How to Fix UK Land Power


This is a guest post from long time defence blogger Sven, from Defense and Freedom, a German milblog.

Sven describes his blog as;

This blog is about the defence against external threats and about the defence of civil liberties. Most topics are about the art of war, military history or military technology

It is always good to get an outside perspective on things.

So on to the subject, fixing UK Land Power…

The security situation in Europe has changed from the rather pleasant state at the turn of the millennium.

At first, the warning shot of the South Ossetia War left little impression on most who bothered to pay attention to military affairs in Europe. Few dared to be derided as Cold War dinosaurs and began to point at collective deterrence and defence as the raison d’être of NATO, calling for attention on deterring Russia for the sake of the vulnerable Baltic members of NATO. At least NATO finally and belatedly began to plan for their defence in 2010.

Yet the official stance was still that Russia was a partner, not a great power to be deterred.

This bubble of illusion did burst with the Ukrainian Civil War – a war that was waged between pro-Western and pro-Russian elements in the political arena, albeit the actual forces siding with Russia were Russia’s own army operating without proper national insignia, adventurers from outside the Ukraine and relatively few actual ethnic Russians from Ukraine.

Whatever the political and military events looked and look like in Ukraine – that war seemed to have convinced a majority of those who paid attention in NATO that Russia is more of an aggressor – a threat – than a “partner for peace”.

Meanwhile, all those great power games on distant continents ended in a mess – one after another.

  • Iraq is still a mess,
  • Afghanistan is a mess’
  • Yemen is a mess,
  • Somalia has made a mess its natural state of existence,
  • Pakistan may turn into a mess with nukes any day.

None of the great power gaming with military forces has achieved much more than body counts. Additional oil has been poured into the fire. The belief in military force as capable of solving problems on distant continents was mostly shattered in the West. It wasn’t quite a majority opinion in Europe anyway. Most of those politicians who get to play great power games – with the world as their sandbox and the armed forces as their plastic toy soldiers – have lost this naive faith as well.

Many of those who pay attention to military affairs at all are somewhat surprised by the new threat Russia, and in their primitiveness many of them conclude that we need to spend additional resources to meet such a threat.

I have yet to see anyone who publicly does the rational thing: Look at the real threat situation, look at the budget sizes (less pensions), look at what efficiency of military spending can be achieved and then determine the required level of spending.

Instead, the easiest route is being preferred. Let’s throw some more resources at the problem, this is how to solve problems, right?

Didn’t this serve us well in the great power games before?

I have recently looked at both the brigades of the U.S. Army and the German Heer on my blog, trying to determine what minimum changes should be done to make them fit for collective deterrence and defence against the only somewhat realistic threat, Russia. I mustered the self-discipline and moderated the ambition, trying to point at but a very few pivotal points instead of creating some fantasy army from a blank sheet of paper.

It’s an interesting thought experiment to do the same to about the army of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Said army is still recovering from being used as a pool of ‘toy soldiers’ for great power games in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s also withdrawing from its WW2 legacy bases in Germany. Its equipment for conventional warfare such as main battle tanks or air defences suffers from very small production runs and inventories, and the wisdom of additional national design solutions is highly questionable. Development and procurement of equipment in the past decades hasn’t exactly gained the bureaucracy a reputation for outstanding competence. Its post-Cold War track record in developing combat platforms for the army has been as dismal as in the United States.

British Aerospace has become a binational corporation (US/UK), and the English people stand out in Europe as feeling much more close to North America than continental Europe does, and attitude that can at the very least be traced back to the Thatcher era. Both these factors almost predetermine that the British Army’s equipment will become ever more similar to the U.S Army’s. In my opinion any advice or proposal to choose another path is bound to be unrealistic.

Likewise, it’s unrealistic to expect the UK to feel as a land power first and foremost anytime soon. Ever since the 16th century the English in particular have looked to the seas first, with land power being an afterthought during peacetime at least. An all-out orientation of their army at NATO’s Eastern frontier as can be asked of the Germans is thus unrealistic.

What conclusions could be drawn for adjustments to the British land forces (including the Royal Marines) then?

The land forces can sensibly be expected to have several tasks:

  1. to provide a contribution to NATO’s Eastern deterrence and defence
  2. to provide a contribution to NATO’s Northern deterrence and defence
  3. to protect the UK territory at least against feeble invasion attempts
  4. to provide a pool of great power game toy soldiers*
[box type=”note” bg=”#” color=”#” border=”#” radius=”0″ fontsize=”15″]TD NOTE; Have discussed this last point point with Sven and for the avoidance of doubt, he has used this term in the context of his opinion that contemporary politicians see the Army as plastic toy soldiers on a board as part of their ‘power games’. No slight or insult is intended so please do not climb aboard the outrage bus.[/box]

I do not claim to fully understand or even like British army traditions, regimental system et cetera. A main battle tank battalion that gets called “Hussars” is an insult to my military history sense, for example.

Still, I do feel that there are sensible paths for change that do not require substantial extra budgeting or unrealistic changes of national attitudes. So much I dare to pretend to know and understand.

Concerning the four principal missions:


A combination of Royal Marines, “Para” and “Commando” forces could meet the Norway defence requirements. Norway is too large and its geography too complex for a complete defence, but the persistence of forces even in face of an invading force could neutralise Norway as a base for opposing forces’ air and sea power. This in turn would keep the UK far from any opposing forces’ base and thus safe. It is reasonable to expect the Americans or preferably Canadians to do the same regarding Iceland.

The equipment of forces meant in part for employment in Norway needs to be air-deployable, suitable for very cold weather, suitable for mountainous terrain and efficient in supply demands (both mass and volume).

Royal Navy sea King HC4 Jungly helicopter in Norway

Effective, denying attacks on airbases and harbours needs to be possible with some pieces of this equipment even in face of strong security efforts on the opposing forces. Obviously, this goes well beyond what 81 mm mortars can do.

The organisation of these forces will likely remain a hodgepodge of one-of-its-kind units with traditional designations. Any effort at organisation standardisation would likely be a wasted effort. The organisation should meet two requirements, though: It should both allow for guerilla-like persisting operation of highly elusive small units and units that keep threatening bases AND concerted synchronised assaults to defeat invading forces when this seems to be possible.

This way a mere share of the UK’s land power could in concert with Norwegian forces provide the deterrence required to make Norway a most undesirable target for invasion, and thus safe. This is in the long term and grand scheme of things the price to be paid for being -and staying- at a safe distance from the net potential aggressor.


Forces for employment in Eastern Europe would first and foremost need to be able to deploy there in time. There’s still no road connection, and the Eurotunnel appears to be a fairly easy target for disruption efforts. A deployment by rail from the UK into Poland is thus too unreliable an approach to be trusted. Any deployment by sea on the other hand would only reach to Hamburg. Hamburg is the closest to Poland and the Baltics among all reasonably safe harbours. A road march of hundreds of kilometres after disembarkment would thus be inevitable unless at least the equipment was prepositioned. There’s little reason to expect much forward positioning of equipment or even complete brigades given the political situation (especially fiscal policy) and attitudes. Air transport assets would be overburdened by the Royal Air Force’s needs (in support of Typhoons) and the deployment of forces into Norway. To add much additional airlift capacity is unrealistic considering the high prices of Western military transport aircraft.

I do not wish to insult the UK’s land forces, but to me they seem to be limited to a slow deployment reinforcements role regarding NATO’s Eastern security. A battalion or so may be in the region as symbolic tripwire force as part of some rotation scheme, but the bulk of land power would arrive so late that they would have no say in whether the Russians overrun and occupy the Baltics or not.

The consequence of this is simply that the land power would need to be suitable for liberation of the Baltics, a capability which may add to the alliance’s deterrence. This also means that these forces would be pointless and thus their budgets wasted if Russia’s leaders were convinced that such a liberation could be deterred with the threat of tactical nuclear strikes or if NATO allies such as Poland and Germany convince the same Russian leaders that Lithuania would not be overrun in the first place, and Estonia/Latvia only be overrun at the price or losing the Kaliningrad Oblast.

Still, what should such forces look like?

Air defence needs to be more serious, which CAMM may provide – but MICA VL is available military off the shelf already and ESSM Block II may spawn a land-based system before CAMM becomes available. Anti-tank defences should be bolstered as well, and this goes beyond the question mark about Challenger 2’s 120 mm munitions.

Javelin has been understood by the Russians since 1989. They are almost guaranteed to have worked out a counter to Javelin, and thus also to EuroSpike. This may be a warning sensor and a liberal employment of multispectral smoke if nothing else. My proposal is thus the same as for the German and American land forces; add redundancy and thus reliability by adding an anti-tank munition with very few if any systemic (shared) risks: A Mach 6 missile with a kinetic energy penetrator similar to the long rod of APFSDS fired from 120 mm tank guns. Multiple American projects appear to be the closest to introduction into service; LOSAT, CKEM and HATM. They share a weakness at short ranges since the missile first needs to accelerate, but this happens within the effective range of NLAW and at those ranges where Javelin cannot exploit its top attack mode yet.

45 Commando operate NLAW (Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon) at Castle Martin Ranges, South West Wales. Picture: LA (Phot) Pepe Hogan Royal Marines from 45 Commando, RM Condor, training with NLAW (Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon) and Jackal vehicles. The training was taking place at Castle Martin Ranges, South West Wales. 45 Commando assumed the role of Lead Commando Unit on 1st May 2015, which means that they are the UK’s response to any military or humanitarian crisis, maintained at high-readiness to deploy anywhere in the world. Members of the Unit are currently embarked on HMS Bulwark involved in the migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

British artillery shares about the same problems as the American artillery; its self-propelled gun is an old style 155 mm L/39 ordnance, not L/45 of the 80’s or L/52 of the 90’s. Really long ranges can only be achieved with exotic (gliding) rounds that aren’t in the inventory. The AS 90 either needs to be upgraded, or artillery needs to focus on multiple rocket launchers or alternative 155 mm L/52 systems need to be introduced. A substantial range disadvantage compared to 2S19, 2S35 and possibly even the old 2S5 should not be tolerated.

MLRS should be reverted from a GMLRS-only role; the system lends itself well to large thermobaric munitions which would be uniquely suitable for destruction of identified and occupied positions, akin to TOS-1A.

Organisation-wise, I think terrain and mission would favour a mechanised brigade format, essentially well-rounded little divisions with organic air defence, anti-tank unit, tank, armoured infantry, artillery, infantry, engineer and logistics components. This could yield up to three battalion battlegroups, either identical or with different weighting of infantry and armour.

Rocket artillery on the other hand should stay out of the manoeuvre brigades; unguided rocket munitions are terribly bulky and thus poorly suited for mobile warfare while guided rocket munitions can support from far ‘behind’.


The Army Reserve (territorial forces) faces the challenge of being relevant for deterrence while spending as little as possible. A great dependence on reservist and possibly part-time personnel is thus the way to go, and let’s be frank: The most sensible course of action would be to hand them mostly second hand equipment that’s been succeeded in the deployable army already. The move from a militia-like territorial force towards a pool for additional, cheaper, soldiers was ill-advised.

By now it’s obvious that this yields no benefit whatsoever.

Deployment on the continent in the event of collective defence in Europe would hardly be a benefit, for it would expose the UK to event he flimsiest airborne invasions if the Typhoons fail (or are absent). The Army Reserve would furthermore arrive even later than the regular army, and would no doubt be rated much lower in quality by Russian army planners. To change this would turn the Army Reserve into regular army forces, with the resulting fiscal disadvantage.

The Army Reserve should in equipment and organisation be focused on defeating the VDV and on disaster relief in my opinion.


Finally, the pool for those ‘board game toy soldiers’ should probably follow the Légion étrangère format, exploiting recruiting in Commonwealth countries and especially among Gurkhas. The equipment could be dominated by armoured air-deployable cars, while the Commando/Para ‘Norway reinforcements’ could add the infantry strength needed in places like Belize.

– – – – –

I paid much attention to laying out the reasoning, as well as why, where and how the path dependency should be broken to increase the fitness of British land power for missions that really matter. The exact choice of equipment types and formation designs is not so much of importance as is clarity about what land power is good for now, in the near future, and why.

Only this utility may justify the fiscal expenses as well as the spending of time, sweat and often even health by British soldiers.



“began to plan for their defence in 2010” :







“withdrawing from its WW2 legacy bases in Germany”:


  1. Pacman27 says


    Several sensible areas of discussion raised and many areas I agree with. I have long been an advocate for a total removal of tanks from the UK inventory in favour of more apaches and for the UK to become a full on expeditionary force.

    Whilst I accept that tanks have a role – I think the geography of the UK does not suit them and that the European mainland forces should have the tank inventory. So a move to a larger, more potent air force is sensible.

    I also agree that our land forces should take on an expeditionary feel and be air transportable on the whole. As for reservists I agree that we should recycle gear, but actually I remember the UK sending new equipment to Africa for the ebola outbreak at a time when the military itself is not getting new equipment is ridiculous (aid budget should buy ex military equipment to allow recycling and refresh).

    The UK post Brexit should concentrate on expeditionary forces and in essence become Europes USMC. It has similar budget and should aim for the same size. The USMC has serious capability but is not full spectrum and Britain probably needs to accept some limitations.

    Re-inforcing mainland Europe seems sensible as several countries (most notably Germany itself) have not paid enough into Nato but expect protection.

  2. Observer says

    When a country mobilizes for war, the number of men it can get into uniform and under arms is an incredible amount that numbers in the millions. When the gloves come off, you will not have the luxury of a “disaster relief” army and a regular army. Everyone will end up as “regulars”, even if it is just for the simple effort to match the “enemy” man for man.

    For example, the US Armed forces have a standing manpower of ~1.3(?) million. A number that even the UK with a much smaller land mass can match with 10% conscription.

    If you throw a “standing army” at an opponent mobilized for war, it will be severely outnumbered. Fine if you are against 3rd world countries but a developing or peer enemy is going to make your life hell.

    PAC, airpower has its own problems too, like massive fuel usage, limited numbers, inability to hold ground, limited munitions, limited intel (best intel gatherer is still a man with a pair of binos), inability to take losses etc. I do get the strategic concept behind an airforce heavy armed forces, hell, we do the same thing, but there are some things that simply need boots on the ground and hard steel in front of you.

  3. JohnHartley says

    The Americans moan that the Europeans do not do enough to defend themselves. Frankly, why should Britain send (token) forces to Eastern Europe, when any serious use of force by Putin, would wipe them out?
    Western Europe (including Britain) has plenty of decent kit, standing idle due to budget cuts. Better to give/donate that kit to NATO members in Eastern Europe, so they can defend themselves.
    Britain developed the tank in WW1, did little between the wars & got caught out at the start of WW2. We had good cold war tanks (Centurion, Chieftain, Challenger), but have been negligent since. Helicopter gunships are great, but if you want to hold ground, when the helicopters have gone off to refuel, you still need a tank.
    Ajax with a 120mm gun, is probably the nearest we could get to a new British MBT. Hopefully lighter & more deployable than a C2.
    Frankly, post Brexit, we need to reconnect with those abandoned industrial sections of Britain & get those factories working again.

  4. Chris Werb says

    A lot of common sense ideas discussed in the blog post. Without wishing to bore everyone by repeating things I have said in previous posts and accepting most of what has already been said, I would like to see our purchasing GMRLS alternative warhead rounds, GMRLS-SDB-I (some also with the alternative warhead), GMRLS-SMART and to fund GMLRS thermobaric, the P44 precision attack missile and the new LM 500km follow on to ATACMS. I think the 155mm SMART round is pretty much a no brainer – fitted with the PGK fuses that the RA are getting along with Excalibur or similar. I would like to see us standing up one regular and two Army Reserve regiments with HIMARS -at around £6M a pop they are the bargain of the century. Countermobility should also be reinstated with the Shielder/Volcano system, also in helo delivered form (failing that another helo delivered AT-mine system), together with MLRS AT-2. Buy huge numbers of commercial satphones and GPS integrated bilonculars and train up Baltic Republic Reservists as stay behinds to target our artillery.

    Russia attacking through Norway or down its coast simply isn’t going to happen for a host of reasons. the Norwegians, with help from the USN USAF, USMC and our existing forces should be able to easily stop them and their own Home Guard would provide rear area defence.

    A lot would depend around what the Russians did in terms of conventional stand off weapon attacks. At the moment, if they chose to go after our power grid control centre, air traffic control, the London stock exchange etc. there would be essentially nothing we could do about it. Would the British public really want to give up electricity, food, water and Pokemon Go to save three small, sparsely populated countries most of them probably couldn’t place on a map?

  5. Oleg Yaroshevych says

    “Ukrainian Civil War”? It’s like saying that Winter War was a civil war.

  6. Observer says

    Chris, depends on how much fear and outrage the Germans, oops, Russians provoke. People still bring up Chamberlain these days and not in a positive sense! :)

    I suspect people will, because they see it as a repeat of history, that if they don’t fight “them” there, sooner or later they’ll fight them on the shores of England. To put it in a nasty way, better a fight in someone else’s home than your own.

    Besides, taking a shot at someone’s stock exchange, power plant, utilities etc is already an act of war so I can’t see how you can avoid war when someone is already pounding the hell out of your infrastructure unless it was a cyber attack.

  7. @Ravenser says

    Yet again I think there is a justification for the reestablishment of the NATO Allied Command Mobile Force, both the land and air component. The AMF(L) immediate reaction force land component comprised of approx. 5,000 troops from 14 NATO countries. (funnily enough, the same number as the VJTF) They trained together three or four times a year and regularly deployed to the flanks of NATO. (Norway, Denmark, Turkey and in the later years with the intention of exercising in Ukraine)

    The AMF(L) embodied the concept of rapid deployment and flexible multinational forces and did it very well for just over 40 years.

  8. JohnHartley says

    To clarify, I do not want to abandon East European NATO states, but perhaps their best defence against Putin, is if we give them ex Dutch/German Leopard 2, with local air defence from our surplus Starstreak/Stormer.

  9. Peter Elliott says

    One of the lessons of Ukraine seems to be that Artillery is still king if the battlefield. So, alongside MIV, a series of sensible incremental purchases to improve the adaptability, range and lethality of our Arty seems like a wise plan.

    Don’t think we should get rid of our Tanks just yet. But I agree that, short of basing a NATO Corps in Poland, UK armour looks not hugely relevant to Baltic deterrence. I don’t really see a forward based NATO Corps as either cost effective or a proportionate piece of deterrence. So the question of how our heavy forces can contribute is a valid one. Almost certainly not from Salisbury Plain.

    But have we actually pulled the last brigade out of Germany yet? It will be very interesting when they do go to see which direction they take: west or east….? Or stay where they are with an augmented fleet of Tank Tansporters and other logistics to facilitate rapid road mobility? Tank Transporters must be a lot cheaper to have available in numbers than either planes or ships. Could be a very efficient piece of investment.

  10. Chris Werb says

    I don’t think we have any “surplus” Starstreak Stormer. Loads were either converted to troop scout vehicles or went to Withams to be sold off about a decade ago. The fleet was cut from 156 to about 32 by these means IIRC.

  11. JohnHartley says

    CW. The Starstreak/Stormer was just an example. My idea is that Western members of NATO, check on their surplus stocks of still credible equipment & donate it to the Eastern members of NATO.

  12. Peter Elliott says

    Good idea in principle but there is still the ticklish question of who pays?

    Donated equipment isn’t actully free. There may be capital value to be written off, there will certainly need to be refurbishment and upgrades, and whoever receives it needs the budget to train and operate it at a credible level of readiness.

    None of the problems is insuperable but unless you have both a willing buyer and a willing seller it won’t actually be a quick win.

  13. stephen duckworth says

    Very good article , a practicle what could be rather than fantasy forces. Long established organization’s are very difficult to change wholesale without a strong backlash from those affected and at considerable risk of f**king up those essential details that make organizations perform their task.
    On the subject of the western powers donating older kit to our eastern allies , a good short term measure with the kit deployed with the units that operate and maintain them who over a year or so convert/train the new owners troops. Longer term this pool of ex – Warsaw Pact Nations need to be financed by the Western Nations to purchase their own and a surplus of the latest kit preferably European in origin. Then in time of an escalation western power troops could deploy by air to ‘sister’ units in the east ,who they regularly train with bilaterally , who use identical kit. The western power kit can then roll up by train/transporter weeks later ( months more likely).
    This ‘surplus’ kit could be the forward deployed element but be regularly used and maintained by local forces and their visiting ‘sister’ units. Training to operate , fight and maintain the kit in local conditions would be an essential up skilling of western troops as the BAOR did. Your average Portuguese APC crews and sections might find a Polish winter a BIG eye opener for instance.
    On keeping MBT’s in the British Army even if they may arrive late and are vulnerable to saboteurs during the long transport phase through Europe if a rapid breakthrough happens offloading and deploying them early (and the rest of the supporting division(s) ) is still useful as a checking/counterstrike force. My self I think such heavy and difficult to transport units ,inc the Ajax family , should be mostly toward deployed in a host Nation as we did with BAOR .Way back when somebody realised a new BEF launching from British bases may not get the kind of notice to build up as in WW1&2 . Guderian put paid to that idea a long time ago. Are our Eastern allies any less important than West Germany?

  14. Corin Vestey says

    I agree with a lot of the article. What about drones and EW though? The Ukraine-Russo war seems to imply an extensive need to locate the enemy using spoof-proof drones and jam his own to prevent sudden death by Russian steel rain. Do we have multiple layers of drone overwatch/recce plus embedded EW troops in our major units…

  15. Peter Elliott says

    Agree on drones and ISTAR generally. On the face of it we seem to have this well covered with Sentinel, Protector and Watchkeeper. But are we missing something more disposable and organic to unit and sub unit level…? As well perhaps as mast equipped vehicles to look over walls and tree cover: could be a fairly cheap quick win.

    EW and jamming looks more essential than ever. It will however necessarily be kept very very secret. Fingers crossed someone somewhere is UK Land Forces is doing it.

  16. Peter Elliott says

    SD if we are serious about selling new army equipement to our Eastern Allies, even if we take a leaf out of the French book by financing it with soft loans, then we surely have to show the example of buying signicant numbers of MIV in a full range of variants.

    When our exercising forces start rolling round the training areas of Poland and Romania in significant numbers of impressive new vehicles we will be in a much better position to encourage our allies to do likewise.

  17. S O says

    Agreed, “war in the Ukraine” would have been much better. I didn’t mean to imply that the Russian army wasn’t involved. That mess is a war of secession with the neighbour that’s intent on annexing using but a few locals as proxies to generate some (implausible) deniability for its aggression with regular army forces.

  18. Observer says

    JH, you can give equipment, but “can they afford to maintain it” is a very big question. The eastern European countries tend to use cheap Russian evolved equipment, changing to a more expensive western standard might be more than they can afford. Think this happened in Afghanistan when they “got” US helicopters but after a period of time, could not afford to maintain them. So tossing them very high end tanks isn’t going to work unless you toss them a very high end budget and supply chain as well.

    I’m not against keeping MBTs in the UK, At least this way, they are in a secured area and viable as a 2nd strike/counterstrike force. Keeping them too close to the border runs the risk of a sudden attack taking them out of the picture entirely.

  19. Think Defence says

    lets have no fighting in the war room gents

  20. Chaffers says

    to provide a contribution to NATO’s Northern deterrence and defence

    This is a credible scenario post Brexit, and one that I think we should focus on. Whilst the lessons of the Ukraine must be learned it doesn’t tell us anything about airpower, though something about the denial thereof. CAMM-ER is the key here though this already appears to be planned for.

    The UK must avoid being dragged into such conflicts hence must be able to demonstrate sufficient deterrence and capability as to nulify any perceived advantages in armour or artillery. Artillery may be the king of the battlefield but naval artillery trumps it. Hence I’d be looking for manouvre from the sea with powerful installation strike and denial abilities. There’s a good opportunity to design the Type 31s with an AGS or AGS-lite for proper NGFS.

    Personally I’d bin much of the huge array of odd vehicles the MoD has collected, giving them to the Eastern European nations as foreign aid would be the best use for them, particularly the Warrior / Ajax and maybe update the CR2 in small numbers. Leave the lighter vehicles and focus entirely on mobility and deployability. Lots of, possibly hybrid electric, motorbikes for the infantry such that infrastructure isn’t such a bottleneck. Not looking for pitched battles, more manouvre, bring indirect fires to bear and bug out. Standardise equipment on ISO containers with an amphibious vehicle capable of getting them ashore, build a heavy lift helicopter capable of lifting a fully loaded one.

    I certainly wouldn’t be looking for a force designed to go deep inland or indeed help out all that much in Eastern Europe, we don’t have the logistical capability to sustain a large force. About time the Euro nations looked after their own defence on the continent.

    The reserves would be turned into a sort of global constabulary / peacekeeping / nation building / disaster relief force. Use our foreign aid budget to fund it. In serious wartime they would become an addition to the rear areas logistics and security.

  21. Oleg Yaroshevych says

    Good point about artillery. What about cheaper wheeled options, like French CAESAR or Polish Kryl?

    Another thought about Army Reserve is that it could not just prevent VDV/Spetsnaz operations, but also can be used against asymmetrical treats in areas like Northern Ireland / Scotland / Gibraltar. This is what we’ve learnt in Ukraine: Dnipro region was one of major targets for russian aggression, just on the border of the Donetsk region. What they did is they’ve (intentionally falsely) declared that they’ve deployed thousand troops in the Dnipro Battalion and other militia units, which had helped to prevent the invasion.

  22. MrBeanCounter says


    Hohum, can you explain to a layman like me where Sven is mistaken and perhaps give some of your recommendations for how the UK should rebalance our land forces.

  23. Observer says

    I can’t help but feel that wheeled 155mm artillery is sort of a neither here nor there solution. It’s not as mobile as a SPG and does not have the capacity of towed artillery. I mean, since the base vehicle itself is wheeled, how different in capability is it from a towed 155/52 (~40km range) piece?

    If you want organic fire support, my recommendation is probably for a LSV or Humvee mounted 120mm mortar (8 km range) detachment in place of a company’s mortar platoon. You get more ammo than you can manpacked, it’s an intrinsic part of the company so call for fire is faster and it can be underslung on Ch-47s so your heliborne infantry company can have their own “baby artillery” fly in with them. I think your 105mm Light Guns serve the same role though so it’s personal preference which one you prefer.

  24. S O says

    Towed SPGs (though not really discussed in the article) have an advantage in evacuating the firing position and are typically cleared for higher speeds than towed arty (often only 60 kph).

    Towed arty needs 1-2 minutes to leave a position, wheeled SPGs rather about 20-30 seconds.

  25. Oleg Yaroshevych says

    I may be wrong, but my the point in wheeled 155mm artillery is the cost of purchase and ownership. Mobility can be good enough for European theatre.

  26. Frenchie says

    Mobility seems more than shielding, an effective way to prevent possible fire from Russian counter-batteries. Another advantage of Caesar 8×8 in a context of high intensity, where the rate of fire is very high, the fully automatic loading of the shells prevents fatigue of the gunners. So a Caesar 8×8 has advantages on the self-propelled gun. In addition it is cheap. But each has its own point of view of course.

  27. Peter Elliott says

    The mobility constraint of 155mm Arty is not just the piece: it is the logistic supply of ammunition which is very bulky and heavy.

    This is the reason why the British light forces have so far retained 105mm Light Guns.

  28. S O says

    I doubt that. 105 mm can more easily be moved by helicopter, that’s the reason.

    155 mm DPICM was more efficient in terms of ammo mass and volume than any 105 mm shells, 105 mm has only become relatively efficient with the Cluster Munitions Ban.
    But the only interesting thing about 105 mm in the context of this article is that it doesn’t really convince me as a base denial standoff weapon for Norway. Hundreds of individual guided missiles that could be launched from a vertically erected storage/transport/launch canister similar to what the Americans planned for EFOGM would be much more survivable than the very few 105 mm guns.

    The Japanese have Type 96, the Serbians ALAS-A and -B, the PR Chinese CM-501G and the Brazilians have FOG-MPM military off-the-shelf on offer, close to zero development costs required. These missiles could be used for coastal defence and later on for base denial IF you trust fibre optic guidance over 10+ km.

    Alternatively, there are 122 mm single barrel rocket launchers on tripod for “guerilla” (harassing fires) use, no doubt usable with 122 mm guided rockets. This concept can be adopted for about any rocket calibre, for example the P44 missile which would be mule-portable and could easily be hidden and transported even in wintertime.

