GUEST POST – Fixing UK Land Power

A guest post from ‘Monty’

This article is intended to be a high-level discussion of the issues and potential fixes that would address the manifold problems faced by the British Army. It isn’t a deep-dive supported by detailed budgeting, planning and implementation considerations. So I trust readers will judge it for what it is rather than what it should be. I hope that the concepts presented below will inspire other ideas that could transform UK land power capabilities and its deterrent effect.

A slow decline towards ‘block obsolescence’

In 1984, when I was a young platoon commander, there was a feeling of constantly being asked to do more with less. If a lack of resources was a problem then, the constraints placed on the Army today are in an entirely different league. In its heydey the British Army of the Rhine numbered more than 160,000 soldiers, it had four armoured divisions, including 12 MBT regiments and a full complement of supporting assets. It was a time when we had not forgotten the war-winning potential of artillery, so we had an extensive array of Royal Artillery regiments that were all properly resourced, including one equipped with the Lance tactical nuclear missile. Today, we can barely muster a single division and have only three regular MBT regiments. A reduction in headcount to 82,000 has seen a huge loss in combat ability as accumulated knowledge and experience have exited the service.

Since the Cold War ended in 1989, there has been a very little impetus to re-equip the British Army. I remember Think Defence in another article noting that when the FV430 series of AFVs came into service in the mid-1960s, the English Electric Lightning was the primary air defence asset. This was superseded by the Phantom, then the Tornado and, most recently, by the Typhoon. Despite four generations of combat aircraft passing through Royal Air Force hands, the FV430 has resolutely remained the only tracked APC in service with British land forces. Warrior was a half-hearted attempt to replace it, but the money to equip all armoured infantry formations with it was never made available. The so-called peace dividend resulting from the end of the Cold War halted any significant AFV platform investment after the last Warriors were delivered in the 1990s.

Since then, the combat capability of the British Army’s AFVs has slowly atrophied.

Challenger 2 and Warrior were brief flashes of promise. When they first arrived, they offered an excellent capability against peer enemies, but, unlike the Bundeswehr’s Leopard 2, were not constantly upgraded to ensure they remained relevant and potent. With the UK only deploying a full armoured division on two occasions since the end of WW2 (during each of the two Gulf Wars), the global financial crisis in 2008 provided a perfect catalyst to bring an obsolete Army back to the UK from Germany. Our few remaining armoured units were content to rust in peace. Indeed, if Liam Fox had had his way when he was UK defence Secretary, we would have retired all of our Challenger 2s.

Since 2002, deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have required us to practice counter-insurgency techniques supposedly honed over many post-war decades, particularly in Northern Ireland. Our failure to achieve significant or lasting resolution in Iraq or Afghanistan, and possibly in Ireland itself, are further reflections of the broken nature of British Land Power. The failure to build an Army capable of fulfilling multiple roles may have more to do with foreign policy and doctrine than equipment or manpower levels. That said, our failures to replace Snatch Land-Rovers quickly or to provide adequate body armour led to needless casualties. We also spent billions acquiring a multitude of different MRAP vehicles which proved to have little utility beyond our most recent operational deployments.

In a post-Afghanistan world, the Army now eagerly anticipates the arrival of Ajax, not because it somehow anticipated the new threat posed by Russia, but because at last, after many decades, it finally has a new AFV. For all its benefits, I can’t help feeling that the acquisition of Ajax is an act of pure nostalgia, akin to building a brand new steam locomotive in an age of electric trains. The last time the UK had a 40-tonne tank with a 40 mm gun was in 1942 when we had the Churchill. Perhaps a better analogy is that Ajax is similar to the type of tanks we bought just before World War 2. The Vickers medium and light tanks were hopelessly out-of-date when the BEF deployed to France in 1939. Despite valiant efforts, the BEF’s inability to manoeuvre in a way that delivered a concentrated effect forced it to conduct a haphazard rearguard action that ended in defeat at Dunkirk. I wonder whether the state of the Army today reflects a similar unpreparedness should we again face a serious and unexpected threat? Senior army officers who’ve finally seen Ajax in the metal after a 16-year gestation period are asking whether it is still the right platform. It seems too small to be a medium tank but too large to be a reconnaissance vehicle.

In Ajax’s defence, it is part of a larger modernisation effort and may yet have a valid place in a revitalised Army. When it comes to MBTs, the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme is disappointing, because it seems to be no more than an obsolescence management exercise. There are no plans to upgrade its lethality, survivability or mobility. The UK’s rifled 120 mm gun is no longer as potent as Rheinmetall’s 120 mm L/55 smoothbore gun. Meanwhile, the Germans are developing a new 130 mm smoothbore, which will comprehensively overmatch all existing tank guns. Meanwhile, the Warrior CSP programme is another cut-price upgrade that seems to be an uneasy marriage of old hulls with new turrets. De-lamination issues with Warrior’s aluminium armour mean that we may not have enough hulls to upgrade the whole fleet to the new build standard. I believe there’s a strong case for a new MBT and tracked IFV.

As Think Defence’s extensive white paper on FRES shows, the UK still has no wheeled medium capability to complement its tracked heavy armour formations despite spending some £300 million over almost 20 years. Our artillery systems are also approaching the end of their useful lives. In short, the Army is faced with block obsolescence where a lack of investment over many years has completely degraded its capabilities.

The extraordinary lack of resources extends beyond equipment to training. Soldiers simply do not spend enough time shooting on ranges compared to 30 years ago. Military housing is another problem area and needs wholesale refurbishment. A major problem related to bringing the Army back to the UK from Germany, and which was also a factor in the decision to reduce troop numbers, was not having sufficient accommodation to house them. Who else decides the size of their army based on the number of available barracks?

Perhaps we were right to prioritise the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force above the Army. The benefits they bring to UK defence are immediately apparent. Both services have played an essential role over the last decade, whether it is Tornados bombing terrorist bases abroad, or Frigates conducting anti-piracy patrols on the high seas. Our aircraft and ships have proved to highly flexible and capable of performing a variety of mission types. In contrast tanks and tracked AFVs are less adaptable. It needs to be said that we are paying a high price for the F-35B and CVF. Both are first-class assets, but their massive price tags undoubtedly beg the question whether we could have acquired comparable capabilities by purchasing less expensive substitutes? Paying £7 billion for two ships and £120 million per aircraft for 148 F-35s could be described as profligate. It looks like we will need to purchase a less capable fleet of frigates to compensate for the extra billions we’ve spent on CVF. But, this is crying over spilt milk. If CVF and F-35 cannot be scrapped now, it doesn’t make sense to question them further – so long as they deliver everything promised of them.

It is easy to criticise the Army’s ability to procure new vehicles as being the reason why it is less capable than it should be, but the truth is the piecemeal allocation of the equipment budget and long development and manufacturing lead-times have totally hamstrung its ability to think big. For all of the above reasons, it is entirely appropriate and desirable to question what the Army does next.

We need to answer four essential questions:

  • What are the key threats we are likely to face?
  • What combat roles do these imply?
  • What resources, including troop numbers, are needed to fulfil them?
  • How do we achieve a balanced allocation of resources between the three services?

What are the key threats we are likely to face?

The Army’s primary role is to protect the UK against a direct land attack. While an invasion scenario is highly unlikely, the prospect of home-grown terrorism conducted by extremists with their own political or military agenda could require a response beyond any that our national Police forces could provide. We certainly cannot discount the need for home defence or the unexpected need to deploy British soldiers on British streets.

What seems more likely is the need to deploy UK forces within Europe or further afield in support of our treaty obligations. What Brexit means in terms of supporting our European neighbours is not yet clear, but should any EU member state that is not a member of NATO be invaded, e.g. Finland, it seems more than probable that the UK would step-in to support military action to defend our combined interests.

We face three primary peer or near-peer threats. It hardly needs to be reiterated that Russia is the most obvious hostile player. Putin appears to want to recreate the Former Soviet Union and remains a real and present danger. China is happily building its armed forces beyond any territorial defence needs. It is also running out of real estate. How would we respond if China started expropriating territory in Africa or elsewhere, such as Taiwan? Thirdly, there is Iran, which only this week was reported to be adding long range anti-aircraft assets to defend its nuclear facilities. Although Iran insists that it has halted the development of nuclear weapons, this may not be the case. Iran’s deep-rooted dislike of the West and Israel means that it cannot be ignored.

