The Light Strike Brigade

We know that the British Army’s Strike Brigade is built around the concept of disaggregated operations across a large area where forces concentrate at points in time and space to deliver a range of meaningful effects. They are based on a collection of ‘medium weight’ tracked and wheeled vehicles, none of which can exploit the mobility advantages of support helicopters because they are too heavy.

The Light Strike Brigade is therefore based on the core principles of the joint land strike concept but with much lighter vehicles that can exploit the mobility afforded by UK Support Helicopters. It is not about deploying inter-theatre by air, but within a theatre over a large area. Exploiting its mobility, firepower and low logistics demand, it would have applicability in both a conventional and non-conventional conflict.

Beyond the general concept, this article will also make a proposal for a change to UK force structure, especially for 16 Air Assault Brigade (16AAB), the Light Infantry and Light Cavalry.

Equipment and vehicle options will be described in detail.

 


The Light Strike Brigade – Concept and Requirements

The Light Strike Brigade – Equipment

The Light Strike Brigade – Vehicles


 

The Controversial Bit Where I Talk About Future Structures

Writing about UK Amphibious Capabilities recently I suggested that given the range of challenges (all requiring lots of cash to meet) and lack of investment priority for the amphibious force, the UK should make significant changes to 3 Commando Brigade. In the debate that followed, and reinforced by recent output from the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, there was/is a tendency to see amphibious capability as a discrete item that lionised and bathed in over-emotional superlatives, but not in any way connected to funding and manning realities, actual operational challenges or linked to wider operational capabilities like the Army’s emerging STRIKE Brigade concept. I think we need to take a deep breath, stand back and not indulge in unrealistic viewpoints that always see funds appear from somewhere, or what seems to be the general position of many, cut the Army to pay for the Royal Marines. Many childishly see my view as some sort of anti RM/RN bias, but that could not be further from the truth.

The proposal articulated in the linked article above would result in a smaller Corps of Royal Marines as a result of disbanding 3 Commando Brigade. Divested of much of 3CDO’s British Army Combat Support/Combat Service Support the Royal Marines would still retain their unique ethos and training system. The new organisation would concentrate on existing roles such as maritime and littoral security, SF support, cold weather training, and small to medium scale raiding but would develop into new areas such as combat search and rescue (personnel recovery)and littoral dominance that would enhance carrier strike and complement investments in emerging unmanned capabilities for shallow water ASW, mine countermeasures and survey. Incidentally, there would still be a major role for HMS Albion/Bulwark in this vision, more on this when I get round to developing these ideas further in a future article.

In this article I suggested that Norway has little need for an understrength amphibious light infantry brigade with modest mobility and even more modest artillery support but instead, would certainly welcome an ability to secure some of their air bases from infiltration by enemy special-forces, dovetailing with the littoral security focus I suggested above. In another long form article I argue that an enhanced Joint Port Opening Capability would be an invaluable complement to the British Army’s Land Strike concept. This is where the UK’s expeditionary land power should be focussed.

These are all connected and they are all a pragmatic recognition of the reality of the UK’s defence budget. It is quite easy to simply suggest the MoD should have a larger budget but whilst I might agree, I think it unlikely. Every single of one these proposal style articles is therefore rooted in financial reality and a desire to at least suggest some hard choices, however people might disagree.

You might be thinking, hang on, what does this have to do with airmobile vehicles?

The answer comes in two parts.

First, I am going to cast a similarly critical eye over 16 Airborne Brigade and the Parachute Regiment, making similar observations about the contemporary operating environment and likely future operating requirements. Light cavalry and infantry will also form part of this discussion. Many of the conclusions are similar.

Second, carrier enabled power projection will benefit from some of the same equipment capabilities as described below. The Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, Royal Marines and British Army will be evolving the carrier enabled power projection concept that will centre on the new carriers.

This proposal should be seen in that wider context.

Air Manoeuvre – What is it?

So what do we mean by air manoeuvre, and how is this different from air mobility, or air assault?

Doctrine

Mobility is a fundamental role of air power; across a range of military and disaster response operations it allows ground forces to exploit two of the three principle advantages afforded by air power; speed and reach.

To quote from Joint Doctrine Publication 0-30;

Speed; allows the rapid projection of military power and permits missions to be completed quickly, generating tempo and offering the potential to exploit time, the fourth dimension.

Reach; seventy percent of the world’s surface is covered by water, but all of it is covered by air, providing air power with unrivalled reach, usually unimpeded by terrain.

There is a significant disadvantage though; the payloads that can be carried by aircraft are limited in comparison with ships or vehicles.

Specifically describing the characteristics of support helicopters, it says;

Support helicopters are the lynch pins of tactical mobility.  Typically operating at lower heights and speeds than fixed-wing aircraft, they enable rapid tactical movement of personnel and materiel over difficult terrain. They are the fundamental enablers of ground manoeuvre, adding speed and surprise and allowing forces to leapfrog difficult terrain and bypass ground threats.  Support helicopters are invariably in great demand and short supply.

Joint Doctrine Note 1/16 defines the UK’s approach to Air Manoeuvre.

JDP 1/16 first notes that air manoeuvre is not solely about helicopters, transport aircraft play a key role and it specifically defines air assault and airmobile operations and their fundamental dependence on Support Helicopters.

Air assault and airmobile operations. Air assault and airmobile operations are specifically designed to be inserted, resupplied and extracted using support and attack helicopters as their normal means of operation

The image below shows the air manoeuvre spectrum;

Digging deeper into the definitions;

Airdrop delivery involves the air movement of personnel and/or cargo by aircraft into an objective area and their subsequent delivery by parachute.

Air land delivery involves the air movement of personnel and/or cargo which are landed on or near their objective by a fixed-wing aircraft.

Airdrop delivery reduces aircraft exposure to threats at the objective because they remain in flight. This has to be risk balanced with the cost of a relative dispersal of the ground force and cargo, and an increased risk of injury. Air land delivery offers greater unit integrity and usually maximises the use of aircraft cargo capacity. However, air landing requires a suitable airfield or air strip, and exposes the aircraft to threats at the objective

An air assault operation is defined as: an operation in which air assault forces, using the firepower, mobility, and total integration of helicopter assets, manoeuvre on the battlefield under the control of the commander to engage and destroy adversary forces or to seize and hold key terrain.

An airmobile operation is defined as an operation in which combat forces and equipment manoeuvre about the battlefield by aircraft to engage in ground combat.  Examples include moving engineers to clear a defile ahead of an advancing ground force; or moving a ground force to establish a hasty defensive position to block an enemy advance

Independent helicopter tasks are those which can be carried out by helicopters independently of other arms, though they may be part of a broader ground scheme of manoeuvre. They are primarily focussed on offensive actions. These are most likely to be shaping tasks but may be mission-decisive tasks in their own right.

Like many similar UK documents, this is very clear description of the various components and terminology involved. Also like many similar UK documents, it is somewhat removed from resource availability and arguably, downplays risks in a contemporary operating environment.

Contemporary Issues

As Russian, Chinese, North Korean and Iranian air defence missile systems increase in capability and are seemingly proliferated with abandon, the risk to slow moving support helicopters and transport aircraft rises. The threat from AAA also endures. Countermeasures continue to improve, tactics likewise, and of course, offensive systems are also there to assist but on balance, the risk is till significant.

The odd MANPADS and 23mm automatic cannon armed technical is one thing, but a modern integrated Russian air defence system in Eastern and Northern Europe is entirely another. In any major conventional operation in the Baltics, Russia would seek to prevent reinforcement by NATO forces. The Missile Threat website provides an excellent interactive mapping tool that plots Russian strike and air defence missile ranges on a map of Europe.

The circles in the diagram above  are S-300 and S-400 engagement ranges which shows why a group of Chinooks flying across the Suwalki Gap in response to a Russian incursion into the Baltic States is rather unlikely, likewise a Company level airdrop into Lithuania. In an operational environment that is not as dense with AA systems then of course, the risk is reduced, but by how much?

Published missile ranges tend to be maximum ranges in ideal conditions against non-manoeuvring targets with no countermeasures or means of evasion. The actual engagement envelope is also dependant on radar performance and radar horizon. The reason anti-air warfare destroyers put their radars atop as tall a mast as possible is to maximise radar horizon. Radar and visual horizon are not the same thing (this article is a decade old, it provides a good explanation).

Terrain masking provides low flying aircraft with an effective means of reducing the air defence radar’s engagement envelope. Long range surface to air missiles are particularly prone to radar horizon issues if the aircraft is flying at low altitudes and the terrain advantages the aircraft. Modern defence tactics negate this by placing shorter range systems in concentric layers to catch any low level penetrating aircraft which makes combinations like the S-400/Buk/Pantsir so fearsomely effective.

This is the fundamental problem with air assault and to some extent, air land delivery. The same can also be said for airdrop. Equally unlikely is either of those large aircraft carriers coming anywhere near shore and the problems of Support Helicopter vulnerability are amplified by the lack of terrain masking opportunities as the fly over the sea toward land.

So we have to be prepared to ask the hard question, why do we maintain capabilities for an increasingly narrow range of operational scenarios that rely enemies being cooperative? This leads to a conclusion that we should keep slow moving support helicopters and tactical air transport aircraft as far away from potential enemies as possible.

It could be argued there are some scenarios where maintaining a small capability to airdrop or air land is perfectly sensible but they tend towards the niche, specialist areas. French operations in Mali demonstrated just such a capability. The first part of Operation Serval was to secure Bamako, strike enemy rear areas and to prepare for Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) troops called Mission Internationale de Soutien au Mali (MISMA). With Bamako secured and MISMA starting to arrive, the second phase saw operations switch to the north of the country, the destruction of enemy forces and restoration of border integrity. A French spearhead column retook Gao and supported by a parachute landing that cleared the airport, Timbuktu was retaken soon after.

A small number of personnel and engineering plant, linking up with already on the ground forces, cleared and prepared the way for air landings. This is a perfect example, but one that was small scale and with very little threat to aircraft.

Accepting the view that both amphibious assault at scale and much of the air manouvre spectrum is increasingly unlikely, there is a case for change, a compelling case for change in a resource constrained environment.

Towards a Change Proposal

What are the drivers for change?

The Royal Navy is going to struggle to resource Carrier Strike, its surface and subsurface fleet AND 3 Commando. The Royal Navy cannot afford to subsidise the British Army by providing a manoeuvre brigade and the British Army cannot afford to subsidise the Royal navy by providing pretty much all of 3CDO’s CS/CSS. Much of the rationale for 3CDO is weak and future challenges demand investment it is simply not going to receive.

Much of the Air Manoeuvre spectrum is increasingly unlikely to ever be used and yet 16 Air Assault Brigade is maintained against these increasingly unlikely scenarios.

In the recent ‘Towards SDSR2018’ series I suggested that the UK should note that whilst the Russian threat is often oversold, it is not to be ignored either. Also, there is likely to be an enduring engagement with efforts to reduce instability in the Middle East and Africa that pushes conflict to Europe. In short, the UK must address issues to the North, East and South of Europe within sensible limits and various alliances, based on three general principles; demonstrate leadership in NATO on spending, work with our allies to improve their capabilities and finally, to have skin in the game.

Like the Royal Navy, the British Army has manning problems and numerous budgetary issues. With a very large set of aspirational capabilities and many obsolete items of equipment, of all three services, the British Army is in the poorest material state. An enduring land power lesson is the need to maintain light, medium and heavy, each with overlapping and complementary capabilities that play to their respective strengths.