    This ability to persist as a base denial force in the Norwegian landscape is the only one I’m missing for Norway defence. One doesn’t need to defend Norway if one deters the only semirealistic aggressor that he couldn’t make use of Norway as a base for further military operations. That’s my deterrence concept for Norway, and the relatively all round cold weather/mountain/amphibious/para troops approaches are simply not tailored enough to reach the highest possible efficiency for this deterrence purpose.

    On the other hand, Norway could play less with expensive air force assets and questionable navy surface units and could get its mainland deterrence & defence done on its own with more emphasis on land forces, without extra spending.
    The only area that Norway cannot possibly defend itself is Spitzbergen.

  29. Think Defence says

    Done some cleaning up to keep things on track hope no one minds

  30. Zen9 says

    Potentially classic German parochialism, arrogance and insulting language. Though conceivably a product of ignorance.
    ‘Great Power’ games they may seem, but that is indeed parochial in the extreme.

    Speaking of which, granted the UK has its innumerable flaws, but its perspective is valid for it’s location. Ignorance of that does not help any critic or advice.

    That said, some interesting ideas and a different perspective.
    Cannot agree about CAMM, and frankly unless MICA-VL is having the money spent on it to convert it to ‘soft launch’ and sensor agnosticism in it’s ‘system’ then it is not ideal at all.

    Can agree over the move to short range hypersonic anti-armour missiles.

    Really cannot see the logic in creation of a BAOV (as opposed to a BAOR), this is really more a matter for Germany, Poland, Sweden and Finland, than the UK. Who should concentrate on keeping Russia from making trouble at your west.

    Norway is no pushover, and even the current balance of UK forces is good enough to support Norwegian efforts. Effectively a Russian move against Norway would provoke Swedish, Danish and Finnish reactions.

    Idea of a invasion of the UK is only relevant in the concept of harassment. In this SPECFOR is the threat.Anything more serious is highly dangerous as it invites the perspective of an existential threat….

    Notable is the complete absence of the sea mine in these matters. How very much a landlubber. Force cannot reach the UK save by on, under or in the air above the sea. To fight the enemy on British soil is a sign of the complete failure of RN, RAF, and intelligence services.

    Absence of EW is deeply concerning, this is an area Russia has not stopped working on the results are there for all to see. It is the chief failing of the UK and US to have allowed landbased EW to atrophy so.

  31. Observer says

    SO, good point, I overlooked the setup time. Still skeptical but less so. IIRC the CESAR and the other pieces only carry about 18 rounds on board, an “urgent” fire mission uses up 4 rounds in 20 seconds (I know, it’s 3 in 20 but don’t forget the ranging round), so it’s 4 fire missions and they’re dry.

    PE is actually right in that the 105mm’s logistics support is a lot better than the 155mm’s *per shell*! and that is an important point. While one ton of 155mm weighs the same as one ton of 105mm, you get more shots per ton though with less effectiveness per shell (which itself is a questionable metric since a round of any size coming down on an area effectively suppresses anyone there), so you can sustain the 105mm longer on the same weight of shell than a 155mm. This is the base shell though, once you add in things like incremental charges, all bets are off.

    Zen, SO’s language is a bit off and the article does have a slant to it (“fixing” the UK Land power in the title already predisposes that it is “broken” in the first place), but some of his suggestions do have interesting points. IIRC he’s a big supporter of small company sized independent operating infantry units, so you have to look at it from his point of view that infantry is the prime mover in any conflict (which does have a certain logic to it) and hence he tends to go light on the armour. There is precedent for this kind of operating protocol, namely units like the Rangers or some Marine deployments where company sized forces operate on a shoestring supply line away from the FEBA, but as an operating protocol for a whole army, it is a very dangerous stretch since not everyone has the ability to self sustain. That is why units that can are often considered the elite. He’s wishing for an all elite army, which while ambitious and very nice to have, is not really practical in real life. This is why the brigade is often considered the basic building block of the army, not the company. It’s seen as the minimum logistical infrastructure needed to sustain a force and the minimum level structure where you mix and match line units and specialist units.

    He isn’t “wrong”, more like “very optimistic”.

    As opposed to my “very cynical”. :)
    To me, there is always a reason things have evolved the way it has, sometimes the reason changes then it becomes time to change, but to know when to change, you must first identify the reason why it became like that in the first place.

    I’m more of a fan of the 1:3 ratio of armour to infantry where the infantry screen the approaches defensively while the armour stands ready to counterattack any intrusion into the operating area and as the spearhead of any incursion into enemy territory backed by opportunistic platoon level raiding (if possible) on enemy supply lines. Fairly conventional I know but unless you are in a severely disadvantageous situation, there is no reason to go all out on a single throw of the dice. (Which might surprise some here since I advocated aggressive attack as opposed to Phil’s “stabilized situation” defence that he once brought up, that “front lines” will form and stabilize. I actually believe he is right, but considering the force disparity facing my country, a war of attrition does not favour us, so we have no choice but to attack.)

  32. S O says

    Rest assured, I wrote a “Fixing German Army brigades” article already. Whether or not something is broken is always a question of expectations. Mine maybe higher than yours, at least regarding cost efficiency.

    I’m not infantry centric, though when thinking of infantry I usually think of platoons, which is easily justified by military history. The terrain in both Norway and the Baltic region is not favouring tank warfare nearly as much as the North German plains, particularly not high ground pressure MBT types.

    To cite myself from a few weeks ago:

    “Indirect fires (mostly artillery) are the main killer (80-95% of ground combat KIA), tanks are the main enabler for rapid manoeuvres in harms way and infantry is and will be the force of choice when difficult terrain and short lines of sight favour it.”

  33. Obsvr says

    An interesting exhibition of limited military understanding. A few points:

    1. The RAC is a combination of traditional cavalry regiments and the RTR, The former obviously inherit the titles and traditions of their cavalry predecessors, this situation exists in several European countries.

    2. Developments, actual and foreseeable, in direct and indirect anti-armour weapons pose a threat to all armour in the medium term. Tanks are also part of the all arms battle, both in attack and defence. This emphasises a key point, land warfare is a combined arms business (and air is just another arm which is why the RFC should be re-created).

    3. One of the few military certainties is ‘expect the unexpected’. UK is a significant global player and needs armed forces able to quickly adapt and operate anywhere. Sometimes its a matter of choice, sometimes it in not (eg 1982). Either way the options are needed.

    4. Long range artillery, this can get slightly technical so widespread ignorance is to be expected. The problem is that as gun-target range increases so does dispersion of the fall of shot. This means this means that a lot more rounds have to be fired to achieve a required effect, greater dispersion also introduces own troop safety issues when artillery fire is being used to provide covering fire (a primary role). Obviously ‘smart’ munitions are a solution, albeit a very expensive one. Sensible armies have looked at longer barrels and longer ranges, but they also consider the advantages and disadvantages. AS-90’s key advantage is its rate of fire in situations where maximising casualties is the goal. Of course the elephant in the room is whether 155mm is a suitable general purpose calibre, particularly where support of dismounted infantry is critical. Having done my time on operations with footborne infantry I’d say ‘no way Jose’.

  34. Observer says

    Obsvr, I agree but I’d like to know what you think are the shortcomings regarding the 155mm as a weapon for covering fire.

    Personally, I don’t advise anyone to be anywhere near a 155mm target zone, it’s not the most accurate of weapons. Weapon of attrition, to soften up targets, sure. Just don’t call it anywhere near any friendlies.

    IIRC, technically, doesn’t it take a minute and a half for a 155mm round to reach 30km? Hard to sustain an assault if you have to stop every minute for your own artillery.

    “6 rounds HE, Fire for Effect! Fire when ready!”
    “So what now?”
    “Oh we wait about 2 minutes for the rounds”
    “So what do we do then?”
    “Still got those biscuits?”
    “Sure, like some tea as well?”

    As silly as that sounds, if you timed it, that conversation would take less than the 1.5 min needed for the round to fly to that location.

    SO, was the casualty results for WWII split into the type of gun that causes the casualties? After all, “artillery” is often a catchall term used to describe any indirect fire ranging from conventional howitzers to 81mm mortars. And was there a separation between civilian casualties and military casualties? If I recalled, there were many instances of shelling of populated areas with associated civilian casualties. I would not classify civilian casualties as part of the effectiveness of artillery, though I strongly suspect they would form the bulk of casualties for any shelling of a city.

  35. Brian Black says

    If I ever get around to writing my own opinion piece on ‘How To Fix Opinionated Articles’, it will certainly include advice to leave out petty personal bugbears such as irritating regiment/corps titles, and advice to avoid persistent repetition of metaphors like ‘toy soldiers’ in place of more usual terms like ‘expeditionary forces’.

    Such things add wordage, but not necessarily value, and often detract from the point one is trying to put across.

    And that shouldn’t be taken as a wholly personal attack on SO, who does come up with some interesting things once in a while.

    There are a number of things that lack any explanation here; such as, if expeditionary forces beyond our European neighbourhood are derided as great power plastic toy soldiers, why keep the concept at all in an article intended to fix what’s wrong with land forces? And having kept them, why would they need to be modeled on the Foreign Legion?

    Or, why do Paras & Commandos need to be combined to reinforce Norway? And the Marines are the UK’s leading mountain and arctic warfare units anyway. And why do we need more infantry in Belize? And if we send the Para/Commandos to Belize, how would that improve their Norway reinforcement role? And having created a British Foreign Legion, why wouldn’t the supposed need for infantry in Belize be delegated to them, rather than a formation apparently dedicated to reinforcing Norway?

    And why are the predominantly heli-borne Parachute Regiment still named after such an obsolete and undesirable mode of vertical transport?

  36. JohnHartley says

    Going off at a tangent. Following the suspected attempted abduction at RAF Marham & the terrorist events in Nice & Munich, should the UK be looking at bringing back a “Dads Army/Home Guard”?
    The whole thrust of this thread, is that the UK Army is now too small, so we will not be able to deploy a sizable force abroad & maintain security at home.
    Perhaps we need to recruit solid, steady types, aged 35-65, to patrol near bases, armed with a .38 revolver? Nothing more than that. As long as there is at least two of them, patrolling together.

  37. TehFinn says


    while technically correct about artillery dispersion one has methods of diminishing its effects. It’s common practice to keep artillery within 2/3 of max range of regular ammunition from the troops being supported. For 52cal the max range is about 23-25km and 39cal about 17-19km. One should think of BB and other extended range ammunition as limited resource and reserved for supporting recce troops in enemy depth. High ROF is standard nowadays and AS-90 isn’t unique in this aspect.


    it’s certainly lot harder to keep momentum if you don’t use artillery to shoot your way through. Besides if you have to call for artillery every time you get in contact theres something wrong with the PL/CO.

    But back to the topic whether AS-90 could/should be replaced by a 52cal artillery the answer is yes. Like I mentioned before the 52cal has significantly longer effective range for supporting troops in battle. If we presume that 39cal and 52cal have same dispersion at any given range one might think they’re equal in their ability to support the boots on the ground. While this might be true to some degree, 39cal has to move forward more often resulting in fewer guns supporting troops and it isn’t as capable of counter battery fire due to it’s innately shorter range. I can check the dispersion for 39 can 52 cal guns on Monday and tell you absolute truth.

  38. S O says

    nothing – absolutely nothing – of what you wrote was new to me, so there was no display of limited understanding on my part, but rather on yours. You didn’t get the reasoning.

    Great many fire missions don’t need accuracy at all, such as shooting at bivouacs or marshalling areas. Long range missions against small targets benefit greatly from rather simple and cheap trajectory correcting (air brake principle) fuzes such as SPACIDO; 2x to 10x munitions efficiency with HE. It doesn’t require an expensive guidance.

    The range difference is substantial with no-BB, no-RAP HE. Even assuming a 100-150° field of relevance and identical minimum ranges, the area covered is much greater with 52cal pieces. This offers much more often the opportunity to mass many firing positions on one mission via digital fire coordination and offers more often the option of guns supporting friendly troops with flanking fires instead of overshooting them (with greater dispersion in range requiring a greater minimum distance to friendlies for overshooting).

    Now I’m claiming that you were ignorant of this technicality, just as you pretended that I was ignorant of an even more simple one.

    “AS-90’s key advantage is its rate of fire” is utter nonsense. AGM has the same RoF, and PzH 2000 exceeds the rate of fire of AS-90 by 33% in the first three minutes, for example.
    The more powerful L/52 ballistics allow for more powerful MRSI ever a long zone even if the rate of fire was identical, since additional elevation/charge combinations would reach the target coordinate.

    BTW, smart munitions are a solution for better effect, not necessarily for less friendly fires. A malfunctioning PGM has a much greater CEP than even poorly manufactured dumb rounds. In best case it doesn’t steer at all and falls long as predicted, in worst case it’s kilometres off.

    there are statistics from WW2 battles that made a difference between mortars and artillery. There are also statistics from Korea, and Ukraine is repeating the pattern. It’s almost for certain that a conventional war between regular European armies would draw attrition 80+ % from indirect fires.

    don’t jump to conclusions. German authorities consider the killings in Munich as a non-political, non-religious simple killing spree.

    52 cal ordnance tends to be more accurate than 52cal ordnance, but the AS-90 is a special case since it’s little older than PzH2000, though not overtly better than the 1970’s GCT AUF1. I have never seen dispersion figures of AS-90, they may be equal to 52cal ordnances.
    Dispersion for modern 155 mm guns is typically 0.4% of range in range and 0.1% of range in azimuth IIRC.

  39. Observer says

    Teh, yes, no artillery cover does make things a lot harder but the 155mm isn’t exactly used for “covering fire” in the method of the GPMG/M-240 is it? IIRC the most common usage in the attack for it is to simply pound the area until the infantry get close, then lift fire while the infantry go in, not as an overwatch role, which is more the forte of the GPMGs and 81mm mortars.

    I’m not saying it is useless, I’m saying that it’s not really the safest weapon to use as overwatch. Something closer with less area effect, more accuracy and a smaller “no-fire” zone might be more appropriate to support an advance, like the Carl Gustav or RAW.

    Long long time ago (in a galaxy not so far far away), grenades used to be classed as “defensive” and “offensive” grenades. Contrary to what people might think, the defensive grenades were actually more powerful than the offensive grenades, the logic being that in defensive positions, you can take cover against the grenade’s effects while an “offensive” grenade has its effectiveness reduced as troops on the “offensive” may not have the degree of cover against their own grenades. The logic is something similar, a call for fire is a 100m x 100m grid square (or at least it was in my time…when dinosaurs roamed the earth). It’s not exactly safe to assault into that area and +200m around it. It’s simply too powerful. Something like the RAW/Carl Gustav or NLAW/SMAW might be more appropriate for close in destruction of fortifications and mortars/40mm (A)GL for things like trenches.

    Old joke over here:
    The Air Force bombs the objective, the artillery pounds the target, then the infantry men go in with brooms to sweep up the remains.

    I also suspect Obsvr’s objection to be that 155mm towed can’t keep up with the pace of mechanized infantry operations but I believe that can be solved with things like the AS90 and in rare cases, underslung helo leapfrog.

    That said, the first thing anyone should do before assaulting an objective is to either bomb it or call 155mm on it. Makes your life a lot easier.

  40. wf says

    @JohnHartley: @Phil’s reserve article touched on a “new TA”, patterned on the Danish model of having full time regulars, supported by well trained reserves for the warfighting, plus a TA of sorts to act as a home guard.

  41. S O says

    Brian Black,

    I insisted on the toy soldiers thing because the anti-interventionist political message was half the message. It doesn’t distract from the message, it IS (part of) the message. I derided great power gaming intentionally.

    I kept the concept of expeditionary component because
    “The land forces can sensibly be expected to have several tasks:”
    To change this expectation would be a gargantuan reform, not merely a patching of a few weak spots.

    The Foreign legion as model is once about the equipment (armoured cars), and also about the foreign personnel aspect (which suits itself well to great power games and makes use of the legacy of recruiting good Gurkha recruits).

    Paras & Commandos for Norway makes sense because planning to send them as urban or woodland fighters into Lithuania would be the only other realistic collective defence option, and that’s too unlikely from the political angle because these missions would produce very high casualty rates.

    Belize’s terrain (as many others) is not fully cooperative with an armoured car-centric force, so I pointed out that existing light infantry could be added to great power games if a more infantry-heavy force is required. Such units would surely arrive late for a Norway emergency, but the UK is not alone and the U.S. or other countries might fill in. It’s rather unlikely that a few thousand light infantry being slowed down in their deployability by two or three days tip the scales in favour of war. Besides, we know how the UK thinks about it; it withdraw almost its entire navy and light infantry for the Falklands War adventure at the height of the Cold War, after all!

    I didn’t propose to rename units, just expressed disgust at their misleading and anachronistic “traditional” names. (Interestingly, I have never seen any Napoleonic War units being called ‘longbowmen’, ‘crossbowmen’, ‘pikemen’, ‘huscarls’, ‘men at arms’ etc – names appear to have been frozen only during the 19th century).
    A battalion’s nature should be understood by its name, not only by its icon. Yet I didn’t propose renaming, thus I left the “para” thing a “para” thing. To change names is not part of essential minimum patching.

  42. JohnHartley says

    SO The full story of the Munich shooter will emerge shortly. It does not seem to be an IS/Daesh operation as such. Most likely a copycat by a mentally disturbed teenager.
    However, when you are being shot/stabbed, I suspect the motivation/life story of your attacker, may not be your priority at that moment.
    It seems from Orlando, Nice & now Munich, we have angry young men, split between two cultures, confused over religion, sexuality & which society they fit in.
    They may have a history of depression, drug abuse, petty crime & even prostitution. Then something triggers them to explode.
    It is unlikely we can identify every individual. Better to go after the ideology & those who spread it. Then put a kinder, gentler message in its place & reach out to those lost souls & let them know they are valued.

  43. S O says

    I’ve long argued that every country has 5% dangerous idiots. Sadly, some particularly violent strains of salafism have provided brands and excuses for some such people to turn homicidal.

    The great problem is that this enables other dangerous idiots (who have slipped into positions of influence they should never have gotten into) to cut down civil liberties and launch great power games that do much more economic and bodily harm to us than violent salafism.

  44. TehFinn says


    you’re right about what you said. Manuals say 155mm fragmentation range to be 150m for 1% unprotected standing upright friendly casualties, 100m for 120mm mortar and 50m for 81mm mortar. On top of that dispersion and target locating error and you need to be atleast 250-300m away from 155mm target hectar at max 10km range. The safety range quickly goes almost up to 800m or more when shooting over 30km away. Lifting artillery and continuing with mortars, followed by assault is ages old technique. What happens within the 100-150m from the enemy when neither can reasonable use indirect fire is a world of its own and has nothing to do with what I originally pointed out. It’s a world where fire and maneuver, machines guns and hand grenades rule, it’s the grunt’s world.

  45. S O says

    HOW and what you shoot greatly affects the necessary distance to friendlies, as does terrain, the nature of friendlies (protected?) et cetera.
    Afaik the lower register (<43°) has less dispersion in azimuth, more muzzle velocity has less dispersion (less wind influence), self-destructing ranging shots surveyed by arty radar or at minimum by muzzle velocity radar help to improve accuracy, climate control for known propellant temperature helps control MV, modern propellants are more insensitive to temperatures, known barrel temperature helps with fire control calculations etc.
    To shoot from a flank position means that the 1/4 as large dispersion in azimuth matters instead of dispersion in range. Shells can be designed to concentrate their effect on a defined area instead of few per cent of it flying far to the sides.
    Sometimes when much is done right the very same gun can shoot very much closer to friendly troops than on other occasions. I have seen simplistic figures in field manuals that are simply not adequate to the problem, and bound to provoke improvisation out of bounds when the troops in contact are screaming for help.

    BTW, the Soviets were confident in that 300-400 m is enough for safety, for applying less arty may kill more by hostile fires than applying arty more closely kills by friendly fires. This kind of consideration is not being applied much in Western armed services any more due to the casualty minimization during great power games where the troops aren't that agitated to want to risk their lives for some nonsense purpose and politicians need to avoid drastic casualty reports or else they'd have their toys taken away and be sent home.
    Progress has been made regarding accuracy and dispersion since 2S1 and 2S3 SPGs, of course, so on most terrains targets should either be in arty range or in small arms range.

    Arty is the top killer, and an 80% solution is not the way to go when a 90% solution can be had for quite modest expenses.

  46. Observer says

    SO, you’re way too optimistic on the accuracy and utility of artillery. There are limitations. That is why no one, not even the US, blindly fires rounds into target grids and use a spotter.

    Some of what you bring up simply don’t make sense. Self destructing rounds? Then what is the spotter going to look for? Imaginary rounds? There is a reason why SOP for us is the first round being PWP (plastic white phosphorous) so we can actually *see* where the shot is really going to land, not some computer “predicting” where it is going to land.

    Not to mention the implications of a 1.5 min TOF at 30 km means that you can’t really directly engage mechanized targets. SOP is to designate a “killbox” and let them get into the killzone to pound them. 155mm is for stationary targets or in the very, very rare case, FPF (final protective fire) and these are pre-registered fireplans.

    Your expectation of artillery is very, very optimistic. If you want to chase moving targets, you’ll need things like the Exactor/Spike, not the 155mm. If you substituted “unrealistic” for “optimistic”, it might be more accurate.

  47. Observer says

    BTW Teh, I used to work on a “rule of thumb” of 3 sec per km for time of flight, how valid is that still? (Yes I know, it depends on trajectory, just a rough comparison to the tables is fine)

  48. TehFinn says


    like you indirectly said artillery is science. Great deal of variables define where shot will land and accouting as many as possible reduce the risk of friendly casuslties. Old saying goes: when you only have a hammer everything looks like nails. Or more modern version: when you only got Javelin, everything looks like a tank. Having only one type of weapon supporting troops limits their tactical choices, be it 81mm mortar, 155mm arty or CAS. Regarding assault the more variety you got, the better results you’ll get.

    Soviet guns at the time were much closer but had bigger dispersion resulting in similar safety range as today for shooting bit further with smaller dispersion.

  49. TehFinn says

    Observer, can’t say anything about that. It varies pretty much hence making MRSI possible. It depends on the firing unit which trajectory and charge they select for each firing mission.

  50. Think Defence says

    Am loving this artillery duel ?

  51. Observer says

    Can still “kinda” remember how to call for fire, though it’s been 20 years+. Thinking back, it’s kind of a relief not to get blown up by some clown of a recruit sending a round where it should not go.

    One thing most people forget is that while artillery has a long range, it’s not omniscient, people don’t just “sense” an enemy in a grid square and simply fire off rounds. No matter how long artillery can reach, you still need a spotter to confirm that there is something in the area worth shooting. Your “spotter” might be a satellite marking a building on a map, a UAV or simply your LURPs or recce guys belly down in an OP, but the basic fact is that you must “see” the target and that is a very, very important factor of artillery. So no matter how artillery heavy your army gets, you still need infantry in front.

  52. Chris Werb says

    I admit I have been looking at this very much from a Baltic Republics Russian invasion or Ukraine goes full-on and drags us in kind of scenario, but I am really interested in the former in particular as there is a 0.0001 % chance that it might actually happen before the glaciers roll back over us.

    If the Russians really wanted the Baltic states they are not as intrinsically vulnerable as they are often made out to be. The terrain is very much in favour of the defender and the distances involved are significant. The reason I advocated GMLRS is it can get somewhere quickly (HIMARS) and can cause terrific effect on target highly accurately with limited logistic support whereas with MLRS you would have needed immense logistical support. If one of your forward observers/stay behinds/partisans locates an enemy supply dump, FARP, battery of towed guns/command post/EW vehicle etc. one alternate warhead rocket would sort it for about the cost of a single Javelin ATGW (unless an S-400 shot it down at immense expense, giving its own location away in the process). GMLS also has the advantage of being much, much more survivable than air from a platform perspective as well as almost insignificant in cost compared to the latter.

    Engaging moving armour (as in moving tactically) with 155mm or GMLRS isn’t going to happen, but the terrain in the Baltic Republics would enable the swift creation of choke points and kill zones into which SMART projectiles/rockets could be launched. The person who decided to axe our countermobility capability in its entirety a couple of years back should be taken out and shot along with the genius who sold our COBRA radars to the Turks. There needs to be a way of creating effective AT minefields on the ground fast. They could be covered with some kind of remotely controlled, networked directional fragmentation weapon. Another idea I would love to see come to fruition would be a bounding, remotely actuated GMLRS AW warhead which would be awesomely lethal and could pop up at suitable potential choke points meaning the Russians would have to clear vast swathes of forest of munitions. Another thing that could be resurrected is the US PIP Hornet networked AT “mine”.

    Someone mentioned using guided 122 rockets from the single shot launcher developed for the Vietcong by the Soviets. Turkey and Israel offer GPS/INS guided 122s. One of those fitted with a mini version of the Alternate Warhead or something at least as capable as the DENEL prefragmented artillery rounds would be awesome and a very hard thing for the Russians to counter. I still think giving the Baltic Republics thousands of satphones and GPS would work. it would make potentially everyone a potential dicker (albeit much less obvious!). Every potential target location should have its coordinates catalogued down to a few centimetres by now or again someone should be tied to a post in front of a seriously pockmarked wall.

    Like us, the Russians are now very reliant on UAVs for targeting. Something like a Kongsberg RWS fitted with a powerful non eyesafe laser and autotracking would make Russian use of UAVs a lot more problematic and could potentially be decisive.

    Giving the Balts surplus kit pretty much a no brainer, as long as they don’t store it in vulnerable sheds at known locations. Giving them immense quantities of infantry weapons (including some N-LOS capable ATGW), demolitions, mines and MANPADs would make for a nightmare for the Russians as long as the will was there to use it. MBTs in comparison would be maintenance intensive and relatively easily tracked down and killed assuming they weren’t destroyed in their shelters by D+30. It is heartening to hear of their getting Pz2000s though and each one of those could be a real nuisance to the Russians and highly survivable if NATO can at least contest the airspace over them.

  53. JohnHartley says

    Aviationweek published its estimate on the range at which the S-400 92N6E “Gravestone” radar can detect fighters. 13 miles (21 km) for F-22. 21 mi (34km) for F-35, 100-145 mi (175-235 km) for F/A-18E/F, F-16, SU-35, Typhoon, 195-215 mi (315-350 km) for F-15, SU-27, Tornado. Something to think about, if you want air support for your ground forces.

  54. S O says


    please don’t let preconceptions guide you so much, and pay more attention to what I really wrote.

    “That is why no one, not even the US, blindly fires rounds into target grids and use a spotter.”

    I don’t think I wrote that we would blindly fire if friendlies are close, but shooting at marshalling areas has been normal for ages. Reports from WW2 indicate that more shells were fired at marshalling areas than during the actual defence against assaults, and more casualties were caused that way (confirmed by POW). The effects of firing at marshalling areas were also judged to have been more decisive in favour of defenders than the fires during the assault. Soviet attacks that entered close combat usually succeeded, their failed attacks usually faltered before closing with German troops to less than 400 metres.

    “Some of what you bring up simply don’t make sense. Self destructing rounds? Then what is the spotter going to look for? Imaginary rounds? There is a reason why SOP for us is the first round being PWP (plastic white phosphorous) so we can actually *see* where the shot is really going to land, not some computer “predicting” where it is going to land.”

    This may be a knowledge gap of yours. Our 110 mm MRL “LARS” had one self-destructing round per salvo, its trajectory was measured by arty radar to see the influence of wind etc and then without the target area warned the corrected real salvo was fired. The very same thing can be done with long range HE or practice rounds (BB and RAP) by 155 mm SPGs (using simple mechanic time fuzes). It’s particularly worthwhile with high zenith, long range dumb round shots when meteorological data is not satisfactory while good accuracy is important.
    MRSI makes no sense with a ranging rounds that can be sensed in the target area!

    “Not to mention the implications of a 1.5 min TOF at 30 km means that you can’t really directly engage mechanized targets. SOP is to designate a “killbox” and let them get into the killzone to pound them. 155mm is for stationary targets or in the very, very rare case, FPF (final protective fire) and these are pre-registered fireplans.”

    Actually, our MLRS (“MARS”) can lay an AT-2 minefield to fix an entire mounted company (or reduce it if it moves nevertheless), which can then be pounded with HE (previously DPICM) shortly after. Other approaches for fixing moving targets exist, such as causing a traffic jam at a bottleneck.