In terms of asymmetric threats, Islamic extremist terrorism is perhaps the most existential danger we face, but our reluctance to deploy “boots on the ground” in countries where terrorist groups originate questions the level of commitment and the political resolve we would bring to bear if called upon to support military action in the Middle East or closer to home.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, it is possible that we may need to deploy in a policing, peacekeeping and aid distribution role, on behalf of the United Nations. If the situation in Syria deteriorated further, this might also require some kind of military response.

When it comes to predicting future conflict scenarios, we have a perfect record: we haven’t gotten it right once. If we cannot successfully anticipate specific threats, we need to focus on the type and nature of deployments we must be resourced and equipped to undertake.

What combat roles do these imply?

Since the creation of the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the formation of NATO after World War 2, there have been four primary defence commitments that have defined UK policy. Although these have remained constant, in a climate of enduring budget austerity, the role of global policeman may have become unaffordable. This will require us to trim our aspirations so that we are resourced strictly to counter the most serious and likely threats.

The Four Pillars of UK Defence Policy

  1. Self-defence of the United Kingdom. We need to protect ourselves from any direct action that might threaten our liberty, prosperity, democracy, indeed, our way of life. Situations might include a direct enemy attack against the UK mainland or our economy. Historically, this was seen as an invasion by sea or air. Today, it could be an infrastructure attack that prevented food, fuel and vital supplies from reaching UK citizens. A cyber attack or dirty bomb could damage or disrupt water supply and Our natural resources could be expropriated, e.g. oil and gas reserves or other essential assets could be seized to paralyse our economy. Terrorist attacks could be made by UK nationals or from external groups entering the UK illegally. Sustained attacks against passenger aircraft, for example, could force us to close our airports, creating a blockade. From a Land Power perspective, these scenarios imply domestic forces that could deploy rapidly within the UK, 
  1. Protection of British and Commonwealth interests abroad. We need to be able to protect British people and assets in overseas countries, e.g. Oil company employees and depots in the Middle East. Commonwealth members, with whom we have mutually dependent trade agreements, might request our help to overcome a coup d’état or to expel an invader. Such scenarios imply an ability to for land forces to deploy over long distances and a capacity to sustain them in theatre for long periods.
  1. The fulfilment of treaty obligations including NATO and the European Union. This is honouring the mutual commitment to our allies, where an attack against one nation is regarded as an attack against all. In one sense, this is the Doomsday scenario that might require an all-out deployment of regular forces before resorting to the use of nuclear weapons. From a land Power perspective, this scenario implies an ability to deploy substantial forces over long distances and sustain them in theatre indefinitely.
  1. Support of the United Nations: the global police force / peacekeeper role. The UK has performed this role in Kosovo, Bosnia and, more recently, in Afghanistan. It may include the restoration of legitimate democratic government; helping nations build and manage their own police and national security capabilities; protecting the civil population in a political vacuum; and ensuring the effective distribution of aid after a natural disaster, especially when law and order have broken down. The role increasingly includes counter-insurgency operations against terrorist organisations, action against organised crime gangs and anti-piracy in international waters. It implies an ability to deploy moderate forces quickly, over long distances and often over long periods of time.

The Three Block War concept developed by US Marine Corps General, Charles Krulak, which envisaged a need for highly versatile forces able to switch easily between three core operational roles, has led to most NATO forces including the UK to divide deployment types into low, medium and high-intensity operations. Dividing our four principal defence commitments across the four primary pillars of commitment and by conflict intensity type gives us 12 basic threat scenarios. We can prioritise each one according to how probable the threat is and how serious it would be in terms of its political, military, and economic impact. The primary roles we must equip ourselves to perform can be grouped as follows:

Land Power Tasks

The need to deploy forces domestically within the UK for Home Defence is not likely to be problematic with forces based domestically, not least because the local population is likely to support whatever missions were deemed necessary. UK based battalions should be easily able to deploy within the United Kingdom, using a wide variety of transport types.

Problems arise with a need to deploy troops thousands of miles from the UK in an expeditionary role. This is important because, traditionally, we have always deployed forces abroad to counter threats before they become too large and unmanageable on our doorstep. It is possible that we might be called upon to deploy within Europe, e.g. to deter or repulse an attack against the Baltic states. Similarly, we might need to deploy to Africa to protect against large-scale incursions by Boku Haraam, Al-Shabaab or other similar terrorist organisations that could threaten UK interests in Kenya, Nigeria and elsewhere. A Middle East situation might arise that required us to deploy within this region, e.g. Turkey, Iran or Syria if the situations were to deteriorate unexpectedly. For these reasons, an adaptable and autonomous long-range expeditionary capability is highly desirable.

What resources, including troop numbers, are needed to fulfil them?

My fundamental belief is that the UK needs two deployable divisions, plus an air mobile brigade, a commando brigade and a pool of reserves. We certainly have the manpower to staff an army of this size, even with total headcount restricted to 82,000.

The current cap on manpower was based on having a readily deployable reserve of 30,000 soldiers that could be easily and quickly integrated into the regular army. In reality, this plan has not worked as well as anticipated. There is a shortfall in both regular and reserve troop numbers. We may be better off with a regular army of 100,000 and a reserve that can quickly grow into larger separate units in time of war. Historically, we’ve been able to afford a peacetime army of well-above 100,000 and this number may make sense again given the many non-core UK roles we still ask the Army to perform, including peacekeeping and humanitarian relief on behalf of the UN. No one is asking for a return to 150,000+ soldiers, simply a realistic total number of soldiers.

The revised Army 2020 structure is not yet finalised, but it appears that we will reduce the three heavy armour brigades of the Reaction Force structure previously proposed in 2010 to just two armoured brigades plus the two new medium weight strike brigades.

We need to maintain a heavy armoured division with a three-brigade structure envisaged by the original Army 2020 plan. Without it, we risk not having a division that is fully capable of taking-on peer or near-peer enemies or one that can fight in parallel with an allied formation.

The heavy armoured division would be equipped with MBTs, IFVs and self-propelled guns. It would also need anti-aircraft artillery, engineer, signals, logistics, and other supporting units. Large heavy armour units take time and resources to prepare and deploy. Typically, UK Armoured formations need a lead-time of about 6 weeks to deploy and this is usually by sea. In any future conflict, we are unlikely to have the luxury of waiting so long before committing combat-ready assets to the fight. Although we maintain an air mobile brigade at high readiness, this only has two battalions and no heavy support weapons.

A second deployable division that could be rapidly deployed in an expeditionary role would allow a more immediate high-impact response. A wheeled medium weight division could deploy by road over 1000 kilometres within 72 hours, based on US Stryker Brigade experience. Assuming it had sufficient offensive firepower to deliver a solid punch against an enemy, it would be a substantial force with significant reach and punch, as well as a formation that would give us time to prepare a more deliberate heavy armoured response.

Some observers may suggest that we can get round the need for a second deployable division if we stockpiled MBTs and IFVs in forward supply dumps. I do not believe we can afford to base units or equipment abroad because there is the inevitable risk of them being in the wrong place when we need them or being over-run or expropriated before we can access them.

In summary, the primary division should be a heavy armoured infantry division comprised of three brigades. Each brigade would have 1 x MBT regiment, 1 x Recce regiment and 3 x IFV battalions and be supported by 1 x artillery regiment. Each division would have dedicated engineer, signals, medical, UAV, and other supporting units attached to it.

I would prefer to have two tank regiments per brigade, instead of only 1 x MBT regiment plus 1 x Ajax Recce regiment. An ideal configuration could be achieved by reducing the total number of Ajax Recce variants and acquiring additional IFV versions of Ajax (ASCOD 2) to replace Warrior. This would ensure that all non-MBT regiments used the same platform.

The second deployable division should be a medium weight 8×8 wheeled mechanised infantry division. This would also be comprised of three brigades with each one having 1 x Cavalry regiment with an 8×8 fire support vehicle, 3 x mechanised infantry battalions in an 8×8 APC / IFV, plus 1 x artillery regiment with something like a 120 mm breech-loaded mortar.

Current manpower levels would allow an additional independent brigade with 4×4 light protected vehicles to be created while adding an additional battalion to the air mobile brigade.

In terms of weaponry, I would ensure that all UK MBTs had the L/55 120 mm smoothbore gun, which has become a de facto tank calibre across NATO, even if this meant acquiring Leopard 2A7 or Abrams M1A2 MBTs. I would junk the troublesome and unaffordable 40 mm CTAS cased-telescoped ammunition cannon used for Warrior and Ajax in favour of the 30 mm MK44 Bushmaster II cannon mounted in a remote turret, although at this stage of development, this would seem unlikely.