There does seem to be a prevailing view that the British Army’s light role infantry are sacrificial lambs for whatever favourite future structure is proposed but not only is this ignorant, it is also blind to the fact that infantry is always in short supply, that dismounted infantry has significant utility in difficult terrain and the urban context, and that light role infantry is a specialism of itself. But like all matters of organisation and capability, if we can evolve in order to meet contemporary challenges or exploit technology, then that is a good thing.

This article at the Wavell Room quite rightly noted that recent operations have never really been light role in the truest sense, vehicles have always been a constant feature. The author makes an argument that Light Role Infantry has no future, and he is in the Light Role Infantry. Commenting on vehicles;

They enable increased firepower, manoeuvrability, protection and sustainment across a larger operational area. They contribute to increased tempo and allow greater inherent flexibility, as well providing organic means to concentrate or disperse forces as desired. Vehicles provide a mobile platform for crew-served weapon systems and increased ammunition carriage; the firepower that such systems can inflict and sustain is far greater than light role infantry. The manoeuvrability of combat elements to arrive at speed, gain surprise and seize initiative as well as generate mass, can also be increased as vehicles allow mounted infantry to travel at greater speed and cover more ground than their light role peers. Importantly the vehicles are organic to the unit. There is no reliance on aviation to be prioritised, fit to fly and weather suitable. Vehicles also serve as integral casualty evacuation and resupply platforms, which has become more important following the transition away from Afghanistan and Iraq where dedicated aviation platforms were assigned to such a role. The current expectation for contingency operations is that casualties will be moved by ground forces, and that units will facilitate resupply of water, food and ammunition.

This is an important article I think, and the author makes a number of excellent points but the obvious barrier to greater mechanisation is cost. Where I think this can be achieved is if whatever comes next from the argument is relatively low cost, not quite light role but not quite medium either, and it has a specific set of roles within the overall Land Strike concept.

Concepts like Specialist Infantry and Strike Brigades are sound, yes there are details we might disagree with and yes there might be looming resource issues and problems ahead, but fundamentally, Army 2020(R) is going in the right direction. The Army has also recognised the need to re-focus on fighting in urban areas and has started various study programmes to inform change, no doubt light role infantry will be part of this.

The Op HERRICK Campaign Study noted that a Brigade Reconnaissance Force (whose roots lay in 3CDO Patrols Troop and 16AAB Pathfinder Platoon) was of great utility because of their ability to use vehicles or helicopters to achieve tactical surprise to gather useful intelligence and facilitate strike missions. It also notes that in the future, this will be delivered by the Light Cavalry Regiments. Op MOSHTARAK was highlighted as a significant air assault operation and that this capability, now practiced by the wide field army, should be retained outside of 16AAB. Am not sure this is achievable though.

With the withdrawal of CVR(T), a vehicle that is helicopter transportable, and replacement with Ajax, that most certainly is not, the rapid response helicopter transportable light armour capability that has been a feature of a number of operations in the past is no longer available, even if it has been dropped from 16AAB for a while.

The British Army has over the last few years experimented with light mechanised and light protected mobility forces but in Army 2020 Refine, seems to have reverted back to traditional light role infantry. Whilst many like to point to this as a failure, I see the opposite, an organisation willing to experiment and change tack when the experiment does not work. I suspect the reasons for the lack of success lie in the vehicles chosen rather than the concept itself. Using Foxhound and Husky meant the crew to dismount ratio was high so the total number of vehicles in a given size unit was also high. This comes with a bill, and without the combat service support resources in place, in units that were traditionally very vehicle light, there were bound to be sustainability issues. So I think the issue was sustainability, driver training and the lack of service support resource.

The Light Cavalry in the Royal Armoured Corps is also a relatively new function, regular on Jackal 2 and Coyote, and reserve on Land Rover R-WMIK. There are three regular (Scottish, Welsh and English) and three reserve Yeomanry regiments (Northern Ireland, Scotland and England). This regional distribution is good, and one of those political realities that must be dealt with.

With all these in mind, any proposal for change must be realistic, achievable and take into account wider issues of politics, change fatigue and the current defence environment.

But I do think there is a case for change, best buckle up!

The Light Strike Brigade – A Proposal

Having spent time above going round the houses and plucking up the courage, am going to get on with it.

Disband 16 Air Assault Brigade.

There, I said it!

Put the outrage bus back in the garage though, am not suggesting the Parachute Regiment is disbanded. The Parachute Regiment should continue act as a lead in to Special Forces like the Royal Marines and maintain a training cadre for air assault and air landing operations, like the Royal Marines would with Arctic operations. These are invaluable roles in themselves but the bulk of their new operating model would consist of providing support to Special Forces and the Specialist Infantry Group. There is an enduring demand for SF in the Middle East and Africa, let alone Europe, logically this is an area the UK should expand and increase investment in.

Whilst this would still have a need for wider Army provided CS/CSS, the nature and scale would reduce, thus freeing up a range of personnel and equipment for ‘redeployment’. There would also be the 3CDO Army CS/CSS to consider as well.

Hold that thought for a moment.

The proposal is to generate a Light Strike Brigade, or two if we fully integrate Army Reserves. With the proposed Strike Brigades shaping up to be on the heavy end of the medium weight scale I think there is a need for a logistically light force that dovetails with the Joint land Strike Concept. The pieces of the jigsaw are there, Light Role Infantry, Light Cavalry and the remainder of the 16AAB/3CDO CS/CSS.

If we accept that A2AD threats will result in a greater need for disaggregated operations where forces only concentrate when needed the need for increased mobility becomes obvious, it is after all at the root of the thinking behind Strike. A lighter version would therefore focus on mobility, both on the ground and in the air, the latter being crucial to the concept.

Speed is all, speed is a fundamental advantage of air power (see above) and so the Light Strike Brigade is predicated on exploiting air power in all its forms and especially the air mobility part of air manoeuvre. Of all the tasks that comprise air manoeuvre, I think the only one that has any kind of justifiable applicability in a contemporary operating environment beyond niche and special-forces is that of air mobile.

But air mobile also has a problem, those defence systems described above.

To manage risk from enemy air defences, air mobile operations must consider landing at an increased distance from their objective. When they land their personnel, those personnel will be required to conduct a longer approach march. If that approach march is on foot, the advantages afforded by helicopters start to be eroded. Speed, agility, the ability to rapidly concentrate and manoeuvre are degraded by the requirement to march for several hours or days.

Making this even worse is the burdens that infantry soldiers now routinely carry, see the previous article on this. Not only are we increasing the infantry burden, in this case, we are also asking them to march further before fighting. In order to restore speed and agility, there is no practical option but to use that oldest of man inventions, the wheel.

Instead of…

Fly, march a short distance and fight

The new reality is…

Fly, drive, march a short distance and fight, or even fight mounted

Lightweight wheeled vehicles to improve on the ground mobility are an essential, not an optional extra. Therefore, making the case for air mobility requires one to make the case for vehicles that can be carried by helicopters and the infantry and cavalry forces that can use them.

The Light Strike Brigade would therefore exploit the UK excellent Support Helicopter fleet to achieve stand-off distances and a range of light vehicles to ensure the Support Helicopters remain out of effective range of enemy air defences.

It is also important to note that this deployment scenario may be one of many.

The Light Strike Brigade could be used in a conventional defence of Europe context or providing support for the Specialist Infantry Group, with all points between. Defining features are mobility and firepower, but slimmed down logistics. Because it would not be able to hold ground it would instead exploit its mobility to engage at a time and place of its choosing.

Disrupting lines of communication and supply locations, delaying enemy forces with hit and run tactics, careful observation and reconnaissance, emplacing unattended sensors or ECM jammers, anti-tank or even anti-aircraft ambushes and route security should all be within its operational palette.

Even in a European Article V NATO context, such high mobility has relevance. Given that supressing the S-400’s in Kaligrad Oblast would be a NATO strategic objective that would receive the attention of everything from Polish artillery to RAF F-35’s with SPEAR Cap 3’s, it is not a ridiculous suggestion to observe that in this context, getting an air mobile package quickly into the proximity of the gap to provide some security for an advancing Strike Brigade or heavier force is not that outlandish.

Sustainment would be a challenge, deploying by helicopter is one thing, but sustaining a force by helicopter is entirely another. And yet there are mitigation measures without increasing risk to unacceptable levels. Pre-emplaced caches, air despatch and local supply can be used, or perhaps limit durations to what can be achieved.

There are some examples below that might provide food for thought.

Examples

In the mid-eighties, at the height of the Cold War and with lessons from the Falklands Conflict still fresh, the British Army formed 6 Air Mobile Brigade. In response to intelligence of an impending Warsaw Pact invasion, reconnaissance teams would fly forward to determine the optimum positions to establish tank killing zones using rapidly deployed Milan ATGW teams. Once the positions had been determined, the Support Helicopters would deploy teams where they would hand dig field defences and lay in wait. TOW missile armed Lynx helicopters would also integrate and overlap with this positions.

Because of expected intensity of Warsaw Pact artillery fire that we predicted to be deployed on a ‘just in case’ basis against the more obvious position, the whole thing depended on having sufficient notice to dig fire positions with sufficient overhead cover. Each battalion had 42 Milan ATGW firing posts but not for nothing was it called a speed bump.

Despite this, 24 Air Mobile Brigade was established and the concept developed further, specifically to improve mobility.

Developed towards the end of the early nineties, the Multi-National Airborne Division (MNAD) concept was designed to be held in reserve, until Warsaw Pact intentions and direction became clear. Then, using a combination of helicopters and fast vehicles the force would quickly establish ambush positions. The force was very light but armed to the teeth, with a very high percentage of ATGW firing posts. It was only scaled to operate for 48 hours at a range of 150km and after a very brief combat period would quickly withdraw to, hopefully, fight another day.

MNAD consisted of British, German, Dutch and Belgian forces, including 24 Air Mobile Brigade. Vehicles included British Land Rovers, Longline Fast Strike Vehicles, Supacat All Terrain Mobility Platforms, Fox and CVR(T); German Wiesel’s and Krakas; Belgian Iltis and various motorcycles and other light vehicles. The Longline Fast Strike Vehicle was based on the US Fast Attack Vehicle but heavier and with a number of UK specific modifications.

It was a promising concept but as the Cold War started to wind down, it was not progressed and as force sizes reduced across Europe, not repeated either.

Many years later, in Kosovo, a completely different military environment, but one that would also exploit the speed and reach of support helicopters enhanced with underslung vehicles. Operation AGRICOLA was the name given to the UK contribution to KFOR. KFOR entered Kosovo on the 11th of June 1999. UK forces were responsible for securing a route to Pristina from Macedonia. This route included the crucial Kacanik Defile, a narrow gorge with a series of bridges and tunnels. The plan called for an airborne insertion to secure the key points in the defile followed by an armoured advance through to Pristina. Airborne forces (5 Airborne Brigade) securing bridges and the Irish Guards Battle Group advancing over them, the similarities to Market Garden were obvious to all.

5 Airborne Brigade consisted elements of 1 and 3 PARA, reinforced with the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles. In addition to 657/659 Squadron AAC Lynx helicopters, the main lift was supplied by eight RAF Chinook and five Puma helicopters. First over the border were four Lynx helicopters from 659 Squadron AAC, followed by five RAF Puma’s escorted by a pair of US Army AH-64 attack helicopters. RAF Chinook helicopters then carried the main force forward, deploying them in key positions in the Kacanik area. 99 lifts were carried out including 38 with underslung loads, moving a total of 1,260 personnel.

KOSOVO: NATO TROOPS CONTINUE TO ARRIVE AT PRISTINA

KOSOVO: BRITISH PARATROOPERS ARRIVE IN PRISTINA

The lead battle group entered Pristina the next day, accompanied by the traditional arguments about who was there first. During these initial deployments, the ability to sling load CVR(T) and Supacat ATMP by Chinook was also exploited to great effect.

