 2 medium and 1 low readiness brigades with 1 Corp being an expeditionary force of light infantry as follows: 1 RM, 2 RM, 1 Rifles and 1 Gurkha with 2 Corps would be a heavier force based on the Guards and mechanised infantry. 3 Corp would include all field Logistic elements and 4 Corp would be HQ, Intelligence services, Cyber and special forces group.

(Note 1 Para would join special forces group on a permanent basis going forward).

On the brigade level each would have 4 Regiments (1440 men) of 4 Battalions each (340 men), a company would be sized at 76 men (platoon 18).

This gives us a force structure that is both flexible and manageable and for me puts the onus on the infantry man, where it always should have been.

Command is by a brigadier who will be accountable for the circa £2b annual budget of this force and its equipment. Once you have this structure it is relatively easy to map assets to each unit. 16 apaches to each Brigade, 32 Merlins, 8 Chinooks etc. and given the fact that we normally only deploy 1 Brigade at a time when it does come to using these assets we have plenty to double up and get scale into theatre instead of asking the US and other to help out.

Lastly, it makes it very clear what our forces will and will not do in future and we can stop wasting money on gucci kit that is never used.

June 14, 2015 10:45 am

Martin the AF is actually designed to do the bread and butter of what the British Army has done since there has been such a thing. The RF is actually the a-historical formation and I am pleased that despite this fact and the natural lure of the AF, we have committed to invest in it and make it potentially useful. We’ve had a ready made expeditionary force for the vast minority of our history.

Fact is to carry out the majority of peacetime missions of the Army, you don’t need complex kit or heavy vehicles.

June 14, 2015 11:00 am

, my main concern is focusing our structure on the basis that we will fight regularly with the US. It depends on the UK strategy but an alternative structure could be split between UK (and European) and global requirements.

For example, for UK / European defence the UK needs to provide a 3,000 man Battle Group to the ‘Very High Readiness Joint Task Force’ (VJTF) – meaning say 4 Battlegroups, and an armoured division at 6-12 months notice.

Globally it needs to provide troops for existing BOT/UN commitments with the ability to deploy a flexible Battle group at short notice by sea / air, with the ability to surge and Brigade (3 battle groups combined) at say 3 months notice – say 6 Battle Groups including the RMs and Paras.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 14, 2015 11:27 am

I think you have things the wrong way round, Martin.

The US brigade combat teams do not exist for the purpose of slotting into divisional structures; they exist to allow independent operation without support from divisions.

BCTs come with their own integrated logistics, artillery, and so on. In the 2020 plan, the three armoured infantry brigades and the single air assault brigade will be more or less equatable to the US brigade combat team principle.

Alternatively, the 1Div brigades will not have any sort of permanently integrated support units; these brigades’ fundamental structures will consist only of headquarters and key infantry units, or infantry & cavalry units.

The BCT structures will have benefits in terms of readiness and cohesiveness, and also general practicality if that is a suitable scale of operation for your army.

Moving from divisional structures to independent brigade combat teams will however increase the ratio of support units to combat units. You have to consider if there would be a worthwhile payoff if you were to transform 1Div units into BCTs too.

The planned 1Div structure is probably suited to creating ad hoc battalion battlegroups (or

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 14, 2015 11:52 am

[the lost bit]

The planned 1Div structure is probably suited to creating ad hoc battalion battlegroups (or brigade minus groups), and of providing additional units to the four reaction force brigades – and these are probably the regular ways in which 1 Division’s units will be used.

With the units that the Army will have, if you envisage creating BCTs for major combat operations, then you would maybe only get three infantry BCTs out of 1Div and the necessary force troops, and a collection of unattached battalions. You may then have to use some of the personnel slots from the half-dozen leftover battalions to create support units for those leftover battalions, and so perhaps losing a couple of battalions.

Instead of mirroring BCTs with the adaptable force, if those units are more likely to be used on smaller-scale deployments, then you might be able to make a case for one or two standing structures consisting of only a couple of light role (or light protected mobility) battalions and requisite supporting units; but you would have to explain what utility they would posses that the reaction force and adaptable force setup could not already deliver.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 14, 2015 12:06 pm

Martin suggests 1Div dropping from seven brigades to five brigades (actually BCTs).

I wonder if the number of brigade HQs might well be cut anyway. The published 2020 structure envisaged fully integrated regular and reserve forces. There seems to have been a gradual climb-down from that and the role that the reserves would play.

If instead of the ‘integrated Army’ of 112,000 we have 82,000 regulars plus a 30,000 TA style reserve, then seven (plus four) Army brigades seems a little excessive either for holding the number of combat units in the Army, or for running enduring operations.

June 14, 2015 12:11 pm

The brigades also have a national engagement role and whether I like it or not the Army is now more involved in resilience support. The Army knows that it can’t go around engaging throughout the globe and leave large parts of the UK without a military presence. So you need regional brigades. They’re important.

June 14, 2015 12:33 pm

I think the crux of the matter was nicely captured here:

“Moving from divisional structures to independent brigade combat teams will however increase the ratio of support units to combat units. You have to consider if there would be a worthwhile payoff if you were to transform 1Div units into BCTs too.”

June 14, 2015 12:49 pm
Reply to  ArmChairCivvy

I’m not so sure about that ACC, most of the units attached to brigades are on loan from their parent organization, the brigades do not usually have their own in-house support units, though sometimes it is hard to tell even from the inside. This is for logistics purposes, a brigade does not have the training facilities that a dedicated School has, so theoretically you would still have the same amount of support units as when there was a division structure.

June 14, 2015 12:57 pm

The brigade-division debate has been going on for some time. What seems consistent is that once someone has moved to one model, they move to the opposite some time later. During HERRICK it was all about Improved Support to the Brigade. Now we’re much more back to Divisional level being a threshold level of competence. In my view Brigades when deployed tend to be almost divisional level formations in practice when it comes to the support they need. Hence why the brigade on HERRICK sat under TFH. There were a lot of joint “theatre” level personnel. You need those whether you send a division or a brigade. But we’ve definitely moved to a modus operandi where brigades get equal slices of CS and CSS.

Stuart H
Stuart H
June 14, 2015 1:06 pm

The number of battalions in the AF will be 14 with the Gurkhas moving to 16 AA Bde Also the number of CS And CSS are fewer with 4 sub units each for the RA, RE, REME and RLC not earmarked for RF units.

I do agree with the principle though of a more coherent AF, which for me is ideally suited to a Mali-type intervention with wheeled vehicles similar to the French.

We could field 3 brigades of 1 RAC regt and 4 infantry btns with a RE sqn, RA bty and a combined logistics btn similar to the old 5 Abn Bde organisation.

June 14, 2015 1:38 pm

@ Stuart H – that’s interesting, I did not know that. I am guessing that rebuilds 16AAB back up to 3 battalions but makes a bit of a mockery of the concept of the AR then that’s suppose to be scaled to provide 6 battalions on a rotation of 3 basis.