A new wheeled artillery system using a 155 mm gun should be purchased – something like Archer or Caesar 8×8.

There is an interesting debate on the relative merits of 120 mm breech-loaded mortars versus 105 mm guns; deployability, effects and cost.

To support the 50 x Apache attack helicopters and 50 x Chinook support helicopters we have already purchased, a purchase of 50-100 Blackhawk utility helicopters to replace Puma and older Lynx would provide a serious uplift in mobility and utility, perhaps arming Wildcat and/or Blackhawk, another uplift in firepower.

Perhaps even a purchase of 15-20 Reaper UAS for use by the Army to support land operations with UAVs directly allocated to each brigade to provide overwatch and fire support, although the issues with Watchkeeper and overall capacity may result in these being RAF operated.

All mechanised and armoured infantry vehicles would carry integrated externally-mounted Javelin launchers. I would also expedite the development 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 any known tank’s own APFSDS rounds would be transformational.

Part of the 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 the visual and actual range of the tank’s main armament, they would neutralise the fundamental advantages of heavy armour.

Anti-tank weapon development has always outpaced protective technology development. The APFSDS round fired by Rheinmetall’s L/55 120 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, which is why MBDA is developing new ATGMs and Rheinmetall a new 130 mm smooth bore gun.

We are reaching a point in AFV evolution where protection levels are increasing the weight of tanks to unacceptable levels. I doubt that we will ever see 100-tonne MBTs – because the mobility limitations of 62-tonne tanks are already significant. Moreover, the unit cost of a next generation tank is likely to be €10-12 million while the unit cost of a wheeled medium weight vehicle fitted with ATGM is €3 million. The economic case unequivocally supports the latter platform.

Adding additional protection to tanks will be pointless if they 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 speed above protection and firepower. An 8×8 MIV fitted with ATGMs would also prioritise mobility over protection and firepower, the difference between the two is cost. This is why wheeled vehicles with ATGMs have been such an equaliser.

With more than 104,000 tanks in use across the globally and only 20,000 of these belonging to NATO, countering enemy tanks is likely to remain an essential requirement. Since well-protected tanks with kinetic anti-tank rounds excel at defeating other tanks, it may be some time before we see the last of the MBT.

The CONEMP for MIV is likely to mandate the avoidance of direct confrontations with tanks in favour of indirect engagements. However, when MIV units can effectively neutralise tank formations of equivalent size through indirect ATGM fire, the tank may well have reached the limit of its development potential. Instead of direct confrontations with other AFVs, wheeled vehicles will be able to outmanoeuvre them or counter them using UAVs and other air assets.

All this assumes air superiority. One element of the mix that has also taken a serious “capability holiday” is anti-aircraft artillery (AAA). We need sufficient anti-aircraft missile systems to be integrated and deployable with both heavy and medium armour divisions.

We also need cannons with ammunition that is capable of shooting down helicopters and drones.

orbatIn addition to the two primary divisions, we have sufficient manpower to create a third independent brigade that would essentially be a pool of reserves. These troops would be mounted in light protected patrol vehicles, such as Jackal and Foxhound. I envisage five battalions plus a single cavalry regiment. If a fire support version of Jackal or Foxhound could be developed mounting something like the 30 mm M230LF chain gun, this would provide a worthwhile fire support element.

The above structure provides 23 infantry battalions with protected mobility. Indeed, the only battalions with protected vehicles would be the three air assault battalions and the five permanently committed forces battalions.

Finally, I would return 1 Para to the Air Assault Brigade and establish a separate Ranger Regiment as a dedicated Special Forces Support Group (SFSG).

How do we achieve a balanced allocation of resources between the three services?

We cannot extend the Army’s capabilities at the expense of the Royal Navy and RAF. Instead, the UK needs to recognise the need to increase defence spending in the short-term to plug the capability gaps created by austerity measures. We previously cut our forces to the bone in order for the economy to recover. Now that it has partly done so, we simply cannot afford to say: we survived without X or Y or Z, so we no longer need them. The 2010 Defence Review was a gamble. Just because we got away with it once doesn’t mean we should roll the dice again.

I should also mention that I am a firm believer in retaining the UK’s nuclear deterrent. However, bringing the cost of the Trident Successor into the main defence budget instead of keeping it as part of the treasury budget was a misleading tactic designed to disguise the true extent of the cuts imposed on all three forces, and especially the Army.


The most serious capability gap is the block obsolescence of the British Army’s AFV fleet. The piece-meal acquisition of different vehicles over time for individual deployments has resulted in an unsustainable variety of different platforms. Most were acquired hurriedly, at high cost and with little long-term utility beyond the missions they were required to fulfil. We need a carefully planned and implemented AFV strategy to underpin the Army’s ability to manoeuvre.

It is a reality of modern warfare that anti-vehicle mines (including IEDs) are here to stay. The concept of a Forward Edge of the Battlefield Area (FEBA) has become an anachronism. Consequently, we need protected mobility at every level.

We presently have Foxhound and Jackal as light protected 4×4 platforms. They are both excellent vehicles. We intend to acquire a third 4×4 platform, MRV-P, when we also already have Husky, Pinzgauer and Land-Rovers. I believe that all 4×4 vehicles should be based on a single common platform. That could easily be Foxhound or Jackal.

We need new MBTS and tracked IFVs. I favour Leopard 2 and ASCOD 2.

We need a multi-role medium weight wheeled 8×8 platform. I favour the Patria AMV.

We need new anti-tank missiles.

We need new artillery systems. Something like the Patria AMV with NEMO 120 mm mortar would be excellent.

We need new communications platforms. Morpheus is coming and it should be excellent.

We need to use UAVs more widely and to integrate them into brigade formations. We have already planned to buy more MQ-9 Reapers from General Atomics.

We need still need more helicopters if we want a credible air assault brigade. Puma is ancient. Wildcat is too small. NH-90 has problems. Blackhawk is proven, works well and is inexpensive.

The fact that we don’t have these resources today is because successive governments decided not to spend what is required to deliver them. Today, however, we go to war with what we have, not with what we would ideally want. If we don’t rebuild and reinvest in UK Land Power, we risk not being able to deploy at all or until after we have acquired what is needed to do the job – but that could be too late.

We have learned many times in the past that prevention is better than cure: deterrent is always preferable to having to use direct force. So let’s hope our politicians recognise the pressing need to re-equip our ground forces.

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Chris Werb
Chris Werb
September 7, 2016 10:29 am

An excellent article – the only think I would change is possibly awaiting the new MBDA networked anti tank missile with its NLOS and collaborative engagement capability rather than purchasing more Javelin.

My main worry is that we are facing a primary enemy who is willing to use capabilities we simply don’t have against us. We need to rapidly beef up our artillery capability with more GMLR (including Alternate Warhead), and purchase the new 500km ATACMS follow on. Indirect fire anti armour really warrants substantial purchases of SMART 155 and GSMART. It would be good to reinstate both MLRS Scatmin and Stormer Shielder/Volcano. Converting some TA back to Starstreak would assist with survivability of front line units. We want to think about survivable basing for some of our more important assets and hopefully we don’t have all of something sitting in a single shed in a known location.

The elephant in the room is the Russian’s ability to hit our home base either with SF, small guided missiles like Switchblade or improvised explosive carrying UAVs and cruise missiles (including ones carrying non unitary payloads) against which we are essentially defenceless. We need to be looking at something like J-LENS and putting serious thought into SAM coverage of vital assets. We recently had a Russian Admiral boast he could destroy the London stock exchange anytime he wanted to without the ship that launched the missile leaving port. Vs SF, some sort of standing local defence organisation would at least show we were making a token effort. Hardening certain facilities (UK national grid and rail control, air traffic control HQ etc.) vs SF attack would be highly advisable.

Rocket Banana
September 7, 2016 1:06 pm

Very, very interesting article.

With regard to the medium division: at what point should this morph into 3Cdo? Surely, 3Cdo is (or should be) our deployable medium weight capability?

Also, is it worth investing HEAVILY in GMLRS and kicking standard 155mm artillery into the long grass? The same technology can then be used from shipping to provide NGFS which would allow a greater standoff range.