MACEDONIA: NATO TROOPS PREPARE TO ENTER KOSOVO

Both of these examples are obviously, ‘from another time’ but the fundamentals remain, air mobile operations can be greatly enhanced by an ability to lift lift vehicles.

Arguably the last remaining Western nation to have a fully integrated light armoured vehicle capability that is wholly transportable by helicopters is Germany with their CH-53/Wiesel/Mungo combination. Designed for air transportability the Wiesel 2 is available in a number of variants (ambulance, APC, 120mm mortar, air defence and TOW carrier) and is complemented by the Mungo ESK light transport and logistics vehicle (based on a Hago Multicar municipal vehicle).

At under 5 tonnes, Wiesel 2 can be easily underslung by the CH-53G or Chinook and is specifically designed to be internally transportable by the CH-53G. Likewise, the Mungo is also designed for internal carriage. It is this internal carriage feature than makes the German concept of air assault operations unique. The Luftwaffe Hubschraubergeschwader 64 operates the last remaining CH-53G’s in German service, approximately 20 of them. These are well overdue for replacement and the initial stages of the competition have revealed both the CH-53K and CH-47G as contenders, the desired quantity is reportedly between 45 and 60.

What is significantly different from the older examples above is technology.

Instead of a wire guided Milan ATGW that would require the firing point to remain in place whilst the missile was in flight (and thus exposed to counter fire), today, Javelin is fire and forget, in all weathers. One of the defining features of the older approach was digging, lots of digging, the thinking was the weather forecast was always going to consist of steel rain with a chance of more steel rain.

Today, we can also utilise non line of sight precision systems like EXACTOR to avoid having to sit in obvious ambush positions. In short, modern systems make such a force a whole lot more lethal and survivable because it allows them to be operated by distributed teams.

The key question for the Light Strike Brigade is how it can keep its weight and logistic support requirements to a minimum whilst maintaining its firepower and mobility core. Some might have recognised the similarity with 24 Airmobile Brigade of old, that is intentional but it needs to be a modern version of it.

The next section will be an examination of the kinds of trade-offs and equipment choices that might need to be made in defining key specification points for vehicles and other equipment areas.


The Light Strike Brigade – Concept and Requirements

The Light Strike Brigade – Equipment

The Light Strike Brigade – Vehicles


 

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74 Comments on "The Light Strike Brigade"

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JEDIBEEFTRIX

“Much of the rationale for 3CDO is weak”

A contested view.

“I make no specific claim to whether future Army numbers could support two Light Strike Brigades or one, but there is no reason why two should not be our aspiration, on the flip side, we might also conclude that spreading our jam slightly thinner and putting together three smaller Light Strike Brigades would make more sense from a sustainment and readiness cycle perspective.”

I’m persuaded of the concept, but would I trade 3Cdo for the two of the things? No.
One and one, each generating two principle units,designed to deploy at the battlegroup level (~1700), sounds about right.

Jed

Hey TD – something wrong with the template ? The log in with Google and log in with Twitter buttons don’t seem to be working?

I am with JBT on this one:”Much of the rationale for 3CDO is weak” – nope, disagree. Much of the rationale for a forced entry amphibious capability that can only be generated at the battalion plus supports battle group level is absolutely weak. That does not remove the rationale for a “major raid” capability against non-Neer Peer threats, nor the rationale for other roles which an elite, commando trained light infantry brigade could be used for.

Where I am with you though is your well thought out and logically constructed argument for change. I would probably just engineer and organize that change differently. More on that to come when I have finished reading, as I now have to pop out to watch Black Panther !

TTFN Jed

Jed

OK here we go then…..

1. Money – I completely take your point about in the opening paragraphs about there being no more money available. However if there is no money, perhaps we need to acknowledge that we cannot actually maintain full spectrum forces of Light, Medium and Heavy units ? While the CDS recently spoke up about changing plans and retaining a heavy armoured infantry brigade in Germany, is that really the best contribution the UK could make to European continental defence?

2. 3 Commando Brigade – yes there was complete bollocks thrown around in the parliamentary hearing, but if they could have somehow found just enough cash to keep the Brigade at 3 CDO’s able to generate an amphibious battlegroup based around a single Marine Commando plus supports – then that force added to Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish marine forces and Naval forces would be a strong and potent force for NATO or a European coalition. However I do agree that taking the manpower of 1 of those Commando’s to other tasking is just dumb, and if there are only 2 Commmando’s in 3 CDO brigade, is the Army provided CSS being well utilised ?

3. Air Assault – yep agreed, if 3 CDO plus RN can no longer do forced entry from the sea, there is no way 16 AA can do forced entry from the sky for all the reasons you mention. Although I have to say, you also make some convincing arguments against your own proposal. Can say 18 Chinooks and 12 Merlins deliver a big enough package of the Air Mobile Light Strike Brigade, to a range at which they can drive to their ambush positions and sustain them for 48 hours ? It seems a concerted defence suppression effort, and tactical air might alert the bad guys to what we are up to, opening up the landed elements to intense ISTAR efforts to find them, and in the worst case scenario, where the enemy might be Russia,if ISTAR finds some of them, is dispersal going to prevent the force being defeated in detail ?

So perhaps their air mobile conops should be ditched completely ? Using the support helicopter force purely to support Mechanized infantry on MIV’s or MRV-P’s ???

4. OK lets go all in on your concept. The Light Strike Brigade could have a whole raft of “rapid reaction” uses, from immediate reaction to terrorist attacks or evacuation of friendly civilians, deliberate actions against terrorist or maybe even “neer peer” threats, to the high end full on peer enemy scenario you mention. Of course what you don’t specifically mention is that there might be great political utility in such a light force being the “speed bump” that is rolled over by heavily armoured steamroller on its way through the Baltics – British casualties galvanising public opinion…….

However as I say, lets go all in ! Transfer the 3 Commando’s to the Army. Sure, leave a rump RM with the RN for some missions, but take the 3 highly trained light infantry battalions over to the Land Command budget. If you have to cut 3 “Light Role Infantry” cap badges, that is fine by me. The aim is to have 3 Light Strike Brigades, so a 1 in 3 training rotation means you always have a decent force. Utilize the Para’s and 3 Light Role Infantry battalions for the other 2 brigades as you mentioned. You could build 3 identical brigades, or 3 specialist ones each of which provides 1 battalion battle group at readiness, plus rotate the Brigade HQ’s through the readiness cycle. The “Army Commando” provide amphibious, mountain and arctic and heliborne capabilities, the Para’s all the ones you mentioned, and why not give all the existing BVS10 to the third brigade, to provide a battle group with light protected mobility capabilities. This whole set of forces acts in the “Special Forces Support” role. As you note we can equip this force with the latest Quad bikes, ATMP, Hippo-x, or LS100RE, with lots of existing 81mm mortars and 105mm LG, Jackal’s and Coyotes; and lots and lots of Javelin and Starstreak.

Of course this has to fit within a restructuring of the whole land component, which we don’t seem to want to do. Personally I am OK with ditching the “heavy” tracked component, to use the budget on, to quote TD’s tweets, a MIV based mechanised formation that is “hard as wood peckers lips”. Recognizing that for the whole “sunk costs” (yes, yes, its a fallacy) , political / industrial, contractual set of reasons, we might be stuck with lots Medium-Heavy tracked Ajax family of vehicles, then I suggest a UK Reconnaissance Strike Group based in Germany: https://uklandpower.com/2017/12/11/concept-for-a-uk-reconnaissance-strike-group-rsg/

3 Strike Brigades with 3 Infantry Battalions each, all based on a 8×8 MIV IFV such as Boxer or Patria AMV, deployed anywhere by road across Europe, or around the world by ship, to reinforce / relieve / collect the bodies of the Light Strike Brigade that got there first by airlifter or helo. The Strike Brigades backed up by Infantry Brigades on MRV-P, if you need tanks and heavy IFV, then you need to work with an ally.

By the way, as a parting shot, to make such a re-org and any other re-org easier, I would split the infantry into just 3 non-regimental groups: Army Commando (the Light Strike Brigades), The Foot Guards (mechanised Infantry on MIV) and The Rifles (everyone else). Give ceremonial to the kind of Full Time Reserves manned Govt. Agency that TD has mentioned before, they can keep the Guards battalions alive for ceremonial purposes.

TehFinn

Going two square battalions probably might be for the best. This allows large autonomous companies to form, there could be four half battalions on rotation. This because I think the brigade can’t conduct air borne operations too many times due to helicopter casualties and that’s why there shouldn’t be two brigades but one very capable one. 8 large companies should make it. Half battalion also might be what could be lifted at a time.

Simon

Forgive me but however much I like this excellent article, are you not just re-inventing 3Cdo and 16AAB vertical capability?

And also, isn’t FAA [see what I’ve done there] F-35B and SPEAR3 the necessary SEAD capability to be able to de-risk copter ops under enemy IADS?

A new ALARM missile might be handy though.

Ivan the Terrible

Sounds like the suicide squad if you ask me.

Simon

Vehicle wise I would look at a ripsaw type vehicle in recce/armoured ambush fitted with brimstone and also the Oshkosh s-atv

Observer

As someone who did heliborne exercises before, I have to toss out a warning that experiences with such things are very terrain dependent. In areas like Brunei or even Singapore, the number of LZs that can accept a heliborne force is very small in number, which makes them way too easy to lock down with a sentry force or even an old fashion Area Defence Mine (can’t remember the designation but it was basically an upsized Claymore and yes we were actually taught to plant them in LZs to bag helicopters). On the contrary, in less congested areas like Thailand or Australia, the much more open terrain gives a lot more flexibility to heli-deployment since you can ‘park’ anywhere you want, within limits.

The other limitation of a heliborne force is the limited number of helicopters available. While people love to toss out numbers like ‘We got X number of helicopters’, the reality is that if more than 3 are allocated for a mission, it’s already considered a very big deal. Those things are needed *everywhere* and their distribution and maintenance reflects that. Unless you’re like the US with such a huge military budget that you can have an Air Cav, all our ops will reflect the difference in scale. And unfortunate as it may seem, quantity not only has a quality of its own but also a flexibility of its own, so for our level, no taking over of territory.

Not to say light heliborne does not have uses of their own, for example, we have an annual exercise in Australia called Wallaby, same place as the US’s Talisman Sabre. One of the highlights is the insertion of a 5,000 man force within 3 days from Singapore (~7,000 km away). It demonstrates the validity of a Rapid Intervention Force with, I dare say, a decent amount of firepower, though care still has to be taken since an infantry based force is potent but squishy.

Just some of the online pics from the Exercise to show what it’s like

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CH-47 delivering a pair of Light Strike vehicles

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Light Strike vehicle park

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AN-124 delivering a CH-47

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A pair of AH-64’s in the belly hold of an AN-124

Photos courtesy of Central Queensland Planespotting.

We used to have an air mobile 155mm howitzer but it sort of fell out of use, we found that for a raiding force, a howitzer was a bit too much of a liability and anything we wanted to hit could be handled with the Light Strike mounted Spike anyway (Exactor for you guys)

http://www.alert5.com/newsphotos/SLWH-3.jpg

Nice to shoot, pain to haul and feed. lol.

Enjoy.

