Priorities and Options for SDSR 2015 – Global Intervention


The forces and capabilities required for global intervention are very similar to those required for mobile operations within the NATO area.  Where there is a difference is the greater use of transport aircraft and aerial tankers to transport and supply forces over greater distances.

The C-17 Globemaster provides the heavy transport for global mobility.

In addition, some equipment may need to be modified to operate in more challenging climates and environments.  In particular the Army may need different vehicles.  After recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan much of this has already been acquired and needs to be stored in a condition where it can easily be brought back into use should the need arise.

Emphasis needs to be given to light, highly mobile forces but with significant firepower such as Special Forces, the Air Assault Task Force and the Lead Commando Unit.  Deployment would be at Brigade level strength initially with the ability to upscale to Division strength by the start of any conflict.

Appropriate combat air power would be deployed from air bases or QE aircraft carriers as appropriate.

RAF Voyager and A400M Atlas
RAF Voyager and A400M Atlas

The A330MRTT Voyager and A400M Atlas are essential components of global mobility.

Defence planning needs to take into account two potential scenarios.

1. Co-operation with Allied Forces.

By far the most common situation would be for British forces to be deployed in partnership with allies who would provide their own combat forces.  Local allies would also provide air bases to operate from and we would supplement this with naval forces where appropriate.

In this scenario we would provide a minimum effective Reaction Force consisting of the appropriate elements of:

  • 1 Division strength unit made up from Special Forces, the Air Assault Brigade, Royal Marines Commandos and 1 Armoured Infantry Brigade
  • 4 Apache AH Squadrons
  • 3 Wildcat AH Squadrons – 2 AAC and 1 Royal Marines
  • 1 Lynx AH Squadron and 1 Dauphin LAH Squadron – dedicated to Special Forces
  • 1 C-17 Globemaster Squadron
  • 3 A400MC Atlas Squadrons
  • 2 A330MRTT Voyager Squadrons
  • 4 Chinook HC Squadrons
  • 2 Merlin HC Squadrons
  • 2 Puma HC Squadrons
  • 3 swing-role fighter Squadrons
  • 1 E-3 Sentry AWACS Squadron
  • elements of 5 ISTAR Squadrons
  • 1 Maritime Patrol Squadron
  • 2 QE aircraft carriers
  • 4 F-35B Squadrons – 2 fleet air defence/anti-shipping and 2 CAS/SEAD/land strike
  • 2 amphibious transport docks
  • 3 landing ships
  • 3 attack submarines
  • 9 destroyers/frigates
  • 4 Merlin HMA Squadrons and
  • 2 Wildcat HMA Squadrons.

What is clear from both Iraq and Afghanistan is that the armed forces may be required to stay involved for much longer in conflict zones than had been previously assumed.  This is now reflected in the structure of the Army that allows for rotation at Brigade level over the long-term.  The same can be applied to the RAF and FAA Squadrons making up the Expeditionary Air Wings and any Royal Navy units.

2. Lone Operations.

The number of situations where the UK would be forced into a conflict on its own would seem very limited and are largely covered in the section relating to any future Falklands conflict.  In such a scenario all of the Reaction Forces detailed above would be needed.  In particular for any independent naval task force to be successful it would be vital to be able to deploy two aircraft carriers for them to be able to supply mutual air support and to be able to provide a necessary minimum amount of air cover.

In addition, the support of long-range Maritime Patrol Aircraft supported by aerial tankers would be invaluable for reconnaissance, anti-submarine and anti-shipping requirements and so increase the security of the carrier force.


The rest of the series

1 – Introduction

2 – Defence of the UK

3 – Other Sovereign Territories

4 – NATO

5 – A Southern or Middle Eastern Threat

6 – An Eastern and Northern Threat

7 – Global Intervention

8 – Land Command 2025; Appendix 1 – Army 2025

9 – Naval Command 2025; Appendix 2 – Royal Navy 2025

10 – Air Command 2025; Appendix 3 – RAF 2025

11 – Conclusion – The Options for Change; Appendix 4 – An Abundance of Riches: MoD Procurement 2015-25

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