September 7, 2016 2:35 pm

This is most relevant article that I have ever read concerning the organisation of the British Army in the future. The organisation is similar to the organisation of the French Army, although the General Jean-Pierre Bosser has wanted to do two mixed divisions, but in practice the four Leclerc tank regiments will be used together, as well as for the two Medians Brigades, and two Light brigades. There is a difference, we have the 11th Parachute Brigade which put together your Light Mechanised Infantry Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade. However, we have no equivalent to your Royal Marines. The choice of equipment is also appropriate, but the MMP instead of Javelin would be good for the European Defence Industry :)

September 7, 2016 3:03 pm

Hey, NH90 has no problems, it’s the best transport helicopter in its class.

September 7, 2016 6:11 pm

“Who else decides the size of their army based on the number of available barracks?”

No kidding: Hitler did.
A lack of barracks was one of the main limitations on German army expansion 1933-1937.

September 7, 2016 7:21 pm

The MOD would never go with Leopard, especially as they have just announced the 2025 Armour Programme for Challenger 2. Although I do believe they need to hurry up and either replace it with a new British tank or the Leopard (maybe our own variant?)

I completely agree with going with ASCOD. The equipment and technology developed for the AJAX along with the knowledge learned could make it a seriously capable vehicle, maybe even better than it ever was, while being cheaper than other options. There would be multiple Warrior chassis left over to be used as a platform for other weapon systems. Starstreak and Exactor could be moved over to the Warrior, a super cheap upgrade over the Stormer and M113 chassis, with better protection and maneuverability allowing them to do the same job, better.

Piranha would be a wiser decision over the AMV and here is why, General Dynamics own the Piranha, it would be a cheaper yet more viable option due to the fact GD are familiar with the Piranha and with FRES requirements. Again, equipment and technology developed for the AJAX could be used on the Piranha, large amounts of equipment from the ongoing Warrior upgrades would be left unused. Turrets, Main guns, Coaxial Machine Guns and its new suite of Situational awareness systems from the Warrior would come as a cheap benefit.

September 7, 2016 7:38 pm

Very interesting read thanks. All seems very sensible to my not especially knowledgeable eyes. Speaking of which, what would be the advantages of a Mach 6 atgm as opposed to mmp etc? Have tried to find out a little about the concept but have found nothing so any further info would be greatly appreciated…

September 7, 2016 9:02 pm

Overall really great post…(though i’m not sure Royal Navy and RAF fans will agree :-D )

Couple of points though :

“The APFSDS round fired by Rheinmetall’s L/55 120 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

You have made that claim at least three times here on Think Defence and were corrected, by me, on both those occasions ….so for the third and hopefully last time ……NO the 120mm DM63 APFSDS-T will NOT, i repeat NOT penetrate the frontal armor of the Leopard 2 and M1. (dont know Chally2)
It would in fact need a 20-30% performance increase to even come close.
Since i have actually seen the DM63 fired against a leopard 2 armor test target, i believe i am in a fairly good position to know.

“I favour Leopard 2 and ASCOD 2.

Why ?…its not in service anywhere else….and aside from the powerpack it has very little commonality with AJAX ….different gun, turret, suspension, armor , sights and sensors are all different too. And just to remind you …..GDELS charged you 600 million dollars just to let you do final assembly of AJAX in the UK (instead of Spain)….why exactly do you want to do business with them again ?

With a BAE product at least you would have the design and production rights by default.

“Puma is ancient. Wildcat is too small. NH-90 has problems. Blackhawk is proven, works well and is inexpensive.”

If the Puma is ancient what do you call the Black Hawk that is not even a decade younger ? Its still a +40 year old helicopter …..and speaking of the UH-60 ….while it looks big from the outside, its cabin space is piss poor ….not much bigger than a Wildcat in fact.

As for the NH-90….. a royal fostercluck so far…..but getting better day by day…….and has loads of growth and development potential left…. unlike the Black Hawk.

September 7, 2016 9:09 pm

Thought provoking article and a good read.
Naturally I disagree with some of the sentiments, but what’s life without a little controversy?
We do need a new MBT and a new IFV, but given the advanced stage of Warrior and the cost/benefit of changing from Challenger, I’d say stay the course for the moment with an eye to changing both with a new family of vehicles, rather than buying in platforms moving into obsolescence. I’d also try to avoid making each of our formations approach obsolescence at the same time, so having Ajax IFV* for the armoured battlegroups as well as the “medium armour” formations would seem unwise.

Piranha vs AMV – I’d prefer the AMV. Bought off the shelf and not messed around with, it would be best to put the four letter word beginning with ‘F’ behind us. AMV is a really solid vehicle with a wide user base. Piranha (V or III+) is a little-used requirements chaser. From where I’m sitting. Ideally the comparison should be made without preconceptions.

So I’d suggest aiming for: Medium tracked family of vehicles (Ajax)**, medium wheeled (MIV) in the near term, as these are where the biggest shortfall in the fleets live. Use Warrior CSP and Challenger LEP as a stopgap until we can bring in an armoured battlegroup family of vehicles, somewhere between 2025 and 2035. Beyond that we’d have to see where political currents and technological advancements take us, but I’d recommend against aiming for step-changes and “transformational” nonsense without at least having an incremental advance as a backup. That way you can try it out and see if it really works before throwing it all on the new paradigm.

Death of the tank? No.
Tanks been prematurely declared dead too many times for me to accept that this time is the real one. Field artillery killed them, anti tank rifles killed them, anti-tank guns killed them, the shaped charge killed them (twice), shoulder launched rockets (in conjunction with the shaped charge) killed them, proximity fused artillery killed them, the anti-tank mine killed them, ATGW killed them, cluster weapons killed them, attack helicopters killed them, smart bombs killed them, smart stand-off weapons killed them, smart artillery killed them, IEDs killed them (or is that mines again?), ATGW killed them again, and now a different kind of ATGW is going to kill them?
Frankly, I’m not buying it.

I would note that while ATGW-equipped, relatively lightly protected vehicles may be able to threaten the current crop of MBTs, they themselves are very vulnerable to much lighter weapons. Your formation brings thirty armour killers? An opposing formation can bring three-hundred, purely based on how much easier it is to kill a 30 tonne APC-based truck than a 50+ tonne dedicated AFV.

* Which of course would require significant work, since Ajax scout, though based on an IFV, isn’t one.
** since we’ve pretty much got them

September 7, 2016 9:21 pm


The MMP is designed to replace Milan and Javelin missiles currently used by the French Army. An order for the development and production of 2,850 missiles and 400 MMP shooting stations has been conducted.

The development of this missile, the first 5th generation, according MBDA, is based on lessons learned from the French army in his last fights. Also, the MMP must be able to be fired in confined spaces, have a capacity fire-and-forget, while having a function man in the loop for prevent collateral damage.

The MMP, with a mass of only 11 kg, speed 160 m/s, shooting range 4000 m, has a shaped charge in tandem, capable of processing different targets as field fortifications, armoured or not vehicles, battle tanks equipped with the more modern reactive armour.

The MMP is able to acquire a hot or cold target. The images are transmitted through optical fiber at the firing station order to keep the shooter in the loop, if necessary. These abilities allow him to share his tactical situation in the combat unit deployed in the field and so can both treat visual targets that masked or targets located beyond direct views.

The MMP can be integrated on the Multi Purpose Combat Vehicle (MPCV), based on a Renault Trucks Defense Sherpa vehicle as well as the T-40 turret developed by Nexter around a 40 mm gun telescoped ammunition for the EBRC of the French Army.

About the Mack 6 ATGW I have no idea what it is, sorry !

September 7, 2016 9:28 pm

@ Ash

“General Dynamics own the Piranha”

Technically true.. though while Santa Barbara Sistemas, MOWAG, Steyr etc are all part of the wider General Dynamics corporation….in my experience they very much still operate as independant companies.
As such i think there is a lot of “firewalling” ,IP protection etc ,between the different branches, so using tech from say SBS and applying it to a MOWAG product , like Piranha 5 , might not be as straightforward as it seems.

That said the P5 is a great vehicle , arguably superior to the AMV and still cheap’ish at £1,7M a piece in the APC version.

September 7, 2016 9:37 pm

Not to mention change of tanks and IFVs, the organisation is almost perfect, this is not a crazy idea, it is possible to change the organisation and to choose the right MIV and MRV-P.

September 7, 2016 9:59 pm

@Mr Fred

” AMV is a really solid vehicle with a wide user base.

Croatia , Slovenia, South Africa, UAE, Poland , Sweden, And Finland.

Aside from Poland perhaps, not exactly the closest of the allies you work with now is it .