Ivan the Terrible

In a previous post TD pointed out the vulnerability of dismouned atgw teams in light of Russia’s extensive use of artillery in Ukraine. This light strike brigade would surely be very vulnerable in any high intensity engagement. It probably should be a working assumption that on the modern battlefield the Russian forces would know pretty much what’s going on in front of them. They’ll do they’re duty but sound like a suicide run to me! Another problem not discussed is how to extract the LSB after contact…assuming there are many troops left, no helo pilot is going to come within miles of the engagement zone. (Assuming they haven’t already been re-deployed elsewhere). Are these lads going to disperse and tab out? I think it’s a useful concept in some ways, but given our airlift limitations not practical in a central European scenario. Nothing under medium weight forces is surely survivable 1 on 1.

Observer

Ivan, ‘knowing the battlefield’ is not as easy as it sounds. I’ve had armor battle groups drive right pass me beside the road without even knowing I was there and an even more memorable infantry skirmish line ‘sweep’ through my team without detecting us. Attention span plays a very large part in this. Even with all the toys and gadgets, if the user is just going through the motions, the chances of being detected go way down. Ironically, this means that it is somewhat safer to be behind enemy lines than in front of them since they ‘know’ no one is there so their attention span is very poor. I know that I, for one, sleep during administrative moves and I’m hardly unique.

For extraction, it depends on the terrain as I put it before. In closed terrain, finding an LZ is a pain but for more open countries, it’s OK to just pick any out of the way open field. You get there, prep for the lift then the helos come in and get out fast. You wait for them, they don’t wait for you, not to mention you clear the surrounding area first or pick an alternate. Or hell, even do a night op, detection goes to the crapper at night, making it easier for aircraft to get in and out.

The modern battlefield is not a place where you line up, declare your linage dating back to the Middle Ages, then take turns shooting at each other. If you can shoot someone in the back and he dies even without knowing you’re there, you do it. That is the role of Light Strike. It’s not as suicidal as you imagine it to be, it’s even safer than being on the front line and becoming artillery bait. In fact, your biggest danger is the same problem of awareness that the enemy has. Stumbling onto concealed positions by accident is still the biggest ‘killer’ for inserted teams.

Simon

Ivan,

I got the impression that the idea of the LSB is for: A400M to airfield, Chinook to LZ, L-ATV to contact, dismount to engage.

Therefore, I’d assume the LSB would drive back to an LZ which would not necessarily be within the field of regard of the enemy and could realistically be way out of standard artillery range.

Possibly not enough time to evac the vehicles in an emergency though?

Pacman27

I think there is a valid discussion to be had around all this. My view is that a fighting force of 64 deployable Battalions (16 Brigades, 4 Divisions) of 760 personnel (5 platoons of 36 in a company x4 +1 platoon of40 CnC) should be the backbone of our armed forces and should include 4 Brigades of Elite soldiers, they will be supported by a further extended HQ of 5 Support Brigades (22,500 personnel), bringing the core land force to 71,140 (please note that this can only be achieved by a single defence force with core logistics)

It is easier to backfill non specialist logistics than it is frontline combat and combat support functions – so I would concentrate reserve recruitment on logistics and combat support functions only.

Now we have 4 fully operational divisions they will be assigned the following roles: 1 Elite, 1 Light Strike, 1 Med Strike, 1Heavy Armour. This presents organisation options – we can have 4 division exactly the same each with a brigade of Elite, Light strike, Med Strike, HA and a dedicated combat support group or they can be set up as individual divisions.

My preference is for 4 divisions that are exactly the same with 1 Brigade from each on high readiness, 1 working up (training), 1 coming off and 1 in R&R and civic duties at any point in time.

For the kit I think this article is primarily aimed at the Elite and Light infantry divisions where speed, mobility and firepower are the most important factors. I am a big fan of the Polaris type vehicles as they can get 4 men in with a GPMG on top and you have something that takes the load off, helps with suppressing fire (through GPMG and more ammo) and keeps you fresh for the fight), it also offers limited cover which in my experience is good.

From my perspective the light strike is Drive, Dump, Fight, as such they need to be dispensable vehicles. the vehicles themselves may only get you 80% of the way to your target but that is still better than the alternative, you dump it then march the rest. Alternatively you use these light vehicles to swarm an enemy in-between armour with TOW’s or similar.

My point is they are cheap, cheerful and very very useful – not everything has to be armoured or a tank. For the Navy the CB90 offers a similar option to swarm.

We cannot keep up with the US – what we can do is move forward with who we are and I think we can come up with some excellent solutions to a very British problem of punching well above our weight – we must get an asymmetric organisation and threat to fill in the gaps around our high end forces and assets.

TehFin

Why on earth should UK have LS division if it can’t deploy probably more than maybe battalion at a time? One brigade is maximum size that UK should have for this type of unit.

Like Observer said LSB wouldn’t probably be pushover and dealt with one swift artillery blow. First of all dispersed troops with physically small footprint are very hard to detect. In best cases they can even hide among civilians and wear Babushka robes over their combat gear and observe traffic. I’ve heard about one case when Norwegian CV platoon dismounted about 50m from observation post and they never noticed them.

Observer

Teh, I think pac might also want to use the LS divisions as light infantry, so while a battalion or two of the division might be practicing the art of fighting in other people’s streets, the other soldiers might be working as motorised/mechanized infantry to replace the old infantry of the past since his proposed orbat seems to lack old fashion foot infantry.

I’m curious as to what is his classification of ‘Elite’ though. I doubt a whole division of SAS is practical. :)

On the other hand, the most common working unit for large scale formations these days is the brigade where you mix and match companies borrowed from other formations. It’s incredibly rare to see a ‘pure’ formation at brigade/division level, most formations at that level are ‘combined arms’ type units.

TehFinn

That could be so. The way I see it is that all infantry that can’t fight mounted is foot infantry, their method of transportation varies but they all fight on foot and their firepower is derived from what they can carry with them or in the vehicles. Hence motorized and light infantry only differs in their method of transportation but otherwise they’re the same. While on the subject I don’t think there should be infantry without vehicles. That is so WWII. The definition is by ability to conduct maneuver warfare. MIV can maneuver but not maneuver and fight, it has to maneuver, dismount, fight.

Most infantry units should be built to be as flexible and combined arms as deemed necessary to begin with, probably excluding tank since they’re (sorry to all tankers) a supporting arm. Finnish infantry battlegroups have all arms except AA and even that is brigade level asset.

Maybe the Light Strike Division then should have one LS Brigade and two Motorized Brigades. The motorized brigades wouldn’t need much more than trucks to hqve even dash of realism in world of fantasy fleets.

Pacman27

Elite for me is Para’s and Royal Marines and probably Gurkha’s – I could also have called them commando’s but didn’t want to upset people – SAS is special forces which is tip of the spear probably 1 or 2 battalions at most.

I do think this TD article addresses the fact that very few of our engagements in the last 40 years have not been mechanised. My view is predominantly that light strike should have 4 man Polaris with a GPMG on top or a mortar and it is there to get people to position quickly with a weight of fire and ammunition that they could not otherwise carry. So a 21st century light infantry – due to the lack of armour I still expect the soldiers using this kit to walk, talk and fight – it just gives them options.

It’s virtually impossible to carry everything you need in order to be safe and effective and as I have said my view is these create a drive, dump and attack or drive, harass and exit mentality dependant upon the situation. So it needs to be cheap and dispensable and very fast and fuel efficient.

I also see these battalions operating in a mixed brigade or division but ultimately it seems to me that the right sized operational unit is a self sustaining deployable battalion of circa 900 people that is replenished centrally but can ultimately last for circa 14 days on its own.

Just to be clear I support TD’s analysis but would go much further and re-organise the whole military to support these divisions which Hopefully would get a bit of intra divisional rivalry going on to improve morale and fitness.

Ultimately each division would have a brigade of each of the 4 formation types to form a mixed Division. They would also have all the support elements required bringing a brigade to circa 6000 personnel and have a divisional HQ of circa 18k personnel (42k in total, including naval, air, cyber and logistics forces)

4 of these divisions plus a large HQ (including the carrier groups and CASD) would require circa 220-260k personnel but is broadly in line with the need to get out of the WW2 mindset we seem to have been in ever since.

Small is beautiful and a well armed 4 man team can do a lot of damage if given the tools.

One last thing – we need a lot more helicopters (Merlins and Apache’s – probably 200 + of each) to really make us an effective fighting force.

Observer

200 helicopters is something that is not going to happen. That’s along the lines of the UK getting 10 carriers. But I do suppose one can dream. :)

While 1:1:1:1 as an organizational chart looks nice, it isn’t practical, the ratio is usually 3-4 infantry to 1 armour as you need a lot more infantry than you do tanks and even the heli-borne units I showed act as a support unit to infantry, not replace them. If you got 8 non-infantry brigades, you’re going to need about 24 infantry brigades at a low end estimate to even it out if not more, not counting the ‘Elites’ since they are infantry in another form. 1-1-1-1 does look nice though, squarish in an aesthetic way.

Pacman27

@ Observer
In fairness to me – the 1:1:1:1 organisation is to allow for sustainability and harmonisation compliance and will work.
200 Merlins would cost around £6bn admittedly, but I don’t expect us to order all at once and we do have a fair few already? (I also accept I am dreaming – but haven’t a clue what we actually spend £48bn on: Source HMG 2017 budget)

The point about infantry to armour is legacy – in this day and age we haven’t got the people – I personally would get rid of armour and go with Strike supported by Apache’s (but know this is not fashionable and another £6bn).

I just don’t think our operations reflect the way our forces are set up.

About the Armour – you are right, in trying to simplify I should have been clearer – HA in my orbat is everything tracked and heavy and therefore difficult to deploy quickly. Was trying to keep relevant to this article and show the difference between the light elements and the progressively heavy elements.

Very Light Weight: Elite – Polaris
Light Weight: LI – Polaris /JLTV/Foxhound/Husky etc
Medium Weight: Mech – JLTV /MIV
Heavy Weight: HA – Warrior/Ajax/ Challenger/MLRS etc.

TehFinn

Pacman,

do you have any idea how much preparations and gear is needed to be self-sustainable for 14 days? It’s hundreds of tonnes of gear needed even for infantry heavy formation. Not only the personnel and equipment need to be dropped but also the gear needs to be dispersed, stached and have some sort of catalog and dispensing system for them. It’s a major undertaking to be self-sustainable and good portion of that 900 would go to being self-sustainable.

Observer

Pac, the problem with the infantry formations is not ‘legacy’ or habit, the structure is like that because that is the working ratio of armour to infantry. If you’re short of manpower, you cut -everything- down to keep the ratio because it is necessary to keep that balance.

I know what you’re trying to do, to keep a 1:3 stand to/stand down ratio but that isn’t how it’s done, you don’t put chunks of ‘pure’ formations into R&R, you stand down the whole unit, which is why brigades tend to have their own ‘resident’ combined arms units, so that they can train like they fight and they can stand down the brigade as a whole. The ‘resting’ unit is by brigade level, not division. And frankly, your formation numbers are HUGE! A brigade is close to 5,000 men, your 16 brigades would have a working number of somewhere in the range of to 80,000 men without logistics. That’s the whole of your army personnel on combat duty, who are soon to eat their bootlaces. There IS a reason why the Royal Logistics Corp is the largest corp in the British Army. UK Armed Forces Commentary puts their numbers at 17% of the Army’s total manpower, which is about 14,000 men. Factor that into your calculations, assume 15% of your total manpower is loggy staff.

I do get what you’re trying to do, it’s just that these kind of structure organization is a lot more than just putting x men in y boxes and put z boxes into bigger boxes, you got to know 1-why the unit is set up the way it is and 2-how the units interlink with each other to provide their desired effect, especially for logistics. It’s quite complicated.