A lot of valid points made especially concerning the number of support personnel needed for a BCT. Figures I read quite an entire Infantry BCT at 4,500 personnel so five would represent 22,500 or roughly 1/4 of the total army strength. Again seems doable and perhaps we need more engineers and logistics anyway. another way to free up personnel and resources might be to turn the three armoured infantry brigades in 3 division into Armoured brigade combat teams which would free up three additional battalions.

June 14, 2015 2:01 pm

As I’ve argued Martin its not just a question of units and personnel. If you want anything more than a paper formation you need the funds and space to exercise the unit properly and to stockpile all the kit, spares, stores and ammunition they need for a realistic operation and move that stuff to where its needed.

You can’t just re-jig the ORBAT. We could have 2 divisions on paper with several strong brigades. But they’re totally useless (worse than useless due to the opportunity costs) if the war reserves aren’t there for them and there’s no money to work them up.

June 14, 2015 3:05 pm

I do not understand very well, your first division is a source for an workforce rolling for the third division. Where else it will be a holding force of peace ?

In both cases is not much pertinant, I prefer the French organization.
In the case of a counterinsurgency, you do not have the right material. The Jackal and Foxhound not have enough firepower and are not protected enough.
In the case of military personnel turnover, it can not be improvised battle tank driver.
This is why the French system is more appropriate.
If counterinsurgency, we have our two middle brigades of 7,000 troops each that can make an effective working. Depending on the situation our parachute brigade and our mountain brigade can support our brigades median, ie a strength of 28,000 men.
In the case of a large-scale war we our two armored brigades that count 200 tanks fighting, and 630 VBCI and 14,000 troops.
In the case of an emergency we have our paratroopers brigade and our mountain brigade that can act according to the situation. So there’s that skilled troops to their positions.

June 14, 2015 3:33 pm

“The US Army has migrated its forces away from a divisional basis and instead adopted the brigade combat team.”

… repeatedly, and a brigade-centric OoB was already state of the art by the late 50’s in NATO, in part driven by the rebuilt West German army which had more conventional land warfare experience among its officers than any other, and against the Soviet.
Divisions survived in large part because of a political lock-in. Germany, for example, retained divisional HQs only because it had promised “12 divisions” to its partners, and 36 brigades without 12 divisional HQs wouldn’t have been “12 divisions”. Similarly stupid reasons helped to extend the life of divisional HQs in other countries.
The U.S.Army hasn’t been innovative in regard to brigade or divisional OoB since the 80’s, after they added rotary aviation at such (too-)low levels. Everything later on was utterly unimpressive and for show.

Nowadays it makes more sense to think of (reinforced) battalion battlegroups than of brigades of any size, so talk about focusing on the Bde level is obsolete. Bdes would be split up in two or three Bn BGs or have even more detachments in a conventional conflict or other stupid war anyway.

BTW, I have to see ANY comprehensive discussion of OoB issues in public yet. Most appear to focus on pet topics of the authors, usually combat units’ nominal strength and arrangement, plus their main combat vehicle type or category (tracks vs. wheels).

A decent summary for a OoB proposal would be a ten page essay covering about 20 different pivotal topics.

June 14, 2015 8:04 pm
Reply to  Repulse

@ Repulse.

We the US. don’t see the UK as Declining Nation. It’s simply that were being pulled in so many directions at the same time. With an Active Fleet a approximately 268 ship’s, we simply don’t have the Resources to Prop-Up every Friendly Allied Nation anymore. On top of that, paying Their Nato and UN dues, too,,,

June 15, 2015 4:04 am
Reply to  secundius

The U.S. provides almost no support to the UN, zil blue helmets, and the meagre cash transfers were at times withheld for blackmailing purposes.

The U.S. also don’t subsidize European NATO collective security in any meaningful way because the European NATO is in itself a military overmatch against all Mediterranean and Eastern European threats combined.

And it’s the U.S.’s own fault that it devised and insists on the most resource-inefficient pattern for using a navy; forward deployed patrols all the time, thousands of miles from any U.S. soil. A smarter country would have set up a fast-cruising Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbour and a European-style cooperative Atlantic fleet and could easily make do with 100-150 ships. Only the U.S. is so submissive to its armed forces that it accepts its navy’s megalomaniac wishes and adds an amphibious invasion ship or two on top of that wishlist, just because a congressman has a shipyard in his state.

June 15, 2015 4:46 am
Reply to  S O

@ S O.

Apparently you News is Water-Down A Lot by Rupert Murdoch, to notice that WE (the USA) have a Dysfunctional Functional Congress that Hates it’s President SO MUCH. That it would rather turn the US into a 4th World Nation, than too Fund ANYTHING…

June 15, 2015 5:19 am

Yes 1st Division is now the second-hand division. Yes, it’s quite a disorganised structure. But will it’s units really deploy as a full brigade? So far, the UK doctrine appears to be company-sized battlegroups deploying on overseas engagements and exercises. The largest was CJOAX and even then, not the full strength of 3 PARA was deployed–only one rifle company.

Not to say a BCT isn’t a good alternative, but will the UK ever deploy a brigade-sized unit, unless it is Iraq/Afghanistan/theatre-sized conflict? The Army 2020 or even pre-Army 2020 mindset is Battlegroup or Company. Maybe if tensions increase suddenly, the the rest of the battalion, then brigade will join the initial battle group.

1st Division–just restructure 4th, 7th, and 51st (ok if the Scots want to get out then 160th or 42nd) to 1 x Reecce, 2 x Foxhound/replacement, 2 x Infantry and CSS.

But again, what do you want to deploy say if France wants to do an exercise? Or the US? A Company or a Battalion or a Brigade?

June 15, 2015 6:37 am

@ Forces Review UK

The way things are going I seriously doubt the UK will deploy more than a company to a fight let alone a battalion sized battle group.

However I believe our structure should match our maximum aspiration which is a division of 30,000 deployed in 6 months or a sustained brigade sized force of 6,000. In my mind this lets us do both better rather than trying to through battalions together to make larger forces. It may also help to stop us blighting off more than we can chew in a future operation with the USA. The ability t deploy a brigade combat team of 4,500 hardly seems ambitious from an army of 82,000.

June 15, 2015 8:22 am
Reply to  secundius

Those bastards not stumping up for grammar lessons either?

June 15, 2015 8:35 am

I understood nothing to what you were saying, so I went on Wikipedia.

“The 3rd (UK) Mechanised Division, renamed the 3rd (United Kingdom) Division, comprising three armoured infantry brigades; 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade, 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade and 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade. These three brigades will rotate; with one being the lead brigade, a second involved in training and the third involved in other tasks. The lead brigade will deliver a Lead Battlegroup at very high readiness, with the rest of the brigade at longer notice.”

You could not to deploy more than one brigade of 4,500 men on three with the two other brigades in rotation and the 1st division that will be useless. Who has imagined this “thing” to be polite ? It’s nonsense.