“Piranha (V or III+) is a little-used requirements chaser”

Based on what ? …..the P3+ was unveiled barely 2 years ago….as was the P5 and the latter has more than 600 vehicles on order already from Spain and Denmark. (with more as options) Not too shabby i think

September 7, 2016 10:02 pm

That’s pretty much a description of EuroSpike (little modified Israeli Spike-LR), which has been introduced in Germany years ago. The French are going ego-national again and reject MOTS that’s NIH in favour of doing it all by themselves and getting the hardware a decade late.

September 7, 2016 10:24 pm

Cost was € 112,000 per Spike LR / Eurospike missile for Germany in 2008, in a 311 missile deal. The follow-on option had a price of € 103,000 per missile in a possible 1,160 missiles bulk purchase.

So France and the UK could likely get such missiles for about € 120,000 per copy in bulk purchases, with delivery of 1,000+ missiles within four years (time estimate based on the Romanian deal).
40-60% of purchases return as taxes if done domestically, so this is equivalent to an about € 200,000-250,000 domestic price (about GBP 170,000-210,000) to the UK since no offset deals are possible. I suppose we all know that a domestic development program would last a decade, possibly be cancelled, and then fail to yield a cheaper missile.

FGM-148 Javelin has already gone past USD 250,000 a copy in a 2013 purchase by the U.S.military, and it’s a much inferior design.

About MMP: Spike LR had all what MMP is supposed to offer, and it did so 20 years earlier. (Maybe Spike wasn’t an IM from the start, but now it is.)

So seriously, armies of the UK or French land forces’ size should only reject MOTS if price or performance are unacceptable. Modern equipment has is so darn expensive that all but the most lavishly funded land forces need to prefer off the shelf or moderately modified existing designs for economy.

September 7, 2016 10:35 pm

Thanks for the info, sounds like an improved exactor/spike NLOS? Would personally be happier supporting MBDA and combining our atgms under one roof, but guess with so much to improve it will have to get in line!


IIRC it was you who also mentioned Mach 6 atgms in your recent article. Sorry if I’m being thick but could you explain the advantages they’d offer over something like MMP and why they’d be so transformational? Thanks in advance…

September 7, 2016 11:22 pm

The Poles have the best part of 1000 AMVs, while there is about 500 others in service elsewhere. The Piranha V has 600 ordered, and somewhat fewer actually in service?

The cost of the Javelin has gotten weird. Mid to late 2000’s it was around $80k per missile and 30-40% more than that for a CLU. The latest reports run between $200k and $250k per weapon system. Whatever that means.

September 7, 2016 11:52 pm

The defeat of a ATGM threat works like this:

avoid being seen
avoid being identified in time
shorten exposure to less than the target engagement sequence of the threat (= approx. 10-40 seconds)
minimise target area to reduce probability of hit
reduce predictability of movement
break contact in time (concealment or cover before arrival of munition)
disrupt tracking of target before launch
scare away/deceive/suppress/wound/kill/blind the user of the ATGM
disrupt command of ATGM (such as jamming radio commands)
degrade or defeat ATGM sensor
deceive ATGM fuse (for overflight top attack munitions)
lure autonomous missile onto least vulnerable parts of tank
hard kill of incoming munition
reactive armour
passive armour
limit primary and secondary behind armour effects

HVMs are different from Javelin:
– no IIR seeker (thus no vulnerability of thermal sighs such as dazzling, multispectral smoke, target
– temperature changes that break the lock-on algorithm)
– shorter time of flight (thus less time for defensive reactions, shorter engagement sequence)
– kinetic energy penetration approach, not chemical energy (=shaped charge)
– potentially less susceptible to EMP defence
The approaches to defeat HVMs and Javelin are thus largely different.

Essentially, Javelin, Spike, Trigat and MMP share important systemic risks; certain risks of countermeasures (target deploying multispectral smoke and becoming invisible for Javelin seeker, for example) affect not just one, but most if not all of these conceptually similar missiles.

HVMs differ in so many points that they share much fewer systemic risks (a remaining systemic risk is that the inability to ID moving bushes as hostile would affect all ATGMs, for example).

There was no anti-tank munition during the Cold War that remained able to defeat top of the line MBTs in a frontal engagement for longer than 20 years after its conception. Many were obsolete at introduction, as were the basic Panzerfaust 3 model and Dragon.
Javelin has been introduced 20 years ago, and its concept was understood by Russians ~30 years ago. Based on this pattern I suppose that the Russians already have sufficient countermeasures to Javelin and likely also Spike, though apparently not yet deployed in quantity.

My series of articles on fixing land forces was focused on collective deterrence and defence (this one isn’t at all: “The Army’s primary role is to protect the UK against a direct land attack.”) and on fixing certain weak spots that make land forces either too sluggish strategically or too brittle in European-style great power vs. great power land warfare (again, this isn’t).
I don’t think that the MBT (or even IFV) question is all that central because I didn’t and don’t identify it as a predetermined breaking point that turns the army brittle in battle.

September 8, 2016 7:42 am

Well I think the Bank of England made a huge mistake by cutting rates by 0.25%, when they should have raised them by 0.25%. As a result, we have an artificially weak Pound, ( good for Goldman Sachs asset stripping of the UK). So any new kit for the armed forces should be made in the UK, where possible.
A great shame we did not keep going, updating Stormer, Warrior & Challenger designs.
We should have bought Warrior 2000. That could have led to a Warrior 2015 or 2020.
A Challenger 3 ought to be on the cards.
We are governed by idiots who lack national will.
Very sad.

September 8, 2016 10:08 am

120mm mortars are not artillery, their range is far too short to be useful. 155mm Hows are the only option for heavy forces, 105mm for light. Then of course there’s the need for target acquisition and air defence.

September 8, 2016 10:41 am

Patria AMV is my favorite for MIV vehicle because it is relatively light compared to a Piranha V, and therefore has a high mobility. It exists in all versions, it can support the weight of a turret with 120mm gun or mortar. Patria would agree to relocate the production of AMV in the United Kingdom as they did it for Poland. The Rosomak have been engaged in Afghanistan by the Polish army. Several vehicles have been repeatedly hit by RPG-7 and IEDs without being destroyed, it demonstrates its reliability. It would be a good choice.

September 8, 2016 11:47 am

Hmmm, the whole conversation here needs to be re-framed. Ever since the Scout decision and announcement of Challenger LEP there has been much discussion about equipment, platforms and what weapons to hang off them. Also there has been panicked discussion about CR2 obsolescence and shopping lists of upgrades that are “Must have”. Finally I have seen mention of Russia and the T-14 more than once along with prophetic declarations of the elephant in the room and facing t hem in battle.

The question really should be, “Who do we realistically expect our armed forces to face in the next twenty years?”.

CR2 has obsolescence issues but she is still a world beater in many areas. The CR2 is also still over-match against a great majority of the global MBT pool. Why do people think we are suddenly going to be in a fight Russia? For all the recent bluster and unfortunate battles in their old backyard I don’t think they want to really square off with NATO. The T-14 is a paper tank at the moment years away from full production, a fair few of its apparent capabilities have question marks over them. It is so far away from service that Russians are upgrading T72 alongside new build T90. The T-14 is even further away from export so I doubt we are going to see it in combat against UK armed forces anytime soon.

The last time the UK did deploy tanks in GW2 the major MBT threat was the T-55! The vast majority of tanks out there are older generation and upgrades that CR2 still over-matches. I am not losing much sleep over Chinese export tanks and Argentina operates a tank that is outclassed by the Centurion let alone CR2! The most threatening tanks out there against CR2 are operated by our allies. The only nebulous situation where I could see us fighting against peer rival tanks is if Saudi Arabia eventually implodes (as it will when the oil runs out) and even then we are probably better off out or taking pot shots with Dual Brimstone. Do people really think we are going to be in Land Battles with China or Russia?

Back to the re-framing: What is the army for and what do we intend to do with it? If we think there is a chance for war against a peer rival in the next twenty that requires the deployment of troops and heavy armour then the investment should be put in…if not then do the bare minimum upgrade of CR2 and look towards more deplorable platforms for policing actions.

September 8, 2016 11:51 am


Thanks, that gives me a good understanding of the reasoning behind HV ATGMs. How far along is the development of such weapons and do you have any info on possible programs? From my unknowledgeable perspective the worry would be the cost of such a system – can imagine it being labelled as 6th generation and made crazily expensive by greedy defence industry…

September 8, 2016 12:51 pm

The expensive part about the HVMs would likely be the very energetic solid rocket fuel. There’s not much else in it, the penetrator itself could be the same as from 120 mm DM63 APFSDS.

