The British Army and an Integrated Review

The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy is due any time soon and I have no doubt it will reflect the hard work and smart thinking of its contributors. There will be much discussion after its publication as everyone digests the decisions and implications. Various rumours and leaks have already hinted at the outcome for the British Army, we will see how close to the reality they were. Whilst we are all waiting, this is my view of a possible alternative for the British Army, how it can change and what it might change into, although I doubt the end product will look anything like this.

The last time I wrote about the Integrated Review was in September 2020 (click the link for a recap) but not much has changed in the wider world since. The focus of the review will fall not just on geopolitics with a likely shift to the Indo-Pacific but technology and the UK’s prosperity agenda in a post-COVID post-Brexit world. We should not forget that the Integrated Review is about more than just defence and more than any one service and whilst cyber, robotics, lasers, uncrewed systems and artificial intelligence will likely be the beneficiaries of increased spending, what does this mean for the British Army and other services?

It is obvious to me that both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have executed a coherent long-term strategy in recent years, especially when compared to the British Army. They have stability and focus. I absolutely hate saying this but the Army seems to have struggled to find the same, embarking on equipment plans that are clearly unaffordable, regularly changing organisational structures, moving between being a reference customer fighting the Russians with a warfighting division one day and operating below the threshold in an era of constant competition another, and then saving elephants, reducing carbon and extolling the virtues of grey zone information operations. Whilst both the RAF and RN have a strong industrial base with UK primes that contributes significantly to the UK economy and does much of their lobbying for them, the Army has the remnants of a land equipment industry that largely survives on the crumbs from others tables. This is perhaps harsh, and maybe I am guilty of hyperbole to make a point, but it we all know there is a kernel of truth there.

And yet despite this, the British Army is a magnificent organisation that always digs out when needed, full of the best of us all, and one which we need to do well. If any of this article feels critical, it is friendly criticism.

The current selective leaking and pre-review media reporting points to a reduction of Army personnel but despite the concern, does anyone have a better idea? Can anyone see an alternative to a reduction in headcount, put emotions aside, is there an alternative that works that doesn’t involve fewer soldiers? There are smarter people than I looking at this but I just can’t see it.

It is not a new, unique, or complex idea, but reducing headcount to make financial space available to regenerate a residual but credible capability whilst addressing the many personnel-related issues seems to be unavoidable (my previous article linked to above made exactly the same point). It is not free or quick either, redundancy and shrinkage of the estate or cancelling contract will cost more than any savings in the short term but over a period of time, a smaller force with a similar budget means more money for other things.

The Army should put aside concerns about relevance within international organisations, falling below credible minimums and the loss of status. Instead of viewing change as something that others are doing to it, grasping the opportunity to regenerate by using the Integrated Operating Concept 2025 as a roadmap.

It is easy to put the IOpC into the same box as the numerous other examples of the genre that have gone before it, concept fatigue is a real danger and the impenetrable language does not immediately endear either. There also remain many questions whether the MoD is getting ahead of itself, pushing into other departmental domains with uncertain outcomes but despite this, it does at least signpost what a future force (equipment and people) might look like;

  • Have smaller and faster capabilities to avoid detection
  • Trade reduced physical protection for increased mobility
  • Rely more heavily on low-observable and stealth technologies
  • Depend increasingly on electronic warfare and passive deception measures to gain and maintain information advantage
  • Include a mix of crewed, uncrewed and autonomous platforms
  • Be integrated into ever more sophisticated networks of systems through a combat cloud that makes best use of data
  • Have an open systems architecture that enables the rapid incorporation of new capability
  • Be markedly less dependent on fossil fuels
  • Employ non-line-of-sight fires to exploit the advantages we gain from information advantage
  • Emphasise the non-lethal disabling of enemy capabilities, thereby increasing the range of political and strategic options

Many of the current programmes and hot topics do not show much alignment with some of these indicators so hopefully, the work that results from the Integrated Review will begin that alignment. As this transition begins, it would also be satisfying to see the British Army adopt three guiding principle for change; simplification, stability and sovereignty.

Simplification

A simpler Army should be able to generate more combat power by concentrating intellectual energy and physical resources on a fewer number of outcomes. This might have echoes of ‘front line first’ but do we really generate enough output from a force of over 70k personnel?

Simplification comes in three parts; tasks, processes and organisation.