June 15, 2015 9:41 am

Brigades are the right size for CnC in my opinion and if we accept that the Army is combat force only then we should be looking for a 16 Brigade force structure which equates to 96k personnel. 8 Brigades will be combat and 6 Brigades logistics with 1 Brigade SFG and 1 CnC. Each Brigade has 6k personnel.

4 Brigades would be light and 4 Brigades Mechanised. This allows for total flexibility in creating a battle group and by centralising all support functions and putting the assets where they are needed as they are needed.

2 Corps of 4 Combat Brigades each with a further 2 Corps for 8 Support brigades.

The Royal Marines would be placed under this command and the Paras would move into SFG permanently.

Cap badges are irrelevant here as you can have as many separate battalions as you like, just rename the Brigade and get them working together.

At any point in time we should be able to deploy 1/4 of our land force within 1 week. If we are not then we have a problem as it costs a fortune. Each Corps needs to be able to put a Brigade out that is fully supported and we should concentrate on this. Essentially 1 Corps becomes our go anywhere force and 2 Corps becomes our Nato force (notwithstanding commitments that require crossover).

June 15, 2015 10:22 am

Frenchie, the rule of 3 seems to have stepped in place of the rule of 5 (which was for fielding a unit, say a bde, to deal with unruly tribesmen, on-going).

So, following on from

“These three brigades will rotate; with one being the lead brigade, a second involved in training and the third involved in other tasks. The lead brigade will deliver a Lead Battlegroup at very high readiness, with the rest of the brigade at longer notice.”

there is also the smaller scale, supposedly more rapid VHR force, companies for both by air and by sea deployment, with a battle group (bn ) to follow in these cases. As keeping up the ability to do this to required time frames, we have just seen a Royal Gurkha Rifles bn moved over to the 16X bde, which despite being pretty heavily manned had only two of infantry bns.
– it is deplorable that for propaganda reasons the V Hi Readiness term has become to mean different things at different levels in the force structure

If you have the airborne element of the Foreign Legion standing guard by your house on Corsica, I am now fortunate enough to be able to claim the same (the Gurkha beret was changed into maroon colour to highlight the new role).

June 15, 2015 12:27 pm
Reply to  Martin

yup. But get the personnel figures up first to 82,000–I don’t think all units are at full establishment.

June 15, 2015 12:29 pm

@ Frenchie for a high readiness formation we need groups of 3 but to sustain a force we need groups of 5. It’s very tricky to do but my idea was to keep the 3 brigades of 3rd division to maintain a high readiness brigade with maximum sustained deployment being 18 months. 1st division with 5 BCT’s would be able to sustain a BCT in theatre permanently.

If you are only now reading about the future of 1 Division then I think you can see what a mess it appears.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 15, 2015 12:31 pm

Martin, you talk about ‘throwing battalions together’ to make larger forces; but the point of the adaptable force structure is that you don’t know what composition will be necessary to perform some as yet unidentified future task.

The UK brigade that went into Kosovo, for example, included armoured infantry as well as parachute battalions. We can’t hold every conceivable composition of brigades within permanent structures – there just isn’t enough Army to do that.

There is also the issue of scale. The BCT is appropriate for the US as they have the forces available to be able to deploy regularly at brigade level. The UK deploying a brigade is much more of a major commitment than it is for the US.

1 Division is more likely to regularly deploy battalion groups, or brigade-minus groups, than it is to deploy full brigades; so having fully integrated brigade structures will be less relevant.

June 15, 2015 12:44 pm
Reply to  secundius

Actually, I wrote nothing about the U.S. not funding anything here at all.
When I do, I often refer to the sources
because unlike your idea about what I have written here, what I write isn’t imagined wholly.

Besides, Murdoch media is merely fodder for comedy from my perspective on mass media.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 15, 2015 1:06 pm

Frenchie, 1 Division is not entirely useless.

The structure was intended to provide three allotments of units, each consisting of one light cavalry, two light protected mobility, three light infantry battalions, and their respective paired reserve units.

Units of one of those allotments would either be committed on operations or ready for emergent tasks in any given year.

If you look at the French brigade deployed for the Mali operation, that wasn’t a standing brigade.

The deployed French brigade was a composition of various units, with the main combat units consisting of about a battalion’s worth each of VBCI and VAB, themselves drawn from different units, and light and parachute battalions too.

I don’t though understand how the Army came to the conclusion that 1 Div needed seven brigades, which seems excessive.

I assume that the published adaptable force structure will change before 2020. 1 Division appears to be slowly contracting. The intended role of reserves has waned a little. And the Gurkhas have now wandered over to the reaction force.

I assume, as ACC suggested, that the Gurkhas moving to 16Bde is tied in with the creation of the VJTF (Very (high readiness) Joint Task Force), increasing demands on the brigade.

June 15, 2015 1:32 pm
Reply to  Phil

, they’re even more useless as unaffiliated bn’s without supporting assets or war reserves….

June 15, 2015 2:40 pm

@ Brian Black

I agree that formations are often added to or in some instances thrown together completely. My issue is not having the support units training in a regular brigade structure. The ambition of 1 division to cobble together a brigade in 6 – 12 months seems too slow to me as well.

The main thing that the UK can bring to a party that few others can is a deplorable divisional sized force. To me this is one of the key capabilities the UK should retain. Almost anyone in Europe can send a battalion sized force for an enduring operation. The current configuration of 1 UK division does not facilitate its ability to deploy a brigade in good time to a UK division. splitting it into 5 light brigade or BCT would allow it to do this.

June 15, 2015 4:16 pm

In France, currently, the Land Forces Command is the orchestra conductor of the eight arms brigades of six specialized brigades and the three combat helicopters regiment.

In 2020 it will have direct control over the 6 arms brigades (two high intensity brigades, two medium brigades and two light brigades) , the airmobile brigade, the logistics brigade, the intelligence brigade, the brigade of special forces and transmission brigade.

The reconnaissance regiments, engineering, and artillery, are part of the brigades.

It organizes and establishes the creation of the forces designated for an operation, it forms the core of headquarters operations for commitment of our forces.

That is to say that for an operation X it can choose the units depending on the context, some special forces, an armoured brigade, helicopters, logistics, transmissions, etc ….

Well, I don’t know if this organization corresponds to the your.

Brent Smith
June 15, 2015 4:32 pm
Reply to  S O

@S O

According to this,

The US provides around 22% of the UN’s budget in 2015, to the tune of $655 million.

June 15, 2015 4:37 pm
Reply to  Brent Smith

Its share of the world’s GDP is about 19%, so what? Obviously, OECD countries are paying above average shares of their GDP into the UN.
What I wrote about was that they withheld due payments in order to blackmail the UN and are known to be about the least reliably on-time contributor to the UN among developed nations.

Brent Smith
June 15, 2015 5:32 pm
Reply to  S O

The US contributed 28% of the UN’s peacekeeping budget. Hardly “meager cash transfers”. The US also contributes with military transports, access to bases around the world, and so on.