LOSAT has completed several tests a decade ago, the more compact follow-on programs (CKEM and IIRC the second was HATM) have not had their progress published as much.German HVM projects were mostly aimed at air defence applications. The Russians are testing one and may introduce it soon; the Mach 6 two-stage “Pine-R” short range air defence missile.

September 8, 2016 1:05 pm

About cannons with ammunition that is capable of shooting down helicopters and drones.

September 8, 2016 4:03 pm

Sorry whilst I like the article in principle and an interesting debate that ensued. But it does not deal with the reality of numbers of vehicles we actually have or have the money to purchase. In fact I would say it lacks any contact with reality.
If we look at some of the suggestion.
1. 9 armoured infantry battalions mounted on Warrior. Can someone please tell me where we are going to get enough Warrior chassis and hulls to build enough vehicles in the upgraded form to provide enough for 9 Battalions. Secondly we only have enough money at the moment for 245 lightly upgraded Warriors when it is clear that any IFV operating in a modern battlefield not only needs additional armour but an active defence system to counter missiles etc. So in essence we can not equip the 9 Battalions in the 3 Armoured Brigades at the moment (in fact they are using Bulldog and Mastiffs), so where are the extra Warriors coming from ?
2. We know that the CR2 Slep is not sufficient. We know that the 58 Style Tank Regiment really does not supply the existing 3 Armoured/Mechanised. In fact they tend to base the system on HQ Sq, then 2 Sabre Squadrons supporting the 2 Warrior Mounted Armoured Infantry Battalions forming independent battle groups. Leaving the Mastiff mounted Mechanised Battalions to mount the screening and other tasks. If you wish to go to 3 Armoured Infantry Brigades then you need at least another 20 tanks per CR2 Regiment. Where are the CR2 and the money to upgrade them coming from ?
3. In the order of battle you have another 9 Mechanised Infantry Battalions and 3 Medium Cavalry Battalions. Giving something like 12 battalions mounted on a new 8×8 platform. So you are probably going to have to buy at least 850 to 1,200 8×8 vehicles in the next 10 yrs. Where’s the money coming from to buy these along with other items already selected to be purchased ?
4. You have the Light Mechanised Infantry Battalions (5) supported by only 1 Light Cavalry Unit. I presume mounted on Jackal ? That vehicle as the French found out with there .50 Calibre machine guns are easily out gun’d by terrorists mounting 14.5mm or ZSU23-2 anti aircraft guns on Toyato Pick Ups. Further it does not have the protection or maneuverability of the Husky and other types of Vehicle Mounted troops. Finally as the Light Cavalry units are finding out, using Jackals with no weather protection at all in Northern Europe is not much fun and severlly inhibits operational ability. The thought of deploying this force as a quick reaction force able to motor across Europe to aid the Baltic States in a European Winter does not bear thinking about and the number of cases of injured soldiers through Frost Bite is going to be huge.

Whilst in a perfect world where HMG puts it money where it mouth is I can see great merit in your ideas. The reality is we do not live in that world and until those issues are addressed there is no point coming up with the perfect Army to fight the battles HMG may put you in, you have to deal with what you have got now and make the best of it.

September 8, 2016 7:30 pm

If the MoD uses Ajax as infantry fighting vehicles, and replaces Ajax by true reconnaissance vehicles, this can make a sufficient number of vehicles to equip nine armoured infantry battalions.

For equip its median brigades, France has planned to buy more than 1,700 vehicles of transport of troops and some variants such as ambulances, command and control, artillery observation, etc …, and 250 tanks of 25 tonnes for the light armoured cavalry . If we can do it, you can too.

And light brigades will be equipped with vehicles with the size of Foxhound.

That’s very simplified but it could work almost like that.

September 9, 2016 5:06 am

Just to amplify my previous post, land warfare is a combined arms business, the role of field artillery is to provide firepower, While this includes damage, destruction and casualties, its primary role since c.1915 has been suppression to enable supported combat troops to close with the the enemy. Armour and infantry without effective artillery support are merely easy targets for the enemy. This includes suppressing the enemy’s artillery. The notion that precision munitions eliminate the need for suppression is living in la-la land. My dogs have more tactical smarts.

September 9, 2016 9:24 am
September 9, 2016 9:59 am


Amongst the equipment on show were vehicles that could one day be used by Britain’s new strike brigades.

September 9, 2016 11:57 am

The Caesar artillery system 8 × 8, which is complementary to the 6 × 6 lighter, is less expensive to purchase and cost of ownership, the concept of canon on light truck is credible.

This version dedicated to high intensity has a chassis Tatra T-815. A chassis that allows a mass of heavier load, this new Caesar can carry up to 30 ammunition and can be equipped with a turret 12.7 mm anti-IED or additional fuel reserve system.

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 artillery shells helps to avoid fatigue of staff, an important aspect in order to survive to a commitment.

If Nexter has still to break the cultural barrier that is the attachment to guns tracked, the lessons learned from the Ukrainian conflict have pushed some border armies of Russia to think about the relevance of maintaining at all tracked in terms of artillery. The mobility seems more than shielding, an effective way to prevent possible attacks against Russian-batteries.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
September 9, 2016 12:40 pm

@Monty’s posts are always interesting, easy to read, well informed read, and full of common sense.

His organisation appears logical to me with clear lines for reporting.Consideration should be given to one or two divisional HQs for light/air portable brigades and SF/Permanently employed.

It’s a funny old world where the Armoured Engineers have the most modern AFV’s, currently in service, with Titan, Trojan, and Terrier.

Can we learn from the procurement of these vehicles. Does not appear to have been as traumatic and long as the FRES/Ajax and IFV sagas nor with all the abortive costs.

September 9, 2016 12:52 pm

I don’t have Flash player, so could you give a summary of the content on DVD2016 strike brigades?

September 9, 2016 1:21 pm

Thank you for the positive feedback, much appreciated.

I’m very aware that I’ve been playing fantasy fleets and that the reality of implementing what i suggest would require a significant uplift in the Equipment Budget.

Also, in terms of our aspirations, we’re not intending to fight a war with Putin. We do however need forces that have a credible deterrent effect. I believe that two deployable brigades would give us just that. Wheeled division gets to Lithuania quickly. Tracked division backs it up as soon as it can get there.

Point taken about DM63 not being able to penetrate CR2 frontal armour. I guess CR2 has life left in it. The problem is that Leopard 2A7 has become so capable. It a truly excellent beast with mobility on another level. A 300 km road march is entirely doable – not so sure with Chally 2. I think it is inevitable that UK will buy Leopard 3 or Abrams M1A3 when available.

I don’t agree that Piranha is superior to AMV. LAV III/ P3 now ancient. Few P5s in service, 1,500 AMVs in customer hands. Boxer is a very capable, well-protected 8×8. It’s received much development since 2007. This plus AMV must surely the top two MIV choices for UK?

Blackhawk may only be 10 years younger than Puma, but it is still in production and its design has been constantly upgraded – a brilliant, reliable, low cost machine.

UK doesn’t have near enough Warriors IFVs. We urgently need a new tracked IFV. Ajax platform (ASCOD 2) for UK has been developed into an IFV for Australia Land 400 Phase 3 competition. It its excellent. It would be easy to engineer an Ajax IFV for the UK and this would reduce unit cost of Ajax SV fleet if we bought more. It would also achieve platform commonality.

As things stand, Challenger 2, Warrior CSP and Ajax are all focused around highly kinetic peer-to-peer conflicts – which are unlikely. An asymmetric or limited war scenario is much more likely, so I’d like to see a more general purpose multi-role 8×8 fleet prioritised.

September 9, 2016 1:28 pm

@Mr Fred

“The Poles have the best part of 1000 AMVs, while there is about 500 others in service elsewhere.

I know we are getting into extreme nit-picking territory here ….but what Poland has is actually ~1000 Polish built vehicles (Rosomak) loosely based on the AMV design, but utilizing a lot of locally sourced components and a veritable kit-bash of US,european and Israeli systems.
I wouldn’t bet on there being a lot of parts commonality with the rest of the AMV Fleet

“The Piranha V has 600 ordered, and somewhat fewer actually in service?”

Well the AMV does have a 12 year head start….
As of today there is approximately ….0…P5s in service :D ….. the first of ours is set to arrive in 2018 and the last in 2023..ish .
The Piranha is a brand new design so you will need to wait a bit for it …..but judging by FRES/AJAX and the T26 it seems you dont mind waiting a few years…or decades ;-)

September 9, 2016 1:34 pm

“Patria AMV is …. relatively light compared to a Piranha V, and therefore has a high mobility”

Sorry but that doesn’t seem to be the case :

September 9, 2016 1:53 pm

We all like to play fantasy fleets dont we :-)…..reality is often so depressing .