    Planned “killboxes” are obsolete pre-1990’s techniques. They tended to hardly ever be where the OPFOR went in exercises. Modern digitized arty fire control can do much better, quickly adapt to the situation with little if any previous planning. Look up FüWES Adler III, for example.

    Besides, I don’t think I wrote explicitly about engaging moving targets in the article or comments here before, and there are plenty worthwhile rather static long range targets, including radars.

    And TOF to 30 km isn’t anywhere near 90 seconds for 52cal guns in lower register. It’s 70 seconds for 45cal base bleed, and obviously even less with 52cal base bleed. I looked it up because it sounded implausible and offered this 45cal figure because it was the first source that I found:


    “Your expectation of artillery is very, very optimistic. If you want to chase moving targets, you’ll need things like the Exactor/Spike, not the 155mm.”

    Actually, several Western land forces are much more ambitious on this than you seem to be, and train to engage moving columns with dumb rounds. Maybe you just came from an army that’s not that ambitious or good at arty fire control techniques.

    But again, I didn’t really write about moving targets before.

  55. Observer says

    SO…. it might not occur to you but being a forward observer was part of my job scope in the past? Sure, some things I have forgotten, but I do have practical experience in the job at least, so I know generally what is possible and what isn’t.

    Your opinion on artillery is very optimistic, it’s very close to impractical though for what you think it can do.

  56. Observer says

    SO, got a 404 on your link, you sure you typed it correctly?

  57. Mark says


    You would like to think someone would try and remove the s400 battery prior to trying to conduct a close air support mission within its sphere of influence don’t you think.

  58. TehFinn says

    Sure, the Baltic region is suitable for defender but there aren’t enough terrain features that allow choke points to form naturally. The region is less forested and more cultivated than Eastern Finland which is great example for defencive infantry terrain.

    GMLRS sure is good but it’s not a silver bullet. Mapping out every street corner is inpractical and still you’d need the skill to guide the rocket within the kill radius for given type of target. Guided rockets are useless if you can’t tell to the firing unit where the enemy is with CAT3 precision. AT-2 has some use against small target because of the dispersion of the mines or rocket expenditure would massive. I’m not too impressed about airborne/rocket launched minefields in general though they may have some utility when used properly.

    The only kind of artillery I’ve heard of shooting a moving target is coastal artillery and I’m from Finland for gods sake, we’re renowned for our “largest artillery in europe”. Besides, I’m more of a mortarman.

    What Sven wrote about shooting the russians in their staging area is absolutely true. At the battle of Tali-Ihantala in the summer of -44 the fire of 20+ artillery batallions and mortar companies were directed at the staging areas and several times the assault ended before it had begun.

  59. Observer says

    That brings me to another point. Minefields. For better or worse, minefields are now not “politically correct”, even AT mines that are allowed under the Ottawa treaty. While AP mines were supposed to be the focus, AT mines are generally seen as “mines” too and got roped into the bad publicity of the minefield ban.

    Not sure if usage of such weapons would not provoke international outrage, so any usage of artillery or helicopter deployed minefields would probably be kept low key and on a small scale.

  60. TehFinn says

    Says who? Not using AT mines because of “public opinion” while being totally valid and legitimate weapon is stupidity. If R decides to attack F or B someone might “forget” that it’s not allowed to put a tripwire on claymore. What bad could come from breaking Ottawa treaty, are there sanctions? Our current defence minister is looking for possibility of resigning from the Ottawa treaty.

  61. S O says

    Observer, you know the forward observer job from the inside FROM ONE ARMY. This didn’t educate you about what artillery in general can pull off today, and it shows. Besides, practitioners get only taught little more than what they need to know. That’s a far cry from understanding the whole thing or even the “why”.

    The link is broken because it didn’t recognise the .pdf as part of the link. Copy & paste for the address.

    And seriously, anyone who dismisses arty missions with dumb munitions against moving ground targets as impractical is behind the curve by approx. 80 years. This has been figured out in 1930’s exercises after preliminary work in the 1920’s (US, Germany) and is part of ordinary doctrine in the U.S.Army and German Heer at the very least. It’s much, much simpler than heavy AAA against 350 kph fast 3D targets.
    The preferred application is about predictable routes (such as roads or valleys with hilltops impassable due to steep slopes or woodland) with observation over a long distance (or by multiple observers) before initiation, but then it’s fairly simple, even with pen & paper.
    The efficiency of fires against moving targets is a bit of a gamble, but may on many occasions still be much better than against deployed forces that exploit terrain for concealment. To be able to engage moving targets is most important for delaying actions, since forcing advancing OPFOR off the road and to deploy and disperse is essential for slowing them down.

    Any army that doesn’t teach & train this is ‘not making a good impression on me’. And you know that’s not what I’d call it elsewhere.

  62. VPeake says

    Russia certainly has conceived of counters to the Javelin and other ATGWs, just look at the T-14 tank. Paying for them is a different matter. I am sure that the Baltic States have figured out that a large standing army with plenty of modern weapons is the counter to Russian aggression. The problem is paying for it.

    I don’t see any reason to believe that there is any simple inexpensive trick that will make obsolescent tanks immune to modern anti-tank weapons.

    Russia simply doesn’t have the money to be a match for NATO. They might achieve some success through surprise in the Baltic States, but they would never be able to hold on to it.

  63. Observer says

    Teh, we never did sign it, but even then we were forced by PR to declare a “defensive use only” for mines, even AT ones. You don’t have to tell me it’s stupid, I think so too, but PR, especially American PR, isn’t known for its logic but its sensationalism and for better or worse, a lot of countries depend on the US for final deterrence.

    SO, that’s the killbox method I was talking about…

    So on one moment you decry other people’s lack of knowledge, the next you bring up a method that was already mentioned (and limitations described too) and propose that as a solution. I seriously have no idea what to do with you.

    If you’re so against 3 countries armies, maybe the problem isn’t with the countries or the armies. Maybe the problem is with you.

    There are a lot of “military reformers” out there, one of their characteristics is that they are never happy with any army unless their ideas are adopted. Which seldom are because their “solutions” are often idealistic to the point of being impractical. This is also part of the problem Hohum has with you when he said that you were out to tear up Western defences. I’m not going to go as far as calling you a Russian propagandist, but I’ve to say that I agree with him that your “brushstrokes reform” is going to be a mess.

    One of the requirements for GCE A-level English exams is to write a GP or General Paper with both the pros and cons of an argument to give “balanced thinking”. You set out the advantages of your “solution”. Now you have to flip it around. Can you see the disadvantages? If you can’t, then you might want to consider that you have a heavy bias since there is no such thing as a perfect solution without flaws. If you can’t find flaws, it’s more likely you’re just too in love with your solution to see the flaws.

  64. Obsvr says

    There may be a bit of confusion around artillery fire – ie the difference between ‘accuracy’ and ‘consistency’.
    The former refers to the distance between the mean point of impact (the centre point of the rounds on the ground) and the target centre. The latter refers to the spread of the fall of shot from each gun around its aimpoint.

    Assuming an accurate target location, then providing there is up to date data (ie MVs are up to date (UK guns have MV radars permanently fitted, most armies don’t) and meteor data is for the current period, typically no more than 2 – 4 hours) then the mpi will be fairly close (within 100 metres and usually a lot less – assuming a 8 figure grid ref was used (10 m precision)) of the ordered target location. If these assumptions are not valid then all bets on accuracy are off.

    However, accuracy is really only a concern when predicted fire for effect is being used. If the fire is adjusted then the accuracy of predicted fire is irrelevant.

    Consistency is gun dependent and varies with the range and propelling charge used. Data is in Firing Tables, it varies with the gun – target range, the gun type, the propelling charge used, excessive barrel wear is another factor.

  65. S O says

    I don’t see any indication of a confusion between accuracy and dispersion here.

    Forward observer error in target coordinate determination alone can be expected to be up to 50 m even with modern equipment and GPS availability.

  66. Observer says

    I can sort of understand it. It’s something like the zeroing of a rifle. The “accuracy” in this case refers to the deviation from the aimed point (center of the target zone) while the “consistency” is analogous to the “grouping” of the rounds fired.

    You can have a tight group, but still be “inaccurate” if the shot grouping is far away from the aimpoint or “inconsistent” if the shot grouping is centered on the middle of the target area yet the rounds are widely dispersed.

  67. All Politicians are the Same says

    @JH Aviation Weekly would have been as well publishing the lottery numbers. No mention of target or aerial height, do they really know the RCS of any of the mentioned aircraft? I doubt it.
    No mention of terrain masking etc, basically useless.

  68. JohnHartley says

    Aviation Week was using the claim that the S-400 92N6E “Gravestone” radar can detect a 4-m squared target at 250 km. Then they calculated from that.
    Not sure if this is the direct link.

  69. DavidNiven says

    ‘How to Fix UK Land Power’

    Can’t see how this article has even remotely come close to doing that, am I missing something?

    to provide a contribution to NATO’s Eastern deterrence and defence
    to provide a contribution to NATO’s Northern deterrence and defence
    to protect the UK territory at least against feeble invasion attempts

    Why would the UK be threatened by only a feeble invasion attempt? If we are contributing to NATO’s Eastern and Northern defence (by which I am assuming the opponent would be Russia at present) would this not require capable forces that can defend against a peer enemy which would also in turn threaten our territory?

    to provide a pool of great power game toy soldiers*

    Are you referring to just Iraq or all out of area operations? would you class UNPROFOR, SFOR, KFOR as great power games? What about German forces in Mali and Afghanistan?

    ‘A combination of Royal Marines, “Para” and “Commando” forces could meet the Norway defence requirements.’

    That’s pretty much the status quo now is it not?

    ‘Still, what should such forces look like?’

    I can’t see what you really discussed here, other than it should be mechanised. And organisation wise it just seemed to me to describe how we operate at present.

  70. TehFinn says

    SO and observer,

    kill boxes exist mainly not for artillery but for weapon systems that can’t shift their fires kilometers away in an instant. They are a way of telling the artillery commander where the commander wants to be able to shoot at certain time because certain weapon systems are present near those killboxes. There might be three killboxes in a row and commander wants to conduct ambushes with ATGM platoon with arty support in these killboxes. This tells the artillery commander that he needs to be able ro fire that far and this close. They are relevant for towed weapons in forest because they dictate the need of clearing firing line of any trees and etc.

  71. Observer says

    Teh yes I know. We’re actually focusing only on artillery though. If you get technical, even a FPF (Final Protective Fire) plan is a “killbox”, just one very close to your own forces.

    DN, I actually have no idea why he would write such a brushstroke article and treat it as a viable plan. Though to be fair, he seems to treat everyone the same way, US, Germany, UK.

    Am half tempted to do a counter-analysis.

  72. TehFinn says


    more the merrier but remember that Sven makes many sound and no brainer propositions that any general would happily apply into practice. We’ve had many comments about artillery but none of them has shown that AS-90 shouldn’t be replaced or upgraded to 52cal barrel. He unfortunately forgets to mention my favourite topic, mortars! I’m no expert on GBAD so can’t say anything meaninful about those but I know my way around AT and can say having HVM would be great.

    About defence of Norway… It’s a tricky situation since I’m not too familiar with their wartime structure but having brits there certainly would add to the deterrent and actual defence capability should the need arise.

    Kind of on the same page with Sven about TA because we have sort of same structure and mission for homeguard troops in Finland. They make up 20% of wartime strenght and are sort of super reservist with higher readiness, train more often and have all their gear apart from weapons at home. They form local batallions and one company is made of these “super reservists” and there are about 15-20 of these batallions.

  73. Mark II says

    This was very interesting, thanks Sven.

  74. mr.fred says

    Pitching in with a few comment with a large dispersion:
    My reading on artillery suggests that the muzzle report is often heard before the the shell impacts, even with modern guns. To the extent that a projectile arriving supersonically (i.e. without warning) is remarked upon for its advantage. With that in mind, Observer’s 1km per 3seconds doesn’t sound implausible (speed of sound in standard conditions being 343m/s)

    52 calibre ordnance on AS90s – it was tried but not taken up for some reason. Possibly dispersion at range made it ineffective, perhaps the nuisance of dealing with a barrel 2m longer was what did it.
    While being outranged is bad, it isn’t the calamity often imagined. Prior to the 1991 gulf conflict, most of Iraq’s artillery handily outranged the coalition’s guns, but they played no part as the command and control was poor. In NWE much of the German artillery outrange the Royal Artillery’s guns, but the combination of numbers and ability of the gunners told to their advantage.

    With regard to the British Army, I am slightly concerned that the Royal Artillery has been somewhat neglected over the past campaigns and not able to compensate for any technical deficiencies of their equipment*. Skilled guys with moderate equipment will win over unskilled guys with outstanding equipment most times, other things being equal.

    *It is, of course, entirely possible that something seen as a deficiency is not when in skilled hands. “Outrange me? Who cares? If you can’t acquire the target and can’t hit it when you do, does it matter?

  75. Observer says

    We have something similar in Singapore though it’s damn hush hush that the only thing you can get out of people is that they are with the ADF (Advance Defence Force). They don’t even appear as a unit though rumors are that they are actually the nucleus of reservist divisions, basically “seeded” into the division so that at least someone knows what they are doing, as opposed to us old people. And it exists, I met people face to face that said they were part of the ADF but they sort of went around the topic when asked what they did there.

    HVM, I’m not really sure if they are going to work or get fielded any time soon. I mean, even the CKEM project has been bouncing around for 17 years, more if you included the short lived MGM-166(?) LOSAT. I’ve been hearing about them for decades without anything to show for it other than demonstrators. I’m more of a fan of the current day top attack munitions since they are already working and in service, especially in the UK’s case of both the Javelin and the EXACTOR. An ATGM in hand is worth a few hundred on the drawing board and testing.

    Mortars, I didn’t get much exposure to them, though I was part of the testing that eventually proposed the 120mm SRAM. We installed a 120mm mortar (think it was the K5 by Soltam) on an M113 and they took it out to the range to be tested, this was in “96. Wasn’t there for the testing but I met a uni friend who was. He told me that after the fire mission, they tried to drive the M-113 away but the repeated shock from the firing loosened the tensioner(?) on the tracks and the vehicle threw its tracks the moment someone tried to drive it off. This resulted in “low firing shock” being one of the requirements of the SRAM that was later developed. So now you know the reason for the “low recoil mortar”. :)

    Things have evolved since then, we retired most of the M-113s before the SRAM came into service, so now we use the Bronco (lighter version of the UK’s Warthog) as 120mm platforms.

  76. S O says

    There was repeated dissent about the home defence mission. I think the commenters took something for granted that’s not free. An invasion by a single VDV brigade is unrealistic BECAUSE troops are at home that could handily exterminate such an invasion force.
    I described a minimum for how to retain this “BECAUSE” state of affairs – even at times when mechanised and light infantry forces were deployed for collective defence.

    Typhoons alone would not be able to prevent a dozen Il-76s from slipping through with Suchoi fighter support. Deception, offensive CAP etc would allow for an intrusion scheme that would succeed. Keep in mind lots of Typhoons would likely be diverted to the continent in the event of a war.

    It’s a mistake to treat something as for free when actually it requires at least a modest fee. Thus I didn’t omit this; I included the modest fee and kept it as modest as possible (not multiple regular army motorized brigades similar to what the Italians do about the same invasion threat).

    you didn’t find some of my proposals in the text because you didn’t read it properly. An orientation of the Norway Defence mission on base use denial is very different deterrence strategy from what both British and Norwegians do so far, for example.

  77. DavidNiven says


    I don’t think I am being overly harsh with my comment. Sven writes a blog that is very interesting and often provides some thought provoking and well researched articles he just seems to have had a swing and a miss with this one.

    For one the main problem with our land forces as they currently stand is imbalance between infantry units and combat support and combat service support units which came about from the decision to spare cap badges. I would argue that we need to bite the bullet and create 4 or 5 Infantry cap badges through amalgamations in the vain of the Rifles and reduce Infantry Btns to spare up manpower to pay for artillery, Signals, EW etc.

    I would combine the RM and Para units to create a sort of Rangers brigade that can supply the high readiness airborne and amphibious battle groups. We could create two light mech bdes with Foxhound mounted light infantry which could be used to provide an airmobile bde which sort of replicates the role of the old 24 airmobile and can be used as a force that can be transported around the battlefield that is AT heavy and can support heavier units if required. The second light mech brigade could be used as a basis for our amphib force with the RM concentrating on raids and brown water stuff from within the combined brigade suggested at the beginning of the paragraph.

    A more balanced force structure IMO would be 2 light mech Bde’s, 2 Armoured Bde’s and a priority given to setting up 3 MIV bde’s which would supply the lead battlegroup replacing the current aroured one.

    This would require a change in attitude within the Army and priority given to the creation of the MIV bde’s in terms of funds, but I think the medium weight formations would be the ones used the most considering all our operations since GW1 would have benefited from medium weight formations.

  78. Mark says

    There would appear to be two of us using the same name again going to get very confusing..

  79. Observer says

    We can always use Mark I and Mark II….

    I’ll go stand in the corner now.

  80. jedpc says

    Interesting enough article, thank you to Sven and our glorious leader for publishing. I am not actually sure you do “fix UK land power” in the article though. Does it need fixing ? Depends what you want to do with it. Personally I think its badly broken after years of COIN-ops (not the local laundry) and while it has some highly experienced infantry that are probably very good at close quarters battle, budget cuts and years of neglect have robbed us of the ability to take on an armoured or even mechanised opponent, especially one with a decent air force / and or good ground based air defence that could negate our reliance upon air power. A Typhoon with 15 x Brimstone 2 has to survive long enough to bring them to bear after all…..

    In the end it all comes down to money. Why do we have only half (or less) the AS90 we bought in service with a 39cal gun; because we couldn’t prioritise the funding to fit a 52cal. Why don’t we have a HIMARS equivalent on MAN SV/ HV – money. Why have we sold off our counter battery radars to the Turks as quoted in the comments, disbanded Starstreak air defence units, and not replaced venerable towed 105mm guns – lack of money.

    On the face of it, things seem sort of sensible in the Future Force 2025 time frame. 2 Immediate Reaction brigades built around the Marines and the Paras. 2 Armoured Brigades and 2 Strike Brigades in the Reaction Force, and 2 Protected Mobility Infantry Brigades in the Adaptable force, but in reality it seems a pretty hollow force. Dropping down from 3 heavy armoured Challenger 2 MBT regiments to just 2, which will continue with an semi-upgraded vehicle with a main gun which remains suitable only as use in the “infantry support tank” role is just one problem that springs to mind.

    There is certainly no move to “fix” our lack of coherent strategy for development or deployment of forces and certainly not for the defence of continental Europe. The so called “Strike” brigades are laughable. If they were an all wheeled brigade, they would have considerable theatre-strategic mobility within continental Europe’s NATO borders, but we will have to bog down their road march capability with low loaders carrying Ajax / FRES SV tracked medium weight armour, carrying just a 40mm gun. As lamented by ThinkDefence recently, still no “anti-tank” version in sight ?

    Could we spend what we have got better ? Could we make the 2 armoured brigades heavier, and the 2 Strike brigades more useful ?

    Whichever candidate wins the U.S. presidential race, perhaps we could persuade them that helping Europe defend itself would be enhanced by gifting us 400 M1A1’s out of desert storage (like they did for Greece) and spend our money on upgrading them, latest MTU “Europack” diesel and same vetronics and optics as Ajax ?At least with the new U.S. ammo its older version 120mm smoothbore should remain lethal until we can get the new Rheinmetal 130mm on something new…..

    If we had 4 tank regiments, 2 in each brigade, and a medium armoured recce regiment on Ajax family, would we need to upgrade the turret on Warrior ? If your armoured infantry are really just Panzer-Grenadiers in a formation where there is a 1:1 MBT to APC ratio, do the APC’s need anything more than a dual RWS with 7.62 / 40mm GMG with air-bursting ammo ? If we took 700 Warriors without turrets and used them to replace all remaining Bulldog / FV432 variants, would we make enough in savings to buy a Ajax / FRES SV “APC variant” for the 4 armoured infantry battalions ? To Sven’s point, one of these heavy brigades should probably remain in Germany, or even better be based in Poland !

    However the above might not save enough money from the Warrior upgrades, improved / reduced maintenance spend, and more commonality to do something with MIV for the Strike Brigades. Lets say, for instance if we went with VBCI 2 as the 8 x 8 APC of choice, then could we some how afford the version with a 40mm CTA turret and 2 x ATGW for 2 x Medium Wheeled Cav / Recce regiments ? Perhaps the Recce and AT platoons of the plain APC (dual RWS again) equipped mechanised infantry battalions could have the turreted version too ! Then the Strike brigades might be able strike something ( “stwike him Centurion, vewy woughly !)

    Sigh, it will never happen, because we dont have any politicians who have strategic clarity, nor do we have even a modest budget to play with. Best we just re-form the “home guard” to protect nuclear power stations, air ports, ports and the like from home grown terror groups that could make the Provo’s look like reasonable chaps……. :-( Jed, channeling Gloomy Northern Boy, out.

  81. Obsvr says

    I don’t think there are any major deficiencies with RA equipment, not forgetting that “the shell is the weapon of artillery” (and the L15 shell with a MRF is probably about as good as it gets). Extra range is always nice to have but with that goes increased dispersion, in some circumstances this can be a significant disadvantage – ie when engaging targets close to own troops. I’ve never been convinced that a 52 cal 155mm barrel is a ‘really good idea’, but I guess that’s because I’ve had 24 months on the two way range with 105mm, and properly understand that the primary role of artillery is suppression as part of the combined arms battle. Of course CB is another matter, but that’s what MLRS was acquired for.

  82. Peter Elliott says

    Obsvr – during your time on the “two way range” did you find that all arms had sufficient access to overhead ISTAR? Not just for Brigade or Divisional Fire Control group tasking the artillary but also organically at Company, Platoon or other sub-unit level..? Genuinely curious as to how far down the tree access to this sort of capability goes.

  83. jedpc says

    Just to chip in on the great artillery debate – on my NGS course at RM Poole over 20 years ago, we had an “effects” lecture by an RA Sgt who stated 105 and 114mm (4.5 inch) were for infantry and other sift targets. He showed us photos from US army tests of air bursting 155 HE were frag had penetrated MLB, BTR and M113 problem is I can’t remember the proximity of the burst. You gotta think that on top of the old advantages against heavier armour of making the crew button up, blowing off antennas and damaging optic, with modern active protection systems can that shrapnel shred unprotected radar antennas, laser warning sensor heads etc.

    Conversely how is your Foxhound based “protected” mobility battalion going to fare against Russian 152mm and MLR’s ??

  84. Monty says


    This is definitely a worthwhile article. Until now, no one has openly said that the British Army is broken. That’s pretty inflammatory stuff, but actually the points you make suggest that this is true. We can disagree about exactly what’s wrong and what to fix, but you’ve correctly identified the elephant in the room that nobody wishes to acknowledge. UK Land Power has been the victim of years of neglect and needs a comprehensive overhaul if it is to be a credible force with real deterrent value.

    If i may, I’ll just add my tuppence worth to the “Is the tank is dead?” debate. We still need tanks to neutralise the massive number of MBTs in service across the globe (100,000+ with only 20,000 belonging to NATO). Tank guns with APFSDS long-rod penetrators are still the most reliable and affordable means of defeat. We also need tanks to take and hold ground, which, as others note, cannot be achieved with aircraft alone. We all seem to agree that the problem with heavy armour is its deployability. So, unless we re-base troops in Germany or Poland, MBTs will never provide an immediate response. They’ll come later as part of a concerted counter-attack to defeat an invading force. Providing an immediate response will indeed require some kind of expeditionary force that can deploy rapidly over long-distance (1,000-2,000 km) but still deliver a punch. So conceptually, i buy into a mixed force of armoured brigades and strike brigades. However, the UK’s proposed Army 2020 force structure does no more than pay lip service to this due to a lamentable lack of resources. I find the idea of Ajax tracked reconnaissance vehicles operating with wheeled mechanised battalions ludicrous.

    i believe we need two deployable divisions. One based around tracked heavy armour and one around 8×8 medium armour. The latter could respond much more swiftly if it were deployable by air, so any 8×8 vehicle we purchase would need to be air transportable in an A400M. We would probably need 40-50 of these instead of just 22 as this would allow us to deploy a battalion (100 MIVs) within 24 hours and a full brigade within 72 hours.

    It goes without saying that artillery would remain a key enabler for both divisions. That means tracked and wheeled 155 mm SP guns. 120 mm mortars would also be useful as they can now hit targets with reasonable precision at 10 km.

    The REALLY interesting idea contained in your article is the Mach 6 anti-tank missile. i am not sure we have yet seen a credible system, but it will come. If medium weight vehicles can reliably defeat MBTs at distance, i.e. indirectly firing long-range ATGMs beyond the range of their tank APFSDS rounds, then maybe, just maybe, the MBT will have become redundant. Drones / UAVs operating integrally with MIV / Strike brigades may be the new paradigm of modern warfare.

  85. Peter Elliott says

    Arguments can be made that both our tanks and the artillary no longer win at top trumps. But what we do have of both are still very functional and capable of delivering a very broad swathes of the missions likely to be demanded of them. We might also think we have too few transport aircraft but we still have a quite significant number. Ajax might be late and heavy and “only” 40mm armed but at least its ordered and is now coming. Apache E has been ordered and seems like it will get the Brimstone missile. We will be getting CAMM(L). So while its not all rosy we do still have heavy forces with a significant bite.

    The light forces appear to have the ships and transport helicopters they need. Project Julius to sort out the Chinook fleet means we will be able to put significant numbers of Paras, Marines and their light equipment (Light Guns, Viking, Javelin) where they need to be. More investment would always be welcomed but there aren’t glaringly dangerous gaps.

    The biggest worry must be where a “Big mission” matches up to a “Big Gap” in our force structure and equipment. And the wheeled 8*8 for the “Strike Brigades” looks like one of those. Until significant numbers of these vehiles are actually ordered we will not be able to evaluate their “deployability” and “fightyness” for real: Will they have an ATGW version? Or a 40mm version? In other words what will the mix be (if any) between APC or AFV? What will their TES weight actually be? How many, at fighting weight, will go into either an Atlas or a C17? What ‘wet gap crossing’ assets will the brigade need? Will they swim? How much fuel will they drink on a long road march? Until these questions get real world answers the “Strike Brigades” will continue to be paper tigers and the reduction in heavy armour from 3 brigades to 2 will feel like a straight cut.

    Very crudely MIV now looks to me like the biggest gap now in need of filling.

  86. @Ravenser says

    Yes, tanks are required for offensive manoeuvre and for holding ground but they are also essential for conducting mobile defence, another manoeuvre warfare tactic that seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. Counter-attacks (note the plural) need a high degree of (tracked (in my opinion)) mobility and a lot of direct and in-direct firepower in order to be successful. This should then prevent you from becoming engaged in a traditional full-frontal static defence versus mobile offence pitched battle. In the mobile defence role I’m afraid Ajax and 8×8 is just not going to cut it, especially with the total lack of long range ATGW.

  87. jedpc says

    @PeterElliot – actually that was my point, an pathetically upgraded Chally 2 probably wont be able to undertake large swathes of the potential mission set for the next 15 years or so.

    @Ravenser – agreed. Long range “ATGW Overwatch” seems easy to rectify if there is cash, Brimstone 2 fired from new U.S. Multi-mission Missile System – 15 cells on the back of a MAN SV with an armoured cab, giving maybe 20KM range in the ground launched mode ? Perhaps the Ajax and MIV need a lightly armoured turret with the new RH 130mm or an existing long barrel 120mm as substitute for missiles in the direct line of site AT role – mobile AT Guns, much like Sherman FireFly ?

    Upgrading 81mm to 120mm mortar is a no brainer to me, but again, no money …….

  88. Peter Elliott says

    Jed – how would you address the MBT issue then? What upgrades would you make? New gun? New turret? Or new rifled ammunitions developed for the existing gun? Or is it more about the sensors and electronics?

    Or would you take a deep breath, bin Challenger 2, and order new Leopards? Off the Shelf or with UK specific developments? That has the potential to suck up a lot of money into the heavy brigades just when we say we need to be re-equipping the medium formations. Or do you not buy the value of the medium formations in Eastern Europe against Russia?