Shouldn’t be shocked when we use our large contributions to move things in a direction we want. The contributions aren’t a blank check. This isn’t blackmail. We call it, “exercising the power of the purse.”

There are many in the US who would prefer to spend nothing on the UN. (I’m not one of them)

June 15, 2015 5:53 pm

The vast majority of UN spending , that is to say things to do with international politicking, is spent on administration of the centres in New York and Geneva and the various offices around the world. The complex structure that is the UN has a lot of people and offices to pay for and absorbs most, if not all of the monies we are discussing here. The permanent UN peacekeepers such as those in Cyprus etc are provided by individual nations free of charge or in lieu of contributions. Hands up who thinks the UN paid for Gulf War 1 or 2 out of their budget? None? Thought so , it wouldn’t even cover a months worth of satellite recce.
P.S. Brent I never did trust squirrels , far to cute and fluffy but underneath still tree climbing rats :-)

June 15, 2015 6:02 pm
Reply to  wf

No not really if they’re there for defence engagement and upstream engagement etc They’re basically colonial style units designed for a specific purpose as part of a wider strategy. If the Russian bear roars again they can be regenerated into bigger formations.

June 15, 2015 6:05 pm

Frenchie. The 3x armoured infantry brigades are there to do some serious fighting. If we need to do an enduring operation we can generate 2x brigades from the AF giving us 5x brigades, enough to continue indefinitely (as well as having 2x more brigade HQs in 16X and 3Cdo).

We mustn’t forget how valuable HQs are in themselves, especially when we’re operating with allies.

June 15, 2015 6:34 pm

@Phil”The Army knows that it can’t go around engaging throughout the globe and leave large parts of the UK without a military presence. So you need regional brigades. They’re important.”
I am all for spreading the benefit of the economic aspects of Army,RAf or RN basing along with dispersion makes a single strike less devastating but ‘leaving large parts of the UK without a military presence..’ begs the question why? Regional insurrection?

June 15, 2015 7:00 pm

Phil. I agree, but our highly flexible working system, as has said Brian Black in a very precise manner, allowing us to stick it out in Africa with a small force in a large territory, our wheeled vehicles allow us to move very fast and very far.
I hope your wheeled vehicles project for an intermediate strength will come, it is very important to have an intermediate strength for action wherever this is necessary.

June 15, 2015 7:22 pm

I think the obsessing over orbat really misses the point.

I am on record and I’ll say again that I think the Army 2020 structure is a very sensible and well thought out organisation. We are cutting or cloth according to our means structure wise, with the Army organised to achieve less ambitious deployments but sensible and potentially better supported ones.

We have an overarching strategy of promoting global stability and therefore indirectly our trade and values. We can see this through the adoption of a multi-agency overseas engagement strategy in which the Army plays a key role doing the jobs of upstream engagement and defence engagement. It is to do this using a force which has been paired down to what is really needed to do those jobs so opportunity costs are minimised based as the structure is, on a realistic mission requirement.

The integration of the reserves is something every 1st world military has done since the 19th century and is something that should have been done 23 years ago.

And yet on the other hand we have a core heavy force which means we can regenerate faster for an uncertain future and keep a sensible contribution to coalition operations. On top of keeping a framework to undertake an enduring operation by re-generating 2x deployable brigades from the AF.

Furthermore, we maintain a regional footprint of some sort to aid recruitment and keep a link with society which if the forces become distant from, will rot the establishment from the outside.

That’s all very sensible and very clever. Obsessing over ORBATs misses the true worry in defence. It’s the things that you don’t see, the things which aren’t clearly publicised or easily accessible. It’s a reduced exercise schedule, its reduced flying hours, it’s salami sliced ammunition allocations, its gapped posts here and there, it’s mothballing vehicles and kit quietly.

In 1981 we had 4x armoured divisions and 4x brigades with a Corps HQ and 650 MBTs. Yet that winter they all sat idle because there was no fuel for them. The whole of BAOR sat in MT areas. That is the real danger. There we had a strong paper force, but it was hollow.

Army 2020 makes sense. It is based on an honest and realistic appraisal of what the Army needs to do and what we are doing as a country. It is not perfect, I agree with TD with the fact our rapid reaction forces can do with bolstering. But the greatest danger to defence are the unseen cuts.

June 15, 2015 7:30 pm

We have built up a range of wheeled MRAP’s which we purchased on an Urgent Operational Requirement basis (UOR) so we bought the best available that promised to meet our need in Afghanistan. Subsequently we have brought most into ongoing service due to their effectiveness in service and because they are there. I would like to see us deploy them along side your units in the Sahel in addition to your present force to help us choose an ongoing FRES UV . Using them side by side with your kit would help us gain an insight into what is needed in an area we will be deployed to inevitably. By using them along side your experienced units we can hopefully avoid the same scenario we acquired them in the first place.

Think Defence
June 15, 2015 7:46 pm
Reply to  monkey

Apart from the unseen things that we all know about, as Phil says, the real problems I think the Army has are

1. An armoured vehicle fleet that has been bady neglected, beset with poor choices and is approaching obsolesence in many areas

2. A lack of planning, training and equipping for any kind of complex operation in a cluttered ad congested littoral urban environment i.e. far too much replaying of Helmand for the AF and BAOR for the RF

3. A number of key capability gaps, EW for example

4. A lack of mobility and firepower in the rapid reaction forces

June 15, 2015 8:08 pm
Reply to  monkey

Recruitment. To keep the Army on people’s radars. You have a force that is already very distinct in society and which has a number of missions and perhaps even values that are alien to wider society. No need to physically isolate it as well. But there’s also the issue of resilience. The Army has now become the first port of call of the “something MUST be done” politician when they need an organised body of men able to sustain themselves away from hard standings and McDonalds.

June 15, 2015 8:12 pm

Why EW? I remember quite a few EW types on Herrick. No idea if they were just using scanners they built in the garage within the out of bounds confines of their shitty and no doubt very hot ISO. But there were a few of them about.

June 15, 2015 8:14 pm

I would personally see value from having defined units / structures per role. It would not only allow for targeted training / kit / size, but also allow for the requirement vs capability to be easier understood by the government and public. I’m not saying that all flexibility would go, but the primary role would be clear.

For example:
– 1 Extended Armoured Mechanised Division for UK and European defence (4 Brigades), also used to staff the VJTF
– 8 Globally deployable Battle Groups, 2 RM, 2 Para, 2 Light Infantry and 2 Mechanized.

June 15, 2015 8:20 pm

Oh and create 6 SBS/RM CoLTs to be based on extended T26 GP (Absalon Style) frigates – 2 deployed at any time :)

Think Defence
June 15, 2015 8:34 pm
Reply to  Phil

Phil, EW as in EW that can manoeuvre with an armoured battlegroup and/or 16AAB, think we are still a bit static, entirely understandable given our last decade or so but I think in general, we don’t give EW the attention it deserves, the Russians do!!