“I don’t agree that Piranha is superior to AMV. .

The Piranha 5 is almost certainly superior to the basic AMV ….but then it should be ….its a much newer design after all. Patria’s recent development , the AMV XP seems to be broadly comparable to the P5 but only exists as prototype and has no orders as of yet.

“Few P5s in service,”

But with hundreds entering service in the next couple of years.

“1,500 AMVs in customer hands”

500 AMVs and <1000 Rosomaks to be precise…..not quite the same thing.

"Boxer is a very capable, well-protected 8×8."

No doubt…..incidentally its also 50-100% more expensive than competing designs like the AMV or Piranha 5,
Without being notably superior to those in any particular area i might add.

September 9, 2016 2:02 pm

Mr Fred,

I did a search to be very precise about what I see, I do not understand English very well.

Patria presents Patria AMV 8×8 with Kongsberg Protector 12.7 mm RWS and Leonardo GVA compatible mission system. A second Patria AMV, an IFV variant equipped with the Lockheed Martin CT40 turret with the Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Missile.

General Dynamics Land Systems is demonstrating its significant military vehicle capability and innovation, showcasing the PIRANHA 5, Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) 6.0 Demonstrator, EAGLE, two Ocelot platforms and AJAX.

There is a VBCI.

September 9, 2016 2:06 pm

RE ” “1,500 AMVs in customer hands”

500 AMVs and <1000 Rosomaks to be precise…..not quite the same thing."

Around 2000 AMV derivatives is widely quoted… so where are the missing half thousand? A tip: look to the Gulf.

Isn't it funny that even the "home" of mine protected vehicles (RSA) bought AMV (as the Badger).
– with kinetic and mine protection, it need not be either/or. Even though here we tried it and are now scratchig our heads as to what to do about it.

Rosomak (Wolverine), Badger… how much toughher can it get (as for naming it)? Havoc was a good try.

September 9, 2016 2:08 pm

Ohh, something has been changed again. So acc -at -td is really ACC, plain and simple.

September 9, 2016 2:10 pm

@Mr Fred

“Blackhawk may only be 10 years younger than Puma, but it is still in production”

As is the Puma.

” and its design has been constantly upgraded”

Really…??….lets see : the airframe is the same, made the same way, from the same materials, the engines, and gearbox are the same, the rotors are the same and the landing gear is the same……but it does have a nice glass cockpit (LMs Common Cockpit) that is only 15 years old! …its basically a brand new design ;-).

The UH-60 is a great helicopter but its getting old…….i frankly dont understand why people continue to rave about its reliability and how Black Hawks “just work”..?…..well after 40 years it bloody well should !

September 9, 2016 2:14 pm


With the recent middle eastern orders they are up to around 1600 vehicles, including the 997 Rosomaks, not 2000.

September 9, 2016 2:43 pm


When I speak of the Patria AMV is not the AMVxp, it is certain that the AMVxp and Piranah V weigh the same, but the AMV weighs 27 tons, without any doubt more with a turret with a gun of 120 mm.

For me everything is a question of weight, if a vehicle supposed to be easy to deploy and make hundreds of kilometers already weighs 30 tonnes initially, it will need a lot of gasoline and bridges that support its weight, which is uncommon in developing countries. And there must be an increase in its weight throughout its life, overshielding etc…

September 9, 2016 3:40 pm

So you didn’t read the pdf links i posted then.

Because it quite clearly shows that both the AMV (not xp) and Piranha 5 weighs about 17000 kg empty.

The P5 just has a bigger payload capacity of 13000kg resulting in a Gross Vehicle Weight of 30 tonnes.

September 9, 2016 3:56 pm

Poland is ordering more, Qatar is not part of the UAE (from this 16 Aug newspiece you can guesstimate what a well-rounded UK AI Bde would need in the way of IFVs – and I am sure Qatar will round it up):

“reported that some of the AMVs would be armed with Patria’s 120 mm NEMO turreted mortar system.

Qatar is modernising its armoured forces and is in the process of taking delivery of 62 Leopard 2A7+ tanks and 24 155 mm PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers.

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) recently told IHS Jane’s that it has delivered 24 Leopards and 15 PzH 2000s to date. The remaining howitzers will be delivered by the end of this year, while Leopard deliveries are scheduled to continue until mid-2017.

The AMV has been ordered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while the NEMO is in service with the UAE’s navy and the Saudi Arabia National Guard, which has it mounted on General Dynamics Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs).”

Two thousand, here we come (the news will catch up in due course)!

September 9, 2016 4:11 pm

The UAE and Qatari orders only amounts to ~70 vehicles and is included in the 1600 number i posted. As is the extra Polish order.

September 9, 2016 4:58 pm

one news piece, looks like from one source (Jane’s has a data base, they should use it):
40+50 + 20 to 30, all in he same negotiation (it would seem)

Older UAE deals (BMP turrets and AMOS turrets for an anti-invasion force – more AMOS turrets on boats – to rush to the scene so that the tracked vehicles can get there in their own time) not reflected, nor the half deals (Saudis buying AMOS turrets for their LAVs).

September 9, 2016 5:49 pm

As far as i know the extra 50 AMVs for UAE is an option not exercised yet. Do you have any source saying otherwise ?
And why do you keep mentioning AMOS ?…..its an independant mortar system, not specifically related to the AMV

September 9, 2016 6:33 pm
September 9, 2016 7:50 pm


I think it’s Monty arguing for Puma, not I.

Many thanks. Your written English is excellent, but I know that following spoken language is much harder.

APC Patria:
The IFV Patria may have been the one seen in LM’s Challenger brochure:
STK were there too:×8-requirement
Can’t find pictures of the others

September 10, 2016 6:14 am

A mix of these, please (as per the LM link posted by mr.fred)
“Patria AMV 8×8 with Kongsberg Protector 12.7 mm RWS and Leonardo GVA compatible mission system at stand OR-15. A second Patria AMV, an IFV variant equipped with the Lockheed Martin CT40 turret with the Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) is on display”
and we might actually get “what’s on order” = a self deploying, highly mobile and hard hitting intervention force.

Hard to calculate what number of dismount would be delivered (in such a scenario) with the 300-350 units because the turret eats into the available internal space (as do the rounds carried for the autogun).
– I would go for a 1 for evey 3 mix
– but procuring specialised versions has been mentioned, as well

Any money left for the heavier (AI) force? Well, I would certainly hope so as this procurement has been kicked into the long grass so many times – and is now coming through with very limited numbers. The initial version was three bns’ worth for the three AI bdes, now we are gettting 2 (which is not enough for 2 bdes so is the enduring operation thinking coming back? Kit fielded, units rotated.

September 10, 2016 11:44 am

@ Monty

Great article and I agree with many of your points and am in total agreement that the UK should be a fully deployable force from these shores with no forward basing (for the reasons you set out). If we go to Europe it should be to re-inforce at speed.

My views are that we move to a 6 Division structure with a further 2 divisions in reserve.

The key difference is that I would recommend 4 divisions (20k each) that rotate through readiness on an annual basis in what I call a diamond structure. The 2 additional divisions are a core logistics Div and a combat logistics Div inc, CnC, signals, Cyber etc. For the reserve I would go with a logistics only model for at least one of the divisions as this is the area that needs more bodies in times of action.

I see the force structure as follows:

1 Elite Divs of 2 RM, 1 Para and 1 Gurka with full logistics and support
1 Armoured Div consisting of 1312 IFV and 360 MBT’s
2 Mechanised Divs utilising 1600 IFV’s

Each Division would always have a brigade at high readiness – no matter where they are in the long term deployment cycle so that a mixed division can be deployed if required. All would also be self contained, led by a 2* with budget full budget control.

Air and other assets would be assigned against the role for each Brigade and be re-prioritised only during action. Therefore an armoured brigade would have a wide spectrum of air assets assigned to it as standard with the ability to surge from the wider pool as needed.

Example for Armoured Div.

32 Apache
16 F35B
16 Typhoon
32 Merlin
16 Wildcat
16 Chinook

This would require an increase purchase of Apaches, Merlins and Wildcats but this is needed for a fast response force.