  89. Peter Elliott says

    One holisitc view is that our Land Forces contribution to NATO in Eastern Europe should be a new MIV based “Strike Brigde” rapidly deployed and supported by AH and a variety of heavy Artillary and mechanised ATGW. We would then be reliant on our “Big Army” allies France, Germany and of course USA for the traditional heavy armoured punch.

    The Challenger 2 Tanks would be retained with minimal upgrade for use against non-peer enemies elsewhere in the world or for very specific support roles supported by missile equipped forces.

    That would allow us to focus investment on the rapidly deployable medium formations. It would require us to accept that our land forces have a niche role within NATO. To be acceptable politically it would require heaving investment in air and sea power as well as the full spectrum of MIV varients to make the “Strike Brigades” credible and potent.

  90. Corin Vestey says

    Regarding MBTs, the Potomac Foundation’s report on the Ukraine-Russian war makes for frightening reading. Apart from the drone/EW elements of the problem NATO faces, the MBT factors are stark. Late Model T-72, T-90 and eventually T14/15 combinations look very dangerous to the best that the West has, let alone to Chally 2/Warrior/Bulldog. If we are going to maintain a credible heavy force (and there is no doubt in my mind that we must), then clearly the investment involved is going to be huge. Not only do we need a new MBT (and, I would argue, a new Heavy IFV modelled on the same base vehicle in the T14/15 mold) but we also once saw the need for anti-tank guns to protect infantry and armour. Given the resurgence of artillery these would need to be as mobile and survivable as the armour/arm. inf. That’s on top of EW requirements, organic UAS control, ATGM overwatch, CAS. Additonally some of that applies to a medium-weight force too (UAS/EW, tank destroyer, ATGM, plus river, flooded area swim ability, and a wheeled recce vehicle so the Ajax can actually do the job it was designed for the armoured brigades). This is going to cost huge money to produce a credible deterrant to Russia’s armoured forces.

  91. JohnHartley says

    Just a thought. Does the UK still have the ability to make new Stormer family variants?

  92. Observer says

    Jed, I suspect the Foxhound would fair much better than the old M-113 at least! That thing was a tin can, anything above 7.62S would have made holes in it.

    As I mentioned before, hypersonic ATGMs have been proposed for a long, long while. The Vought(?) was first proposed in the 80s, so that makes it about 30 years +/- that they have been playing around with the concept? Yet, until now, nothing much has come out of it. The KEM has taken 17 years and no one is optimistic enough to even give an in service proposal, much less a time estimate.

    For safety sake, it might be better to work with current in service or at least close to in service hardware when doing proposals, lest you end up with a vehicle and no weapon.

    PE regarding ISTAR, I can’t say much for the British Army but I suspect it won’t be much different. The “feed” and info, even from non-UAV sources, goes to the Recon Company commander and then to the S2/Brigade commander (theoretically, it should be S2->Commander, but practically, those guys are usually stuck in the same command post so usually when someone updates the map, both can see the data together. Same with the Air Force information integration console, in fact the two of them can actually even look over the poor operator’s shoulder to see the feed). Recon uses the manpacked UAVs while the Air Force uses things like Scaneagle and HALEs and the brigade CP is where it all comes together. The man on the ground? Good luck. Vision balls, 40mm camera rounds and mirrors for him. And micro UAVs like your nano-Hornet? Don’t underestimate the usefulness of a dental mirror in the field.

    One big problem I see facing armies these days is the dual role that they are being asked to take up increasingly. The primary role of the army is the defence of the sovereignty of the country, I doubt anyone can argue against that (except maybe Vatican City), yet armies are being asked to increasingly take on “peacekeeping” tasks in countries that are beyond the borders of their home country. You may ask “What’s wrong with deploying beyond your own shores?” and true, there is nothing wrong with a forward defence strategy designed to keep an aggressor far, far away from your home. The problem comes from the “peacekeeping” part. Traditionally, armies have excelled in bringing wrath and ruin to other “uniformed combatants”, but much less so in COIN when the question of “Who the hell is the enemy??!!” or “Which one of the bastards do I shoot!!??” comes into play.

    The requirements for COIN is massively different from the requirements for an outright war. One of the biggest examples is that of the Snatch Land Rover debacle. Land Rovers would have been fine as admin vehicles in a warzone where uniformed combatants can be kept at arms length through the setting up of a unit “FEBA” and the relatively clear areas behind the front line, but in a COIN campaign, problems abound. You can’t order out all the civilians in the area since they live there, you can’t identify the enemy unless he does something hostile and the enemy has access to all your routes of travel and can plant IEDs often. This resulted in losses from the underarmoured Land Rovers until MRAPs could be deployed instead. This itself clearly highlights the difference in equipment requirements between COIN/OOTW and …warfighting (I’ll go wash out my mouth later).

    This means that armies now have 2 different equipment requirements that sometimes cannot be cross used. Split role equipment is also dangerous in that clueless or careless politicians may end up sending a unit that is not equipped properly for the type of warfare into wrong areas. This is a problem that each individual country has to solve for itself, I refuse to claim that I have a magic wand solution for this problem so I won’t. It’s up to individual countries to determine how to solve this divergence of role and equipment.


    I would actually recommend the creation of a force of LSVs carrying traditional “heavy weapons” like the 81 or 120mm mortar, ATGMs and maybe GPMGs/0.5 cals. The advantages/roles of this force is as follows:

    1) Reinforcement of allies under threat.

    When we discussed helping our allies, for some reason or other, there is the tendency to try moving whole units to the area under threat. On the contrary, why not just provide the ally under threat with specialized force multiplier units and let them supply the manpower? (Yes, I know, that is the current paradigm). As I mentioned before, the population of a country can mobilize huge amounts of manpower on a scale not even shipping can match, so why not let them supply the manpower, and you supply the heavy weapons teams? No commander would say no if you told him you were going to double the number of mortars and ATGMs he was going to have, especially on the eve of possible battle. LSVs also have a much higher capability to be air/heli-transported than 8x8s or MBTs, which means that there is a possibility of you getting enough numbers into the area to make a difference in a very short time. Failing that, there is little difference between an LSV and a car. Driving to Poland from France should be a minor if tedious matter.

    2) Motorization of your own forces.

    Even if the scenario of you reinforcing your allies do not materialize, having your own infantry heavy weapons motorized would already be of benefit to your own units. Administratively, this could be a mess though as heavy weapons platoons are supposed to be intrinsic to the company, yet the purpose of the unit involves being “loaned” to another company or country even, so it is possible that the heavy weapons platoon might end up less intrinsic to the unit than at the present moment. It’s an administrative difficulty though and one that can be sorted out. Most likely through an umbrella organization that “collects” all the LSVs and “loans” them out on long term to the infantry companies and recalls them if there is an expeditionary need.

    3) Creation of a possible raiding force.

    During times of war, other than LSVs assigned to infantry units to provide fire support and reserves, “excess” LSVs can be utilized in a role similar to the Long Range Desert Group of WWII and sent behind enemy lines to raid and disrupt enemy lines of communication. With the LSV’s low weight, covert heli-insertion over enemy lines or via LCU coastal hooks is possible and considering the capability of modern ATGMs, even MBTs can potentially fall prey to a sudden LSV ATGM strike.

    In short, there is some potential benefit and flexibility to the creation of an LSV force to supplement the regular army. In fact, I believe the SAS do/did operate an LSV force and this is but an expansion of the concept to a larger scale.

    Just don’t use this in COIN. The last thing you need is Land Rovergate II. In COIN, MRAP or go home.

  93. Peter Elliott says

    JH – I’m sure we could in theory. The question would be why would you want to. Surely the base vehicle for any new missile carrier should be one of the new core vehicles: Ajax or MIV. For automotive commonality as much as any other reason.

  94. Frenchie says

    It seems that your organisation will look like to the French organisation, two light brigades, two heavy brigades and two median brigades.
    The two median brigades in France are considered as the brigades that will be most used by the French army, so they are considered as fundamental.
    They will do the external operations, around the world.
    They will use vehicles that will be in the majority Jaguar and Griffon which will replace the AMX10RC and VAB.
    This will be the forces all time and all climates. They will be heavily engaged in operations such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Ivory Coast, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Mali, etc…
    They will be adapted to crisis management, conduct operations from the sea which purpose is a ground mission in autonomy, in a 100km frame in 10 days, with safety missions, security or combat in an urban environment.
    This is why Strikes Brigades have a primordial importance. I doubt very much an invasion of Europe by Russia, although the presence of heavy equipment to the Polish border is important.
    So, in my humble opinion, your most important brigades will be the 16 Air Assault Brigade, the Royal Marines and the Strikes Brigades.
    This is why the choice of the family of vehicles that will be dedicated to these brigades is very important, it does not need to be too heavy for a mobility issue, and not too lightweight for troops security issue against mines and IEDs. Therefore a vehicle from 20 to 25 tonnes would be sufficient.

  95. S O says


    the MBTs won’t go. They may revert to the 1960’s situation when mobility was valued more and protection less than with the Chobham generation (example Leopard 1, which was really thin-skinned, but very much available, mobile and had a standard gun).

  96. Corin Vestey says

    Frenchie – I agree on the organisation. Isn’t a vehicle 20-25 tonnes actually lightweight these days? Can that vehicle handle IEDs , RPGs, technicals a la Boko Haram or whoever…

  97. Frenchie says

    @ Corin Vestey

    I think we should find a balance between mobility and security, and 25 tonnes is already high weight for a vehicle that must cross bridges in Afghanistan. Otherwise in France we have a vehicle like the Aravis, which is used by engineer regiments and have a 4-4-4 STANAG protection, with a weight of 12.5 tonnes. The weight does not do all.

  98. Peter Elliott says


    I agree with most of your analysis but expect the combat weight of MIV to be much heavier. The governement today will specify the maximum proection levels for any troop carrying vehicle. So while the base vehicle used for training could be quite light maybe it could even reach 40 tonnes at Theatre Entry Standard, especially if we also bolt on ATGW or 40mm gun.

    Until MIV is ordered by the UK we will not know what its true mobility, protection or logisitics will be.

  99. Corin Vestey says

    Thanks Frenchie. The French approach is interesting, the Aravis looks like a good vehicle.

  100. Mike W says

    @Mr. Fred

    “52 calibre ordnance on AS90s – it was tried but not taken up for some reason. Possibly dispersion at range made it ineffective, perhaps the nuisance of dealing with a barrel 2m longer was what did it.”

    I think the official reason given was that, while funding had been set aside for the re-barrelling of the AS90 with 52 calibre (giving ranges of 30 kms using standard ammunition and 60 to0 80kms with long-range ERA ammunition), there was a difficulty. That was that the inability of the selected bi-polar charge system to meet the requirements for sensitive munitions. Therefore the programme was put on hold. Whether such an obstacle could be overcome, I really would like to know. If the British Army does eventually get the Excalibur shell, would that be a suitable time to upgrade the AS90 to 52 calibre?

    Can’t help but agree with Monty that the British Army is, in some respects, a “broken force”. As he says, “UK Land Power has been the victim of years of neglect and needs a comprehensive overhaul if it is to be a credible force with real deterrent value.” The rot really started with the reduction from 100,000 personnel to 82,000. Of course we still had people saying that that number was more than adequate, that 60,000 would be adequate, even 50,000 and so on. The folly of such a view has become only too obvious over recent times with the realization the present-sized force is simply inadequate to carry out the necessary tasks.

    Then there is the matter of equipment. As far as I can see, the only significant procurement of new armour over the last twenty years has been that of the purchase of 600 new AJAX just recently. 600! Good grief, it is not so very long ago that we had 900 MBTs in BAOR alone! And the astounding saga of cancellations, changes of direction, confusion etc, to eventually get even those few has been brilliantly chronicled by TD already, so most of you will be conversant with that. As Corin Vestey says, “If we are going to maintain a credible heavy force (and there is no doubt in my mind that we must), then clearly the investment involved is going to be huge.”

    The latest news is that the service life of the Gazelle helicopter has been extended out to 2025. (It was due to go out in 2018). A great little machine but we can’t even afford a replacement for that. Talk about an Army that is short of money! Our Land forces have been underfunded for far too long and we now have block obsolescence in terms of equipment. We have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind.

  101. Frenchie says

    @Peter Elliott

    Our future Jaguar and Griffon will not exceed 25 tonnes with a protection level 4 or 5, 40 tonnes this is madness, the Ministry of Defense is doing the same error that with Ajax, a reconnaissance vehicle with a weight very high, with a very small gun. I understand a Centauro, it makes sense, but Ajax without missiles for protection, it’s crazy. I do not understand.
    The same error, the MIV must not weigh more than around 30 tonnes, otherwise it is useless in the field. It has no mobility.
    I’m pissed behind my screen, sorry :(

  102. Peter Elliott says

    Frenchie – let us wait and see what is ordered and what armament they have!

  103. Phil says

    So a force which would fight on a continent with the densest road and rail network in the world by far should be configured to fly in and then have to fight a heavier force?

    I appreciate this article tries to think at a fundamental level but it totally side-steps the fact that the Baltic states would be defended by an alliance. NATO forces are on their borders in significant force – they’re just not British forces. So I don’t see much point compromising by deploying a medium weight force against Russian heavy forces.

    As upsetting as it is for the fantasy strategists and armchair generals, our biggest contribution to the defence of Europe sits on the CSAD. All this hybrid warfare stuff can be tackled with what we already have. What needs to happen is as usual, tis o increase our munitions stocks and incrementally increase our readiness as we need to. Everytime we focus on one area of the world which requires a particular posture we make sacrifices in other areas. It’s easy to state we should have a force ready to fight WW3 but that comes at a price in other more likely engagement areas.

  104. I hate doctrine says

    Interesting article – just to correct a few errors. In the event of a continental conflict, UK air defence will always take primacy. So that means a majority of Typhoon Sqns will stay at home and will form part of integrated AD along with AWACS, Surv posts etc. The assumption that we would deploy our most capable air defence asset to the continent is incorrect as it would leave us open to strategic strike and by that I mean good ol fashioned bombing. So with that in mind maybe the discussion should the steered towards UK land forces that may not have adequate fixed wing/fast jet air cover if working unilaterally?

  105. S O says

    you don’t seem to have read the article (if you were referring to it with that deployment by air and alliance remarks).
    Nothing in the “TWO” section rules out MBTs, and the article talking about UK land power liberating Lithuania or defending Norway does in itself acknowledge the presence of an alliance and a multinational approach. I didn’t write about Norway defending itself or Lithuania defending itself, after all.

    So maybe figure out some criticism that actually applies to the article (unless you meant to reply to a comment, but your choice of words largely rules this out).

    “NATO forces are on their borders in significant force”
    is meaningless since the level where significance begins is up for interpretation, but you sure aren’t informed about actual troops in the Baltic and NE Poland region if you think those could withstand what the Russians could throw that way within a week (and this with the benefit of surprise!).
    Sadly, the German army isn’t configured to be of much help in that region during the first week.

  106. mr.fred says

    Whenever I see comments that the CR2 is obsolete, I often wonder if the author knows what obsolete means. Obsolete is a musket compared to a breech loading rifle. A man-o-war against an ironclad.
    A tank gun that is effective against all bar the top few percent of all tanks, let alone likely opponents doesn’t seem obsolete to me. Obsolescent, perhaps.
    I wonder too, what these large swaths of missions that it will be unable to complete will be.

    While it’s not in a desirable state of affairs, it’s not yet hopeless.

    Also, to those claiming the end of the tank, I think that you are a hundred years late to jump on that particular bandwagon. If missile-armament makes the current crop of MBTs obsolete, what do you think the next generation of MBTs will be armed with?

    Fixes based on equipment may help relieve the symptoms, but if the Army is broken, it may be more a lack of training in key areas rather than absence of shiny toys.
    That said, the MIV is needed to provide protected mobility to the bulk of the army. Though thoughts of making it an all-singing, all-dancing go-anywhere do-everything should take a long, hard look at AFV programmes of the last thirty years and not do it. FRES is a four-letter word beginning with ‘F’.
    A 40tonne IFV on wheels? Just say no.

  107. Phil says

    There’s several brigades (assuming next to do notice) which will have an umbrella of air-power all of which will last long enough to see the nukes fly. It’s that simple in the face of a conventional invasion. In reality there is likely to be a considerable build up of tension and military mobilisation as the Russians are in shit state despite their sabre rattling – they are in a position of fundamental weakness and NATO in a position of fundamental strength. It would not take long to reinforce the states and hopefully deter an invasion.

    In the face of this “hybrid” war then the force structure we have now would likely be sufficient and deficiencies in manpower and munitions made good in 6-12 months or so. The whole scenario you’ve painted is a straw man scenario to justify your views on what an Army should look like. You ignore the reality of the situation which is Russia being weak, NATO forces are deployed very close to the Baltic states and capable of being reinforced quickly enough to deploy a trip-wire. Once that trip-wire is there Russia either goes balls-out and fights nuclear from Day One or she bottles it. Capability wise she’s no match for NATO and every day that NATO gets in warning sees her relative position weaken.

  108. S O says

    Phil, you’re perfectly ignorant about what I think or take into account.

    I have written several articles about how Russia actually is weak in the Western Military district, and as a whole compared to NATO or EU as a whole.
    But my preferred scenario (against which I think deterrence should be oriented) is pretty close to those that published studies by RAND or the recent one have used.

    The use of nukes against an invading force is a ridiculous idea nowadays. Russia may blow up a nuke over the Baltic Sea as a warning shot against a liberation of an already conquered Baltic region, but no previous nuke employment is anywhere close to believable.

    And you’re poorly informed about how quickly NATO could reinforce the region. Airborne forces could arrive quickly, but would have little usefulness on their own despite the 1/3 woodland in the area.
    The NATO Response Force (40k personnel) has a rating of deployment within 30 days only, and is a brittle multinational patchwork.
    The puny Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (5k personnel only) has a rating of 2 days for advance logistic and liaison teams and 14 days for the full force.
    Depending on sources, the Russians are believed to be able to push through Lithuania and connect with Kaliningrad Oblast within hours (if coming from Belarus) or at most a week (then as part of an occupation of all of the Baltic region and no participation of Belarus). The typical guesses from high ranking officials are 36-60 hrs for the whole coup de main. The border length (Belarus included) is comparable to the Cold War’s Central European front, the defences aren’t even a single corps equivalent.

    Your use of the word “hybrid” makes no sense and looks like random buzzword use to me.

    Overall, you Phil seem to be unfamiliar with the whole problem of Baltic defence.

  109. Phil says

    Sven I take your article for what has been written here. Apologies I haven’t read your back catalogue or absorbed it by osmosis.

    The biggest chink in NATO armour would be the perception that we’d die in place to defend Central Europe but we’d not see the Baltic states as worth fighting for when push comes to shove. Russia knows this, NATO knows it hence the effort going into place to show that collective defence means collective defence.

    So many states have come unstuck because they thought the other side wouldn’t fight for a peripheral territory. We went to war over Belgium and we went to war over Poland. Not only that, any serious thinkers know that if we didn’t behave in absolutist terms when it comes to the defence of the Baltic states then NATO may as well fold tonight. We have the capability to defend the Baltic states, we have the capability to defeat the Russian state and we are signalling strongly in proportion to the level of threat that that capability is backed by intent to do so.

    I wouldn’t fancy the odds if I was Putin.

    Hybrid warfare is indeed some terrible buzzword but it’s being used a lot in the context of Crimea and Ukraine with Russia so it’s used as shorthand for a largely non conventional attempt at take over via a stare backed insurgency and “peace force”. That’s about Russia’s only option and try walking that tightrope when it would be obvious they were attempting conquest by the backdoor.

    The Russians are right in that NATO is quite aggressive. The biggest challenge is balancing proportional aggression and capability without pushing the Russians into a desperate move.

  110. wf says

    Medium weight bollocks. If we want to deter the Russians, we need full spectrum heavy forces, and forward deployed ones at that. No, we don’t need divisions forward, but a rotating brigade sounds a great idea. And as @Phil says, if we have a great road and rail network, having a few hundred more Commanders is really a minimal expense compared to a whole new fleet of medium weight vehicles of minimal utility against anything heavier than the Taliban.

  111. ATN says

    An interesting article that does critique the recent RAND exercises. Here are the main points I took from the article:

    – The objectives RAND uses for a Russian snap invasion is to ‘undermine’ the collective defence of NATO. However this could by achieved without the escalation that could lead to the nuclear level.

    – The exercise makes no mention of nuclear escalation as the Russian’s do seem to like the idea of offsetting any NATO hegemonic advantage with tactical nuclear weapons. The scary prospect of their nuclear ‘de-escalation’ doctrine comes to mind too.

    – Increasing the force posture could lead to further escalation by the redeployment of Russia’s fighting divisions to the Baltic’s and Poland.

    – The exercise states that Russia could ready its forces in ten days in Kaliningrad and their Western Oblasts for a full blown invasion. However there is no mention that these forces may have interoperable difficulties and makes no mention about any resistance by the Baltic members.

  112. stephen duckworth says

    What defines ‘heavy’ armour? Ajax , the full fat version, starts at 38t with growth potential to 42t mounting a 2 man 40 mm armed turret. The bulk of the Russian kit is still the 41.5 t T-72 with its 125mm main gun. Are we defining heavy on the gun calibre or vehicle weight ? Ajax ,if even more lard is applied, could out weigh a T-72 .

  113. Observer says

    Phil was a lot more eloquent and structured than I about the shortcomings in Sven’s article but he nailed it in general.

    The article paints with a very broad brush and makes a lot of assumptions without supporting evidence, like “Russians would have worked out a counter to Javelin” without an analysis of what these counters are or if they would be effective against his suggested HVMs too, interspaced with name calling, dissatisfaction over historical names of units (I’d love to see his response to a name like the People’s Liberation Army Navy then) and hat waving to his ideology on non-intervention coupled with a super narrow focus on the use of the BA in a potential conflict with Russia and a lazy “technological” fix and a suggestion to do what the BA is currently doing.

    Military “reformer” I tell ya. Military “reformer”.


    These people tend to believe they have all the answers and everyone else is an idiot. Hence their suggestions of how to “fix” things. In 3 totally different armies to boot. After all, everyone in the 3 armies are idiots, right?

  114. jedpc says

    Interesting twists and turns in the discussion. I don’t think Sven’s “scenarios” on how the British Army can help in the defence of continental European NATO helps much. While Putin may be looney enough to try on something in the Baltic, why the hell would he invade Norway ?

    Outside of these scenarios, I still say we are still largely broken. Whether the obsolescent Challenger 2, the lack of artillery and overall “fires” capabilities, or the demise of the Royal Corps of Signals as documented recently by he who shall not be named. The lack of clear strategy on procurement of FRES (medium-heavy fracked), Warrior upgrade (medium tracked), the MIV (medium wheeled?) and the MRV-P (light-ish wheeled); plus all those “UOR to core” fleets. Training apears to be a challenge, as does maintenance (“whole fleet management” anybody ?) and can manning even match the numbers that are much lower than most of us deem necessary. So there is much to worry about, when aligned to a political class that likes to meddle. Does the Army actually need fixing, depends on what they want it to do !

  115. jedpc says

    Observer – there are plenty of existing Western and Russian countermeasures to a Javelin type IR Imaging sensor based ATGW, from radar or optical missile launch / approach warners, laser “jammers”, multi-spectral smoke and hard-kill “anti-missile” projectiles. The Russians have deployed systems on upgraded models of tanks for years and there is plenty of analysis online of what the T14 Armatta might or might not be packing in all those tubes !

  116. Observer says

    Jed, and he never analysed it to see if his solution would work on them too. That was the problem. IIRC, the CKEM uses laser guidance, which makes it a beam riding SACLOS type missile.

  117. Observer says

    Damn brain, semi-active laser guided, not beam riding. Too much starstreak on the brain.

  118. S O says

    Observer, you wrote

    “The article paints with a very broad brush and makes a lot of assumptions without supporting evidence, like “Russians would have worked out a counter to Javelin” without an analysis of what these counters are or if they would be effective against his suggested HVMs too”

    the article says

    “They are almost guaranteed to have worked out a counter to Javelin, and thus also to EuroSpike. This may be a warning sensor and a liberal employment of multispectral smoke if nothing else.”

    by which it’s proven that you aren’t in the business of critique on substance, but doing critique for critique’s sake. And I’m being nice here.
    I could have added sections about APS, HERA and so on, but figured that addressing the one defence that affects IIR-guided ATGMs more than any other AT munition would suffice since countermeasures to shaped charges in general are well-known.

    “if they would be effective against his suggested HVMs too”

    That was covered in an article a few days earlier:
    “Equally important might be an introduction of CKEM, a hypervelocity missile. Its quickness eliminates several counters that are relevant to Javelin, though CKEM would need to be coupled to a (possibly jamming-troubled) millimetre wave radar to eliminate the problem of concealment by multispectral smoke. Smoke couldn’t be deployed in time to counter a launch (other than with Javelin and TOW-2), but artillery- and mortar-laid smoke that lasts for minutes (in the IR spectrum!) might provide a good preventive concealment. CKEM differs from Javelin and TOW-2 in its method of armour penetration: It is nearly identical to the M1 Abrams’ 120 mm APFSDS munition.”
    where I linked to this about HVMs:

    I didn’t feel like repeating myself over and over again since I proposed HVMs as long range AT asset to gain redundancy is U.S.Army, German Heer and UK land forces.

    HVMs would be countered by hardly anything that doesn’t counter 120 mm APFSDS as well. The only exception would be a rather not feasible EMP defence, which might defeat the missile’s autopilot electronics.

    Moreover, a short article doesn’t need to be comprehensive. It’s not wrong or bad only because some thoughts or facts weren’t mentioned. It would be wrong if unmentioned facts would disprove the reasoning and lead to different conclusions. That, of course, is yet another thing that you, Observer, didn’t pull off.

  119. Observer says

    “It would be wrong if unmentioned facts would disprove the reasoning and lead to different conclusions.”

    So the 17 year development time to date isn’t a fact? Or that the MGM-166/ Vought LOSAT never gained traction before dying out again? Or that Mach 6+ HVMs have been proposed since the Cold War, 1981 and until now, not a single one has been fielded? Or that the CKEM project has been cancelled and does not show signs of reviving? Or that there have been slews of similar projects that never saw the light of day? Even Canada had a similar project called the HEM (High Energy Missile) that never came to anything. So you are saying that researchers from multiple countries (US, Canada, Germany) working on the same problem are simply malingering to keep non-existent research money for cancelled projects going?

    Tech journals are not the most unbiased or reliable sources of information and practicality, which I suspect you got most of your information from. And out of curiosity, were you drafted back when Germany had conscription and what service were you in?

  120. S O says


    HVMs haven’t been introduced into service, but proved effective in tests.
    It’s not disputed that they haven’t been introduced, but this fact in itself doesn’t prove that they are no good. Even if they were not really good it would still need to be shown that adding them wouldn’t still be useful, since there’s little reason to trust the in-service ATGMs.

    I suppose the reason why HVMs weren’t introduced is manifold
    – MBT lobby fearing yet another discussion about how we supposedly don’t need MBTs any more
    – no emphasis on high end conventional warfare (actual alliance defence)
    – even 80’s vintage ATGMs proved satisfactory against Third World armour
    – HVMs may also have been perceived as less versatile for want of an explosive charge
    – minimum effective range against MBT frontal armour of several hundreds metres
    – possibly insensitive munitions requirements not met by solid fuel rockets
    – firing signature and smoke trail much greater than with normal ATGMs
    None of this really disqualifies them as a dissimilar complement to existing ATGMs stocks for in order to attain redundancy.

    And feel free to shove your ad hominem up your dark corner. I faced enough trolls to see where that’s going. They never believe my qualifications, and call even my papers forgeries, so I’m not playing that game any more.
    What I will do is I keep exposing that you didn’t bring forward a single substantial criticism here, so I suppose your qualification to participate in a factual debate is in question. I’m not a pushover victim for your throwing of dirt.

  121. S O says

    I never saw a source claiming that HATM, CKEM or LOSAT ever used laser guidance or any other actual guidance.

    These missiles use an autopilot (with inertial navigation system) and can receive (optional !) updates by datalink in-flight for increased precision against manoeuvring targets at long range.

    This reduces the possible guidance countermeasures to EMP and is one of the reasons why HVMs are difficult to counter.