June 15, 2015 8:44 pm

The AATF has a LEWT I believe. No idea what it can achieve or how effective it is. From what we know about our EW capabilities I’d be surprised if it wasn’t somewhat snazzy and gee-whiz.

As for urban littoral (aka Basra). What kit would that need and how does that square with the need to be mobile? I just wonder if its not possible to over-egg that particular pudding – the decisive battles seem to take place away from urban areas as often as not, or envelop them.

June 15, 2015 8:48 pm
Reply to  secundius

: The problem is not the US but the naivety of UK policy – we have no greater ally than the US when our objectives are aligned and when the US actually needs the UK. The problem is that the world is much bigger than just the US (and the EU in fact) and we sit like a needy ex-girlfriend trying everything to pretend were still going out, rather than face the cold facts.

June 15, 2015 8:52 pm

@ Repulse.

No arguments from me. Got a chance to work one of their Helicopter’s in the late 70’s…

Think Defence
June 15, 2015 9:20 pm
Reply to  Phil

Not so much kit Phil, more about joined up realistic training in the urban and urban littoral

its one of my ‘things’

June 15, 2015 9:28 pm

Coming late to the party (been in Sofia, lovely city!) but i broadly agree with you Martin about the problems with Army 2020.

I have long thought that the Reaction Force aside it’s become more an exercise in retaining cap-badges and providing niche capabilities rather than being a comprehensive reappraisal and restructure of the Army to be a force for the 21st Century.

Having said that i agree with Phil that we don’t need more than 1 divisional structure for our purposes and to have another would be wasteful. Brigade level formations are what it’s all about and the Army’s structure should reflect this.

I see a need for some medium, wheeled, combat brigades alongside the heavier RF and light 16 Air-Assault + 3 Commando, but it also seems to me that a better solution instead of 5-6 brigades and a 2nd divisional HQ would be to have 3, thus providing 1 at all times and when combined with the 3 heavier ones creating a pool of 6 brigades which could rotate on an enduring commitment, and without a 2nd divisional structure.

The medium brigades could exist as self contained formations, with a handful of light infantry battalions disbanded and the equivalent manpower pumped into the support arms for a more balanced ORBAT, with the leftovers of the currently planned Adaptable Force placed with Support Command in a few of the pre-existing Regional Brigades (i’m thinking predominantly 38th Irish, 160th Welsh and 51st Scottish, plus 1 or 2 of the English units, probably in the areas without major bases, so 42nd in the North West for example).

David Hume Footsoldier
June 15, 2015 11:53 pm

BLUF: US BCTs are larger than UK brigades and have a very close relationship with their divisions. The US has regionally aligned its forces.

Although US BCTs are modularised they are not homogenous, and Divisions (and Corps) have Training and Readiness Authority (TRA) for their affiliated brigades and divisions. So for example 1 Cavalry Division is clearly responsible for its four manoeuve brigades (‘Ironsides’, ‘Blackjack’, ‘Greywolf’ and the Combat Aviation Brigade ‘Warriors’). For a significant portion of the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns BCTs were de facto independent but this has now been reversed. I see no significant difference between the US and UK system. In both instances divisions command brigades and in both cases brigades are expected to deploy autonomously.

A typical brigade consists of 8 units, 4 ground manoeuvre elements (a mix of Stryker, Infantry or Armour) a Brigade Support Battalion (Logistics) and a Brigade Engineer Battalion. Most will also have an integral Field Artillery Battalion and an integral Cavalry Squadron (note that US Squadrons are unit sized: US ‘Squadrons’ = UK ‘Regiments’, and US ‘Troops’ = UK ‘Squadrons’).
These fires and logistics assets are in addition to the Division’s Div Arty and Support brigades.

The U.S. has also regionally aligned its forces, so if you say “RAF” to a US officer they think Regionally Aligned Forces and not airforce. The US RAF concept works in very much the same way as the UK’s AF regional alignment.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
June 16, 2015 12:02 am

In my humble opinion, the current FF2020 organisation has far less to do with developing an effective and adaptable army for the 21st century and far more with trying to square the circle and appear to be doing something whilst hiding from the public the glaring gaps and ineffectiveness that exists. It will simply not be fit for purpose and will get even less so as more and more equipment wears out, further reductions are made (our of plain site of course) and there continues to be a real lack of investment in the real kit that is needed. We are getting FRES (SV) because politically we had to and for the Army it was the only new item on the menu. It isn’t what we need. The Warrior improvement programme is more important but that is getting slower and slower as funds are redirected. Modifications needed for the Challenger 2 fleet have ground to a standstill and as for FRES(UV), well it appears the MoD and Politicians wish that would simply go away.

Compared with our and US operations over the past decade or so the French led operations in Mali have been incredibly successful. The French and other allied contingents have been of the appropriate type with the correct equipment to get the job done. None of our current or planned formations could have done the same job period.

Retaining two heavy Brigades make perfect sense and these need to be the old fashioned 2 Tank and 2 Armoured Infantry type with integral support and logistics units. The rest of the Army needs a radical overhaul to be fit for use. WE are retaining the MRAPs as to get rid of them would not provide positive PR for the powers that be and they may have their uses but not in the planned reaction force what so ever. Give them to the current light role infantry battalions in the AF.

With current funding and equipment levels we should not be looking at ever deploying more than a reinforced Brigade on any operation. Even then current equipment means any brigade will still have to adapt unsuitable assets and try to get by. To try to deploy more than this would in reality be a PR exercise to try to show we still have a big stick. It would stretch the available assets to almost breaking point and require both considerable aid from allies and a deluge or UORs.

I know funding is very tight but without investment in the right equipment in sufficient quantities to bring our Army up to date as a matter of urgency things are going to go from bad to worse, which will only be accelerated by any deployments and cost lives being lost unnecessarily.

June 16, 2015 8:32 am

Thanks for the update on the regional basing and raising of Army units.

June 16, 2015 8:47 am

The correct British term is ‘Brigade Group’, it’s been in use for decades. They can be task organised to reflect the needs of the situation.

The issue is the need for peacetime centralisation is to ensure that the specialist units get the necessary specialist training. Permanent divvying up of specialists invariably results in deteoration of their specialist skills. This is why the UAS batteries are concentrated into UAS regiments, as one example, the same applies to other RA, RE, R Sigs, RLC, etc. The all-arms formations run the combined arms training, this is where their competence is.

Stuart H
Stuart H
June 16, 2015 9:24 am

We seem to be trying to define a role, design an order of battle, seek suitable equipment and then cost it. I suspect politics will reverse that order to put “What can we afford” first then the rationale later.

At the risk of derailing this thread, does anyone know or have any thoughts on what the army is trying to achieve or wants in the SDSR 2015? As far as I can see the only sole army project on order seems to be FRES SV. With Apache, Warrior and Challenger 2 upgrades and possibly FRES UV, is there scope for anything else significant, especially with political commitment to keeping personnel numbers?