Not all of the Army’s tasks are in the gift of the Army to change and it is always easier to swish them away with a lazy flick of the keyboard than in the real world but there should still be a serious conversation about a reduction of scope. The Army should encourage a re-evaluation of its roles in ceremonial and public duties, conflict reduction and upstream engagement, civil resilience, capacity building, cadet forces and music.  This does not mean they cease to exist but potentially delivered in a different manner, one that requires fewer regular Army personnel.

Could ceremonial, public duties and music be delivered by an MoD agency that had some regular personnel but drew the bulk of its strength from former service personnel on multi-year contracts, Full Time Reserves, members of commonwealth forces, or even civilians in uniform? The more horses than tanks path is well trodden and the idea often casually dismissed, but it is true isn’t it?

As much as I think the Specialist Infantry concept is a sound means of building partner capacity and reducing the likelihood of conflict, does it need regular soldiers to do it? The FCDO and Army could use private military contractors and more integration with industry, finance, diplomacy, and development areas of the government.

Home Command and Regional HQ’s; could they be made tri-service, do we need so many, should the tasks also be shared with operational brigade HQ’s, can we use smaller terms and lower ranks, and could they be centralised given the widespread adoption of homeworking techniques during COVID? If civil resilience tasks are divested, as I think they really should be, do we need Regional HQ’s to match English regions and their Regional Resilience Partnerships (we have six, plus London for England, but only one each for Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland).

Ranks and Regiments, another sensitive subject but are there too many spans and layers (even accounting for resilience in the face of combat losses). On the Regimental system, everyone’s favourite whipping boy, it is quite easy to find different and passionate viewpoints from those inside and out. Even its most passionate supporters mostly understand that it can sometimes create an impediment to change and negative behaviours. Whilst the notion of a Corps of Infantry is alluring, not sure the disruption would be worth the gain, perhaps more sensible to evolve it and create a series of large infantry and cavalry regiments to forge their own new identities, build career opportunities by virtue of their size and simplify the 1,300-page long dress regulations manual, swapping the associated clothing costs with ensuring female service personnel have PPE and uniforms that fit.

Existing internal systems like allowances and personnel performance evaluation seem from the outside to be hugely complex with a tendency to generate negative outcomes of a greater magnitude than the problems they are solving. When it comes to the Field Army, again, would a simplification of the structure provide greater efficiency, I think there is certainly potential there. Look at ORBAT’s and we seem to make a virtue of complexity compared to others, integrating reserves into regular structures and field army brigade HQ’s also having regional brigade tasks being just two examples that spring to mind. I would also note the great strides in HQ staff reduction being made by the Royal Navy, it has yet to be proven, but at least they clearly understand the political and financial environment so making a start is a big win for them.

Finally, the written word must be as simple as possible. Many documents that the MoD and British Army produce really do have far too much management jargon and ‘big words’ that very few understand. Nothing wrong with having a wide vocabulary or using the richness of the English language but much of it is simply poor communication.

I love the quirkiness and tradition of the British Army, but at this stage, it is starting to look like self-indulgence for an organisation with so many issues to attend to. Make no mistake, simplification is the most challenging of organisational change. Vested interests and traditions have enormous gravity, and often, change simply cannot be executed from within, it has to be imposed externally (see various reforms in the past).

Maybe this is the only way it can happen.

Stability

If we don’t change we become obsolete but change fatigue is real, especially if our concepts change faster than our ability to adapt. Making the Army resistant to the often fickle winds of military fashion is no easy task because it requires a limited denial of whatever today’s hot topic is.

An organisation design that can bend without breaking is the first means of achieving stability, if this organisation can blend task organisation with formed units it should be consistent over time.

Another means of achieving stability is to recognise that equipment programmes will overrun and be more expensive than predicted, higher risk margins and contingency might insulate the core equipment plan from short term reshaping caused by problems in the wider plan. Basically, build more fat into the budget rather than everything being drum tight. The equipment plan would therefore be smaller than the likely budget and would require a great deal of internal discipline to maintain this headroom. There would also need to be a formal means of responding to windfalls when projects do outturn lower than expected (see the details on experimentation below)

Finally, we should reflect on how we sometimes fetishize novelty, thinking every new conflict is game-changing. Much of this is fuelled by think tanks seeking relevance and a defence industry trying to convince everyone they are obsolete without the new gizmo they happen to be selling.

