Priorities and Options for SDSR 2015 – NATO



NATO is clearly the UK’s most important international defence obligation.  Our forces need to be able to operate in defence of any member nation whose security is under threat.  This requires a high degree of mobility and the ability to co-operate effectively with allies in many different terrains and environments.

The Ukraine crisis showed that we must plan for contingencies and possible future threats and maintain a high level of deterrence and preparedness.

Under existing plans the UK maintains a Joint Rapid Reaction Force in a state of high readiness made up of elements from:

  • The British Army including Special Forces, the Air Assault Task Force, the Lead Armoured Task Force and an Armoured Infantry Battalion with support from three Army Air Corps Regiments;
  • The Royal Marines consisting of the Lead Commando Unit with support from one assault and two transport helicopter Squadrons and;
  • The RAF providing support aircraft from one Squadron of C-17 Globemaster heavy transport aircraft, three Squadrons of A400 Atlas medium transport aircraft, two Squadrons of A330 Voyager aerial tankers/transports and six helicopter transport Squadrons plus ISTAR and AWACS aircraft. The air combat element would be provided by one swing-role fighter Squadron.

To provide a minimum effective Joint Rapid Reaction Force requires:

  • at least 1 Brigade strength unit made up of elements from Special Forces, the Air Assault Brigade, Royal Marines Commandos and an Armoured Infantry Brigade
  • 5 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 Puma HC Squadrons
  • 2 Merlin HC Squadrons
  • 1 swing-role fighter Squadron
  • 1 E-3 Sentry AWACS Squadron and
  • 5 ISTAR Squadrons.

If further escalation is required the full complement of the Air Assault Brigade, Royal Marines Commandos and an Armoured Infantry Brigade would be deployed bringing the Reaction Force up to Division strength.  Two additional swing-role fighter Squadrons would also be deployed in support.

Next would come two Armoured Infantry Brigades and an Adaptable Force Infantry Brigade which would provide enough troops for a second Division.   In this planning scenario 3rd (UK) Division would form up around the three Armoured Infantry Brigades and 1st (UK) Division would be based on the Air Assault Brigade, Royal Marines Commandos and the Adaptable Force Infantry Brigade.  Further swing-role air combat support would be provided by the Test & Evaluation Squadron and the Falklands Flight.

So where might a future possible threat come from, how would these forces be deployed accordingly and what additional elements might be required?


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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