My personal view is that SDSR 2015 will be a ‘steady as she goes’ process with the next significant one being in 2020.

June 16, 2015 9:43 am
Reply to  Martin

“makes a bit of a mockery of the concept of the AR then that’s suppose to be scaled to provide 6 battalions on a rotation of 3 basis”

The two Gurkha battalions were always slated to rotate between Shorncliffe and Brunei

The rotations are as published:
1LANCS, 2LANCS and 2YORKS provide rotation one (Cyprus, Weeton and Catterick)
2 PWRR, 1ANGLIAN, 2R.ANGLIAN provide rotation two (Cyprus, Woolwich, Cottesmore)

June 16, 2015 9:47 am
Reply to  Brian Black

“Alternatively, the 1Div brigades will not have any sort of permanently integrated support units; these brigades’ fundamental structures will consist only of headquarters and key infantry units, or infantry & cavalry units.”

Under the current plan, neither do the 3 Division brigades – all the CS (artillery and engineer) amd CSS (logistics and medical) are being pulled out of the brigades to supporting units – quite the reverse of the integrated Brigade Combat Team idea that has been adopted previously.

Only 16 AA and 3 Commando brigades retain their assigned CS/CSS

June 16, 2015 12:10 pm

To take an organization that is closer to you culturally there is “Stryker brigades” that will be rapidly deployable by A400M and are intended to fill a gap between the highly mobile light infantry and its much heavier armoured brigades.
So three armoured infantry brigades, three “Stryker brigades” and four light infantry brigades, in addition to 3 Commando Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade. It’s more consistent.

June 16, 2015 3:27 pm

Here is my American spin on things. First, let me caveat that I am an Army Reserve Logistics Officer, not Combat Arms. From what I’ve seen of British Army manning and units, I believe that you could build a force of 3 Armor BDEs (3 maneuver BNs in each, a CAV REG and an FA BN), 4 Light Infantry BDEs (again with 3 maneuver BNs in each, a CAV SQD and a FA BN) and the 16th PARA BDE (3 maneuver BNs, a CAV SQD and a FA BN). Throw in 3 Commando. With this, you would have the equivalent of 9 BDEs. You currently have 2 Division HQs. Create a third or build a Division HQ out of RM assets. With this in place, you could a generation cycle of “train – deploy/available – reset”. With an 8 month cycle, troops would be deployed/available for 8 months of a 2 year period. Each deployable period would have a Division HQ for C2 of 2 or more BDES, an Armor BDE, 1 or 2 INF BDEs (Two in 1 out of 3 cycles), 16 PARA (1 out of 3 cycles) & 3 Commando (1 out of 3 cycles). If you wanted a contingency or strategic reserve, keep a PARA BN and a CDO pulled out for a short notice deployment.

Now the Reserves. With the numbers available, you could maintain at least 6 deployable INF BDEs, (each with 2 INF BNs, a CAV SQD and a FA Battery) not just for regional C2. Having a BDE on an 8 month available/deploy cycle, that would give each of the BDEs 40 months down between deployments. (Probably closer to 37 – 38 months if there is a 2-3 month train up before availability).

With this, you could have 4 BDES on ground, available or as a contingency / strategic reserve (i.e. 16 Para or 3 CDO). Again, just a thought.

June 16, 2015 5:13 pm


This is organized more efficiently, btw it approaches a French armoured brigade with one recce squadron, two heavy tank regiment, two heavy mechanized regiments and two heavy artillery regiments.
Besides we have the mechanized brigades with a recce squadron, a regiment of light tanks, two light mechanized infantry regiments and one light artillery regiment.
And light brigades parachutists and alpine, with one light armoured regiment, four parachute or mountain infantry regiments and one light artillery regiment each.

June 16, 2015 5:45 pm

the purpose of any force we put out is to be as lethal as possible as cost effectively as possible (this is in lives and all other metrics, not just money). As a relatively small country it is even more important that we are more lethal man for man than our competitors. So how do we do this.

I believe we need to adopt an IDF or USMC model for the whole force, not just the army and these brigades should have the full range of mixed assets available to them. I do believe that the mix should be split roughly equally between an expeditionary and a heavy force, however do we really think we will have time to deploy large number of tanks if Russia attacks and apart from a desert campaign heavy artillery has been very limited in its use over the past 50 year by the British military.

Time for a massive change – All HQ’s should be tri service, whether it is 3,4 or 5 is pretty irrelevant. Decide who is in charge and then deploy the assets they need to do the job from a central pool.

June 16, 2015 6:29 pm
the purpose of any force we put out is to be as lethal as possible

That’s just nonsense.

June 16, 2015 11:45 pm

“the purpose of any force we put out is to be as lethal as possible as cost effectively as possible (…)”

Aside from general disagreement, what you describe is a classic Min-Max nonsense.
People who cannot settle on seeking a minimum nor settle on seeking a maximum nor settle on a probably difficult to find optimum talk in ‘maximum outcome with minimum input’ terms. And that’s nonsense.
In reality you have four choices:
(1) Maximum output with given input
(2) Required output with minimum input
(3) Seeking an optimum; the best ratio between input and output
(4) Settle on some other trade-off because one doesn’t know how to find the optimum.

“I believe we need to adopt an IDF or USMC model for the whole force, not just the army and these brigades should have the full range of mixed assets available to them. I do believe that the mix should be split roughly equally between an expeditionary and a heavy force”

You do understand the IDF has a small active force that’s watered-down by occupation or still doing basic training, and almost all else are reserves? They called up A LOT of reserves to face a mere division-sized Hezbollah militia a few years ago.
They have no ‘expeditionary’ force, and by now it’s not even for sure they still have the balls to improvise raids as the one on Entebbe.
The USMC meanwhile is heavily coined by forward deployment of dozens of regimental-sized formations and less than platoon-sized detachments. Furthermore, it lacks the on-land logistics or force balance for conventional warfare. Their artillery follows a 1930’s model mostly (save for occasional helicopter actions). Their rotary aviation component is so heavily dependent on on-ship maintenance that it’s not properly integrated for mobile land warfare campaigns.

I think you just picked the two armed bureaucracies with the highest fanboi factor.
The French with their Légion étrangère (no need for zero casualty tolerance) and the Franco-German brigade (that’s de facto usable only for NATO/EU defence) are a more interesting example for the UK.

June 16, 2015 11:55 pm
Reply to  Brent Smith

It’s peanuts to the U.S., and withholding due membership contributions
is blackmail

And no matter how one looks at it, it’s not justified to claim that the U.S. subsidizes allies by taking over their burden in the UN:
“(…)we simply don’t have the Resources to Prop-Up every Friendly Allied Nation anymore. On top of that, paying Their Nato and UN dues, too,,,”
as secundius did.
It was flat-out nonsense.