The benefits of a 4 combat division force is that we get 4 distinct forces of circa 20k personnel that can meet a 4 year deployment cycle each with 4 Brigades that in turn can move through the cycle itself (High Readiness: Coming on, Coming off, Low Readiness) that in itself will enable a more balanced approach to deployments.

I agree that the force number is low at 82k and think it really needs to be circa 120k inc. the Gurka’s and RM, which probably means we are 30k short. If we stick around the 95k mark I think the reserve should be increased in the logistics space with a promise of UK only basing to get numbers up. There may also be mileage in consolidating all forces logistics into a single structure and I also believe we should take over mildenhall to get our air assets near the Thetford training area to ensure the divisional air arm is alongside its division (just like the USMC).

For those who believe this cannot be done within our budget – please take a look at the audited USMC accounts. It makes fascinating reading.

Fluffy Thoughts
September 10, 2016 5:37 pm

I thought Dorchester was UK-only. Costs appear to have prohibited Leo2 development. [Not sure where MIAx is either.] I also doubt that current trends in UMIST are not motivating future defensive solutions.

September 10, 2016 7:30 pm

Dorchester may be a good catchword (as it is one word) but the world (of IFVs) is not that simple these days:

September 11, 2016 1:52 pm

We have talked about the MIV, and not about MRV-P, which should equip the Light Mechanised Infantry Battalions. What is very important.

I did some research involving the EAGLE V which is exposed to the DVD2016, it’s not really a vehicle that matches the characteristics defined for the MRV-P, it is equivalent to the Foxhound in its 4×4 version and I can not find its level of protection in 6×6 versions. It’s strange that opacity for a common vehicle.

September 12, 2016 12:32 pm
September 12, 2016 8:07 pm

It seems that this is the Iveco SuperAV which won the tender for the US Marine Corps, can anyone confirm ?

September 14, 2016 7:07 pm

Here’s my ‘Merican perspective. We build on 3 period cycle for active duty – ready/reset/train. If you built 3 divisions (2 in place now) you could do the same.

Each Division would compromise the same number of BDES as follows:
1 Armour BDE (1 Reece REG, 1 Tank REG, 3 Armour Infantry BNs & 1 Artillery REG) (1, 12, 20 BDEs)
2 Infantry BDEs (AKA the “adaptable” force BDEs consisting of 1 Active Infantry BN, 2 Reserve Infantry
BNs, 1 Reserve light REECE REG & 1 Reserve Artillery REG)
(4, 7, 11, 38, 42 & 160 BDEs. Since these would be primarily deployable Reserve BDEs
instead of ready/deploying once in a single 3 period cycle, they would deploy once
every second 3 period cycle.)
1 “Special” BDE (Each Division would have one of these brigades assigned or attached in the case of 3
CDO BDE. The 3 Brigades would be:
– 16 AA BDE with 4 Para or Air Assault BNs, a light Reece REG & Artillery REG;
– 51 BDE with 4 light Mech Infantry BNs, a light Reece REG & Artillery REG;
– 3 CDO BDE with current 3 CDOs (BNs), give them back a Rifles BN, add a light REECE
REG and keep the current 29th Artillery REG.)

Each deployment cycle would consist of 1 Division with an Armour BDE, 1 Infantry BDE (deploying once over 6 cycles) and 1 “Special” BDE. The “Special” BDE can task organize from maneuver elements of all 3 BDEs. Each BDE can task organize by keeping 2 of their own subordinate Infantry, Para, AA or CDO and receiving one BN/CDO from the other BDEs (i.e. 16 BDE would have 2 Para/AA BNs, 1 attached light MECH INF BN and a CDO). They would each retain their own Reece and Artillery Regiments.

With these figures you would now have 30 active Infantry BNs: 9 in Armour BDEs, 6 in the reserve Infantry BDEs, 4 in 16 BDE, 4 in 51 BDE, 1 attached to 3 CDO BDE, 1 in SF GP, 2 doing ceremonial duties, 2 in Cyprus and 1 in Brunei. Yes, you would lose an Infantry BN (I hear the regimental knashing of teeth) but you could use that manpower towards the proposed 3rd divisional HQ. You would have 12 Reserve Infantry BNs but you could convert some of the existing BNs into light REECE or ARTY regiments thus lessening some pain of disbandment.

September 19, 2016 12:30 am

Very interesting post Monty. You maybe correct with all your points ref the “deterrent” effect of conventional forces, but I think your in budget cloud cuckoo land with your force structure – unfortunately.

We aspire with FF2025 to deploy a division to a major fracas. No one quite seems to understand the C in C Land on the size and shape of that division, is it 1 Armoured Infantry Brigade and 1 or both Strike Brigades ? Personally I would think it’s more likely to be an immediate response force based on very high readiness Para and RM units, followed by a Strike brigade and re-Inforced by the slower to deploy Aemoured Inf. brig. And one of the Adaptable force infantry brigades. Given the run down in Signals and artillery units, we really can never deploy more than a division, even if we have enough infantry and tanks.

I do think a little remix in the investment portfolio could give us a better looking pair of Strike brigades though. I would go for a real hard core / heavy armour capability by readjusting programmes, and hopefully get the most bang for buck on MIV by going MOTS without gold plating.

So here is an idea for you. The Yanks are always complaining about Europe not doing enough for its own defence, they have over 1000 M1 in desert storage and last year they gifted 400 to Greece, with Greece paying for the upgrades required to put them into service. Yes, 400 to Greece, you know the bankrupt country on the verge of complete financial collapse…..

So let’s convince the Septics to gift us 400 M1A from the boneyard and we could pay for the upgrade to the latest M1A2SEP3 (aka M1A3) maybe substituting the Europack diesel for the gas turbine and maybe using the same electo-optics as on the Ajax. To go with these tanks I would develop an Ajax APC with more room in the back than the current Recce support version and buy enough for just four Armoured infantry battalions. Note APC not IFV, because I would have square brigades with 2 tank regiments and 2 armoured Inf. Battalions – basically giving a 1 to 1 tank to APC ratio. With a 40mm GMG with air bursting grades and a co-ax 7.62 on an RWS, it would be well enough armed for the tank support role. Plus we have plenty of 40mm armed Ajax for 2 Recce regiments and Recce troops / Platoons for the tank and infantry units.

700 Turretless Warrior would replace Bulldog in support roles.

This leaves Strike Brigades – oh vay what a mess. Let’s go all wheeled. For the sake of it lets just go VBCI 2. Let’s get a medium Recce regiments with the demonstrated 40mm turret with 2 x ATGW of whatever type you like. To keep the costs down to hopefully get all 3 Mechanised battalions on this platform it should be APC only not IFV. Same dual mount RWS as the tracked APC. However to give some firepower both the Recce platoon and anti-tank platoon should have the same 40mm / ATGW turret. Strike brigades should get the Exactor systems, and if we can’t afford 120mm turreted mortars we should at least have 81mm firing through roof hatches and up the number to 12 (!) for fairly cheap indirect close support fires. We need wheeled 155 artillery to support these brigades CEASAR 8 x 8 version on MAN chassis, and even better some HIMARS too.

For greater anti-tank punch in support of these units how about RA regiment with the US Army Multi-role Missile launcher, able to ripple fire 15 Beimstone 2 to a decent range…….

Lots of Mastiff and other ex-UOR kit to support units and the Adaptable force deployable infantry brigades.

I think this is more affordable than Monty’s plan although it would require a focus / rebalancing of current investment and probably a fair bit of additional to be honest……..

August 26, 2017 7:04 pm

Rather late entry but ageless topic.

How about we brake the shackles of brigade and incorporate battalion battlegroups. Armoured battlegroups could consist of 2 CR2 companies and 3 Warrior companies plus required support incl. a mumber of AS90 and preferably some 120mm mortars ala Cardom/Nemo.

MIV battalion battlegroups could be made of 4 infantry companies, anti tank company, artillery battalion with two batteries of 105, mortar company with 120mm Cardom/Nemo and any other required support.

Light motorized battlegroups could consist of 5 infantry companies, AT coy, mortar coy and other required support. Vehicle of choice what ever has 4 wheels and armor. Maybe JLTV since you’re getting bunch of those.

Two divisions, one with heavy battlegroups, MLRS divisional fires plus some Ceaser 8x8s and few MIV battlegroups. Other with MIV and light motorized battlegroups. Average size per battlegroup would be around ~2000 soldiers. There could be, what, 6-7 armoured battle groups, # of MIV battlegroups depends on size of wallet and x amount of light motorized battlegroups. “Light” division would need also some divisional fires, maybe some MLRS and Ceasar 8x8s.