Priorities and Options for SDSR 2015 – Land Command


Coping with reduced overall numbers while integrating a substantially expanded reserve force, managing the withdrawal from Germany and maintaining capability was always going to be challenging.  However, in spite of much criticism the design of the Army 2020 force structure is mostly logical and compelling.

Dividing the Army into a Reaction Force, Adaptable Force and Force Troop Command enables it to maintain both a high degree of readiness and support for multiple missions.

Integrating both regular and reserve units on a three year rotation ensures that enough of them are available for potential deployment while maximising both individual and group training.

The decision to add an Infantry Battalion to the Air Assault Brigade enhances the effectiveness of this unit and means that the Reaction Force is a well-balanced and effective combat force.

The previous scenario analyses show that the Army has the structures and numbers to fulfil its missions whether it’s dealing with threats in Southern, Northern and Eastern Europe or global intervention.  In particular the ability to deploy a Brigade sized unit in the Joint Rapid Reaction Force and then scale up to full Division strength is very effective.

Enduring stabilisation can also be provided at Brigade level strength over the longer term.  However, with a higher threat level in Europe and fewer numbers in the Army compared to the last ten years it needs to be recognised that providing anything more than a Brigade for any length of time would stretch resources too thinly.

The Adaptable Force should therefore be prepared to deploy six regular Infantry Battalions and a Cavalry Regiment (around 4,000 troops) on the third, fourth and fifth roulements of a long-term deployment.  To maximise their effectiveness all regular Adaptable Force units should be available to be sent on this deployment regardless of whether their duties also include ceremonial responsibilities or other overseas postings such as Cyprus, Brunei or the Falklands.

This implies a minimum effective Adaptable Force of eighteen regular Infantry Battalions and three regular Cavalry Regiments.

There remain challenges about recruiting the necessary number of reservists to meet Future Force 2020 targets.  Part of the reason for this is the potential requirement to support lengthy overseas deployments.  This concern should be addressed by making it clear that reservists will only be deployed in exceptional circumstances.  On these occasions, when a surge in numbers is required, up to six reserve Infantry Battalions and a Cavalry Regiment (a further 2,700 troops) could be deployed.  For operations they would be fully integrated with the regular Infantry Battalions.  This would amount to half of the reserve units in the Adaptable Force and so at the end of a deployment could be replaced for one further period.

This implies a minimum effective Adaptable Force strength of twelve reserve Infantry Battalions and two Cavalry Regiments.


The British Army needs to be able to deploy all of its main battle tanks when the need arises.

In the force comparisons with Russia the only significant inferiority of European NATO forces is in the quantity of armoured vehicles.  It is therefore essential that the British Army should examine ways to increase the effectiveness of its anti-armour capabilities.  This should include being able to deploy two Armoured Infantry Divisions to Eastern Europe and so utilise its entire force of Challenger main battle tanks.

In this situation the bulk of the Adaptable Force needs to be able to form 1st (UK) Division consisting of three Armoured Infantry Brigades.  These in turn would each be modelled on the Reaction Force’s Brigades and consist of a regular Armoured Regiment, an Armoured Cavalry Regiment plus three regular and three reserve Infantry Battalions.

To equalise numbers one regular Infantry Battalion from the Adaptable Force would also join each of the Reaction Force’s three Armoured Infantry Brigades.

That would leave six regular and three reserve Infantry Battalions to form an Infantry Brigade to deploy to Norway and help create 2nd (UK) Division.

This confirms that the Adaptable Force should consist of a minimum of eighteen regular and twelve reserve Infantry Battalions.  That is four fewer regular and one less reserve Battalion than in Army 2020.  These changes would enable 2,280 regular and 360 reserve troops to be redeployed to increase the size of the Adaptable Force Cavalry Regiments, restore all AS-90 self-propelled artillery and Starstreak SAMs from storage and address shortages in signals, engineering and logistic support sometimes referred to as the ‘hollowing out’ of the Army.

In addition the number of Brigade Headquarters in the Adaptable Force should be cut from seven to four at the expense of establishing a third (but shadow) Divisional HQ.