Aside from the fact that it’s impossible for the U.S. to subsidize European NATO’s security simply because European NATO has a military overmatch/MAD against all realistic threats combined itself.
Americans live a lot in a world of modern American mythology, and it’s worthwhile to bust that bubble when they try to convince others of the same nonsense or if such converts repeat the nonsense.

June 17, 2015 5:44 am
Reply to  S O

23:5516.06.2015 S O
was meant as reply to
17:3215.06.2015 Brent Smith

June 17, 2015 6:33 am

@ Andrew

“Under the current plan, neither do the 3 Division brigades – all the CS (artillery and engineer) amd CSS (logistics and medical) are being pulled out of the brigades to supporting units ”

They can’t be ‘pulled out’ they’ve never been in there (apart from the techni-beret mobs).

Note that RA, RE & R Sigs have always been and remain ‘supporting arms’. The only ‘combat arms’ recognised in the British Army are RAC, Inf and AAC. RLC is ‘combat service support’.

June 17, 2015 11:21 am

I have studied your organization on the website of the British Army.

I would remove the Heavy Protected Mobility Infantry Battalion, it is useless.

It would be imperative to reorganize the Royal Artillery, in such a way that it provides one regiment of three batteries of AS90, one regiment of three batteries of MLRS, one regiment of three anti air batteries and a regiment ISTAR for each armoured brigade.

It would take a combat helicopter regiment.

There you have a heavy brigade.

This would make one regiment of Scout, one armoured regiment of Challenger 2, two mechanized infantry battalions on Warrior, four artillery regiment, one regiment of combat helicopters, more engineering, REME, logistics, medical and transmissions . This should be around 7,000 troops.

We can imagine two heavy brigades and two “Stryker” brigades more 16AAB and 3 Commando Brigade.
It would be very balanced as organization, in my humble opinion.

June 17, 2015 12:12 pm

– interesting. I agree on the HPMIBs. We currently have three armoured brigades. What do you suggest doing with the Challengers and Warriors currently in the third brigade – lose them to reserve or merely used them to create large tank regiments / mech battalions in the two heavy brigades you propose? Am I right in thinking the two heavy brigades in the French army can field 200 MBTs in total whereas the three British brigades field around 170 MBTs? Should we therefore have one and a half Challenger regiments in a larger brigade and 3 Warrior battalions?

June 17, 2015 5:59 pm

You’re right, I made a mistake, I transposed the number of troops from a French regiment with the number of troops of a British battalion.

In the future design of the British Armoured brigade, it would be advisable:
– One regiment recce.
– One regiment of 80 battles tank.
– Three armored infantry battalions of 60 Warriors turreted each.
– Four artillery regiments.
– One combat helicopter regiment.

So it would merge the regiments of the Royal Armoured Corps for two armored regiment and two recce regiments.

June 17, 2015 7:20 pm
Reply to  Frenchie


While I share your view of increasing artillery,

“- One regiment recce.
– One regiment of 80 battles tank.
– Three armored infantry battalions of 60 Warriors turreted each.
– Four artillery regiments.
– One combat helicopter regiment.”

the mix is 80 MBTs and 180 AFVS, all turreted, 260 total.

1 in three would give
-58 MBTs
– 174 AIFVs,
leaving about 30 command tanks, artillery observation and command posts right at the front.

And further, why would every AIFV have to be turreted? Make them work in pairs, one with more dismounted capacity (a Javelin team, to add to the – mainly – suppressive fire from the autocannon…. with much better reach and punch)?

June 17, 2015 8:49 pm


As part of the upgrade Warriors, I think two brigades with the maximum of vehicles to the latest technology would be nice. They are there as well enjoy it. So six battalions with around 60 Warrior WCSP each seemed like a good idea.
Me, I want to give punch to this heavy force, because there, the MoD presents an organization with no real firepower, three brigades around 4,500 troops without artillery incorporated without air fire support, and if I understand is take turns, it is not a true heavy force, it is useless. While two heavy brigades of 7,000 troops with modern equipment, which take turns, it changes everything.

And this adaptable force without real fighting vehicles does not make sense, it’s cut the army in half without saying.

I’m not a great tactician, but for me the two force presented by the MoD are as useless as the other one, excuse me to say that.

June 17, 2015 10:57 pm

– I’m with you then

2 enlarged heavy brigades on the structure you outlined – one on one off and the one on has an ‘alert battlegroup’

2 Large medium brigades – same rotation (FRES UV type vehicles- your Stryker brigades)

16AAB (with Gurkas) and 3Co as light reaction forces

I would add a third light reaction force brigade, to be named, of a light mechanised air portable type to add some quickly deployable teeth to support the paras or RM beyond their organic fire support. Ideally they would have something like a modern CVR(t) family – your vehicles Chris??

The rest of the army, and a merged RAF regiment, would be structured at battalion level, using passed down MRAPs and other vehicles. Basically all light infantry battalions for UK, BOT defence

Manpower remains about the same but structurally its simpler and the saving is that we are geared up for short term action rather that sustained ops. I think that is a key sacrifice in SDSR 2015 – the ‘3 rotation’ at a brigade level. It would only possibly exist at battlegroup level

30k reserves is too ambitious also

June 18, 2015 7:11 am

mickp – my vehicles? Nothing better. Although if the Marines want some I’d have to apply thought to a swimming variant; at the moment the weight/size of the vehicle designs makes them a bit heavier than water (like CVR(T) was) and I am not a fan of canvas swimming screens. The difficulty as ever is finding a sensible balance of buoyancy and protection without making something the size of a village church.

The designs that have addressed swimming as a priority requirement (leaving aside Schwimmwagen Stalwart Aquatrac and DUKW) are typified by the Soviet BMP BMD and BTR60/80 – AFVs with boat-shape characteristics, propulsors and very thin armour. The latter to keep the overall density of the complete combat laden vehicles under 1 tonne per cubic metre. CofG also comes into play, hence the BTR 8x8s having the engine compartment at the back (to offset frontal armour weight) with the consequence a rear door for dismounts was not an option, instead it was fitted with side hatches between 2nd & 3rd axles. But still quite impressive to watch AFVs drive into rivers and motor off at reasonable speed with the hull top level about a foot above the waterline.

June 18, 2015 10:00 am

Seems to be a bit of confusion about MLRS (Frenchie). They are no longer used as dumb MRLs, not least because the ICM warheads are now banned by international treaty. I think UK does still have stocks with AT-2 anti-tank mine warhead, but it doesn’t justify a lot of SPLLs. Other than this all UK MLRS is GMLRS, this doesn’t need a lot of SPLLs, that’s why the new org assigns a single bty to a brigade.

June 18, 2015 10:37 am
Reply to  Chris

This is not very boat like

In fact, for territorial defence for some countries with lots of lakes and waterways, I would prescribe such highly mobile, hard-hitting forces, with some prepositioned Jumper missile boxes to substitute for artillery, which
A. lacks range
B. is never i the right place at the right time, and
C. is very vulnerable in transit

June 18, 2015 11:29 am

Obsvr, you are right, but in the French army we have transformed our multiple rocket launchers in thirteen unitary rocket launches. So we can use. Otherwise our 155 mm self-propelled guns obsolete are removed of armored brigades.