TehFinn

Finland has brigades with about 5500 soldiers so nothing unusual there. Finland does have large amounts of personnel, for example jäger company is close to 300 but the companies in Brigade model 05 which has 5500 total strenght are smaller than that. Finnish battalion battlegroups are around 2000-2500 strong and these have almost 300 per jäger company and most battalion battlegroups have square organization. In this light so big brigades aren’t anomaly.

Observer

Teh, it’s not the size of the individual formations that is the problem, 4-5000 men brigades are about average size. It’s his 4 divisions take up almost every single man in the British Army since their total strength is about 83,000 men. Maybe my point might have been better made if I called it lopsided to the side of combat units instead of just huge. It’s like suggestions of ‘abolish support staff and give every man a gun’. Sounds nice and gungho and all but not practical. All head and no tail just means you die differently.

TehFinn

Yes, that’s true. As a rule of thumb CSS should make 1/3 of total strenght. Brigades probably have CSS in Pacmans proposition but higher echelons also need their own CSS to support the brigades and to keep the whole logistical system flowing and it is labor intensive. Probably something that civilians could do to some extent. After all it’s civilians who manufacture and to some extent store the gear.

Pacman27

@observer

Understood and I agree with you to some extent, but am offering a paradigm shift organisation built around being able to deploy Battalions, as that is mostly what we deploy as these days with the rare deployment of a brigade.

I have tried to correct some of the issues I believe in the current ORBAT by having 4 Fire platoons of 35 in a company, supported by a centralised support and CnC platoon of 40 making 180. This is then replicated to make a Brigade 3940 strong and a division circa 19700 strong with a fair portion of these combat support. My key point however is that these units need to be supported by UK PLC’s fantastic civilian logistics that we should leverage more. we currently have 83k in the army and 7k in the RM. Likewise I see an integrated combat support function across a single service in order to get us into the right Division and Corps sizing.

Company (4 combat platoons of 35 +1 CSG 40) = 180
Battalion (4 Companies of 180 +1 CSG 180) = 900
Brigade (4 Battalions of 900 +1 CSG 900) = 4500
Division (4 Bgdes of 4500 +1 CSG 4500) = 22500
Army (4 Division of 22500 + 1 CSG 22500) = 112500

The army is circa 115k including reserves and as I have stated I would like to see the reserves concentrate on combat support and not “infantry” type roles.

Its an attempt to correct lack of fire at point of contact, getting more speed and ammo to point of contact (via light transport) and use the reserve more effectively.

This may not be perfect and it is budget led, but at least we are discussing the issues and offering solutions and I like that (instead of just moaning about the state of the budget).

Thanks for listening – I will shut up now.

Pacman27

apologies for some of the numbers below (as you can see I am constantly trying to fit things into the budget)

the 3940 number below would be 4 combat Battalions of 760 + a CSG of 900 (x5 to make the Division)

Its obviously better to embed support at every level possible and I prefer the 900×5 model personally.

TehFinn

Have you been thinking about the breakdown of that 900 CS/S. How many signalists, engineers, gunner etc?

The point about Brigade and Divisional HQs soaking up CS & CSS and generally inflating headcount is well made.

If we limit ourselves to 1 deployable Divsion HQ and 4 Brigade HQs that gives as much command resource as an 82,000 headcount land force is ever likely to need.

You can still have clusters of subject matter experts, who sit outside that structure, who can be posted in when needed. These could be for Arctic, Jungle and Air centric ops, for instance.

Finally you would need a single, purely admistrative, Corps to look after the pay, rations, discipline etc of all those Regiments and Batallions NOT currently either deployed, or training for depolyment.

Of course that wouldn’t give nearly enough jobs for Brigadiers.

Hmmm….

Observer

The biggest strike I see against the Light Strike Brigade concept (pun not intended) is that it is simply the Medium Strike with smaller vehicles and a secondary role tacked on to it. Medium Strike is simply an attempt to mechanize a unit of infantry (which is a scenario where I lean towards Mr Fred’s opinion of APCs vs IFVs). Other than being air lifted, a Light Strike isn’t going to be any different from a Medium Strike in role and air mobility is a very niche function, which is why the AAB and the Cdo are so few in number, you don’t need more than 2 brigades worth.

So with the airborne role taken by the ‘Elite’ forces and the ‘long ranged infantry’ role taken by the Medium Strike, is there any space left for a ‘Light Strike’? To get the capabilities desired in this article, might you not be better off increasing the vehicle and equipment count of the 16 AAB and 3 Cdo who are already doing this job rather than reinventing the wheel? Simon pointed out in one of the comments, quite correctly I believe, that this is just reinventing the ‘vertical engagement’ of the previously mentioned units. I strongly suspect the desire for ‘Light’ strike simply stems from the need to see the words ‘light’, ‘medium’ and ‘heavy’ in an army structure as opposed to them actually being needed for a role, especially since functionally, the 16 AAB and 3 Cdo are your ‘light strike brigades’ in all but name.

The Medium Strike concept itself has a few problems, one of which is the basic schizophrenia of the concept, building a long ranged, long endurance force comprised of wheeled 8x8s…then tacking on a tracked Ajax, or the basic lack of support since most of the equipment, especially armour and indirect fire assets, can’t keep up with it, leaving what is essentially light infantry with medium weight APCs to face whatever is on the other end alone (Which I believe can be solved with some time, planning and workarounds. Might I interest you in some MIV towed Howitzers? :P ), but I believe it is necessary as the future of infantry is in mechanization. I, however, don’t see the need to have ‘Light’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Well done’..oh wait, ‘Heavy’, just so that the Army can scream ‘Bingo!’ at the end of the day.

Oh and another point I keep forgetting. Brigades don’t need to work on the 1:3 sustainment ratio, that’s more for ships, since their transit time is so long, and much lower levels like platoons to keep an 8 hr working day and to keep a 1/3 reinforcement ratio in case of attack. Stand to/Stand down for brigades work more on ‘time sustained’ and unit stress and training cycles than a clocked cycle. You technically don’t even need to pull a brigade back if you can rotate trained personnel through it while in the field since 1- equipment maintenance can be done on site unlike ships 2- even if you’re under attack, your ‘reinforcement’ brigade will be somewhere in the UK, which is nuts all use to reinforce you on site. 3- you can rotate personnel or even whole sub units out without needing to rip out the whole structure and relocate.

At brigade level, you don’t really need to do a 1:3 rotation. You can go 1:2 or even not rotate out en-mass at all unless you took severe casualties. IIRC some formations were in the field in WWII for years, so there is no need to get hung up on the ‘need 3 brigades’ idea. That’s a misapplication of a concept.

Pacman27

@Peter – the is exactly what I am trying to achieve.
@TEh – yes I have thought about it and the key here is that this is a basic formation – it can and will change dependant upon task, but the plan is broadly copying the Marine Corps structure which I believe is applicable now our force is so small.

@Observer – Maybe you are right about the org structure – but we have had major issues fielding full strength battalions and rotating them over the last 20 years and my experience is that broadly speaking you should always plan for 25% of your personnel to be on holiday/sick/training/other leave at any point in time and we need to ensure that the military can recruit and retain, so I think this is a possible solution.

As for the navy I prefer a 1on 1 off model with 1 in maintenance for a much larger fleet (T23 6 on 6 off 1 deep maintenance as an example) and running 3 crews for 2 vessels as ultimately it is the crews that are the pinch point here (hopefully with the newer ships at least)

I do think there is a place for air transportable strike (call it what you want really) and the days of infantry walking everywhere are gone, so I agree with the concept but as you have pointed out MIVs need something to keep up with them and for me that is a large helicopter and fighter force.

We need to re-organise the whole UK military – but ultimately also need 2.5% of GDP to make this work. ( I estimate we currently spend 1.7% based on HMG figures)

TehFinn

Well, you can’t change and adapt without some baseline capabilities and units. There has to be basic structure from which the organization will be changed to suit the situation. Why do you think USMC CSS would suit UK Army well? They have very little artillery to begin with, no SPGs, their logistical needs are unique being marines. I can see you haven’t thought about it one bit.

Lee

Interesting as always. I’m having trouble though figuring out to what extent 3Cdo and 16AA don’t already form the best basis for the type of forces you describe, short of helicopter-transportable vehicles. why sacrifice otherwise incredibly useful amphibious forcible entry and air assault capabilities when the types of roles you discuss could simply become an additional configuration that they could adapt? And if you remove these types of elite forces, from what bassin do you recruit your SOFs?

what you in fact seem to suggest is the creation of an entirely new capability from scratch, and this appears counterintuitive in a tight funding environment. while you are surely right that air assault in the classic sense is probably a very big ask in the A2AD environment, both those elite formations have all the necessary qualifications to perform that AND the dispersed, networked and ultra-manœuvrable task you discussed. But then again, isn’t it in part the purpose of the F-35 / Typhoon Suppression of Enemy Air Defences mission? And wouldn’t air-inserted special forces be playing a major part in this effort to mitigate these air defence systems?

I think if anything, given existing equipment, training and experience, there is a good case for augmenting both the current rapid reaction formations, giving them serious teeth and expanding on their roles and capabilities. I totally agree with you that light, fast and furious is a great (and achievable) concept. I have grave doubts about Strike brigades (they would lack the cross-country capability of tracked armour and, most seriously of all, need roads, which I’m sure would greatly facilitate the task of adversary artillery and tactical aircraft). And lets face it, if your concept is designed to counter Russian agression, I don’t see the Russians cutting back on the sort of armoured forces that light forces would have to face, and their investment in A2AD, E-warfare, cyber warfare and continued emphasis on artillery and the deep battle suggests their entire effort aims to ensure they can bring over-whelming mass of fire to bear as rapidly and safely as possible. Other than the excellent job of disrupting and confusing this fearsome enemy, the type of light force you propose would be, well…a speed bump… In the end, we and more importantly Polish and, ahem, German, armoured forces will have to be hot on the light forces heels to finish the fight and kill the bloodied bear.

Anyhow, apart from looking like expensive cannon fodder as it’s chewed up on the road, Strike as it seems to be shaping up doesn’t look very much more deliverable to the battlespace than conventional armoured forces. worse still, to get anywhere quickly, they’d need to move by ship…and I think we already have a force that does a pretty good job of that.

I think it prudent to :

– retain and expand on our existing rapid reaction forces (add a little armour, heavier artillery and 2-3 commandos to the RM, the equivalent of 2-3 more battalions to 16AA)
– ensure we have a relevant if relatively small-sized armoured manouvre capability (the equivalent of 3 regular and 1-2 yeomanry square combined arms battlegroups), enough to generate 3 kick-ass battlegroups, with at least 1 permanently stationed at the tip of the lance in Eastern Europe, the others around Salisbury training-regenerating or ready to move)
– and a large force (5 battlegroups-/ 3 brigades- worth) equipped with wheeled medium vehicles, mobile artillery (Archer-type), light infantry, support helicopters and attack helis as needed, for enduring operations over wide areas and specialising in urban manouvre.

Thanks for your super-detailed articles, its clear you invest a huge effort in generating these fascinating reads.
Lee

Observer

-shrug-

First question I would really ask is how serious is the British Army about the whole ‘Strike’ concept. If they’re really serious, the price tag is going to be quite high since they will need to mount a whole brigade’s worth of infantry on MIVs as there is no point for half a brigade to be in Poland while the other half is still in the UK.

A better orbat to copy would be the US’s Stryker brigades, they’re closer to the role and concept of the ‘Medium Strike’ than the USMC. From their orbat, their nominal strength is somewhere in the range of 300 8x8s, so you will need those numbers for one Strike Brigade. 4 Strike Brigades would be around 1,200 vehicles. Either way, I foresee a lot of budgetary pain in the future for the UK. They will need a direct fire version of the MIV similar to the 105mm Stryker MGS due to the problem of outrunning their support that I mentioned earlier and maybe even towed howitzers. It’s literally building a whole new brigade and support structure from the ground up. Then their elements like engineering and signals and logistics need to be remounted on vehicles that can keep up with the MIV or even use the MIV itself. And that costs. Not saying it can’t be done, in fact, I believe it needs to be done eventually. You just need to be mentally prepared for the budget numbers to be ugly while the upgrading is underway.