  122. Observer says

    Sven, when you make many near impractical suggestions, that can mean one of 2 things. 1) You’re a sublime master of the art where things that people find hard to do, you find easy because you have been doing it for so long that it becomes second nature or have a rare talent for it, or 2) You have no practical experience in the field. Hence the question to check if you’re a master of the topic.

    I’m really not surprised people do question your credentials, it’s a natural consequence of your public pronouncements.…28R

    CKEM laser guidance link.

  123. S O says

    That laser “guidance” link is a datalink, as I described.
    “off-axis laser guidance link to communicate guidance information from the launch site to the missile”

    It’s not semi active laser guidance (or even laser beam riding) as you guys asserted. It’s a datalink as I had written already.

    “The missile is internally guided along the flight path, receiving guidance updates from the targeting system aboard the launch vehicle until the target is hit.”

    So let’s repeat for clarity:
    Once again, you added nothing, even spread disinformation (“semi-active laser guided”) until called out. Then you dug up some info, didn’t understand that it wasn’t in conflict with what I wrote at all (in fact confirmed what I had written) and pretended that I was wrong.

    Your contribution to this discussion so far is mere noise, and it takes extra comments to cancel your noise.

  124. Corin Vestey says

    Question: does a medium-weight (say 30-40tons) wheeled ‘self-deployable’ brigade (e.g. 40mm CTA on IFV plus tank destroyer, plus ATGM overwatch, with EW jammers and drones) have any utility and survivability in operations in the event of a European conflict with Russia?

  125. Corin Vestey says

    I ask this because if not aren’t we talking about a situation where mechanised infantry and motorised infantry can no longer be used? And that seems… not right, to this dilettante at least.

  126. Peter Elliott says

    Very valid question – the considerable utiity in both Ukraine and Syria of semi-trained volunteer militias using whatever equipment they can get their hands on suggests that there is still big utility for non armoured forces in a limited or proxy war situation.

    Most scenarios seem to begin with the Russians sending deniable proxies, volunteers, kossaks, disguised special forces etc. In that scenario a rapidly deployed medium mechanised force of the kind described would have considerable utility in pushing them out before they can become established.

    The $64,000 question is whether rapid deployment of a NATO medium mech force to the Baltic States would simply draw on a Russian Regular armoured counterstrike. You can certainly imagine a very large and very ready armoured force being held just across the border as both an explicit and implied threat to crush the NATO RR forces in short order. You would have to consider that any substantive NATO force (eg more than symbolic tripwires) would have to be strong enough to defend itself from such a counterstrike (and thus deter it from coming at all). ie any Land Force NATO sends to the Baltics either needs to be very strong or very weak.

    Doubtless people who are paid to decide are gaming these sorts of scenarios through with a lot of care and attention right now.

  127. jedpc says

    @PeterElliot – actually that was my point, an pathetically upgraded Chally 2 probably wont be able to undertake large swathes of the potential mission set for the next 15 years or so.

    @Ravenser – agreed. Long range “ATGW Overwatch” seems easy to rectify if there is cash, Brimstone 2 fired from new U.S. Multi-mission Missile System – 15 cells on the back of a MAN SV with an armoured cab, giving maybe 20KM range in the ground launched mode ? Perhaps the Ajax and MIV need a lightly armoured turret with the new RH 130mm or an existing long barrel 120mm as substitute for missiles in the direct line of site AT role – mobile AT Guns, much like Sherman FireFly ?

    Upgrading 81mm to 120mm mortar is a no brainer to me, but again, no money …….

    Hmmm this didnt post yesterday – oh well.

    @PeterElliot – you owed me another diet coke and new keyboard – Kossacks !

  128. Observer says

    I would say yes. Historically, the IFV was developed to counter Russian developments in their own IFVs, so the current day 20-30 ton monsters would fare well against their Russian counterparts of the BMP. BMD or Spurt. Red Trousers has informed us of an incident where an export model T-72 was killed by the combined firepower of a pair of 30mm RARDENs so there is still effectiveness in a medium calibre gun.

    Of course, no one sane would expect it to go around killing T-80s and T-14s on a regular basis, but for a like for like comparison, it still has an edge over the possible competition.

    As for transportability, since the current hotspot seems to be Europe, there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem. Europe itself is very heavily urbanized, there should be no problem traveling by road up to Poland.

    I just did a wiki check, the tonnage allowed for a semi-trailer truck without a special licence in the UK is 44 tons, the Netherlands is 50 tons, so you still got a way to go before your bridges start breaking. And since these things tend to run on 6-8 wheels, ground pressure is also higher for them so I don’t think an 8×8 or a tracked is going to be a problem.

  129. Corin Vestey says

    Thanks PE and Observer. So a modern and rounded mechanised medium weight brigade might have utility if sent to bolster a NATO armoured force in Poland, say, out range of some of of the Russian circles of death.

  130. Frenchie says

    @Peter Elliott

    I don’t think that it is possible to counter a Russian action starting with the sending of unidentified forces, as in the Crimea, with a mechanised brigade in the Baltic States. Alternatively we can play two at this game, send our special forces accompanied by Lithuanian soldiers for return them from where they come.
    Subsequently if a classic action is used to send tanks and IFVs nothing can replace an armoured force.

  131. Monty says


    I would like to re-iterate the importance of HVMs. A Mach 6 anti-tank missile with some kind of long-rod APFSDS penetrator that could reliably deliver kinetic effect beyond the range of a tank’s own APFSDS rounds would be transformational.

    Part of your rationale for retaining tank fleets is that heavily protected vehicles excel at line-of-sight engagements thanks to their survivability and the lethality of their direct fire weapons. However, if HVATGMs could be fired indirectly from a vehicle like MIV or MRV-P (as well as from strike aircraft, attack helicopters and UAVs) beyond visual and actual range of the tank’s main armament, they would neutralise the fundamental advantages and raison d’être of heavy armour.

    Anti-tank weapon development has always outpaced protective technology development. The APFSDS round fired by Rheinmetall’s L/55120 mm smooth bore gun can defeat the frontal armour of any known tank at this time including the Dorchester plates fitted our own Challenger 2, Leopard 2 and Abrams M1 tanks. The T-14 Armata may be better protected than these, but Rheinmetall is developing a new 130 mm smooth bore gun and MBDA a new generation of smart anti-tank missiles.

    As anti-tank weapons become more potent, we are reaching an evolutionary milestone in AFV development where protection levels are increasing vehicle weight to unacceptable levels. I doubt that we will ever see 100-tonne MBTs – because the mobility limitations of 62-tonne tanks are already significant. There is little scope to add further weight. Moreover, the cost of developing a new generation of tanks is likely to be the biggest barrier to their continued retention. A new Leopard 2A7 already costs about €10 million, but the unit cost of a wheeled medium weight vehicle fitted with ATGM is closer to €3 million. Economic arguments unequivocally support the latter platform.

    Adding additional protection to a tank will be pointless if it can still be defeated, so we need an alternative approach. We need to reinvent the traditional iron triangle of firepower, protection and mobility. If it is reasonable to describe the Apache as a tank analogue, it prioritises mobility (and thus speed and agility) above protection and firepower. An 8×8 MIV fitted with ATGMs would also prioritise mobility over protection and firepower, the difference between Apache and MIV is cost.

    The CONEMP for MIV is likely to mandate the avoidance of direct confrontations with tanks in favour of indirect engagements with ATGMs at long ranges (5,000-6,000 metres). When MIV units can effectively neutralise tank formations of equivalent size through indirect ATGM fire, the tank may well have arrived at an evolutionary cut de sac.

    I see the wheeled 8×8 AFV becoming a true multi-role armoured vehicle platform that supports a variety of mission types. The UK MIV’s primary role will be to deliver dismounted infantry mass to wherever it is needed, but MIV variants will also be needed to neutralise other 8×8 vehicles, to provide artillery and mortar platforms, for command post vehicles, for ambulances, for repair and recovery, as well as mounting long-range ATGMs.

    We will still need tracked platforms for when overall vehicle weight rises above 40-tonnes and there will still be terrains and combat situations when only a tank will do. Overall, however, tanks are becoming increasingly becoming like battleships: nice to have rather than essential, which is why the UK has prioritised aircraft procurement over AFV purchases.

  132. Observer says

    Actually, the favourite increase in lethality these days for APFSDS isn’t through a bigger gun, it’s through “segmented rod penetrators”. I won’t claim to know how that works, never had anyone explain it to me in detail, but apparently, using double or triple segmented rods, the penetration of a sabot round can be greatly increased. Basically, instead of a single rod hitting the armour, you get a double or triple hit which the rear “sub-rods” tears through the hole made by the previous penetrator.

  133. Think Defence says

    Would investment in heavy armour AND tank transporters be a better investment than a fleet of 8×8’s

    We know that the 8×8 gives us the ability to conduct a long road march but at the price of protection. A large fleet of tank transporters would be able to conduct a long road march at exactly the same pace as 8×8’s and be in a better position to fight upon arrival.

    If we really want high road mobility combined with an ability to use stand off weapons, why not just re-invent the Saxon concept?

    Instead of £3-4 million per 8×8, pretty sure you could get 2 or 3 simple, protected vehicles

  134. Peter Elliott says

    TD lots to be said for that idea (I believe I mentioned it up thread ;) )

    But where do you sit on Challenger 2? Make do with minimum upgrade? Big upgrade? Or replace? Would OTS Leopard 2 be worth a big investment? Would MoD be able to stop themselves commissioning further costly development work? Should they?

  135. Think Defence says

    It was just a suggestion to move the argument on a little, a simplistic point.

    On CR2, I would favour absolutely minimum investment in it and Warrior, whilst funding development of a common heavy chassis that could do both e.g. Merkava and Namer

    We have always favoured protection, for good reason I think

  136. DavidNiven says


    Wouldn’t going down that route require us revert back to a force structure reminiscent of the cold war pre fall of the wall, when we had heavy and light with not much in between purely for NATO defence. In turn would we limit our involvement in international operations in anything but benign peace keeping such as UNFICYP in contrast to IFOR which was a peace enforcement operation and was shown to require a capability to overmatch and deter any possible aggressors.

    Should we be asking wether we want the capability to engage in a wide variety of international ops with land forces or priortise NATO defence against a peer threat with central Europe being our AO?

  137. Think Defence says

    Didn’t we do Afghanistan and Iraq with nothing but heavy and protected vehicles

    Am suggesting we keep the same, as a devils advocate

    CR/Warrior >>> Single heavy protected vehicle AND lots of transporters
    Mastiff/Ridgeback >>> Medium protected mobility 4×4 and 6×6
    Foxhound/WMIK/Jackal >>> stays the same

  138. Observer says

    TD, less Saxon but more Cadillac V-series is a workable concept, it all boils down to the doctrine of your army.

    In the most basic of combined arms, there are 2 ways to attack, infantry first or armour first. While a true mechanized force can ideally decide on who goes first after checking out the weapons on an objective, an infantry heavy force backed by light armour is also a viable concept of operations similar to how infantry heavy allied forces in WWII screened and were in turn backed up by thin skinned armour carrying a gun sufficient to kill enemy armour.

    There was also a time where 106/120mm Recoiless armed jeeps were in service wasn’t there?

    As for the MBT vs 8×8, I would say it is possible too. Before the current 8×8 craze started by the US’s Interim Combat Vehicle program, that was what most armour did. It would just be rolling back the clock to the times when tanks self deployed to the front or used a tank transporter.

  139. DavidNiven says

    Didn’t we lose Iraq because we had nothing but heavy and light? Snatch was too vulnerable and Warrior too heavy and intrusive which meant our tactical mobility was severely hampered. I’d argue that the force structures for both Iraq and Afghanistan ended up being nearer the medium weight with small formations of heavy added when required.

  140. Observer says

    DN, point of contention, you didn’t “lose” Iraq, you just handed it to guys that were incompetent. Their efficiency aside, they’re your allies, so you didn’t “lose” the country.

    Pity you couldn’t find anyone better. :)

  141. Peter Elliott says

    Militarily I can see the attraction of a new family of heavy tracked vehicles on a common hull, including MBT, IFV and APC. Maybe including diesel electric transmission if we wanted to be flash.

    But for two brigades worth of vehicles (say 1000 all up?) could the UK justify the investment in development costs? The French and the Germans would seem likely to either stay aloof or demand control of such a project, neither being a paletable prospect.

    It could be done, Israel has, but having lost our Armoured Vehicle industry (including R&D) would we really throw the funds at it to get it back? Like it or not the UK looks like a customer not a leader in the armoured vehicle market.

    Final thought: perhaps we should start by buying into the existing Israeli design and then partner with someone like South Korea in developing it to the next level?

  142. Michael Wheatley says

    Q: how practical is it to train vehicle crews & maintainers in a pair of vehicles: a light one that can deploy quickly, and a heavy one that gets delivered to the theater later?

  143. S O says

    I don’t think that the mass of MBTs is the real limiter. We can keep that down. The problem is the price. The technology of a MBT is approaching the technology of an AH-64E attack helicopter, and partially going being it.

    There’s a point where people simply need to re-learn that tanks are valuable and can be decisive in battle even while suffering atrocious losses. The attempt to keep tanks alive by making them ever more expensive is likely doomed.

    The art will be to determine which features belong into a MBT and which are excess luxury.
    The existence of weapons and munitions that can penetrate any surface of a MBT doesn’t make that MBT obsolete in itself.

    German tanks of 1939-1941 were merely bulletproofed – every single anti-tank gun, field gun, howitzer and tank gun was able to penetrate them at useful distances. That was the time of their greatest successes. Later on some of them became almost impervious – and successes were localised.
    During the 1960’s Germany developed the Leopard, which was not built to high protection standards. Instead, mobility, maintenance, durability, ergonomics, command and good firepower were emphasised. This probably excessive emphasis on protection stems from the 70’s when Burlington/Chobham armour renewed hope for balanced tanks that were impervious over the frontal 60°.

    Still, a M18 tank destroyer of WW2 vintage equipped with cheap and light RP smoke dischargers could defeat a Javelin, so NATO needs other approaches for ATGM. SPIKE SR is immeasurably attractive, but I doubt the reliability of the entire category of IIR-guided ATGMs.

  144. Mike W says


    An ingenious bit of creative thinking there, TD. I rather like the idea of an investment in heavy armour AND tank transporters, instead of an expensive 8 x 8.

    However, I have just been reading a little about DVD 2016, scheduled for September. As you know, one of the themes behind DVD’s existence is the development and modernization of the British Army’s capability, this year with special reference to the Army 2020 review (suitably modified in relation to the latest developments – Army 2025?).

    Now, according to the publicity material, as far as Armour is concerned, the main planned programmes do not show much change. It is the usual story of the Challenger 2 LEP; the AJAX family; the Warrior CSP; the Armoured Battlefield Support (ABSV) programme; the MIV programme; the future MRV-P capability, the future All Terrain Vehicle, etc. Very little on Artillery developments, by the way.

    Now the question I am asking is this, isn’t such an idea as yours, as original as it is, really rather too late? I won’t say that the above programmes are set in stone but there seems very little intention at the moment to go for anything radically different. So many of these programmes see so far advanced anyway, that changing them at this late stage would be hugely expensive. Furthermore, if you are in favour of a considerably increased number of Tank Transporters (we only have approx. 100), that would also involve not only the expense of the vehicles themselves but also increased Logistics manpower, an area, apparently, where we are very short. In general, do you feel that the intended future inventory listed above is largely a mistaken one?

    You sometimes display a rather mischievous, devil’s advocatish trait, TD, and I wonder here whether I am taking your point too seriously. However, if it was to stimulate new thinking and to “move the discussion on”, well, that’s fine. Another point: might not the Tank Transporters need protection en route, as it were? Are they good at self-defence, an area in which the 8 x 8s would undoubtedly be better.

  145. Think Defence says

    MikeW, if you can drive a tank, you should be able to drive a tank transporter, and it is relatively easy to provide modest self protection for logistics vehicle conveys

  146. DavidNiven says


    I had no idea the Mahdi Army were our allies, in which case your comment about them being incompetent is definitely true, there was a f*cking lot of Blue on Blue incidents!

  147. Frenchie says

    Your conversation is taking a very strange way for me, the French army will have all its armoured vehicles on wheels, except Leclerc.

    Mainly, by 2025, the French army will have two armoured brigades, with 225 Leclerc tanks upgraded, 630 VBCIs as infantry fighting vehicles of 32 tonnes on eight wheels. For artillery we will have the new Caesar, which is a 8×8 truck of 32 tonnes, equipped with a 155mm gun with automatic loading.

    Two median brigades will be equipped with 250 Jaguar, light tanks 6×6 of 25 tonnes, with the same gun that Ajax, but which will weigh 25 tonnes with two MMP missiles for its protection. Caesar 6×6 for artillery.

    1700 Griffon will replace the VAB, 6×6 vehicles of 25 tonnes for troop transport, artillery observation, mortar carrier 120mm, ambulances, engineering, etc…, They will be distributed throughout the French army, but mainly in the median brigades.

    360 Vehicles of 14 tonnes for our Parachute Brigade and our Mountain Infantry Brigade.

    You tell me that it’s just good for hunting jihadists in Africa, I don’t have arguments for say otherwise,
    But I think that our way is the right one.

  148. DavidNiven says

    @Michael Wheatley

    Would it not be simpler to use one vehicle and up armour in theater such as the German Puma or our Ajax?

  149. Observer says

    DN, there’s a limit to uparmouring, the basic framework/suspension/engines etc must be in place first and that already drives the weight up. For example, there is no way you can practically uparmour a Warrior to a Challenger standard.

    Mike, it really depends! There is actually a split in controls for tanks, stick controls or steering wheels! If the control system is similar, the driver should be able to familiarise himself with the controls in a matter of hours. If they are different…. good luck! :)

  150. Observer says

    Oh wait, I forgot one more, but it’s a variant of the steering wheel so I’m not sure if you can count it as a separate system. The steering handlebars. It’s like a steering wheel set straight up with motorcycle handlebars that you use to turn.

  151. mr.fred says

    Tracks and large, articulated, lorries are very, very different vehicles to drive. Having driven both tracks and vehicles with large trailers I wouldn’t say that experience on one remotely qualifies you to do the other.

    Against IIR-guided missiles, IR-opaque smoke will be effective, but you have to be able to detect the missile launch in order to deploy it. If you do deploy it then it will obscure your observation as well.

    I’m not convinced about the extreme disparity in cost suggested for 8 wheelers vs. tracked. Unless you are leaving a lot of stuff out of one and not the other, it doesn’t add up.

    For a replacement heavy family of vehicles, I’d suggest keeping the commonality to the key components – power packs, transmissions, sights and electronics, while the chassis is optimised for each variant.

    Whatever MIV is, it wants to be cheap. Otherwise we’ll end up with the most sparkly kit but no training, no spares and no logistics, so we won’t be able to use them

  152. Chris Werb says

    With reference to potential GMLRS use in the Baltics, someone earlier pointed out that the Baltic states don’t have terrain with natural choke points and that you can’t map every street corner in them. If you look at the countries concerned, you will see that the road network is sparse and linear, often flanked by dense trees. Advance routes and potential MSRs are scarce and it would be very easy to create the necessary choke points by dropping birdges etc. The flanking trees really make for excellent keyhole ambush opportunities over c. 150km along each road Think in terms of the advance toward Arnhem in 1944 with flank security being an absolute nightmare and the need to keep one land open for returning supply vehicles, ambulances etc. As for the required coordinates, the Alternate Warhead for GPS means you don’t have to have mensurated coordinates necessary to hit a vase on a Taleban’s mantlepiece from 70km. The ability to shred anything less than MBT level armoured from very significant distances from a highly mobile platform makes HIMARS a highly appropriate system to slow down and disrupt an enemy advance – GMLRS was the key system that the US commander in theatre most regretted not having available recently. If, however, you are going to take coordinates in advance, it would really make sense to look at bridges and particularly those over other roads or rail lines. That’s a belt and braces approach as local forces must already be in place tasked with blowing them up. If not, something really has gone badly wrong.

  153. Michael Wheatley says

    Q2) How much of the cost is driven by the equipment, and how much by the manpower?
    If every division had a light set of equipment, for use in the first e.g. 10-60 days, and a heavy set of equipment, when it finally got delivered some time around e.g. day 61+, this would obviously cost more. But how much more? Would it be worth it, to enable *every* division to deploy and fight in days 10-60*, and then *every* division to have the backing of the heaviest artillery & armour from day 61*+ ?

    (* Precise numbers of days will vary, but I hope you can see what I am asking about.)

  154. S O says

    Michael Wheatley

    A division on campaign against the Russian army for 14 days would either see operational victory or be reduced to a skeleton force equivalent to a mismatched battalion battlegroup or less.
    It makes little sense to plan for heavy components to arrive if they arrive after more than a month. They would need to be able to make sense as stand-alone formations.


    I prominently mentioned tank transporters as important for deployment of USAREUR and Heer, but I don’t think very many are necessary for the British forces.
    The British land forces would arrive slowly in Eastern Europe due to dependence on sealift anyway and would then only become available in time for a counteroffensive.
    Sealift could first lift the tracked forces which would then in multiple hauls be moved to Warsaw and the wheeled vehicles would catch up on their own propulsion after being sealifted in a 2nd and possibly 3rd wave. This way very few tank transporters would be needed, and those very few ones are IIRC available already.

  155. Observer says

    An ABG (Armoured Battle Group) is technically expected to endure 3 days of high intensity battle before it is supposed to be stood down for rest and resupply. Practically, sometimes it can be stretched to a week but you’re on a shoestring after that due to fatigue, supply issues and other things. Not impossible and it can sometimes be very easy to sustain >3 days but they do have to plan for “worst case” situations. An assault on the strategic level would look something like a relay race where one unit hands off to another and another to sustain the momentum of the assault.


    The problem with 227mm rockets and 155mm guns is that they are best at pounding stationary targets, with moving targets, the spotter has to time the shot pretty well to get the weapon onto the location the same moment a vehicle is there. A target grid is 100mx100m. Even assuming Sven’s optimistic 60 sec time of flight, a vehicle at 60km/h would be 1km away by the time your round arrives. This is why the “killbox” is so important for artillery against moving targets, your spotter has to estimate target travel time to get somewhere within that box, then estimate time of flight to that location and fire just before the target arrives. Remember, GPS rounds hit the location, not the vehicle. Your shot may be accurate, but if the vehicle isn’t in that target hectare, it’s a bit moot. Not impossible though, just needs a bit of practice and a lot of “Fire on my command”. It also helps that units tend to travel in a long convoy. Makes it easier to hit something. If you’re in Armour, when you see rounds coming in, just floor it. Make any “adjust fire” difficult for the other guy. And yes, I’m including SADARM. You still need to get the round to the location at the correct time.

    Not to mention 40km isn’t really that far while driving and you don’t put artillery right on the edge of the FEBA, and as Teh mentioned before, you don’t put artillery at the max range, more like 2/3 or so, so practically, artillery would be unable to range too far into enemy territory. That is usually the job of the air force to hit targets in the deep areas. Working range =/= max range.

    Among other things, the friend of mine who was an artillery officer and an instructor in OCS once mentioned to me about the problems of artillery in urban areas. It’s easy for an artillery unit to fire from inside a city with skyscrapers but hard for counterfire to hit it back. The defending artillery unit may have to move often to get LOS to the target but incoming fire also has a high chance to actually hit intervening buildings. Think of it like a picket fence, the one hiding behind the fence can shoot past it easily while the incoming fire has a much higher chance to hit one of the blocking planks. (It’s an example, don’t try it in real life, rounds go *through* wood that thin.) This means that in urban areas, artillery has to get in very close to launch the shells at a high enough angle to avoid the buildings. Any shell hitting the building ironically won’t do much, we had studies that showed the worst is you lose one or two rooms unless you have a very “open plan” building layout, the blast and fragmentation is too contained by concrete walls.

    Long story short, artillery is good, not God. You need other types of units to support it or it is still dead. That is why an army is made of many different specialities. “Combined arms” is still very much needed and an excessive focus on artillery and technological artillery fixes opens vulnerabilities in an army. Suppress->Indirect fire, Suppress->Indirect fire. If you can’t keep the enemy in a specific 100×100 grid square, artillery is limited.

  156. Peter Elliott says

    Thinking laterally on tank transporters it sounds like something that would be very suitable for PFI?

    Say 500 vehicles that spend 95% of their time hauling Shipping Containers or Construction Plant around with a clause in their contract to drop everything and haul tanks when the government calls. And in wartime you can never have too many shipping containers as TD knows ;)

  157. UninformedCivvyLurker says

    I still don’t see the British Army rushing easterly if Russia should ever invade a NATO country.

    If that was our plan, then as we had troops in the BAOR when The Soviet Union started in East Germany, we would have moved them East when the eastern threat moved East.

    We moved our troops West to home territory.

    That says to me, as an uninformed civvy that in the event of a Russian war we would move our armour to Holland or Bremen, maybe Hamburg , but that’s a bit more dangerous waters to negotiate. We would take up our “old” planned positions in “West Germany” and provide rear cover for German and Franch armies fighting in Poland/Czech Republic.

    I just don’t see Britain, France or Germany committing huge amounts of troops much further away from home and leaving their home countries defenceless.

    British Army would then either provide rear cover for the German/French retreat into Germany or push through the French and Germans to counter attack and push Russia back. Depending on how well or badly the defence of Poland is going.

    Once the West is secure then we will wait for large Ametican and other NATO forces to arrive in the rear ( Holland/ western Germany/ France ) for the liberation of The Baltics.

    Sorry , but I just don’t see the British committing all their heavy equipment and best troops as quickly (recklessly) as possible into The Baltics.

  158. @Ravenser says

    In the event I do wonder where the tank crews are going to come from? We currently have more tanks than trained tank crews and most of these crews have had their experience watered down by having to be cross-trained on to other vehicles. Individual, crew and collective AFV training takes months.
    I’d be surprised if there were 85 fully trained CR2 crews in the whole of the British Army, hardly enough to crew half of the available CR2 in the three armoured regiments. Couple that with the number of HET’s we currently have in service (less than 100, which I’d also suggest we don’t have enough trained crews for) and we currently don’t even have enough Heavy Lift capacity to move two complete CR2 regiments. Add to that the availability of trained crews and vehicles for the tactical and logistical support of those tanks and it’s probably fair to say that most of our CR2 would probably never get off the Tank Park.

  159. Anony mouse says

    Sorry but I do find this debate quite sad in a way. The simple fact is that we are buying sometime soon (?) 8×8 vehicles with relatively light protection compared to Challenger or Warrior. Yet we know from the we know from the action reports from the Ukraine and Israel is that:
    1. Most 8×8 and M113 APC vehicles performed badly when hit by Artillery or Rocket fire that the Russians use extensively. To the point that most Ukrainian troops rode on the outside of the vehicles and dismounted when under attack.
    2. We know that modern Russian Tanks performed very well against older ATGW’s and even against modern ATGW’s with the active defensive systems resulted in minimum losses.
    3. We know that Israel which faces and operates in one of the most prolific ATGW environments has been investing in using Tank Hulls as APC’s and fitting active defensive items to both its tanks and tank APC’s with resounding success.
    4. We know that counter battery fire to neutralise Russian Artillery is key to lessen the effect on your troops, since Russians use Artillery/Rocketry like close air support to interdict supplies and formations.
    5. We know that the Challenger 2’s main guns effectiveness against the latest frontal armour is questionable.
    6. We know that 245 up armoured Warriors isn’t enough to mount 6 Infantry Battalions.
    7. Armoured formations are still using lightly armoured equipment from the 1960’s/70’s.

    The next question is what did we learn from the Chilcot enquiry about the Army ;
    1. Just in time logistics doesn’t work in an active war zone.
    2. Having just enough equipment for one active Battalion which then has to hand that over to another unit doesn’t work.
    3. Relying on the ability to purchase kit at the drop of a hat due to political pressure in the case of Iraq or incompetence in the case of Afghanistan is not possible. The industrial base is not there.
    4. Accounting practices that treats body armour etc as assets that cost money to have held in storage is just wrong in a military sense.
    5. That the British Army has a serious shortfall in firepower.
    6. Losses due to inadequate protection are unacceptable to the General Public, the maxim “Rather Red than Dead” is one that most people in 21st Century Britain are happy with.
    7. Strategically we are risk adverse in the Political and Public Opinion spheres. So the idea that we will be able to deploy forces by road to the Baltics prior to a Russian assault is unwise one. Enough people in the public and MPs in Parliament will block any attempt as they see it to ramp up the War rhetoric. Thus you will always be entering the fighting once a) the Russians are moving b) Ground has already been lost.