June 19, 2015 7:24 am

SO – if the USMC cannot fight an elongated war on land what have they been doing in Afghanistan and Iraq the last 20 years?

I think the point is missing here – both the US and UK send in their Marines first and in the case of the USMC they have the 2nd largest combat air wing in the world and will have more F35’s than the whole of Europe.

Where are the UK gonna use tanks in the UK?, shouldn’t we allow our continental allies to have this type of asset and maybe concentrate on Attack helicopters or similar.

84k personnel equal 4 combat Divisions of 20k + command. This is simple numbers and after this its about getting the best force you can out of them. As for lethality – if our force is less lethal than the enemy we lose, its that simple. How you define lethality is open for discussion but ultimately that is how wars are won.

The British army is not a club it is there to win armed conflicts and it is my opinion it has lost its direction and is not modern in its approach, the organisation of the IDF and USMC is the model to go for, not the fact that they are stretched (like most militaries). In the case of the USMC it is larger than the whole UK military on almost every measure and is very cost efficient. Isn’t that what we want? Our people kitted out really well and proper use of our budget.

June 19, 2015 9:35 am

I agree that the USMC is a good benchmark, though not necessarily a model structure:
“Pentagon officials plan to keep the Marine Corps at 184,000 strong through the next fiscal year, according to the 2016 defense budget request, released Monday. Barring another round of across the board spending cuts, the service will not drop below 182,000 Marines, according to the document.

The budget, which deals the Corps with $24 billion — plus another $1.3 billion for overseas contingency funding — sets aside enough money to keep 184,000 Marines on payroll through September 2016. It’ll then drop down to 182,000 in fiscal 2017”

June 19, 2015 10:02 am

One thing you have to remember about the USMC is that they are highly reliant on US Army infrastructure. Hence the headline figures are a snare for the under-informed (or deliberately obscurantist). Eg all USMC artillery officers get their specialist training at the US Army artillery school.

June 19, 2015 5:47 pm

I agree that the USMC is highly reliant upon the Navy and to a far lesser extent the Army (as is our RM).

But the facts speak for themselves 184k personnel (larger than the whole UK military) that will have 350 F35b fighter planes (more than Europe??) and great kit across the board. The UK have a larger budget and end up scrounging from other forces = mismanagement.

My point is not that the USMC is better – but what I am saying is that they are very good at getting useful kit into the hands of those that need it. Can the MOD say the same? I think not.

They choose product to suite their role (Venom not apache for instance) and get 100% behind it. Our force is in total of a similar comparative size across all arms and in my opinion it would not do us any harm to ditch some of our “historical” tendencies for heavy armour etc as it is just not needed for an island country. We have tanks in storage as we don’t use them in Britain (they are for European use and legacy of BAOR) but no maritime patrol aircraft. It just does not make for a coherent and sensible force structure, when we have bits of legacy thinking everywhere your look.

We have kit on its last legs through use – such as the apache force and we also have kit on its last legs through age such as the tank force, which in my opinion is legacy and should be removed from service totally.

The Warrior is interesting as it suffers from use and old age, but it seems to me that a replacement of measurably better performance is actually not available at the moment – so it makes sense to upgrade.

For me we should invest 80% of our funds in what we use day to day and I would rather see 16 squadrons of F35 or typhoons or anything else that is useful alongside 200 apaches that are used rather than 250 tanks in storage.

In this respect the USMC or the IDF are great examples of lean belligerent organisations that achieve, and they get great kit into the hands of those that serve and use it day in day out. If you don’t why have it.

As for the French, again the question has to be asked: why do the French have more and better equipment han us Brits and seem to also have a very good organisational structure.

Its no use the former UK 4*’s whingeing from their BAE retirement homes. A corvette cost around £150m surely we can afford 4 per year out of a £16b equipment budget if we wanted to? They have been complicit in wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers money and ultimately have cost lives, this is true of every war to date, yet is intolerable in this day and age.

The force organisation is critical to success and unfortunately the UK has a top heavy antiquated view of both its organisation and its size, similar to what it had before WW1.

We can do an awful lot more with our $60b defence budget than the USMC do with their $30b yet don’t seem to have a valid strategic direction or the where with it all to get value for money.

The one thing the Combat Group structure would do is make the senior staff far more accountable for their personnel and budget and perhaps even get a bit of competition going again between regiments etc as to who does the most with what they have got.

I know this is unpopular – but look Saudi Arabia is now a peer on many metrics – something drastic has to be done – it isn’t all about money.

June 19, 2015 6:37 pm

The most FF2020 can provide in it’s current form is 2 fully working light brigades from the AF, as we have not got the CS and CSS units to sustain any more. If you wanted more you would need to lose a few more infantry cap badges to pay for the CS and CSS units to support the extra brigade or brigades you want, which is pretty much what is wrong with FF2020, lot’s of light Infantry and not much to sustain them.

I think the original plan was to use 432’s instead of Mastiff’s in the RF brigades (which would be better in my opinion) and then you could have had 3 brigades within the AF comprising a light cav regt, medium protected Btn and 2 Light protected Btn’s, these brigades would also allow us to get used to operatin wheeled formations in readiness for FRES UV. A reduction in cap badges would have been required to allow the generation of the Cs and CSS units but it would still have left enough for Cyprus etc.

Or alternatively create 2 brigades of the same type and give 16AAB a light cav regt and two light protected btn’s, and the remaining Mastiff btn moved into 3Cdo. You would still need to cut a cap badge or two though to beef up the CS units in 16 AAB and 3Cdo.

June 20, 2015 6:57 am

Re MLRS, its useful to consider the original figures. UK acquired 7 btys worth (9 SPLL per bty), this was a larger order than France but a lot less than GE. The new UK figure is 6 btys but only 6 SPLLs each.

June 23, 2015 3:00 pm

The more I think about FF2020 the more I’m in agreement with Martin when he says that it will become a two tier army. The concept has somehow managed to look a little like ‘options for change’ and ‘front line first’. With options for change we reduced our CS and CSS units below the level at which they were capable of fully supporting the army, overstretch among some CS and CSS units was happening in the mid to late 90’s way before our involvement in the recent ops and was a factor in the problems of retention amongst those units. With the army not biting the bullet and creating more cap badges such as the Rifles with 5 or more battalions I can see retention amongst the AF units becoming a problem as their resources are cut to maintain the RF. The way battalions are rerolled will mean that some infantry units will not get the opportunity to enter the RF units for a very long period of time, this will have an impact on retention IMO. It could be mitigated in some respect if individuals could move between roles by way of moving between battalions in much the same way as the CS and CSS personnel do, but this can only be achieved if we reduce the number of cap badges to allow the formation of a larger regiments with a minimum of 3 reg btn’s a piece.