TehFinn

A better orbat to copy would be the US’s Stryker brigades, they’re closer to the role and concept of the ‘Medium Strike’ than the USMC.

My “I just say things without thinking them through”-radar is beeping. Care to explain what makes SBCT suitable? You do know IBCT organization in exactly the same as SBCT apart from AT coy. Were you meant to say SBCT has suitable equipment for Medium Strike?

https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/other/msm3-90_2012.pdf here you can check the detailed To&E of US BCTs. It’s a bit old (2012) but should be accurate enough.

Observer

Teh, no intrinsic transport for the infantry companies. That’s the major difference between an IBCT and an SBCT. From what I can remember and I think your graphics supports my theory, the rifle squads do not have motorized transport at all, only the HQ and support elements. Check your pg 40. Compare it with the SBCT’S orbat at pg 182 where a company comes with 8 Strykers.

Why I asked Pac to compare with a SBCT is that the SBCT’s CONOPS (concept of operations) is very similar to the UK’s proposed Medium Strike concept, the use of 8x8s to project infantry over long distances, and as such, will have similar methods of organization, like organic 8×8 transport to the unit, which an IBCT will not have, or the presence of a ‘Wheeled Vehicle Repair’ unit (pg 205) vs the absence of one in the infantry (pg 59). This isn’t including the difference of having 3 MGS attached to each rifle company directly.

More than just equipment, vehicles are a lot more tightly intermeshed with the infantry in an SBCT than an IBCT and the need to support these vehicles is correspondingly greater, hence a higher degree of repair support. This is a force structure difference, not just equipment.

Or you could explain to me how using the USMC would be a better comparison, especially since one is amphibious infantry with limited inshore projection capability while the other is a long distance mechanized infantry unit?

The one you’re annoyed at is Pacman, not me.

:)

TehFinn

“the rifle squads do not have motorized transport at all,”

This has to be absolutely dumbest thing ever known to mankind. What is this, 1930s!? Also you’re reading it wrong, there are three platoons each with four squads for a total of 12 strykers in the rifle platoons, on top of those there’s two for company command and two mortar variants. In total there are 20 vehicles per Stryker mounted rifle coy. There are three MGS per battalion, the To&E is that old that it doesn’t show that there wasn’t enough money to buy every coy their own MGS platoon. What SBCT lacks to fill Medium Strike is mobile artillery and engineering capabilities. It has only four vehicle launched bridges which probably can’t withstand the entire brigade, four towed MICLICs, manual mine clearence capabilities are plenty but they’re manual and suspectible to AP mines. Plowing with Strykers head on into minefield is probably short lived story (pg. 165). Also all counter battery radars are towed and hence slow to operate. All artillery is towed, short ranged and has terrible traverse. Not really good for conducting operations which require shooting all around.

SBCT does have neat amount of heavy mortars, two per company and four in the mortar platoon. Logistical capabilities are plenty but there are probably few too many vehicles than what’s really needed. A Humwee and driver for priest? The entire SBCT is around 1000 vehicles and 4400 soldiers strong, 1 in 4 has to drive.

The concept is there but it needs some refining.

I don’t know how USMC would be better since I don’t have equivalent To&E available for marines. Very often people (mostly civilians) just throw ideas around without thinking the slightest what they just said or can they back it up.

Observer

Teh, in that case, from the link you supplied, can you show me where the HMMWVs for the IBCT rifle companies are? I’ll even help you, the Rifle company order of battle is on page 40. The alternative, a common pool of vehicles from a unified MT line is non-existent, I can’t find ANY sign that the rifle companies have vehicles earmarked for them parked elsewhere. You may wax poetic about how old fashioned it is but unless you can point out WHERE these vehicles of yours are, old fashioned is what I’ll assume them to be.

As for the numbers, yes I missed the next page 2×2 more Strykers, however, did you not notice I exclude the HQ and support elements in my count? I even specifically mentioned “the rifle squads do not have motorized transport at all, only the HQ and support elements” which should be obvious I exclude the HQ and support in my count.

However, I do believe I have justified why I would use the SBCT as a template rather than the IBCT (which does not even have the same concept of use as the Medium Strike). You may not like it, but it does not detract that is still is the closest common open source match to their desired intention.

You complain about their artillery but you do realize I hope that 155mm is their largest in use tube artillery? They do not have anything larger unless you resurrect their old 203mm (8 inch) guns, so the M-777 is going to be as good as it gets unless you start attaching HIMARS to them. And if your artillery has to shoot ‘all around’, your battery is seriously in the wrong place. As for engineering/bridging assets, well, no one ever has enough of those.

I know you’re annoyed, but don’t let it get to your head.
I would also love to know what template you would recommend for their Medium Strike if you don’t like the SBCT one.

TehFinn

There are no Humvees, instead the forward support company has mobility section which I believe would be used to move rifle companies pg 65.

As for artillery why do you think 203mm would be needed according to what I said. Also in very mobile operations there will be enemies more or less all over the place. Even Germans concluded after WW2 that 360×70° firing gun was needed. The tempo of operations require that.

SBCT might be the closest there is to Strike brigade, they even start with the same letter. As for what I think would be suitable template to start building Strike from. I can’t say there is one but few and from them we would pick cherries. Strike could learn from Finnish Pori Jägerbrigade, it’s wheeled independent formation meant to be used all over Finland thanks to its excellent operational mobility. The Jäger battalions have have great firepower (Amos and several platoons worth of AT soldiers), good engineering capabilities, from French Marines/Legion we could learn about using heavily armed, not armoured but armed, front guard and wheeled artillery to match the on-road mobility and speed. From Brazil we could learn about the value of amphibious vehicles. From Russia we could learn political balls the get the ball rolling in the first place and generous use of arty. Germany could teach us not to use gold plated vehicles.

I’m not sure I’m 100% familiar with Strike CONOPs so if there’s a link to it I would be gratefull. That would help me give better answer.

ArmChairCivvy

I agree with TheFinn’s comments about artillery. Overall this one from Observer
“with the airborne role taken by the ‘Elite’ forces and the ‘long ranged infantry’ role taken by the Medium Strike, is there any space left for a ‘Light Strike’? To get the capabilities desired in this article, might you not be better off increasing the vehicle and equipment count of the 16 AAB and 3 Cdo who are already doing this job rather than reinventing the wheel? Simon pointed out in one of the comments, quite correctly I believe, that this is just reinventing the ‘vertical engagement’ of the previously mentioned units. I strongly suspect the desire for ‘Light’ strike simply stems from the need to see the words ‘light’, ‘medium’ and ‘heavy’ in an army structure as opposed to them actually being needed for a role, especially since functionally, the 16 AAB and 3 Cdo are your ‘light strike brigades’ in all but name.”
is pretty much in line with my view.

So working the nitty-gritty into it? Our in-serevice LG is superior to what (the BAE 155mm titanium wonder; titanium lightening it up enough for field handling) we would like to replace it with in many respects: arc of fire, size of crew, mobility with towing vehicles similar to those used by the rest of the proposed formation, resupply of rounds from a distance. Delivered effect and range leave a lot to desire, sure, and the survivability of guns/ howitzers not operated from under cover can be questioned.
– what to do about it?
– keep the LG as the heliborne alternative
– introduce a 120 mm breach-loaded and direct fire capable mortar across the 16 AAB and 3 Cdo that are your ‘light strike brigades’ in all but name. As a MIV turret version (when there is infantry in MIVs in the base formation), or as TD illustrated with the Spanish option, either on the back of a 4×4 or, in the case of the RM, in the rear unit of the articulated BVs).
– Do not settle on the “average” as was done with the Stryker-based direct fire weapon, which is far from perfect, but does share the “same REME support” as the formation it supports and can therefore be easily “penny-packeted” even down to (being an organic asset at) the company level.

TehFinn

We also need to consider what do we want artillery to do. Do we want to shoot deep into enemies rear or support troops in contact? For supporting troops it’s better to have something that has short minimum indirect fire distance because they get better protection from the troops it’s supporting compared to it being 7km from the infantry. Artillery has to have secondary protection from infantry. For a compact and powerfull battalion it has to have lots of mobile mortar systems. For Strike I’d rather have more mortars than guns. Probably even go as far as having just one artillery battery of 8 guns and mortar coy for each infantry battalion. Good wheeled artillery system for long range shots with guided fuzes and Bonus/Smart. There probably should be dedicated security platoon for the battery.

If we were to have both medium MIV mounted Strike and Light Strike ala 16th and 3Cdo then we really ought to think where do they fit in the big picture and are the overlapping features in them. Is there too much dublication or is light strike just the budget version of medium strike? At the moment it seems that Light Strike is more of a CONOP more than dedicated formation. It might fit 16th and 3Cdo but their organization and equipment might need to be tweaked.

Observer

Light Strike isn’t even a concept yet, just a suggestion. Medium strike has a concept of operation

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmdfence/108/108.pdf

3 brigades deployable over long distances. I’m confident the MIV can do it considering that it is supposed to be an 8×8 but the Ajax… tracked and long ranged don’t go well together unless it is also paired with the word ‘transporter’, hence my suspicions that they are not really that serious about ‘long range’ or the Strike concept is having a bit of schizophrenia.

Teh, if you were pushing for more mortars in a fast maneuver force, then I’d agree you might have a point. The way you were complaining about the ‘artillery’ made me think that you were trying to get howitzer artillery to do something that it is near impossible for them to do, fight off foes from 360 degrees all round. M-777 is what they got and the capabilities of 155mm isn’t going to get any better in the foreseeable future so if you want 360 degrees support fire, powered traverse mortars are the only thing that even has a chance to deliver that degree of capability.

Oh well, we’ll see what the British Army comes up with in the future. The 2 ways I can see this going is either a long ranged infantry brigade that is a clone of the US’s SBCTs or ironically a modern copy of the old Soviet Motor Rifles Regiment upsized.

Simon

Been doing some reading and it turns out that TD’s “As Is” picture for 3Cdo is not quite as delineated as one might have thought.

The bolt-on army CS/CSS have all undergone Royal Marine training. They are effectively Royal Marines in all but name. If the same is true for the CS/CSS provided to 16AAB then I’d suggest that the British Army have almost lost those regiments into the commando/para brigades.

If we then reverse the clock a little and remember that commandos we’re essentially our special forces, out of which the SAS, SBS, paras and RM were born, we should really create a small light division consisting of 3Cdo, 16AAB, existing SF elements, and recently absorbed CS/CSS. All commanded under a single banner. That way the CS/CSS that is currently bolted onto each brigade can become native to the light division and deployed/scaled as required. I can then see all L118s (for example) going under this structure.

Not entirely dissimilar to TD’s eventual Light Strike Brigade except that it is formed from existing units and becomes a small *division* responsible for maritime/littoral security, behind-the-lines assault, SF support, etc.

“Medium” would then come out of the light forces’ desire for heavier equipment now and again (e.g. amphibious assault), and the heavy/tracked forces’ desire for lighter equipment (e.g. reduced logistics at range). In other words no “Strike Brigade” – just the building blocks to field one if necessary.

TehFinn

What I ask artillery to do is very much possible. There are even examples of 2S1 turret being mounted on AMV. Dana and G6-52 have done it for years now. They’re not towed obviously but you get the point. Anyone heard of D-30? The world is my oyster and the capability exists.