    So when talking about Modernising the British Army you have to consider this ;
    1. We have to make sure that the 2 Armoured Brigades are armoured. That means upgraded active protection on all Warriors and Challengers, proper Amour kits and enough of them to fit every vehicle.
    2. We need a logistics element that can move this lot from the UK to Europe. That means enough Trucks etc to do it. That probably means that the logistics Brigades already in the armoured Division stay and are not watered down to just 2. We knew moving 3 armoured Brigades with the logistics we had was not good enough, so make the Armoured Brigades effective by giving them enough trucks etc.
    3. Give them enough fighting vehicles. That means not cutting from 174 deployable Challengers to 116, but keeping all 174 and splitting them between the 2 Brigades.
    4. It means that every soldier coming within the area of conflict must be mounted in at least a Warrior or maybe a Challenger 2 hull adapted to an APC as the Israeli’s have done. We have over 200 of them in storage. Just make sure that the 6 Armoured Infantry Battalions are Armoured.
    5. Get every Ajax vehicle in those 2 brigades; Ajax at 40 tonne on tracks has no place in any form of self-deployable wheeled formation.
    6. The idea of “sharing” vehicles through whatever is the latest fancy name is stupidity of the highest order. With only 2 Armoured Brigades each must have a full allocation of vehicles.
    7. They must have an armoured Anti Air and ATGW vehicles, expecting soldiers to pop outside vehicles to launch Javelin or shoulder launched anti air missiles is a joke in an armoured Brigade. It’s either armoured or not.
    8. All AS90 & GMLRS must be kept active and upgraded Shells/missiles and other upgrades paid for. It is no good if your artillery has the world’s best training or accuracy if it’s laying in a twisted heap because the Russians launched a long range missile attack way before your Gunners could lay down any retaliatory strikes.

    Once you’ve sorted that little lot out, then I suggest you will not have any money left for this mythical 8×8. Get what you got working first before going off and buying your next fancy toy. The chances of using it are slim anyway as there is going to be no appetite in the General Public or Government for any sandpit fighting for at least another 20yrs. Unless it is an existential threat to the UK (ie Russia driving through Poland) the chances of getting support for any military operation is pretty slim. Don’t fight the last war by ill equipping your most important formation which in our context of any fighting in Europe will always be heavy armoured formations.

  160. UninformedCivvyLurker says

    If NATO went to war with Russia because it was daft enough to invade a NATO country, then there would be enough British truck drivers stranded on the M27 alone to drive your HETs over to Germany or Holland with tanks on the back.

    Anyway in a Smart Army if you have 100 tanks and 100 transporters you just need 100 crews. One of them can drive a tank, one of them ( not necessarily the same ‘chap’ ) with a HGV licence. You drive your tank onto the back. You get the whole crew into the cab and the HGV ‘driver’ drives you where you want to go, you ditch the transporter , get into the tank and away you go. If anyone’s still alive on the way home you do the reverse procedure when you pick up your transporter on the way home. Otherwise you are employing people just to piggy back tanks around or worse, drive empty transporters around.

    We went into a World War because Belgium got invaded – was 4 years before they were liberated.

    We went into a World War again because Poland got invaded I don’t think Britsh troops ever got onto Polish soil and Poland was liberated when Russia left 50 years later.

    We don’t tend to rush into invaded countries. ( see Kuwait for another more ‘recent’ example ).

  161. S O says

    “Most 8×8 and M113 APC vehicles performed badly when hit by Artillery or Rocket fire that the Russians use extensively. To the point that most Ukrainian troops rode on the outside of the vehicles and dismounted when under attack.”

    That’s a habit only known from M113 in Vietnam and Soviet/Russian BTR and BMP vehicles.
    The causes are a combination of poor mine protection (safer on top from pressure-fused mines than inside) and discomfort (noisy, hot, vibration-rich) inside.
    The mine protection issue is only relevant if mines are the main threat, which rarely applies in warfare between regular armies.
    The discomfort issue is in part a question of discipline (disciplined armies would command the men inside and if they don’t follow orders court-martial them) and in part a problem for endurance. Dismounts from tracked APCs and IFVs in particular are often exhausted from the uncomfortable ride when they are ordered to dismount into action.

    There are three ways to address the latter, save for reducing the amount of driving:
    1 – in 1940 Germany had exchange crews for tanks in the Ardennes offensive, so the crews in action would always be fresh.
    2 – the German IFV Puma has a decoupled suspension with 10 dB noise and vibrations reduction inside.
    3 – rubber band tracks, rubber on roadwheels etc. – this is limited by pressures, not very suitable for heavy vehicles

  162. stephen duckworth says

    I may of missed it but I don’t recall any mention of top attack munitions . Their are many out there that can be fired from a variety of tubes, mortar’s, howitzer’s or even an MBT main gun ( KSTAM II). They obviously cost more than dumb rounds but less than ATGW. I am guessing their are EW jammers to the rounds or point defence systems in existece but those cost too and anything that is relatively cheap to deploy that forces the OPFOR to spend much more on his kit is a GOOD thing IMHO.
    On the transporter issue does anyone have any idea of the number of civilian low loaders of sufficient capacity are available?

  163. Corin Vestey says

    @TheGinge – you may be right but it looks more likely that we will get a medium-weight wheeled Strike brigade (absurdly containing our very expensive 30 years-in-the-making armoured cavalry tracked recce vehicle operating as some sort of light tank because it has a large-ish gun and we have crap all else) than we will suddenly realise that new heavy forces along with the doctrine, training, logistics, engineer, organic AA, EW-capability, UAS, CAS, indirect fires and bridging equipment required to make it all work vs. peer/overmatch. Sad to say. So the medium weight stuff better damn well have some utility in the overmatch scenario.

  164. Observer says

    stephan, low loaders are a dime a dozen in the construction industry, they’re often used to move heavy equipment. And yes, they can handle tanks.

    I did mention EXACTOR, Javelin and Spike as my preferences as opposed to still experimental HVMs, as well as for moving targets as opposed to 155mm/227mm though I did not specifically say they were top attack. Technically, what “brand” they are is a minor point, most of the systems out there are functionally similar though their technical specifics might differ.

    Gringe, sitting outside an M-113 is for comfort and as SO said, basic mine protection. You don’t want to be stuck in that thing any longer than you have to. The best description I’ve heard of a ride in an M-113 is being shoved into a metal box, left out in the sun to bake and shaken hard. Even more so with the “overturn training simulator”, a little toy that flips the shell of an M-113 180 degrees….while you’re still strapped in it… There is a reason why there are hatches on the top of APCs, sometimes you just need the ventilation and some cool air. And to stand up to give your poor butt some relief.

    As for your list, I suspect that to do what you want would cost multiples of times more than what the 8x8s would cost. Let us be honest, the British Army has a *huge!* stockpile of aging vehicles that need to be replaced soon, ranging from the CVR(T)s to the Warriors and the like. This is what the AJAX and the 8x8s are supposed to be. Replacements, not expansion, because by God, sooner or later those CVR(T)s are going to drop pieces off themselves from old age! The only real paradigm change is the introduction of a wheeled APC which is more or less the direction most of the world is heading towards. The AJAX is the FV-series replacement. The 8x8s if you look at it in another sense, is the replacement for your Bedford trucks, infantry movers that are now uparmoured to face a more hostile world.

    Gone are the days where you ride to your objective in canvas covered 3-tonners.

  165. Peter Elliott says

    Observer – it would be an useful proof of concept to try moving a squadron on tanks on commercially hired HET. Just to find out how hard it is to spot hire a decent number and what the practical snags of using non military trailers would be.

    Rail vehicles are probably a bigger constraint. I suspect the combination of weight and loading gague will mean that only specialist vehicles will do.

  166. Observer says

    Give me a moment, I’ll dig up the pics from the deep dark pit that is the internet.

  167. Observer says

    stephan, this one should amuse you.

    PR from a logistics firm. :)

    This guy has a collection of A-vehicle unloading videos in this particular album.

    I also found an article on the Malaysian Armed Forces, interesting stuff, I’m impressed.

  168. stephen duckworth says

    If insufficient HET trailers are available ,either the Army’s or private , then the purchase of CR2 sized low loader trailers is all that is needed I would think as sufficient commercial tractor units should be available to tow them.
    I do like the idea of using a fleet of HET for private hire but offered to existing private firms as they replace their commercial units . They would gain experience operating and maintaining the type and we would have crews and maintainers available short notice.

  169. Peter Elliott says

    The logistic ability to march an armoured brigade from Salisbury Plain to Poland via either Marchwood or the Chunnel certainly needs to be looked at.

    While we might single cycle battlegroups through Poland for training or place tripwire forces in the Baltic States, the ability to project a formed brigade over land should be real and known.

  170. Observer says

    I don’t think you actually need to purchase low loaders, construction equipment moving companies tend to work on pay per trip basis if my guess is right, after all, how often does one have to move a bulldozer to a construction site? So you can hire low loaders on a “single trip” basis without actually needing to buy the equipment if it’s an emergency. That allows you to simply ignore the equipment at any other time since it belongs to the logistics company anyway. The problem you guys had with Airtanker is more along the lines of air to air refueling actually being a capability you need to use often and that there is no civilian demand for AAR so it can’t sustain itself.

    For low loaders, even if the army does not use it, there are lots of other users in the construction industry, no need for the army to subsidize a commercial concern that is doing fine.

    IIRC, doesn’t NATO do the same with AN-124 transport? Piriot airlines or something like that?

  171. Peter Elliott says

    Observer – the Point Class RoRo would be a better comparator than Airtanker.

    But I agree if the capacity is there then that’s just fine. We only set up the Point Class deal because the capacity we had historically relied on of “Ships Taken Up From Trade” was no longer there.

  172. Mike W says

    TD and others

    I was initially intrigued by TD’s idea of an investment in heavy armour AND tank transporters, instead of an expensive 8 x 8.

    However, the more I think about it, the more disadvantages I see. For instance, what about enemy air power? If the opposing forces have anything approaching an air force, then surely the HET’s or tank transporters (whole columns of them) would present slow-moving, fat and easy targets for enemy planes. Have you ever driven behind a convoy of HETs on the A303 in Wiltshire? They would be much less able to take evasive action (get off the highway, head for any cover available, etc. etc.) than a fast, agile, mobile 8 x8.

    Moreover, TD asserts that it is “relatively easy to provide modest self protection for logistics vehicle conveys”. Well, of course there are such things as armoured cabs, etc. However, the only form of armament I have seen on an HET is a 7.62mm machine gun mounted on top of the cab. Hardly matches even a 30mm or 40mm cannon carried on an 8 x 8.

  173. wf says

    @Mike W: whatever force you are going to send, 8 * 8 or heavy tracks, will require large numbers of large, heavy wheeled vehicles for logistics. Lighter formations require fewer sure, but it’s a matter of degree only. If your logistics convoys are being attacked without hindrance from the air, you’re screwed either way.

  174. DavidNiven says

    ‘If every division had a light set of equipment, for use in the first e.g. 10-60 days, and a heavy set of equipment, when it finally got delivered some time around e.g. day 61+’
    Is that reminiscent of the multi role brigade idea that was toyed with and then abandoned?
    ‘For example, there is no way you can practically uparmour a Warrior to a Challenger standard.’
    The idea of the modular armour packages for the Puma and Ajax are not to increase the protection to Challenger standard but to allow some strategic mobility by making the vehicle lighter for transport but still retaining a decent enough base level of protection, for example Ajax would not require a HET for transport with the armour removed, a standard low loader would be sufficient.
    ‘Mainly, by 2025, the French army will have two armoured brigades, with 225 Leclerc tanks upgraded, 630 VBCIs as infantry fighting vehicles of 32 tonnes on eight wheels. For artillery we will have the new Caesar, which is a 8×8 truck of 32 tonnes, equipped with a 155mm gun with automatic loading.’
    I think this is the area where the French may become unstuck. Heavy wheeled vehicles supporting heavy tracked vehicles I believe will hinder the mobility of the formation by not allowing it to capitalise fully from the Leclerc’s mobility.
    ‘I don’t think you actually need to purchase low loaders, construction equipment moving companies tend to work on pay per trip basis if my guess is right, after all, how often does one have to move a bulldozer to a construction site?’
    I would think that the purchase of enough trailers for the job in times of crisis would be absolutely necessary. There are not as many low loader trailers in circulation as you would think; even large plant hire and construction companies have small numbers available nationally. There is however plenty of tractor units that could be pressed into use to pull your trailers for Ajax, Warrior and Bulldog etc although CR2, Trojan, Titan and I think possibly AS90 would require something like the HET.

  175. Observer says

    DN, my point was that you don’t have to outright purchase them, hire them or loan them, you’ll still get a fleet to use, just not the small stuff to worry about later since you’re going to return them. Those that are still intact that is.

    The comparison with CR2 was because I suspect Mike’s “heavy” equipment is an MBT, and it’s hard to uparmour something up to that level from a “light” vehicle like a Warrior.

    Mike, as wf said, if you are being attacked with impunity from the air, you’re already screwed. All that has changed would be small armour piercing PGMs raining down instead of general purpose HE for MBTs instead of transporters. Let us hope at least that the conditions you’re going to work with is contested air superiority at least instead of air denial.

    Not to mention that striking France and Germany from Ukraine is a long shot even for aircraft. Sure, they can do it, but the effort involved isn’t worth it unless they can be sure something is going to be there. Imagine sneaking through all that air defences only to find nothing there and having to turn back. All risk, no reward. Even Israel during the Yom Kippur War said that one plane loss every 10(?) sorties was an unsustainable loss rate.

    I suspect Uninformed’s scenario of a slow counterpush to actually be the most likely operation scenario in case of an invasion by Russia.

  176. Mike W says

    @wf and Observer

    Many thanks for the reply. I accept the points.


    “If every division had a light set of equipment, for use in the first e.g. 10-60 days, and a heavy set of equipment, when it finally got delivered some time around e.g. day 61+’
    Is that reminiscent of the multi role brigade idea that was toyed with and then abandoned?”

    I thought that SO, in his original article, was possibly thinking about the multi-role brigade idea when he said, “Organisation-wise, I think terrain and mission would favour a mechanised brigade format, essentially well-rounded little divisions with organic air defence, anti-tank unit, tank, armoured infantry, artillery, infantry, engineer and logistics components. This could yield up to three battalion battlegroups, either identical or with different weighting of infantry and armour.”

    However, he seems to be taking about brigade level, whereas Michael Wheatley seems to talking about such a mix at division level. I might be light years behind in my thinking but I still do believe there is something in the multi-role brigade idea in terms of cohesion, integration and training but am probably horribly wrong!

  177. Think Defence says

    Australia has just announced they have shortlisted Boxer and the BAE/Patria AMV for LAND 400 mounted recce

  178. Corin Vestey says

    Arguably whether heavy or medium or both, if the need to regenerate UK armoured and mechanised formations is accepted and the primary driver for that is utility in a European land war in overmuch then perhaps the real question is where to preposition them? Either quite far back in Poland or in Germany. The deciding factor there would to my mind be access to ranges and training facilities including scope for air cooperation exercises. I think we need NATO 1st Armoured division creating around a UK brigade of some sort now, both the division as it grows with other nations contributions and the UK brigade as it is upgraded and augmented over time will improve and train to meet immediate response requirement. Follow on stuff for sure HET etc. When Trump wins we will need to be demonstrating serious commitment to European defence, if UK does not lead, no-one will.

  179. JohnHartley says

    Just to lob this in. I still feel that if the UK is going to deploy a credible force, not a token one, then the UK Army will need to increase from 82,000 to around 88,000, perhaps 89,000. Still well short of the 100,000, I would prefer, but given the economic climate, perhaps the best I can wish for.
    You could make an equal cut to the fantasy reservist numbers, so the totals balance out.

  180. Observer says

    JH, why 89,000? Is there something about that number that represents critical mass? Or just a random upnumbering?

  181. S O says

    @Mike W

    I wasn’t very specific on the exact brigade setup, but my idea for an ideal type (for NE European terrain) was mentioned a few days earlier in my take on the Heer:

    Mechanised brigade HQ company (small)
    Tank battalion
    (3 tank companies)
    Artillery battalion
    (PzH 2000s only; MARS should be above brigade level assets)
    Mechanised infantry (“Panzergrenadier”) battalion
    (4 IFV companies and 1 organic indirect fires company)
    Infantry (“Jäger”) battalion
    (3 infantry companies, 1 indirect fires company, 1 anti-tank company)
    Logistics battalion
    (carrying enough supplies for three days; 1,000 rds per indirect fires tube and about 1,500 tons diesel fuel)
    Anti-tank (“Panzerjäger”) company
    (HVMs and Skorpion)
    Engineer company
    (mostly minesweeping and bridgelaying)
    (Artillery) Sensors, EW and MI company
    Air defence company
    Military Police Platoon
    (traffic control and HQ security tasks, in emergency usable as motorcycle couriers)

  182. DavidNiven says

    ‘my point was that you don’t have to outright purchase them, hire them or loan them, you’ll still get a fleet to use’

    I agree with TD we would need to purchase the trailers to guarantee availability. If we wanted to send a BG to Poland next week as a show of force, how many civilian trailers would be available at such short notice? and as the nation would not be at war life would be carrying on as usual which means the commercial haulers would be committed to do what they had already planned for their customers. Especially when you consider that not every haulage company operate low loader trailers in their everyday business.

    We would not own them either as we could just add them (for an obvious additional cost) to the ALC ‘C’ vehicles contract, which would give us a guaranteed pool of trailers with no direct maintenance and storage costs, and they can hire them out when not in use.

  183. Mike W says


    How very kind of you to post the format of your idea for an ideal type of brigade set-up (European). It is thought-provoking and makes for stimulating reading. I have several questions, if you would care to answer them but intend to split them up into manageable groups of two or three, as I am short of time at the moment.

    i) How many tanks would be included in your tank battalion – something small (e.g. below 20) or would it be much larger?

    ii) I am not absolutely clear about the rationale behind what you call your “battlegroups”. Would the idea be that the three mechanized battlegroups would be separate initially but would be like a series of incremental “building blocks” that could come together up to brigade strength, if a larger-scale action were needed (e.g. high intensity warfare involving the repelling of an attack)?

    iii) Where does reconnaissance come into your scheme of things.? I have probably missed something but I thought that recce was carried out in German armoured formations by the wheeled Fennek. Have I got that completely wrong?

  184. S O says

    German tank battalions have 44 tanks. That’s 3×14 MBTs in 3 companies + 2 HQ tanks (+2 recovery tanks). They used to have 54; 3×17 + 3.
    The exact qty of tanks is not as important as the availability of reserve tanks at the national level. Attrition will reduce a mechanised bde into a skeleton force requiring replenishment in hours, days or at most weeks.

    The bde needs to be able to cover a large area, and thus needs to be able to disperse and still fight. Tactics also require multiple manoeuvre sub-elements or else all attacks will be frontal attacks.
    The bde can fight massed as a bde at times, but normally shouldn’t. Delaying actions for example require a separation into at least 2 elements that leap frog rearwards, ideally with a 3rd for flank counterattack.
    A quarter of a bde is also much more nimble (pass time and convoy length during marches) as a manoeure element and has a better choice of concealed bivouacs for resting.

    The BGs can be configured identically or with different emphasis on tanks and infantry, such as inf-heavy BG left and right in woodland/settlement, tank-heavy BG in reserve etc.

    Fennek is more of a forward observer and surveillance vehicle than useful for scouting, so German reconnaissance is not satisfactory as of now. The article about the German Heer was limited about brigades fixes, though. I think armoured recce needs to be theatre/corps/div asset instead of bde asset. The reasoning is here

  185. stephen duckworth says

    Our present HET fleet is a 20 year long PFI .
    “FASTTRAX was awarded the £290m whole-life-cost contract for 92 tractor trucks, 89 King GTS 110/7 semi-trailers along with three Tru-Hitch recovery systems and also staff to operate them as Sponsored Reserves in January 2001. The vehicles were delivered by Oshkosh between 2003 and 2004.”
    Its up for renewal in a few years so negotiations are probably starting or will do soon. Doubling the fleet, refurb of existing kit and allowing for a new build of tractors and trailers would be around £1000m+ say .Over 20 years that’s £50m a year , good value in military terms if you ask me.

  186. Mike W says


    Thank you very much for the replies, which were comprehensive and informative. Just a few more questions and then I’ll shut up!

    i) First of all we get TD asking the question whether investment in heavy armour and tank transporters would be a better investment than a fleet of 8×8’s. The in your own article on Fixing German Army Brigades, you mention how you need enough tank transporters to deploy by road all tracked vehicles of half of the brigades at the same time.

    Has such thinking about the need for more HETs become something of a new orthodoxy in military thinking or was it coincidence that you both came up with the same idea?

    ii) Where do medics come in your brigade structure? Would they be supplied by Corps forces? Similarly, I can’t see any reference to an equivalent of our REME. Where would that kind of combat support come from? Do you have an equivalent to our REME as a Corps?

    iii) Interesting idea that you have included the Skorpion (fast anti-tank minelayer) alongside the HVMs in your anti-tank company. We lost our Stormer/Volcano kit some years ago. I happen to think that in high-intensity armoured warfare they would certainly be needed. Any comments?

  187. S O says

    Well, ask TD where he got that idea from then we see if it was a coincidence. ;-)
    I don’t think tank transporters would help the UK land forces to arrive in force in time to stop the initial invasion. No additional tank transporters would be needed to arrive in time for a liberating counteroffensive. That’s why I didn’t mention themso prominently as in the recent German Heer and USAREUR articles.

    Medics should be are organic, first aid combat medics even belong to platoon level. Some more can be in the logistics Bn including first patch-up surgeons, but all else really belongs to corps combat service support or even use of civilian hospitals.
    Medical services is its own branch, next to army, navy, air force and support branch (Streitkräftebasis) in the Bundeswehr. Their basic training is 6 months and their only weapon trained with is the P8 pistol IIRC.
    Yet of course we can/could give an infantryman, artilleryman etc. a combat medic backpack and a combat medic course as well. I’m not sure how exactly this is being handled these days.

    I included Skorpion because it’s already available. We should mount it on a medium 6×6 lorry, though. One shouldn’t expect very much from scatterable mines in face of Russian MBTs. Russian MBTs have self-entrenching tools and often down to company level the KMT sets. There’s likely no army in the world better-prepared to face scatterable mines than the Russian one.

  188. Mike W says


    Many thanks for all the informative answers.

  189. Frenchie says

    The debate has become how to move an armoured Brigade in Poland to fight against the Russians. I would like to know what the British Army could do in a low-intensity conflict. Which vehicles for replacing MRAPs, this would be an interesting debate.

  190. stephen duckworth says

    Frenchie we have several times in recent history have entered ‘low intensity conflicts’ ,Kosovo, Southern Iraq , Helmand and ended up needing much more protection. A couple of modified 155mm shells wired up and buried in a likely route can result in heavy casualties. What we need to replace or improve our MRAP’s does need much thought and discussion.

  191. Observer says

    What vehicle to “replace” MRAPs? Easy. Foxhound (Refurbished). :)

    Replacing vehicles is for a time when your budget isn’t tight. With the world economy as it is (and predicted to get worse as China hits saturation), their is little chance that you’ll have a replacement MRAP added on to Ajax and MIV.

    We got a bit side tracked onto low loaders and HETs. While those are indeed nice to have, they are really not critical since tracked vehicles can self deploy if needed to. Convoys of tanks and APCs on public roads are not that uncommon a sight worldwide, that’s what track pads were invented for!. Though the 50m for ~100 units that stephan pointed out does sound like a good bargain.

    I very strongly object to shifting BRC/BRF elements to DIV level or higher, as I mentioned before, the BRC/BRF commander is very, very close to the brigade S2 and Brigade Commander for a very good reason. They are the ones who need to use the information the most. Your brigade is the “working unit” of the army, the place where they organize and plan the ABGs/Front line deployments. This means that they are the people who need to know about conditions on the objective the most, as well as being the parent unit for battalions on the front lines, which means that they need to be the first ones to know of any incoming attack or counterattack force, to either warn the unit on the line to stand to and/or to throw together a QRF (Quick Response Force)/Fire Support.

    While public impressions of “recon” are super long ranged patrols deep in the enemy country, the reality is that “recon” units operate at a *very* short distance from their parent unit, to the point of 50km (+/-). There are quite a few reasons for this and like all “rules of thumb” also a few exceptions. The deep recon is actually the job of special forces units, not brigade recon. One of the reasons is that the VHF sets we get are usually short ranged (With the limit of 50km. Actually ours is 48km but more or less somewhere there, LOS variable. You need HF sets to go further. Which we also have but only for the rare “special cases” mentioned before.).

    Add this to the fact that artillery range is usually only about 50km (227mm) too, it works out just as well to keep us in useful range of artillery. When our “booking time” arrives that is. Artillery has a schedule where they are allocated to cover certain units for certain time periods which is up to the brigade S3 (Operations) to determine (suspicions are that he rolls dice). :)

    Working recon has 2 phases, more or less. Objective recce itself, then surveillance. When they first insert you, they usually give you an objective to survey (or basically to check for enemy presence). Once the presence or absence of an enemy is confirmed, the team is then usually assigned a surveillance position. This position may or may not be related to the objective, the key point to this is to keep watch on all road axis leading to your own “front line” to report on any reinforcements or attack, so on the map, the “surveillance” positions usually resemble a “double line” just before your FEBA. Why double line? You need 2 points to confirm a direction of move since they might change direction after the first spotting, so if Team A reports a sighting, then Team B, you can be more or less sure that the enemy unit is travelling along A->B.

    So basically, your recon unit is both the “feelers” for enemy activity and the tripwires for warning the brigade of any incoming attack and the direction, which is also another reason why they can’t wander too far. And absolutely useless if the warning gets sent to DIV+ level. The men at the front need to know an attack is coming, not their bosses.

    The image of light strike vehicles running over all the countryside in broad daylight doing “reconnaissance” is also false. Running around like that is more likely to get you a burst of MG fire from someone dug in than information. The best recon is dug in where you don’t move around to keep your detectable activities at a minimum. And you move around at night if possible, or when it is raining. An instructor of mine once told us: “Night is your friend. Rain is even friendlier!”. You’re cold, wet and miserable, but at least no one in their right mind is out and about looking for you!

    And remember, your brigade only fights hard for 3 days, then it’s rotated out. Hence things like the Fennec’s “5 days independent operations” requirement. One day prep, 3 days fighting, last day screening the rotation out.

    Come to think of it, what’s the estimated contact rate ammo usage for the UK/German armies? Ours is estimated at 120 rounds 5.56 per contact and each soldier is “supposed” to have 2.5 contact rate ammo at hand, so 300 rounds (10 mags). In theory. In practice? “As little as you can get away with”. :)

  192. Think Defence says

    As you boys know, have been writing about the boring bits of logistics since I started TD nearly 8 years ago. During that time have written a few times about the paucity of tank transporters and the current Fastrax (kellog Brown and Root) PFI that uses retained reserves and an operating model that allows the HET/King Trailers to be used for commercial use whilst maintaining a minimum availability for MoD use. It uses the same model as the Strategic RORO service, more or less.

    The problem we have is that there are only about 100 HET’s in service, with fewer trained drivers and given that vehicles need servicing, less than the max available for use at any given time.

    This means we could not even lift a single armoured regiment, by the time you have the CS and CSS vehicles.

    But in reality, this is only half the problem because of whole fleet management and the general lack of armoured REME and RE means we could not get anywhere near that without a massive amount of max effort preparation for a sustained operation and tackling of any route obstacles. The disposition of armoured vehicle and crews doesn’t help either.

    So Sven is right in a way, the lack of tank transporters is not a massive issue in isolation because there are a million other things to sort out.

    The idea came from thinking about relative investments, a finite pot of cash. 8×8 MIV’s will be under funded and superficially flashy, but we won’t have the right mix of variants, the logs chain will be underfunded and the rest of the strike brigade will look like the Antiques Roadshow on wheels.
    There is also a myth that an 8×8 could do a long route march and get stuck in straight away, even the French VBCI’s were moved by low loaders in Mali for the long road marches. Longer than tracks, of course, but still many of the same issues remain.