To maximise the effectiveness of its anti-armour capability the attack helicopter force needs to be modernised by buying either 50 new Apache AH-64Es or upgrading all 66 existing Apache AH1s to AH2 standard.  In addition, the short range Hellfire anti-armour missile should be replaced by the longer range Brimstone 2.  The Army’s Wildcat helicopters should be upgraded with a combination of Brimstone 2 and Martlet lightweight air-to-surface missiles to increase their versatility while remaining Lynx AH9As should also be upgraded with Brimstone 2.

One significant new piece of equipment now entering service, which will improve battlefield reconnaissance, are the 54 Watchkeeper UAVs that are replacing the Gazelle helicopter.

With smaller numbers, the key to the Army’s success has to be its flexibility to operate in different combat environments.  In particular the Adaptable Force needs to live up to its name and train, operate and have the appropriate equipment to be effective in different roles.

An essential part of this flexibility is the ability to deploy the Army’s full force of Challenger main battle tanks.  In addition to the Armoured Regiments of the Reaction Force some units of the Adaptable Force need to be trained to use surplus tanks that are now in storage.  Specifically three regular Light Cavalry Regiments should each be trained to operate 52 Challenger 2s as well as their Jackal 2 light reconnaissance vehicles.  This would convert them into fully Armoured Regiments when the need arose.  These 156 main battle tanks should be kept in storage at Monchengladbach in Germany with their crews being flown to them in a period of high tension.

The 224 Challenger 2s assigned to the Reaction Force will undergo a Life Extension Programme designed to maintain their capability until at least 2035.  Consideration should also be given to replacing the gun and turret to increase effectiveness and so create an upgraded Challenger 3 standard.

Scout Ajax 1

Ajax specialist vehicles and the Watchkeeper UAV will significantly enhance battlefield ISTAR.

The most significant new piece of equipment on order is the Ajax family of specialist reconnaissance vehicles.  589 are currently due to be received by 2024 to equip a total of six Armoured Cavalry Regiments and nearly all of the Reconnaissance Troops and Platoons in both the Reaction and Adaptable Forces.  With the increased size of the Adaptable Force’s Cavalry Regiments outlined here additional vehicles will need to be ordered.

A significant capability upgrade is planned for the Warrior.  380 vehicles are being upgraded as part of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme of which 252 could be fitted with a new powerful 40mm cannon.  A further 320 should be converted into an Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle which would include APC and ambulance variants.  There is a need for a dedicated Guided variant of the ABSV to be armed with anti-armour missiles with a range beyond that of tank guns.  This could be a further development of Brimstone 2.  The Guided ABSV would share a datalink with UAVs, helicopters and Ajax vehicles to enable them to engage even the most powerful main battle tanks at distances beyond their offensive range.  If budgets allow 228 of these could then equip virtually all of the Guided Troops and Anti-Tank Platoons in both the Reaction and Adaptable Forces.

The Army needs to decide on a Mechanised Infantry Vehicle to replace the aged Bulldog APC and the limited Mastiff.  This should be an 8×8 wheeled vehicle such as the VBCI or Piranha V.  At the very minimum the MIV should equip three Reaction Force plus twelve regular and six reserve Infantry Battalions from the Adaptable Force.  It could eventually go on to equip all of them, if budgets allow.

VBCI-2 Image 3

The infantry needs a new Mechanised Infantry Vehicle such as the VBCI or Piranha V.

The Royal Artillery will introduce the Land Ceptor mobile surface-to-air missile to replace the Rapier and operate in partnership with the high velocity Starstreak.  The support vehicles for towed artillery, UAVs and SAMs such as Wolfhound, Warthog and Stormer are all due out of service in 2024.  These should be replaced by 328 new wheeled Common Support Vehicles, which could be a turretless variant of the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle.

Puma medium lift helicopters plus any remaining Lynx and Bell 212 assault helicopters will need replacing by the mid-2020’s with either 54 medium sized helicopters such as the NH90, AW149 or EC725 or a combination of an additional 30 Wildcats and 14 Chinooks.