TehFinn

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmdfence/108/108.pdf

Page 42: “Each regiment equipped with AJAX will have between 50 and 60 vehicles, and the two Strike Brigades are each predicted to have two AJAX regiments and two mechanised infantry battalions. Once the Army reaches full operating capability, the Chief of the
General Staff expected that one of those brigades would be at 30 days’ notice to move.”

Either the other brigade will be at higher readiness that they don’t want to disclose or then Strike Brigades really can’t be quickly deployed. To me it looks like it’ll take UK a month to reinforce Baltics with medium/heavy forces. 16th probably won’t take too long to get there but it might have to wait for follow-up forces even weeks. This is looking a bit bleak. As someone who’ll be out there within the first hours I would like to have support sooner than later.

Observer

Teh, which is my point on them not being really serious about it. On the other hand, they just had a ‘Strike Experiment Group(?)’ up in January of this year trying to figure out how to use the new brigades so there might be changes. Unfortunately it also might mean no one has a clue what’s going on.

As for the 122mm, yes I know of them though I don’t have hands on. If you think they can do 360 degree responsive fire on a manually laid gun, then I’ve nothing to say, if your gun crews are that good, good for you though I would seriously recommend avoiding situations where you need a 15km ranged gun to fire in all round defence. Hell, even with powered traverse howitzers, I hesitate to claim all round responsive fire. Functionally, the D-30 is analogous to the British’s L118 guns in capability though the L118 is a lot lighter. The 122mm and the 105mm are used more like field guns rather than howitzers since they are expected to do direct fire as well.

Whatever works I guess. Or whatever floats your boat.

TehFinn

26 artillery battalions of D-30s floats my boat very much, thanks for asking. Finland has 471 D-30s.

Direct fire capability is minor niche for D-30, it was designed to be used as AT gun in Soviet doctrine which isn’t the case in Finnish tactics. By design it retains that capability but is seldom used. D-30 can shoot 360 degrees as long as the basic directions have been prepared, one is 900 mils in 6000 mil system. The problem lies in the firing positions, Finland being very forested place it takes time and effort to find a place where to shoot from without having to fell dozens of trees. The places where such thing is possible are also very suspectible to enemy aerial recce. Mortars are just that much better in quick situations, ability to shoot almost straight up allows them to pick from much wider selection of firing position.

I kind of like Simons idea. Pooling 16th and 3Cdo under the same division command isn’t that shabby idea at all and might carry fruit seeing that CS/CSS can be considered organic and frankly why shouldn’t they. That division being for quickly evolving situations and 3rd Division to kick in the door with AI and Strike brigades.

We know the combat parts of the Strike brigades are set but supporting elements are open for discussion and fantasising. As I mentioned earlier excellent engineering capabilities are needed to counter enemy counter-mobility actions. What good is 2000km capable brigade if it can’t cross a river or breach a minefield. Mobility being the key selling point for Strike in the first place it ought to be high priority for supporting elements aswell. Russian mechanized brigade has 18 TMM-3 vehicle launched bridges, pontoon company with around 6 PTSs and dozen pontoons and Army level engineering brigade/regiment has more bridges and pontoons.

As I read it TD also wants to see Light Cavalry in his LSB.

So to acheive the desired effect, Simon’s Light Division would also have to include 3 regiments of Light Cav, as well as the Light Guns.

All this does is drive the nails into the coffin of the remaining Light Infantry Regiments who are *not* in this structure, becuase we chose to keep the Parachute and Royal Marine regiments as the Infantry component.

It all boils down to some light infantry regiments have to go if we are to get some coherence into the force within the existing budget. And its a knife fight which. But then we knew that already.

By the way TD did you choose a vehicle for your Light Cav? Now that CVRT is gone…?

TehFinn

Peter, the remaining infantry could have second life as third brigade to accompany 16th and 3Cdo, atleast some of them. Maybe they could be mounted in BVs or some light amphibious vehicle. Just regular infantry brigade with lots of diggy diggy and indirect fires for holding ground and limited offensive capability. The whole division itself would have very limited offensive capabilities and hence should be at high readiness to deploy so that they will reach desired position before the enemy does and then hold them until 3rd Division kicks in the door, a month later that is.

If what we’re actually looking for is some token forces to die quietly for political reasons while we fail to re-inforce them, then maybe the RAF Regiment should also be included ;)

Observer

TehFinn, I think the British Army called those the ‘Adaptive Brigades’ though I don’t know if they are still going along with the plans for it.

Personally, I see their ‘Strike’ as more defensive in nature rather than offensive, something like the old REFORGER exercises or the US’s Atlantic Resolve. This would mean that fighting in ‘friendly’ territory, they will not need as much engineering and breaching equipment. It might be cheating a bit but the fast/long range requirement really, really does not go well with a big logistics tail so something has to be trimmed. I see the 8x8s not as assault units but instead function as ‘strategic APCs’ or the old fashioned ‘battlefield taxis’ with the infantry being the ‘effectors’ of the unit and would act to stabilize the situation to give enough time for the heavy armour units to catch up.

I severely doubt their ‘Strike’ is going to be as ‘strikey’ as you think they are. I suspect they’re going to be the functional equivalent of a cork or a stopper to block any invading force while NATO gets their act together, which is why I doubt the MIV are going to be playing in any Russian minefields any time soon.

Leaving aside TD’s premise of “Light Strike” my view, FWIW, on the Medium and Heavy forces is that they will tend to converge into a single deployable force. ie the MIV and Ajax units will end up in a mixed All Arms force with the Challengers, Warriors and AS90.

This is largely beceause we can’t afford enough MIV to be both the major component of Strike and the APC of the Armoured force. So we will end up shunting them both together.

TehFinn

Adaptive by name not by design. There needs to be well rounded and capable infantry brigade and one that has only infantry isn’t one. Four inf battalions, arty, engineers, logistics, signals, recce, AA, AT. These are what make a real brigade.

Fighting in friendly places still requires ability to dig down, lay minefields and forfity.

I don’t think or atleast I hope that MIVs were never envisioned to be “assault units”. Together with Ajax they can assault an objective with little preparation in permissive conditions but otherwise they need somewhat lenghty preparation time in order to have a meaninfull change of success and even then they need loads of arty. As you put it they’re just APCs and UK would do well to just buy loads of MRV-P 2 APC versions. Same effect, less money, but generals won’t get to bragg about how they spent gazillions on armour plated trucks.

“If what we’re actually looking for is some token forces to die quietly for political reasons while we fail to re-inforce them, then maybe the RAF Regiment should also be included ;)”

You just described Finnish Defence Forces operational concept. We got loads of battalion battlegroups which play this role. Buy time and inflict casualties, try not to get killed in the process. Either it’s deemed to work or our generals have huge cravings for blood.

Observer

Don’t look at me, I wasn’t the one to name them. I won’t be surprised if Adaptive was as adaptive as Strike is as Strike, though I think your idea of Adaptive is different from the British idea. IIRC, their ‘adaptive’ is to adapt to COIN which is possible with pure infantry since it is basically a policing role.

There are things called OOTW (Operations Other Than War), not every mission is to try killing the 3rd Shock Army. In fact, these days, there are more COIN operations than there are outright wars.

I think you might need to calm down a little….

TehFinn

Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound aggressive nor am I. I’m not that passionate about UK Army.

Finland has FRDF (Finnish rapid deployment force) which is a mechanized battalion that’s trained for COIN-operations aswell. Even though our field army is twice the size of UKs we can’t have separate units for conventional wars and COIN operations. As a result the troops that have been deployed are best trained and at highest readiness. In Finland when seeking soldiers for rotation every one who has served as a conscript can apply, then is screening and then is about 4 month training before the deployment. Finnish peacekeepers have high regard among foreigners and some have received only 10 months of military training defore they’re deployed.

Seeing that Strike might be at 30 days notice to move the personnel might aswell be over at Iraq or Afghanistan when something happens. When things start to go south big time Iraq and Afghanistan will be abandoned and probably never to be returned.

Most who are selected to go onto operations have been trained in the FRDF as conscripts and conscripts can’t go, only reservists who have completed their training.

Observer

I always did wonder about conscription training that only lasts for 1 year, is it any effective? I remember at the end of Year 1 of my recruitment, I could only be considered to know the basics, in theory. Only after another 6 months or more of practice would I say I was proficient in any form. Isn’t just one year then letting go only just touching on the things a soldier needs to know before letting him off again? You need at least another year or more minimum IMO to train to the point where you can do it without needing to flip open a notebook to check.

Of course conscription is never fun and I bet people will be screaming at me for even suggesting to extend the length of service, but I really can’t think of how only a year is enough for proficiency, especially since the only way to get proficient is to spend time doing the job.

My course schedule was-
3 months Basic
4 months Advanced Infantry Course
-Assigned to Armoured Brigade Recce
3 months Recce Course
20 months active brigade service

Considering the basic-infantry-specialist coursework by the end of month 12, I would only have been doing my job for 2 months before I had to leave if it was a 12 month enlistment and like working life, someone on the job for only 2 months isn’t going to be considered an experienced worker by any means.

Does the 1 year system work for you guys? How do you get hands on experience in such a short timeframe?

TehFinn

The key to achieving good training level is efficient use of time and specialiazation. 8 weeks long basic course which is same for all, army, navy, airforce, special forces. Then is 9 week long individual skill course and during this time period they’re taught skills needed for the task they’re picked to do. Signalist will do signals, machine gunner guns, AT gunner ATs, engineer engineers. After that is 7 week long troop training period during which they will train together as unit that’s being produced, be it jäger company, signals company, AA battery or what ever and combined arms training.

The peace time units are factories that produce war ready troops. Fresh recruits come in from one side and war ready jäger company (or what ever they’re producing) comes out from the other side.

This is for those who serve 5,5 months who make about half of all who complete their training.

NCOs and offcers serve 11,5 month together with specialized enlisted like truck drivers and some like MPs and medics serve 8,5 months.

At the end of 11,5 months some reserve officers are appointed to company XOs and fire support officers. I have seen that 11,5 months is enough to make proficient platoon leaders that are capable of leading in real war.

It’s never fun? Some even consider it best time of their life. Where else do you get to blow shit up with good pals and rip long bursts from PKM?

JEDIBEEFTRIX

@ Observer – “3 brigades deployable over long distances. I’m confident the MIV can do it considering that it is supposed to be an 8×8 but the Ajax… tracked and long ranged don’t go well together unless it is also paired with the word ‘transporter’, hence my suspicions that they are not really that serious about ‘long range’ or the Strike concept is having a bit of schizophrenia.”

Re: “3 brigades” – Two, surely?

Re: Ajax in strike – Agreed, it is totally wierd. Either Ajax is a fundamentally new kind of tracked vehicle that obviates all the historic deployability/speed/maintenance problems of a century of tracked vehicles, or, this is simply another intermin step that has no bearing on future structure. i.e. the placement of Ajax in the strike brigades is a temporary measure to the fit the paradigm permitted by SDSR15. Even though we (by which i mean: Top Brass), know that the end goal looks very different.

This has precedent!

Remember the five multirole brigades from SDSR10 that were gone by the mid-term review in 2012?
Remember the 98,000 man army from SDSR10 that was an 82,000 man army by the same mid-term review?

What do we see in the Arm-Inf Reaction Force brigades:
1. No integral Recce battalion
2. Only three principal maneuvre units (so I understand from above), when the consensus is that there ought to be four.

Join the Strike and Arm-Inf problems together, and what do you get?