    Back in the Cold War, our heavy units did not have to worry about long deployments and reinforcements from the UK were primarily light infantry in Saxon, with route security provided by Yeomanry in Fox.

  193. Peter Elliott says

    It does seem an indictment that in an 82,000 man army we don’t keep at least the top 2 or 3 brigades organised and configured for high intensity deployment including all the logistic and support elements that implies.

    Otherwise why have an army at scale at all? Invest in air and sea power and retain infantry for force protection and a deployable light mobile raiding force. But stop pretending we are in the business of fighting wars on land.

    There’s a limit to how much waffle about upstream engagement by skeleton light infantry capbadges one can swallow.

  194. Mike W says

    @ Peter Elliott

    “It does seem an indictment that in an 82,000 man army we don’t keep at least the top 2 or 3 brigades organised and configured for high intensity deployment ……………. There’s a limit to how much waffle about upstream engagement by skeleton light infantry capbadges one can swallow.”

    What a brilliant post. Agree with every single word of it. I particularly like the telling question: “Otherwise why have an army at scale at all?” and the scathing last sentence., which dismisses modish theorising and its associated jargon so ably.

  195. Observer says

    So…national service, yes or no? :)

    It would help those new immigrants that people are complaining about integrate into British society and if combined with trade skill study programs in the army, would help raise a more educated workforce.

    And lower the cost of army manpower since you’re not paying full wages for professional full time servicemen and their pensions, just salary for those few years then toss them out. Yes, evil me.

    What do you guys think?

  196. Koi says

    The Boxer and AMV-35 shortlisted by the ADF are the heaviest wheeled afvs options. Talk of the ASLAV replacement began quite a while ago:

  197. Chaffers says

    Just to challenge the entire concept…

    Why bother fixing UK land power? With upwards of 80% of casualties caused by artillery in high intensity conflict surely the answer merely boils down to the most efficient way to bring artillery to bear?

    Artillery also accounts for about 85% of the logistics tail, which is where most of the manpower and expense comes in. Fighting in some far off foreign field is fine, though doing it as efficiently as possible makes sense.

    A single 155/62 AGS can deposit about 75 tonnes of ordinance on target out to 83nm in just over an hour. To equal this weight of fire you would need 11 AS90s ( 10% of the entire fleet) each with several trucks loads of ammo, all of which would have to be supported, protected and maintained.

    You can add in the 50+nm range of the 5″ mounts using guided projectiles.

    Hence purely mathematically 11 AGS equipped Destroyers could equal 80% of the British army’s firepower, could deliver that firepower to more than 90% of the inhabited earth’s surface ( and certainly to any part worth fighting over) and could do so more efficiently and far cheaper. Any gaps could be covered by airpower.

    It would probably cost about half of the budget merely for FRES, with operating costs of somewhere slightly north of a quarter of a billion per year.

  198. Chaffers says

    “Otherwise why have an army at scale at all? Invest in air and sea power and retain infantry for force protection and a deployable light mobile raiding force. But stop pretending we are in the business of fighting wars on land.”

    We are well beyond the point where we should have stopped pretending.

    Trouble is there are about 50,000 civil servants whose jobs partly depend upon convincing the government that we can do things that we aren’t equipped or manned to do.

  199. Observer says

    Koi, good for them, at least their Land400 is going forward as opposed to a lot of other countries programs that seem to be stuck. While I do find it a pity the Sentinel wasn’t downselected, it’s just nationalistic brand name regret, my opinion on all these rolling boxes are that they’re functionally all similar so it really doesn’t matter if you got brand A, B, C or D.

    Chaffers, wasn’t there a ship like that before? Think they called them “Battleships”. :) And like battleships, the utility of a “battledestroyer” is limited in this day and age.

    Regarding the 85% casualties statement that keeps being circulated, I asked this before. What is the breakdown on the *type* of “artillery” that generates casualties (since “artillery” itself is a catchall term that can refer to railway guns all the way down to 81mm mortars, for all we know, it could have been the mortars doing all the dirty work without a detailed breakdown) and were the “casualties” separated into “civilian” and “military”? Especially since the majority of WWII casualties were actually civilians! Without such a breakdown, we really can’t tell if artillery did cause a lot of military casualties or if they simply ramped up the % killcount by hitting buildings full of unarmed civilians taking shelter from the shelling! Statstics. Always need to look at the fine details.

    As for the use of infantry? Critical. Super critical. They are the forces that you need to “fix” the enemy in place so that your artillery can *hit!* them in the first place, as well as the “mop up” forces needed to make sure the area is really cleared of enemies and the “force protection” units needed to screen fragile units such as artillery from infiltrating infantry.

    You don’t just bomb an area then assume everyone inside is dead, you need to go confirm if artillery really did the job right and that means infantry into the tunnels and trenches like in Vietnam where whole underground complexes were dug out and used as shelter from US bombing.

    Or in cases where an opposing military retreats into a city or urban area with civilians. What are you going to do? Bomb them all? Kill off the entire city? That would look really good to PR and does wonders for securing control over the region in the future with all the hate that it’s going to generate.

    Same thing for enemy infantry in basements/lower floors of buildings. The effectiveness of 155mm is limited when it hits a building, the concrete construction limits fragmentation damage and the round doesn’t usually “pierce” properly, so once that happens, guess who has to go in and get them out? Infantry.

    Just because they are squishy does not mean they are not important. Infantry is one of the 3 pillars of an army, along with artillery and armour (air force and navy are separate services). Without them, your life is going to be very, very difficult if not impossible.

    That being said, even your infantrymen need to be assigned to a structured unit, not just simply toss in X number of men. No parent unit taking responsibility for them = lots of untrained idle men doing scutwork. Assigning them to a unit is to force the unit to take responsibility for the men’s training and teamwork integration, otherwise no one would want to do extra work to get the men integrated, useful and up to date.

  200. Peter Elliott says

    The ship you describe isn’t a Battleship, its a Monitor ie a ship designed simply to host very big guns for shore bombardment and nothing else. The fact is that the USN surviving battleships ended up in this role becuase there was nothing else left for them to do. But they were vastly overspecified for that task. Admiral Fisher’s initial strategy for WW1 was that after clearing the German Navy from the Oceans (tick) then from the North Sea (*cough* Jutland *cough*) was to close blockade Germany (including the Baltic) and bombard their shore installations using big gun Monitors.

    You could still build a ship with 6″ Guns and not much else, but the Monitor would be vulnerable to missiles launched from the land so would need either T45 level of AAW capability or to stand so far off shore as to negate the range of the guns. The modern equivalent is probably the Arsenal Ship firing Cruise Missiles from well off shore. The next generation of Guided Missile Submarines with CMC might come quite near to it.

    Any sort of shore bombardment needs targeting and intelligence. Eyes in the sky can take you so far, but for really devastating effect you need (at the very least) Special Forces and Allies on the ground. There is an argument to say that since we appear incapable of generating a meaningful, mobile, deployable armoured force we should concentrate of the SF and Raiding capability supported by dominant air and naval forces. This aligns quite well with the current political disinclination for “invading other peoples countries”. Personally I’m not so sure, I think we need to invest in retaining a meaningful land force to contribute to NATO operations. But the view seems far from universal.

  201. Chaffers says

    “was to close blockade Germany (including the Baltic) and bombard their shore installations using big gun Monitors.”

    Yep, hence the 18″ mounts on Furious. The Baltics wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice for power projection. Fisher spent his latter years arguing for the surface fleet to be scrapped in preference for submarines and airpower.

    “You could still build a ship with 6″ Guns and not much else, but the Monitor would be vulnerable to missiles launched from the land so would need either T45 level of AAW capability or to stand so far off shore as to negate the range of the guns.”

    Not with the huge range of the AGS. 83nm allows plenty of sea room, and still with a generous slice of land in it’s sights. Speed would be a better defence, along with a big brother Type 45 somewhere within reach.

    I’d disagree that it is a monitor, they were shallow draught and designed to receive plunging shore based artillery as well as air attacks. Monitors really did get close to the coast as they had to, even the big cannon didn’t have that long a reach.

    A modern monitor would be an interesting proposition, something along the lines of the Insect class and very low in the water. The Zumwalts are arguably Monitors.

    As I described it this would be a patrol frigate with a land attack bias. Yes you could deliver a handful of Tomahawks instead, probably about 32 of them, I’m being generous, delivering 14 tonnes on target, doesn’t really compare with the AGS in anything except range. Also can’t be unrepped. No weight of fire, nothing timely about it. Apples and oranges. Complimentary in many ways.

    Note that in no way am I arguing against the infantry, quite the opposite I was rather happy to be a light infantryman myself. What I am arguing against is the pretence that we can maintain a capability for high intensity conflict far from the coast.

    If Mr Karber’s observations are given credence then chances are our Warriors, upgraded or not, are already obsolete. Unless we were going to invest in heavy APCs, a la the Israelis, new MBTs and volume fires with ICMs then this capability is a pointless drain on manpower. The future appears to be marching in the opposite direction. If the likely opponent is Russia then our forces are woefully ill equipped and this situation is not going to change.

    We could however focus on the littoral and use the recent advances in NGFS. The range and power of naval mounts is a game changer which we could never match logistically on land. They have a strategic role too which I think makes it an ideal candidate for a general purpose frigate.

    What do you realistically expect to see on a Type 31?? If there is more than a 5″, CAMMs and fitted for but not with CIWS I’d be amazed. I don’t see any strike length cells on the Cutless or Avengers, just Rivers with a bad attitude.

    For a modest outlay we could actually get useful platforms which excel at something. Dreams of crossing a 45 with a 26 are pure fantasy.

    “Chaffers, wasn’t there a ship like that before? ”

    Lots of similar ones… Leander most notably. Not sure how you think a 3-4000 ton frigate is a bit like a 35000 ton BB.

  202. S O says

    “Artillery also accounts for about 85% of the logistics tail”

    Not quite.
    Quoting Dunnigan’s figures for U.S. Infantry Division (1990’s):
    Offense: 2,500 t ammo, 1,210 t fuel
    Defense: 3,500 t ammo, 671 t fuel
    Pursuit: 410 t ammo, 1,496 t fuel
    Food and spares are almost negligible by comparison.

    As mentioned before, even exotic shells don’t have the range to reach much of the Baltics from sea, and surface warship survival in the Eastern Baltic Sea is very questionable. The Baltic Sea may even freeze over since it’s a freshwater sea and it regularly freezes over in the Gulf of Finland every year. The coasts of Estonia and Latvia are behind ice on average winters. Surface warships will avoid ice even though they have the hp to break it: Risk of damage to bow sonars and severely restricted ASW capabilities make it too dangerous.
    The navy ain’t any kind of answer to Baltic deterrence and defence.

  203. Observer says

    Chaffers, context please. I was referring to shore bombardment via guns from ships, the frigates were a later reference from you after the reply. Though stephan was right, monitors would be a better comparison. And in either case, both battleships and monitors went the way of the dodo. Even without the fancy new gun, 11 destroyers would cost in the range of 11 billion pounds (I suspect more since a redesign isn’t even included in the cost), using the Type-45 as a yardstick. I fail to see how that is comparable to the 3.5 billion for 590 (rounded up) Ajax.

    The link Sven provided (that keeps breaking) shows a range of TOF to 38km for a 155mm shell (Table 5, if you can get it to work). You can see that TOF for artillery ranges from ~15 seconds TOF for close ranges all the way to 2 min (not the 1.5 I originally thought) for 38km. A mobile enemy can get very far in 2 minutes, even more so if the target is at 80nm instead of 38km. The further out you are, the more uncertainty there is, not in the location hit, you can use GPS shells for that, but in the location of where the enemy *will be*. Hence the usual protocol of suppressing (pinning) the enemy down then calling for fire. In Afghanistan, the USMC has reported that it took 30min on average for air power to come in and bomb a target. Looking at it in reverse, it also means that the ground component was suppressing the enemy for 30 min until the (flying) artillery can be delivered. That is why you still need boots on the ground.

    Try it. Get a stopwatch, go jog in a straight line. Then measure how far you got in 2 min.if it’s past 100m, you’re out of the target hectare (though maybe not the secondary effect zone). This is also why your anti-artillery drills (if you still do them) focuses on running like hell out of the target zone, not taking cover.

    Instructor: “Arty, arty, arty!!!”
    Trainees: “@#$%^&*!”
    Instructor: “Casualty!”
    Trainees: “#$%^&*(^*$#!”

    It’s a pain in the arse, anti-artillery drills, but there is a reason for why you’re doing it that way.

  204. Chaffers says

    “11 destroyers would cost in the range of 11 billion pounds (I suspect more since a redesign isn’t even included in the cost), using the Type-45 as a yardstick. ”

    I’m thinking more Type 31 as our only unallocated shipbuilding program, which will be unlikely to cost more than £350m a copy.

    2 minutes on call by the way is extreme luxury!! That doesn’t equate to 2 minutes warning for the bad guy, the first they’d know would be first round on target.

    “The navy ain’t any kind of answer to Baltic deterrence and defence.”

    Which I made reference to. Best thing we could do to aid the baltics is pressure the Western NATO members to step up to the plate, hand over our heavier kit, train them and concentrate elsewhere. Norway specifically though with an eye to the rest of the world too.

  205. Observer says

    Yes, the first warning for artillery is usually the first round on target, but some targets simply don’t keep still, like convoys and moving battlegroups. Infantry entrenched on an objective? They’re going to hurt bad if they don’t have an underground network of tunnels, but for the more mobile targets like vehicles, you really have to try matching their movement to the location the rounds are going to land. 2 min may be a luxury, but that’s the TOF to 38km.

    (Sven’s link Table 5)
    Where column X is the range in meters and T is time in seconds.

    Though to be fair I did round up 112 seconds and 113 seconds to 2 min. You usually won’t get the front vehicle/front scout, but at least you’ll get the trailers.

  206. Chaffers says

    ??? 2 minutes whether actually 112 seconds or not is excellent, truly excellent.

    “Though to be fair I did round up 112 seconds and 113 seconds to 2 min. You usually won’t get the front vehicle/front scout, but at least you’ll get the trailers.”

    With a 2 minute TOT any vehicle within sight is dead.

    Just how long do you think it currently takes to bring in fires on target??

  207. Observer says

    Chaffers, you were referring to indirect fire artillery were you not? Not direct fire? And the 2 min is TOF (Time of Flight), the time taken for the round to fly to the target once the lanyard is pulled, not TOT (Time on Target)/MRSI (Multiple Rounds Simultaneous Impact).

    I don’t understand why some people keep trying to sell artillery as some form of cure all for battles. Is it laziness? Or the desire to get something from nothing? If it is, then some people are going to be sorely disappointed. Artillery is a support unit. It “supports” the infantry and armour, not supplant them. They are incapable of holding ground or making an assault and without a balance of screening units and final “assault” units, you end up with a lopsided army that has a variety of weaknesses.

    Just because something is good does not mean an excessive amount is good too. 2 paracetamol is good for a headache. 20 is good for a funeral. Same thing. Artillery is good but excessive concentration on artillery at the expense of the other branches is a sure route to failure.

  208. Chaffers says

    I have no idea what you think your point is.

    No-one has made any arguments which support your supposed refutation.

  209. S O says

    table 5
    ERFB-BB fired from 155 mm L/45 ZUZANA system
    32 seconds => 18,971 m
    45.6 seconds => 23,496 m
    70 seconds => 30,384 m
    112.4 seconds => 38,477 m
    Ordinary HE would take a bit longer within its own range limit due to higher drag.

  210. Obsvr says

    I wouldn’t spend any money on projectiles like ERFB. If you are engaging targets at such long range then the dispersion of the fall of shot is going to be horrendously large, quite possibly to the extent of making it militarily useless, depending on the purpose of the fire mission. You’d probably achieve suppression, but not be able to exploit it because of the large safe distances arising from the dispersion.

  211. S O says

    Deflection dispersion would be about 0.1% of range, +/-400 m at 40,000 m.
    Range dispersion can be controlled with trajectory correcting fuzes like SPACIDO to about 100 or 200 m.
    This makes perfect sense for
    – area targets
    – dispersed high value targets
    – marshalling areas
    – dispersed SAM batteries
    – river crossings
    – u-turning road
    – road intersection
    – rotary aviation forward airfield
    – dispersed fuel depot/drop-off point
    – suppressive fires to inhibit movement
    – rendering ice on a lake or river unable to support light vehicles
    – …
    Maybe you served as forward observer and largely missed out on the utility of long range fires because this was not directly relevant for an observer’s job?

  212. TehFinn says

    Like I promised, dispersion for 39cal 155mm 23L JBMOU. CEP 168m at 28km with BB, at 24km it’s 118m with BB, at 15km 72m no BB.

  213. Chaffers says

    The extended range munitions tend to be GPS guided, BAe reports a CEP of 2m….

  214. Observer says

    SO, that wasn’t me. That’s a different forward observer. And if 2 of the people who actually do the job think the concept is iffy, maybe it’s time to relook the assumptions of what you think the job requires you to do?

  215. Chaffers says

    Depends upon when.

    I know an FO who used to enjoy HMS Vanguard. If I asked him whether effective fire was possible at 80nm he’d probably laugh.

    If however I asked an FO who had worked even briefly with a Zumwalt he might think it was an everyday and game changing capability.

  216. paul g says

    $1100!!! this could be an astute purchase for a light/airbourne formation, shame it’s Russian so won’t happen×2-2wd-fat-wheel-motorcycle/44616/?li_source=LI&li_medium=default-widget

  217. S O says

    It’s very similar to Rokons,
    which outside of Jordania no military wants either

  218. S O says


    unobserved area fires are a thing.
    I could understand if one would point at it being a MRL job, but with the current state of MLRS ammo ranges and the capability to join one or two dozen SPGs on a single time on target MRSI fire mission every 2 minutes there’s little reason not to employ SPGs for it.

    And frankly, unobserved fires on areas are part of the doctrines of many armies and have been used very much and often to decisive effect in wars. It’s not something I made up; it’s a thing.
    In fact, unobserved area fires were the bigger part of MLRS’ raison d’être. Sometimes all you know about a high value target is a rhomb on map, created by triangulation. Then you hit that rhob, and it’s not point fires nor can the fires be corrected by an observer.

  219. Chaffers says

    “$1100!!! this could be an astute purchase for a light/airbourne formation, shame it’s Russian so won’t happen”

    I love the idea of bringing back motorcycle infantry. Can’t think of much other than persistent CAS that would have been more useful in Afghanistan.

    Especially those Rokons, filling the types with water was a trick the Rhodesian’s used for their landies and trucks which pretty much negated the mine threat. The other was extending the axles so that the blast itself was not contained under the vehicle, though this probably wouldn’t be an issue on a bike.

    With a command wire I find it unlikely that judging speed would be easy against a bike and even if a long wire is used or remote you could have a force behind them within minutes.

    With the amount of kit that needs charging or currently uses batteries ( pretty much everything with every single type of battery you could imagine) having generating capacity beyond the single company generator would be a huge plus. Having access to pneumatic compressor makes cleaning your rifle sooo much easier. Also load carrying and protecting yourself from the environment. Covering a patrol on foot carrying 120 lbs or more in 40 degree heat isn’t fun, you wouldn’t lose too much situational awareness doing the same on bike but importantly you’d be able to respond to a contact rather than taking cover and shouting at each other, “Where the **** did that come from?”. Having a 30mph wind in your face would make a big difference.

    You could dismount fresh as a daisy rather than already knackered, hell the FOBs used to have to walk chaps through their weapon clearing drills because they were so knackered they couldn’t even do the basics.

    Possibly most importantly in the built up areas you’ll see lots of yahoos belting around on motorbikes, it is a machismo and freedom that the MAMs aspire to. They don’t particularly aspire to being cooped up in the back of a multi million quid armoured vehicle. Who the hell would?

    I doubt their use is restricted in any way to Afghanistan type conflicts. Whether casevac, patrol, manoeuvre, getting your AT / snipers / mortars in position quickly with plenty of ammo, fast response if TIC, recon, resupply.. No end of uses. Probably one of the few vehicles actually worth air transporting too. Very low fuel requirements, basic maintenance. What’s not to like?

    I’d love to see our light role battalions use them.

  220. Think Defence says

    Chaffers, have a read of this, lots of stuff on motorbikes etc

  221. Obsvr says

    Artillery dispersion increases with range, and for the same range rockets have greater dispersion than guns (assuming optimum charge selection for the guns).

    Infantry on motorbikes would be one of the silliest military concepts ever. Bikes have a role but not as a means of transporting individual infantrymen en-masse in anything other than very special tactical circumstances, ie an enemy with very limited capabilities.

    The key role of tanks is protected firepower immediately available 24×7, particularly to deal with AFVs. Of course others jobs are also vital, eg providing ‘shock action’, something a/c are totally incapable of.

    It’s also useful to note that the British Army has been primarily an expeditionary organisation for the last 300 yrs at least. AFAIK this hasn’t changed.

    Arty planning range, in the British Army (which has quite a lot of experience) is 90% of max range. Close support targets would generally be at around 50% max range, but battlefield geometry is dynamic, and firing close support at max range is certainly not unknown, as with all military problems “it depends on the tactical situation”. Massing fire means some batteries could be at a lot greater range than others.

  222. JohnHartley says

    defensenews says Poland is interested in joining the Franco-German next gen tank program. It was also said to be open to other European nations, with Britain being named. Could be a post Brexit way of saying the UK is still a reliable ally. A local UK production line to follow on after Ajax perhaps?

  223. Observer says

    “What’s not to like?”

    The casualties.
    The bike course is the largest casualty generator in my unit’s training phase with ~50% injuries, some serious. Our intake got culled from 48 men down to 24 because of those f-ing bikes. At the end of a 3 day mission, you’re just so tired your balance is shot. And you simply can’t balance on some terrain. You usually find this kind of terrain the hard way (most memorably, Dragon axis in Rockhamption Training Area, Australia). 30 years on, I still have scars on my left elbow and knee from bike training. Which is a lot better than a friend who had metal pins inserted into his left arm and leg from being thrown from the bike at speed.

    There is a reason one of the first things they teach you in bike course is how to ditch the bike “safely” (stepping dismount). And also why most of our scars and injuries are on our left. We ditch to the left. Sometimes, you’re just too slow and the bike comes down on your leg. Bonus pain for coming into contact with the exhaust pipe.

    Bikes are a necessity in modern combat. But they are not safe. They are motor vehicles and can kill. Don’t treat them casually or you’ll pay in pain, skin, limbs and maybe even your life.

    Remember what happened to Col T.E Lawrence.

  224. Chaffers says

    “The casualties.”

    Didn’t meet any grunts who signed on the dotted line for a safe life. Having had lifts from several different blacked out and souped up Renault Clios I’m amazed that I’m still alive, never mind them.

    ” At the end of a 3 day mission, you’re just so tired your balance is shot.”

    Tell me about it, I recall being taken off company signaller duty as I was hallucinating and couldn’t remember my name after 4 ops in 90 hours without sleep. Not being able to listen to a zip code, write it down, and do the 9 liner wasn’t quite enough of a reason previous to that. Lol.

    Course being a driver nowadays means guaranteed sleep, and those same 3 day missions would likely take far less time on bikes. 10 mile tab, attack and back being typical, rinse repeat. I’m not thinking of everyone on bikes, and not thinking of those bikes ripping the arse out of it. More slow and steady with light scales for the majority on foot.

    “Artillery dispersion increases with range, and for the same range rockets have greater dispersion than guns (assuming optimum charge selection for the guns).”

    The more modern GPS guided rounds turn this on it’s head. Not that dispersion is necessarily a bad thing depending on shoot.

  225. Observer says

    The 3 day missions are how long your brigade deploys, not how far you have to go, so if the brigade stays out for 3 days, you have to stay out for 3 days as well, regardless of if they advanced 5 cm or 50 km. Distance has little to do with it.

    Imagine you after your 90 hour stint. Then asking you to get on a 2 wheeled vehicle and ride. That is where a lot of our casualties come from. For normal exercises, they now have this “clearance form” they get you to fill out before you deploy, can’t remember what they call it at the moment, where they ask you things like “have you had 7 hours of sleep”, “have you drank 5 litres of water” etc but once you’re out of camp, day 2,3 and any mission extension, you’re on your own.

    The 3 biggest injury causers I personally saw are in order, fatigue, sandy/slippery terrain and technological difficulties (2 cases of bike crashes while riding with NVGs and assorted close calls).

    If you’re talking about patrols, I can see the improvement, but I would still recommend MRAPs instead. The biggest losses the Japanese had in Malaya were when their bicycle troops rode into Australian blocking forces falling back. The first volley usually killed any squad riding in front before they could unship their rifles and take cover. Bicycles and motorcycles are not well known for providing protection from enemy fire. And once hit, you’re taking a dive at 60km/h. Prognosis usually isn’t good after that.

    If you’re just using them for transport and sneaking, it’s fine, but once the rounds start flying, pity the poor bike rider.

  226. mr.fred says

    The young men who make up the bulk of the armed forces may have difficulties with hazard perception, but you also have to consider making your units combat-ineffective without any enemy interaction.

    Also, if you wan’t to play around with route denial when your opponents are on motorbikes, you forego the explosive and just use the wire.

    Water in the tyres might help deal with blast but the number of mine resistant vehicles subsequently developed across southern Africa suggests that it was far from completely effective.

    Using small motorised vehicles to support infantry looks sensible. If you use a more stable and easy to control vehicle it would be better. If that could tow a small trailer as well, better still. IIRC, they are called quads.

  227. S O says

    An army that cannot get a minimum of 5 hrs/24 hrs sleep regularly (instead of merely in crisis moments) has a discipline and leadership crisis.
    That’s a MUCH bigger construction site than any hardware or organisational one, since any such indisciplined and poorly led force would get brittle on day four or five, and be easy prey to opposing forces’ reserves regardless of training and technology.

    The only way to get this right in peacetime is to have long (such as 12 days) exercises, and severe punishment for officers of all levels and of senior NCOs who failed to enforce sleep discipline.

  228. Observer says

    …SO, you’re an idiot.

    I really can’t think of any other way to describe it.

    You seriously think that someone in high tempo ops and exercises can simply take time off? Then call the situational inability a “discipline and leadership crisis”?

    Bullshit. This is EXACTLY why I question your credentials. This is why I KNOW, not think. KNOW. you have never done this before in your life.

    Only in some kind of fantasy world can you get “time off” in the middle of ops. You think in the middle of an op, you’re going to tell the other guy “Time out, I got to get my 5-7 hours!”?

    Totally fantasy.

    You know what you remind me of? New know it all officers just graduating from OCS. They’ll just come into the unit without even a single deployment under their belt, run around all over the place making “suggestions” on how to “improve” the unit SOP without consideration of “why” and generally embarrass himself and anyone standing around him. And any impractical suggestions not accepted is of course “the fault of entrenched mindset” and “the failure to recognize common sense (aka my genius)”.

    These people tend to be a blight on their unit.
    So to put it in context: “You’re a blight on any unit you are assigned to.”

    Clear enough?

    I never believe I was ever going to say this but I almost wish Hohum was back…

  229. S O says

    You clearly don’t even know how it’s supposed to be done. You’ve never experienced it getting done right, never been taught how to do it right. Even worse; you disregard the vast amount of military history evidence that points at the utter necessity to maintain sleep discipline.

    Officers need to take the need for sleep into account to enable their unit to last longer than a mere four days. This requires them to keep some troops aside and away from the action once in a while.
    Meanwhile, senior NCOs and small unit leading officers (Lt, 2nd Lt) need to limit the assignment of tasks such that often times a portion of their troops can take a nap (and soldiers get really good at falling asleep for 15 minutes already in basic training).

    That’s why I called it a crisis in discipline and leadership; the leaders need to be disciplined enough to limit their demands on the troops instead of burning them out ASAP with a four days burst of activity. This stop and go even needs to be incorporated into doctrine (which is quite a challenge due to motor vehicle speeds, and demands for security and delay efforts).
    A nap is even possible on the move, though this requires an army to use bigger vehicles instead of gazillions of 1.5 t vehicles so the share of troops required for driving can be cut down.

    Armed forces all over the world succeed at getting enough sleep, as evidenced by their ability to maintain operations for weeks and months instead of a mere four day patrol.