It is also important that the Army trains with allied forces to ensure co-ordination of planning and maximise fighting capacity.  The Army should be prioritising joint exercises in Poland with both the Polish Army and rapid reaction units of the German and French Armies and deployment to Norway in association with the Norwegian Army and amphibious units.

The scenario analyses have been developed to show the minimum number of Armoured Regiments, Cavalry Regiments and Infantry Battalions to fulfil each task and this has informed Option 1 below.  Both Options 1 and 2 are based on the same personnel requirements as Future Force 2020.  Each additional Option offers enhanced capabilities but at extra cost and increased numbers of personnel.

Army Option 1


  • Special Air Service
  • 3 Para Battalions and 1 Air Mobile Infantry Battalion
  • 50 Apache AH2s in 5 Squadrons
  • 34 Wildcat AH1s in 4 Squadrons
  • 8 Lynx AH9As in 1 Squadron
  • 54 Watchkeeper UAVs in 2 Artillery Regiments
  • Royal Marines Commandos
  • 3 Armoured Regiments
  • 6 Armoured Cavalry Regiments
  • 3 Light Cavalry Regiments (with a secondary role as Armoured Regiments)
  • 6 Armoured Infantry Battalions
  • 3 Reaction Force Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 12 regular Adaptable Force Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 6 reserve Adaptable Force Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 6 regular Light Protected Mobility Battalions
  • 6 reserve Light Protected Mobility Battalions
  • 24 Land Ceptor SAM launchers in 1 Artillery Regiment
  • 84 Stormer Starstreak SAM vehicles in 3 Artillery Regiments
  • 48 GMLRS rocket launchers in 1 Artillery Regiment
  • 108 AS-90 self-propelled guns in 3 Artillery Regiments
  • 120 light artillery guns in 6 Artillery Regiments
  • 60 Chinook HC4/5/6s in 4 Squadrons
  • 25 Merlin HC4s in 2 Squadrons and
  • 24 Puma HC2s in 2 Squadrons.

This Option would require ordering 1,014 Mechanised Infantry Vehicles and 4 additional Ajax specialist reconnaissance vehicles while building 207 ABSVs (180 of which would be Guided anti-armour missile carriers).

Army Option 2

As Option 1, but have Mechanised Infantry Vehicles re-equip all Adaptable Infantry Battalions.  Flexibility would be maximised by maintaining surplus Foxhound, RWMIK and Husky vehicles in storage so that in the right circumstances they could equip six regular and six reserve Light Protected Mobility Infantry Battalions.  This would enable the Army to maintain an ability to operate in urban environments and against insurgents.

British Army Foxhound Light Protected Patrol Vehicle (LPPV) in Afghanistan 06

The option to use Light Protected Mobility can be maintained by keeping Foxhound, RWMIK and Husky vehicles in storage.

This Option would require ordering 1,554 Mechanised Infantry Vehicles and 28 additional Ajax specialist reconnaissance vehicles while building 255 ABSVs (of which 228 would be Guided variants).

Army Option 3

In addition to Option 3 keep the 13 remaining Lynx AH9As in service with an additional 2 Squadrons.  All remaining Lynx helicopters will need a life extension beyond 2018 including integration of Brimstone 2 anti-armour missiles and then will later on need replacing with either extra Wildcat helicopters or a new medium sized helicopter.

This Option would require ordering 1,554 Mechanised Infantry Vehicles and 28 additional Ajax specialist reconnaissance vehicles while building 255 ABSVs (of which 228 would be Guided variants).

Army Option 4

As Option 3, but further increase the capability of the Army Air Corps by increasing the order for refurbished Apache AH2s to the full existing complement of 66 helicopters.  They would then serve in 6 Squadrons in total rather than the current 5.

This Option would require ordering the refurbishment of an additional 16 Apache AH2 helicopters as well as ordering 1,554 Mechanised Infantry Vehicles and 28 additional Ajax specialist reconnaissance vehicles while building 255 ABSVs (of which 228 would be Guided variants).

Further details;

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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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