———————————–

Speaking more broadly, on the subject of the 3Cdo/16AAB:

I was never happy that they were reduced from three Commandos/Paras down to two, along with the parallel commitment to generate two battlegroup sized forces from each (HRF/VHRF).
I have come to terms with this, contingency will have to live with the rule of two in this financially constrained future, even if the rule of three seems more effective.

But I do agree with Gabbie, that 3Cdo needs to get heavier, not lighter.
And I believe the same can be said for 16AAB, part of which involves moving it down the spectrum to Air-Mobile (16AMB).

What do I mean?
I mean put two of the 404 man Light Cav units in each of those brigades (yes, we need another as we have only three).
Each brigade would generate two re-inforced battlegroups built around a Commando/Para and a Light Cav battalion.
So your typical deployable force would bump up the headcount from about 1,700 to 2,200.
But that battlegroup would have a whole lot more punch.

TehFinn

I have never understood the rationale behind having entire recce battalion for a brigade. Can someone please explain? Are they all foot/vehicle recce or do they have ELINT/drone capabilities like Russian recce battalions do?

“So your typical deployable force would bump up the headcount from about 1,700 to 2,200.
But that battlegroup would have a whole lot more punch.”

Jedi, what would such battlegroup be composed of at coy/battery precision? How many rifle companies, what supporting elements would there be? I have no idea what sort of supporting elements British brigades have. How many companies does supporting logistic battalion have and so on? I can get only as far with wikipedia and trying to interpret British regiments is like reading hyroglyphs.

JEDIBEEFTRIX

I’m the wrong person to ask, apologies. :)

Observer

J.B, the ‘3’ was quoted in the government link I referred to above. How much that ties in with reality, I’m not responsible. lol.

Teh, ironically while I can’t speak for all armies that use battalions for recce, I am qualified to speak for how my recce company ends up bloating into a battalion as I was one of the participants that was involved in changing my ‘Brigade Recce Company’ into a ‘C4ISR Battalion’.

Initially we had 2 platoons of 6×4 men teams each in our company, the 3rd ‘platoon’ is reserved for reservists to slot themselves in. Then after Israel’s Operation Mole Cricket demonstrated how UAVs (called RPVs then) could be used to gather information, a 4th ‘UAV’ platoon was added. Of course since UAVs don’t haul themselves, an ATTC section was added. And of course if you needed specialized equipment, you need people who know how to repair it, so repairs section. You see where this is going don’t you. :)

At the same time, a lot of new equipment was getting fielded like NVGs, NVBs (night vision goggles, binoculars), HHTI (hand held thermo imager), HMT (hand held message terminal, basically a modem with crypto, screen and keyboard). Then the dreaded UGS or Unmanned Ground Sensor. So the weight kept going up and up and more vehicles were finally needed to save our legs. So another ATTC section was added to ‘HQ BRC’. By then, we were a lot more than a company, so up in size we go.

In short, how a company ended up as a battalion is due to technology and weight creep, mostly with UAVs though not all. Another large chunk is due to ‘computers’ being used in the field and more technology like thermo-imagers and sensors driving the weight up so high more transport is needed to do a ‘recce’ job.

It has benefits though. Leave a UGS looking at an objective and you can call for fire even without being anywhere in visual range of the target. Can’t identify a vehicle? Screenshot, send to the bigger brains in the S2 branch. But damn, those things are heavy…

Observer

Jedi, I have my suspicions that your 3 Cdo does not follow the conventional manpower allocation of other ‘normal’ units, specifically that at either the platoon level or the company level, there is a fair degree more men than other units will have. I suspect either your platoons or your companies are what we would call ‘platoon plus’ or ‘company plus’ (indicating an oversized unit) rather than a normal platoon. It’s been a long, long time so I can’t be sure but I think your companies are ~25% larger than normal.

Maybe.

Hey, I’m retired, it’s been a while. The memory’s the first to take a ‘capability holiday’. :)

TehFinn

Ok, now I see. In Finland we would have no problem calling that company. Just regular jäger company is almost 300 strong and there are even bigger companies than that. I’m happy that we don’t have to carry that much gear, just HF radio and some optics and we’re all set! If mission lasts for weeks you can’t haul laptop/pad with you. We don’t have any mumbo jumbo like robots! We have young man willing to sacrifice their lives for Fatherland!

Very little is public about battalion recce platoon and higher echelon recce companies but what is known is that battalions operate UAVs and most are LRRP type recce units. The few armoured/mechanized battlegroups/brigades have armoured recce of course.

jedibeeftrix

@ Observer – “Jedi, I have my suspicions that your 3 Cdo does not follow the conventional manpower allocation of other ‘normal’ units”

You may well be right, the Commando 21 structure is a little different to what my limited understanding of a standard configuration looks like, but forgive me for I cannot see how the structure of a commando relates to my comments on 3Cdo?

Mark

Have to say don’t see much value in this concept no matter if we’re fighting an peer enemy (and let’s face it that’s just code for Russia) or an enemy like in the mid/near east like we’ve don’t over the last 2 decades or more ,will be much use of IEDs thru guerrilla tactics against both the advancing force and supply lines. Added to that asking light brigades with limited manoeuvre capability to deploy to a peer operation is a recipe for disaster.

If we want to deploy infantry then simply it has to be properly protected including there supply lines. The medium weight vehicles of which there are many and we as a nation have pontificated over for decades is really what our capability needs to be based around. Mounting atgw, larger gun/Mortar and rocket systems on such vehicles gives the ability to operate across the full spectrum of uk operations all be it not in a re run of a potiential charge across the fulda gap at a cost appropriate to the UKs budget. NATO is a defensive organisation that would respond by ambushing and halting a Russian first strike so rapidity of deployment maybe of more importance.

The reason concepts like this exist is a failure of an armed forces such as our with a budget such as ours to prioritise the medium capability over legacy heavy capability. A continued fascination of being a mini US armed forces is leading to an unsupported and disjointed force structure because the budget to create such a force simply doesn’t exist or is likely too.

Using small lightly equipped units to operate in the enemys rear lines of communication and seize strategic targets of interest is indeed important and what commando units and the like were set up to do. Expanding the SF support groups to create something akin to the US army rangers or the expansion of SF capability as being seen across the channel would be of more benefit than generating another light brigade.

TehFinn

Mark, does protection come solely from armor of the vehicle as you seem to put it? They have to dismount at some point and leave their vehicle behind unless it’s one with sufficient armor/weapons to be used for fire support.

I’d rather have infantry brigade with good arty than SF without arty behind enemy lines. Besides it doesn’t take SF to do that, atleast not in my opinion.

Observer

J.B, the point was that if they followed their old ‘tricks’, the deployable headcount might be more than that. Organizational chart games, they understate the real number of men in the subunits. If they’re still playing these games.

JEDIBEEFTRIX

@ Observer – I believe the amphbibious battlegroup is based around a single commando of 692 (?) people, with the rest made up of support, so tracked vehicles, engineers, loggies, etc, which leads up to the ~1700 total. If that is correct a single maneuvre unit seems too thin to be really useful, hence my enthusiam for making good use of the three light-cav units pointlessly orphaned in the Adaptable Force.

ArmChairCivvy

@jedi, also the supporting air (helo) contingent counts (in their hundreds) towards that 1700-1800 total… and most of them are unlikely to leave the vessels.

@Teh, that is quite interesting “Just regular jäger company is almost 300 strong and there are even bigger companies than that” as I actually asked some one in Finland about the numbers, he went to his book shelf, got his Reservinupsseerin Kasikirja from year Dot (late ’60s) out and the answer was served “fresh from the print”:
– a company 144 (line infantry)
– a battalion appr. 900
Have all units gone up in size that much, or is the one you are quoting a special case? The RM Company 21 is a special case here as it has been designed to be able to act in isolation ( a bit like the USMC squad as they might not be able to immediately link up with the rest of the force).

TehFinn

ACC,

the number I gave represent most of the infantry units we have. You’ll need to look deep to find companies smaller than 150. Artillery and AA batteries aren’t that big but they’re more of a exception than rule. Most companies are 200+.

When inf coy had 144 soldiers their area of operations was 1-1,5×2-3km, nowadays with three times smaller field army the area has grown quite a lot, can be around 7x7km for jäger coy. The battalion battlegroups which have nearly 300 strong jäger companies are designed for independent operations without brigade/army corps/military district support if need be and that’s why their total strenght is over 2000. A half brigade if you will.

Simon

An RM manoeuvre coy is only about 100 men.

The command and support companies are about 300 between them (i.e. min 150 each).

The thing is that an RM close-combat or stand-off company doesn’t tend to go out on its own. The RM will cherry pick components of their available assets and command them as a single company. So, an 81mm mortar battery, HQ and log elements bolted onto the side of four troops/platoons. This will often get to the 200+ man number.

I doubt this is any different to any other force structure. The “nominal” structure doesn’t really represent anything in particular.

TehFinn

Simon,

what is does represent is the maximum capacity/capability it can deliver on its own without higher echelon support. IIRC there are two close combat and two stand-off companies in a marine battalion/commando/what ever you call them and normally they’re coupled to form ad hoc companies with close combat being the carpet upon which supporting elements are added so then there’s only two maneuver elements. Of course there can be more if need be but then they’re not company strenght.

As we have seen there are 100 strong and 300 strong infantry companies and everything in between. In RMs case probably the limiting factor is their mode of transport which might not be suited to lift several companies of 300 at a time. A coy of 100 can’t sustain tempo of operations after taking even few casualties, same way Russian motorized infantry is the weak point in their force structure. One company has around 60 dismounts and battalion has 200+ dismounts. No dismounts, no tank rushes through wooded/urban areas. Finnish Jäger coy has about 170 dismounts as in frontline “bayonet to liver” soldiers and 100+ supporting soldiers. It should apparent where and how we aim to fight using our strenghts.

DavidNiven

TD

It’s an interesting concept but has it had its time?

By that statement I mean is trying to find a vehicle that is light enough to be carried in multiples or internally by SH hampering the concept too much in the brigades’ utility outside of the initial deployment by air?

Considering that your brigade is to complement the heavier Strike brigade in a near peer/peer confrontation is the equipping of such a unit with very light minimal protection viable especially in view of modern ISTAR and artillery capability.

We have vehicles in service and hopefully entering service that can be under slung by Chinook at the moment that have a better all round protection, carrying capacity and importantly can be of use in the full scope of operations i.e. Foxhound, Panther and MRVP. Dispensing with the internal carry would allow a more useful all round capability in my opinion.

Now the question arises of how do we move a force mounted on 7-10t vehicles around with our now diminished SH capability in terms of number of platforms lifted per sortie, to that question I would say deliver the platforms by transport aircraft and use the SH to deliver the pax and smaller stores.

The US has developed the JPADS (joint precision air drop system) which allows a transport aircraft to fly outside of threats and deliver accurate airdrops onto smaller areas than our current systems (unless we already use it?).

A quick wiki link here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Precision_Airdrop_System

In theory a combination of JPADS and SH should allow us to drop a larger amount of vehicles and equipment faster than by just relying on one type of platform.

As an example the A400 can air drop 2500kg so possibly 3 MRVP can be dropped and the crews can be flown in to retrieve them by any SH platform available. And as the SH would not be maxed out in terms of cargo and it being internally carried they can fly faster, lower and further.

The use of the RAF transport fleet would also allow the delivery of some larger vehicles such as the 6×6 MRVP and engineering equipment such as Shielder (sorry out of service so no counter mobility) or light weight MLRS and Landceptor (CAMM) systems.

If we expand on this concept even more could we deliver FARP’s in the same manner to allow the leapfrogging AH support for the light mech and strike brigades?

DavidNiven

Sorry thats meant to be 25000kg for the A400 not 2500kg.

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