    Again; any battalion that falls into semi-coma on the 5th day because of lack of sleep discipline is easy prey. It will be harassed, delayed and generally kept busy for four days and then some reserve formation of the opposing forces will simply walk over it. Anyone who considers the ‘four days hyper activity, then collapse’ model of operations as unavoidable is terminally incompetent. Even more so than Harold Godwinson; even that bloke didn’t forego night rests, he merely skipped the march rest days, which was bad enough at the time.

    What you’re describing is not an unavoidable operational reality: It’s a symptom of incompetence and lacking self-discipline. Officers who cannot muster the self-discipline to limit their demands on their troops are unqualified for leadership positions, period.

    So after calling me an idiot, I call you “undertrained”, “undereducated”, “terminally incompetent” and “undisciplined”. And frankly, official doctrine of the Bundeswehr, the United States Army, USMC and l’Armée de terre agree with me as does just about all of military history.

  230. Observer says

    “And frankly, official doctrine of the Bundeswehr, the United States Army, USMC and l’Armée de terre agree with me as does just about all of military history.”

    I call bullshit. I put up the operational profile of a recon unit above, the genuine one, not your fantasy one, and even more tellingly, I KNOW that some of the units you “quoted” to support your stance above do NOT do what you think they do. Why? One of my attached CSMs for 6 months was BUDS trained (BUDS year of 1991). So given that I have a comparison between you and someone who was actually in the unit, I believe him more than I believe you.

    I don’t think you ever deployed before, otherwise you would know that all that crap you spew don’t work outfield, only in the nice cosy confines of a base with bed and meals provided.

  231. Chaffers says

    “An army that cannot get a minimum of 5 hrs/24 hrs sleep regularly (instead of merely in crisis moments) has a discipline and leadership crisis.”


    Last time I did a 6 week Warrior I managed 5 hrs or over per 24 hrs twice…

    “Armed forces all over the world succeed at getting enough sleep, as evidenced by their ability to maintain operations for weeks and months instead of a mere four day patrol.”

    Been there, done it on little sleep.

    Gawd knows what you think would happen if an infantry company had harassing fires on them. Moan to mummy that they can’t carry on because Jerry / Terry is stopping me from sleeping? Point out that someone on a tinterweb forum said it wasn’t right?

    Train hard, fight easy.

  232. Observer says

    I know Chaffers, that was one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve ever heard. When someone makes claims like that, it’s almost sheer proof that he doesn’t know what it’s like out in the field.

  233. Phil says


    Operations, and of course, especially combat operations, degrade your unit. Even without being in contact kit starts to break, people start to become ill or injured and above all, normal duties start to make people very tired and mistakes begin to be made. Everyone then needs to start to make up the shortfalls and those shortfalls are made up in people’s time. So there are fewer people with more or the same number of jobs to do and those jobs get harder. God knows how many did not survive a war because they were tired and took a short-cut or made a mistake or just plain gave up and the enemy did the rest. But that is the nature of operations.

    The moment you cross the start line you begin to degrade and you’ll quickly find you can’t spare men for long periods of time so they can sleep and rest. And operations are exhausting, just moving from one position to another is exhausting in a high intensity conflict: the need to secure a harbour site, dig in, camouflage vehicles, put up tentage and cam nets, clean weapons and conduct basic maintenance tasks, to post ground sentries, air sentries and CBRN sentries, to write range cards and register mortar x-rays, to put up basic obstacles and bring up supplies and food. And in between all that finding the time to sleep, eat, drink and maintain your personal weapon. Then off you go to do it all again, day after day after day. Even in reserve you’ve got to do most of those jobs.

    Everyone knows the need to rest up men and equipment but the nature of combat and operations means that you can’t always do that. Whatever the manual says about sleep discipline, there are a million jobs and tasks that need doing without including the need to actually brass up the enemy and the number of men available you have to do them will be inadequate to start with and it’s downhill from there.

    There’s a great photo somewhere from WWI of a bunch of very tired looking British soldiers who have just advanced and the Sgt is drawing up a stag (guard) list – it never stops. 2 hours on and 2 hours off is an aspiration in combat even if you’re static for the moment. On top of that the Officer’s actually have to carry out the order process and other additional duties. Being dog-tired and people dying because of it and effectiveness dropping is as much a part of war as bullets and bombs.

  234. S O says

    Observer, doctrine is what is being taught or meant to be taught, not what is being done. I know the Americans have an issue with sleep discipline, and they know it. But their doctrine demands sleep discipline. So yes, their doctrine is with me on it. Same for the other nations (though their manuals are not published to the same degree).

    You guys still don’t get the point: That you never experienced it done right doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done.
    And Observer specifically fails to grasp another point; limitation of ambitions by leaders. If troops numbers dwindle and troops become tired, many of that million tasks need to go. That’s leadership, too; not to ask/order more than is appropriate.
    Yes, during the first three days a sustainable mode delivers less combat power. On the fifth day a force that maintained sleep discipline and so far avoided decisive defeat will trounce its incompetent counterpart that failed to maintain sleep discipline.
    It’s sad that all you ever experienced is the practical employment by incompetents.

    And it’s not really possible to harden men against sleep deprivation by repeated sleep deprivation. It’s merely possible to raise their moral tolerance for it and to accustom them to its symptoms. The adverse effect on performance remains.

    Four-day sprints were known in history and were acceptable if not highly praiseworthy at times, but only under specific circumstances. A typical example is a four-day race to a bridge, and once the bridgehead is built the sprinters recover a bit and ideally reserves take the lead (exploitation past the obstacle).
    Sleep deprivation is outright nonsense for normal operations of the whole force, since it means defeat to any somewhat competent adversary on day five or six.

    BTW, I am somewhat confused by your statements; usually it’s more common that grunts maintain sleep discipline than staffs. HQs and officers in general are the most notorious hot spots of sleep deprivation (for entirely avoidable reasons). This makes it even more astonishing that you experienced utter failures of sleep discipline among combat troops etc. Frankly, the leadership you experienced must have had ‘lions-leading donkey’ quality.

  235. Observer says


    You see the other 2 people above who have deployed in the field before commenting as well on “sleep discipline”?

    They’re also “undertrained”, “undereducated”, “terminally incompetent” and “undisciplined” to you are they not? I don’t think there’s much point talking to you any more, if you can’t get the point that the real world is different from your fantasy one, I don’t think any of us here are going to get through to you. You have a lot of assumptions and presumptions about life and ops in the army, then rant on your assumptions which are not true. This is called “strawmanning”

    I’ll repeat Chaffer’s reply to you which I think really suits your comments.


    All you have demonstrated is your ignorance of anything other than media publications. Things in real life are a lot different from a manual, no matter how hallowed the publisher.

    Phil refuted you, Chaffers laughed at you and I got annoyed at your insults to people doing the job.

    I don’t think those are positive responses.

    Think you might want to sign on for a short term in the army before you continue, at least then you’ll have a proper real life basis to base your suggestions on. What’s the shortest contract term for the Bundeswehr?

  236. Obsvr says

    Sweeping assertions about life on the two-way range need to be treated with care because not all wars are the same. Eg short and sharp is a very different game to long and low/medium intensity. Not forgetting that the former is likely to be highly mechanised and the latter mostly footborne. Terrain can be a major determinant of the nature of operations and can dictate the nature of the tactics and military skills required.

  237. JohnHartley says

    As a heads up, defensenews has video of the French Zapata Flyboard. One man can whizz along at 60 mph, couple of hundred feet up for several miles. Might be useful getting to firefights in awkward places.

  238. mr.fred says

    With regards to sleeping while on operations, what do the experienced among us think is a realistic amount of sleep to be had over a 24 hour period? Sleep deprivation can have pretty severe consequences and it would seem foolish to discount the need (which is what those with experience seem to be doing – no need to straw man, you’re doing it yourselves).
    In reading around the subject, I’ve found numerous accounts where more rested troops are more effective than fatigued, sleep deprived troops.

    At the same time, SO is also difficult to straw man as he’s also gone off to the extreme position himself.

    Between “5hrs sleep/24hrs at all times or you’re a maroon” and “No sleep ever” what’s the amount you can realistically get and what’s the amount you actually need?

    Then you can go on to look at how you can mess with your enemies’ sleep while leaving your own intact.

  239. Phil says

    It’s not so much the total amount of sleep always, as it is how long an unbroken sleep you can manage. Personally I found it a little bit more bearable mentally knowing I could get my head down when I had an opportunity during the day, but physically I was probably degraded from continuous small sleeps of less than an hour over a period of time.

    There’s stories of Israeli tank gunners in 1973 sleeping between main gun shots. Sleep is a big problem on operations. With SO saying that some jobs have to go I must wonder which ones he proposes to remove? All the jobs are necessary to try and stay as effective as possible. By binning jobs you displace one risk (tired troops making mistakes) with another (being easier to defeat in combat).

    You can’t bank sleep, and even some sleep if its decent quality can significantly retard feeling totally fucked. Most soldiers will sleep when they can of their own accord, they don’t need an Officer to come around and tell them to get their swedes down. It’s not a leadership issue as much as a personal discipline issue.

    Yes staff officers and HQ might work hard but they are also under less physical duress, have to conduct less physical work (they have defence and employment platoons and pioneer platoons for that stuff) and there are multiple people to catch any mistakes throughout an orders process.

    You get your head down when you can and you look after your mates. Operational requirements will always trump a unit needing rest because it’s sleepy. That’s not a leadership deficit thats the reality of war – are you going to not throw your last reserve to stop a breakthrough because they need 2 hours more kip?

    In less intense conflicts you can try and manage sleep better. On HERRICK 13 the UAV det produced a letter or a page from a JSP showing they were pilots and they therefore would not stag on as they had to have 8 hours unbroken sleep. Because of that, VALLON men would have to stag on and therefore got less sleep and suffered the side-effect of a reduced number of limbs. The OC tried to give them 4 hours unbroken sleep and to do that, that meant everyone else had to pull more stags. That’s not a leadership fault – the UAV leadership’s insistence on 8 hours hardly added much combat effectiveness to the unit. They crashed their Desert Chickens all the time even with 8 hours – once into an ANA soldier.

  240. Observer says

    To add on to what Phil said, there is also another kind of “tired” and that is temporary sleep deprivation, not overall. It’s what happens when you do jobs that get you tired through physical fatigue or monotony. You still can be getting 7 uninterrupted, but at that specific point in time, your attention is just shot. An example would be driving through monotonous terrain, the repetitiveness can be hypnotic. Another would be going home at the end of work. You can still be getting 7, but *at that specific point in time* you’re all burnt out.

    As for the sleep debt and how much deficit you’re getting, like Obsvr said, it all depends on the unit and situation. And not simply on regulations.

    For example, in an infantry unit, if your schedule for the day is simply do patrols and get back to the FOB/Base camp, it’s not likely you’re going to be away from your bed for fairly significant amounts of time, especially if you have multiple units available to share your night watch.

    Inversely, if your infantry unit was slated to do a coastal hook (shore to shore amphibious landing), followed by a night march, dawn assault and consolidation for defence against counterattack, I don’t think you’ll be getting much sleep for that night and the rest of the day until afternoon. After that, it’s usually good practice to let the men crash for the rest of the day, they’re totally shot by then.

    In comparison, recon…was and still is terrible. You got a 4 man team so you and your buddy’s watch rotation isn’t 1 on, 2 off like the rest but more like 1:1, one hour on, one hour off. Repeat for 3 days.

    You can’t take time off during the day, that is when the enemy is moving and you have to keep watch as well as the best time to do objective recon when you can see. At night, as I mentioned before, it’s your time to move around without getting caught, so there really isn’t a “rest” time. You’re getting 12 hours ironically (sometimes) but it’s all interrupted sleep with very little effectiveness, people still nod off. And remember, to totally miss the hourly check in, a guy and his buddy must *both* KO. And it still happens.

  241. Chaffers says

    It only becomes a matter of discipline where someone monging it reduces the amount of sleep you can get by a huge amount.

    For instance a company signals det will usually have three people, which frankly is overkill. Two people though is nowhere near enough. Two people plus a mong can be worse than just the two, in fact come to think of it it is always worse. At least with two you know sleep is going to be a bit of an issue, especially when there is an OP out.

    Neither the boss or the 2IC will want to have the mong in tow, so if they’re out on the ground the mong ends up as zero, but do you really want monged up fires? Monged up nine liners?

    Everyone starts out as a mong of course, though jacks are worse. Finding out that some mong has jacked on you can easily ruin your chance of a few hours. Course mong and jacks never get promoted and eventually end up as senior tom, an unofficial rank just below field Marshall in their estimation.

    Then you have the wider remfs in general, and noone cares whether the remfs get any sleep. If the remfs need bodies then better to send a mong, or a jack, that way you are less likely to have bullets in our gun or food in your belly. Unless your colour happens to be a masterful mong manipulator with jack bastard detection radar built into his skull, which they generally are.

    The actual amount of sleep you get certainly isn’t dependant upon a rupert or screw enforcing it, it is almost entirely down to the mong jack coefficent, with different but otherwise identical units having a very wide range or abilities.

    You could look at an infantry battalion, count the rifles and therefore try to gauge it’s strength. Or count the number of supersonic death rays a particular ship possesses. A far better measure though would be the mongjack coefficient. Some units are good, some are average and some are crap.

  242. JohnHartley says

    Saw “Star Trek Beyond”, last night & picked up a freebie copy of “The Sun”. It report the SAS in Libya are using the XM25 air burst grenade launcher. 25mm, semi auto.

  243. Peter Elliott says

    BBC article contrasting the readiness of Russian and NATO forces for a land war:

    The focus is more on the US forces as the comparator. But the implication is that UK Forces are not necessarily paying as much attention as they might.

  244. Hohum says

    European Armed Forces in general, and land forces in particular, are in a dire state when compared to Russia; we now know even the MoD admits this internally. So why, we must ask, does TD keep giving oxygen to the Putinbot that calls itself Sven?

  245. Jeremy M H says


    The reason no one cares is that most likely there isn’t money missing. Honestly they audit this crap to death. It’s a huge organization. The last thing we need is to hire a hundred thousand accountants to document everything to GAAP standards.

    I am all for anti corruption rules. But at some point the time and money spent auditing stuff and studying things vastly outweighs the benefit of doing so.

  246. Phil says

    Really Hohum, the hyperbole over Russia is misplaced. I noticed you couldn’t find the time or inclination to reply to my question about your opinion over nuclear weapons. Guess the intellectual cupboard is bare on that subject.

  247. Peter Elliott says

    Phil do you not think there is scope to improve the posture and readiness of NATO’s land forces…? Or is the current level of conventional deterrence sufficient?

  248. Phil says

    There’s always scope to improve but in a world of finite resources you have to drop other capabilities and budgets. Are we more likely to fight Russia than almost anything else? If we fight Russia what weapons will we use? Tanks? Or if Russia invades a NATO country is it more likely to be a nuclear war?

    We’ve got an open sore in the Middle East which is threatening stability across a wide arc right up to Europe’s border and which in my view represents a real and current threat. And then we have a relatively weak Russian state with an armed forces of incredibly variable quality and which face an alliance that is quite capable of destroying the whole state even as things stand today.

    It’s a zero sum game and we need to be sure of the threat and think realistically about the nature of such a threat before we start being shrill and pointing at Russia’s latest tank it will likely build 45 of. Russia has moved additional nuclear weapons into the Kaliningrad Oblast – Russia fears NATO enough to lean heavily of nuclear weapons.

    So yes there’s considerable scope to improve conventional alliance defences against Russia – but what do you cut elsewhere? Does the threat warrant sacrifices in other areas at the moment? No is my opinion clearly.

  249. Peter Elliott says

    The political paradigm of the last 30 years has been a ‘zero sum game’. But this is not a given. Some analyses do seem to justify increased spend against a multiple spread of threats.

    If we accept “zero sum” then the UK should probably focus on maritime and air power at the expense of armour. Other NATO powers should focus on the land domain.

    Personally I would like to see the UK also retain and upgrade 3 to 4 brigades of armoured and medium mechanised forces. But that probably costs more than the 2% when looked at in the round.

  250. Hohum says

    Phil, I didn’t respond to that question because your opinion is so utterly wrong as to render it pointless engaging with you.

    There is no hyperbole about Russia, there are though demonstrable facts relating to Russian readiness, key capability areas (including deep strike and submarines) and general modernisation that most of Europe studiously ignored for years until the Ukraine shenanigans suddenly alerted them. As the report leaked this week showed the security and military establishment is now taking notice and is finding what it sees to be as discomforting as I and a few others have been saying it would be for some time.

  251. Jules says

    @ Jeremy MH
    My bad, posted the link but not the comment! I was going to point out that even as a proportion of budget we don’t look anywhere near that bad and thus our accounting at least in comparison to the US is pretty robust. Sure there are foul ups as there are in anything really but the purse strings are pretty well controlled and this of course impacts on the thread topic. As you rightly point out, the reason no one cares is because it’s the usual sensationalist copy, However when some one puts 6-7 trillion in column “other”, it’s quite right to raise an eybrow…
    Not very “creative” accounting, “How to fix UK land Power” without spending any more money? Or very little more money?
    Good start with the Chally upgrade, a lot of interest around the world already, I wonder if the government would be brave enough to give it to Rheinmetall? Not that huge a contract in the great scheme but giving the odd one away may provide better competition between those at home? BAE,GD, LM “UK” etc would have to work a little harder to hit a moving target???

  252. Jules says

    Meant to add I am prone to going off at tangents, and general rambling! :)

  253. Phil says

    So utterly wrong yet not a shred of evidence to suggest why.

    To suggest why any inter-state conflict with Russia wouldn’t raise the sceptre of nuclear weapons despite the Russians having a clearer conception of what a conflict involving a collective alliance with three nuclear powers would mean.

    And nothing to suggest why the Russian “threat” is of such a nature to deserve a wholesale re-posturing despite what else is going on in the world: likewise no comments about the proportionality of taking such a course of action and what risks that might displace against other more immediate risks.

    And you seem to have no sense of us being in a collective defence alliance which really cripples your ability to make any compelling arguments re: the above.

    In short your points sound like the tail wagging the dog, beating the drum to get more conventional toys and kit – the area where you can best proffer an opinion.

  254. All Politicians are the Same says

    This whole report which whilst worrying has caused a huge amount of hyperbole and frankly opportunity for those wishing to push an agenda.
    The report was entitled insights into training smarter against a hybrid adversary. It was based on one training exercise and deals almost exclusively with UK capabilities in one environment.
    It was produced by the Land Warfare Centre and is written in a manner designed to send the maximum political message.
    So yes it is a sobering message but it is not the apocalyptic script some would like it to be.
    It ignores to a great extent that we are in a collective defence alliance and the superiority that Alliance has in other areas as well as the huge differences in readiness capability and training amongst Russian forces.

    So worrying yes and it highlights issues the Army could do with addressing but the end of Europe? Not by a long way.

  255. Hohum says

    Nobody is claiming “the end of Europe”, its ironic that APATS criticises hyperbole yet the only hyperbole in view is in his own post.

    Phil, the purpose of Russian nuclear weapons are deter western conventional action against Russia whilst it is performing conventional operations in its near abroad. However, Russia is still a rational actor and would not initiate the use of nuclear weapons for obvious reasons. It takes a complete idiot to think otherwise.

  256. Phil says

    “It takes a complete idiot to think otherwise.”

    It takes a complete idiot to launch a conventional invasion of a nuclear armed NATO who refuses to rule out first use of nuclear weapons for defensive purposes. It therefore makes sense that if you do so, you strike first which makes any conflict nuclear immediately. Russian Cold War plans showed they expected things to go nuclear immediately. Ultimately NATOs strategy remains a conventional trip-wire in Europe as it was throughout the Cold War – nothing fundamental has changed at all apart from a shift east.

    Events in Ukraine seem to have been absorbed by NATO hence the very aggressive posturing and firm statements of resolve for the Baltic countries. Russia’s best defence against NATO is to fragment the alliance just as it always has been. NATOs best defence against Russia is to have a low nuclear threshold despite how politically incorrect it is to say that.

    Now talk of all these nuclear weapons seems a bit absurd and heavy handed – just like the idea that Russia is going to try a conventional assault. The concepts are linked. If one doesn’t sound realistic then neither is the other.

    Focusing on conventional war-fighting and ignoring the nuclear dimension when speaking about a Russian invasion of Europe is childish and defies reality.

  257. Hohum says

    Precisely why I didn’t respond to you previously, you have no idea what you are talking about.

    NATO has not has not had a “trip wire” policy since the 1960s when it adopted flexible response. It also has a no-first use policy, i.e. it will not use nuclear weapons against Russia unless Russia uses them first.

    Strong statements in support of the Baltics are not being backed up by credible mechanisms for assuring their defence. Russian strategy is not all out war with NATO, it is to exploit internal alliance divisions to weaken the resolve of key alliance members to actually support Eastern European states.

    Part of that Russian strategy is to influence western military and security discourse through the use of Russian state sponsored proxies, Sven is one of those and now TD is providing a further platform for his Russian messaging.

  258. Phil says

    Look at you desperately pouncing on your morsel after I used the term trip-wire.

    Of course by your logic Hohum I shouldn’t have bothered responding to you after you got NATOs entire nuclear policy (and hence pretty much its entire defence posture) completely and utterly wrong.

    All you’ve done is engaged in some hyperbole about Russian capability whilst ignoring NATOs capability to destroy Russia completely. You tried to wave away the NATO capability by claiming it had been rendered redundant and a waste of money by the NATO adoption of a no first use policy which was of course completely incorrect.

    So your argument boils down to begging understanding of Russian capability whilst ignoring NATO capability and trying to wish it away to suit your argument.

    Your position has more holes in it than a Russian destroyer alongside..

  259. Hohum says

    You have yet to provide a single example of hyperbole related to Russian military capability.

    My description of NATO nuclear policy was absolutely correct; that you don’t realise that just demonstrates how out of your depth you are, as usual.

    I have never claimed that NATO nuclear capability is redundant, they are your word not mine, in fact I am on record on this site stating exactly the opposite. Lies are of course another of your specialities.

  260. All Politicians are the Same says

    NATO retains the option of first use of nuclear weapons. Period.

  261. Hohum says

    Except it doesn’t as those NATO powers with nuclear weapons do have no first use policies, even the US approach supposed strategic ambiguity is essentially no first use at doctrine level, and Obama may yet formalise it. Thus NATO has a no first use policy by default. Period.

  262. All Politicians are the Same says

    Actually none of the 3 NATO countries with Nuclear weapons has an official no first use policy. Do not confuse the defensive employment of Nuclear weapons with no first use and your attempt to twist use policy and dream that Obama is going to do anything in his last 3 months in office is hilarious.

  263. Hohum says

    Actually they do. Both France and the UK have no first use policies. You should also follow US defence policy news more closely.

    Something that is actually hilarious is that there are people here so utterly deluded that they think nuclear weapons held by NATO powers are even remotely relevant in the context of the Russian threat to the Baltics and parts of Eastern Europe.

  264. Phil says

    They patently don’t Hohum, and this is all a very thin gruel you’re serving up.

    I think your bizarre Mcarthiesque politics are helping to prevent you from offering a compelling analysis.Not only that, even if we had an NFU (which we categorically, pains-to-make-clear, don’t) then it’s a sorry analysis that ignores capability over perceived or promulgated intentions: and the Russians are a suspicious and cynical lot.

    I’m sure the Russians think nuclear weapons would be very relevant if any states along its borders suddenly started to have their governments changed by force. Eastern Europe is as well, just one of the many challenges facing Russia along some very vast borders.

  265. Hohum says

    They patently do Phil. The use of nuclear weapons by NATO is under political control, that means the political leaders of the states that control said weapons, and they have no first use policies and therefore so does NATO. Its very simple but I understand you started spouting off without fully understanding what you were talking about and now don’t want to back down.

    The Russian threat to Eastern Europe is clear and explicit, ignoring it won’t make it go away no matter how much you want it to.

  266. Phil says

    “We do not want to simplify the calculations of a potential aggressor by defining more precisely the circumstances in which we might consider the use of our nuclear capabilities (for example, we do not define what we consider to be our vital interests), hence, we will not rule in or out the first use of nuclear weapons”

    Official, UK Gov policy.

    So not only do you want the nuclear capability to be ignored, you also want the public statement of policy and intention to be ignored as well? So capability AND intention are out of the window?

    Sure, I’m convinced at last…

  267. All Politicians are the Same says

    The United States has refused to adopt a no-first-use policy, saying that it “reserves the right to use” nuclear weapons first in the case of conflict”

    They will not use Nuclear weapons against non Nuclear states that are following the NPT and the FUNDAMENTAL role of US Nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack on the US or its Allies.

    Fundamental does not mean only it simply means core role.

    So again no no first use rule by the US.

  268. Mark says

    WASHINGTON—A proposal under consideration at the White House to reverse decades of U.S. nuclear policy by declaring a “No First Use” protocol for nuclear weapons has run into opposition from top cabinet officials and U.S. allies.

    The opposition, from Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, as well as allies in Europe and Asia, leaves President Barack Obama with few ambitious options to enhance his nuclear disarmament agenda before leaving office, unless he wants to override the dissent.

  269. UninformedCivvyLurker says

    Hmmm. But…….would NATO turn the Earth into a nuclear wasteland in the defence of Latvia ?

    Would Poland being entered trigger it ? Germany falling ? Would Russians rolling through Belgium force the French to push their button ?

    Where would that “trip-wire” be ? … I guess we can’t say as we have to pretend that an attack on any NATO member could trigger buckets of instant sunshine being tipped out.

    Just asking……

  270. DavidNiven says

    ‘Hmmm. But…….would NATO turn the Earth into a nuclear wasteland in the defence of Latvia ?’

    Depends from the type of threat. If it was a blatant invasion by Russian forces then I think the situation would escalate very quickly. If you are referring to the way the Russians used a sizeable ethnic Russian population in the Ukraine as a way of destabilising the country then Latvia and Estonia are vulnerable. It would also cause a political headache for NATO as to military options, and level’s of support that could be given to the governments of those countries to assist in what would essentially be an internal security matter, after all we didn’t glass Libya for supplying the IRA with training and weapons.

  271. Phil says

    It wouldn’t be for Latvia. It would be for Western Europe. The moment NATO isn’t credible as an alliance is the moment Russia will sense an opportunity. NATO is a collective defence alliance – it can never afford to hint for a millisecond that it wouldn’t go down fighting for any of its members. Especially after what has happened in Ukraine. Putin has shot his bolt in that type of operation and all it takes to fight another attempt is political unity and firmness of purpose – relatively cheap compared to an arms race.

  272. All Politicians are the Same says


    I think the response to the sort of scenario you describe is the reason we are deploying boots and other capabilities. These countries are NATO allies and in the event of the sort if destabisation effort you describe there would quickly be the ability to produce evidence of Russian involvement both by snatching some bodies to talk and utilisation of other Intel gathering platforms.

  273. crj says

    Apologies for dragging discussions from lofty heights of Doctrine and Strategy to the sordid level of new kit fantasies, but this is interesting, no?
    Could there be a workable path to getting L55 on Chally 2 after all? I suspect the answer from those who know will be the monosyllabic negative, but a nice idea….

  274. Observer says

    crj, sorry to rain on your parade, but yeah, not likely.

    The proposal is from the vendor to the client, not a client request. Basically, this is something like the door to door salesman trying to get you interested in a product or a salesman out canvasing the street for a sale. And you know how often those kind of sales tactics work.

    When something is from a vendor, the chances of it getting anywhere is low. When there is a RFI (Request for Information) from the client, now that is when things get interesting.

    Workable? Yes. Cost effective? Only if the MOD waited until the roadwheels fall off those CR2s before starting a life extension program. And I don’t see that happening anytime soon.


  275. Stephen Duckworth says

    The Challanger 2 Life Extension Programme is in the request for tender stage from the MoD . Several companies are in contention with a short list of 2 to reached and a main contractor to be finally selected for remanufacture to commence in 2019.

  276. Observer says

    IIRC the initial gate was supposed to be in July 2014, then it went to 2015, then early 2016. We’re now in the later part of 2016, still no initial gate, just a vendor survey.

    I’m betting they’re pushing it to the latest they can (i.e until the road wheels fall off) before kicking the program off to get “maximum life extension”.

  277. crj says

    Quite right gentlemen, merely the ghost of CLIP returning to haunt the ever diminishing LEP. I suppose I’m predisposed to grasp at straws which point away from the decline and fall of UK heavy armour. Or is that already an inevitability? Is an effective MBT in effective numbers a thing that Army need or want?

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