The irony of talking about stability whilst also talking about change is not lost on me but change can still happen whilst managing that change in predictable and measured increments, to an agreed plan.

Which brings me on to an agreed plan.

The MoD and British Army are famously opaque when it comes to change plans and especially the equipment plan. Journalists have to resort to FOI’s to get basic financial data, the Defence Select Committee has to drag information from witnesses and milestones or changes tend to fly by without any public explanation. We publish SRO appointment letters but they are tremendously vague and the lack of detail in the equipment plan reports (now the NAO Major Project Report is no more) stands in stark contrast with our peers in the USA or France. Some of this may well be due to national differences in funding models but if the Army is to embark on a significant transformation as many have indicated is coming, a published and detailed plan is needed. This plan must be ‘good ideas’ resistant, programmes must be managed by appointees who are there for the life of the programme (not generalists on a posting) and above all, there has to be public accountability and explanations for when things don’t go according to plan.

Sovereign

If COVID has taught us anything it has taught us the value of onshore research and manufacturing capacity. Again, much of this might not be wholly in the gift of the Army but it should implement a Land Equipment Industrial Strategy that recognises the value of onshore research, design, and manufacturing. This might include portfolio or category approaches like the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force do with their complex weapons. These portfolios might include utility vehicles, weapons, sensors, computing or infantry equipment, or anything else. One of the reasons for the comparative success of the MBDA led complex weapons portfolio is an assured pipeline and long-term view, see my point on stability above.

Does this mean I am proposing the UK go its own way on everything, of course not, it simply a suggestion that the British Army needs to anchor its equipment plan on British industry as much as it can. It should absolutely recognise the value of having equipment that exists within a large international user base but balance this with a sensible industrial strategy.

The next generation of British main battle tank is unlikely to be of British design so if we want to influence that design we either have to buy lots of them or be able to offer something unique. It seems unlikely it will be the former. We still have some cutting-edge capabilities like armour and suspension, but hard to see what else. Therefore, the Army should actively seek out technologies that the MoD has invested public funds in; artificial intelligence, cognitive load reduction, human-machine interfaces and electronic warfare in the Tempest programme for example, no doubt there are others.

An Army of 2025 and Beyond

In all of the above there has been zero mention of objectives, what we want the British Army to do, where, and to whom. I think we endlessly obsess over this but simply put, the British Army is there to conduct expeditionary warfare in support of political aims and has to be scaled and equipped as needed for that and within realistic budgets and wider context.

This isn’t anything as grand as a ‘vision’, just a few thoughts on how the Army might evolve over the next few years in order to promote debate.

Spending More on Soldiers

Education, vocational and adventurous training are key aspects of the offer, they need better funding. Spending more on soldier education during their early career is also a must now we are moving increasingly to complex equipment, just look at the difference between CVR(T) and Ajax for a good example.

Although we only see the negative stories it does seem service accommodation and food are still an ongoing source of dissatisfaction. These are retention negative issues. There may be opportunities to replace the single monolithic provider contracts with localised arrangements that allow smaller businesses, veterans-owned, non-profits, and others to compete. We have to recognise that any improvements in pay and condition, welfare, mental health and wellbeing will come with a price tag, and with a fixed budget, will come at the expense of other things, no way of getting around that.

I deliberately put this section first, ‘people are our strength’ has to mean something.

The Army Reserve

People join the Army Reserve for many different reasons and the amount of commitment in time can also vary significantly. Some like to use their civilian skills in an Army context and some don’t. Bank managers as tank commanders or NHS doctors as Army doctors for example. As the Army becomes increasingly technical, starting from scratch in the reserve to attain required skills (without having a head start by virtue of their civilian career) might become impossible given the time available. Maintaining those perishable skills, especially in light of rapid equipment and technology change, also increasingly difficult.

Specialist functions have always worked well in reserve forces because they often exploit the reservists civilian skills in a military context; signals, engineering, logistics and medical. Specialist Team Royal Engineers (STRE) is an excellent example of this, providing the Army with skills it would find almost impossible to maintain alone, these models should remain unchanged.

Many change proposals for the Army Reserve seem to hinge on changes to employment protection legislation and greater commitment from individuals but I think this is both politically challenging and only suitable for a small number. Perhaps a remodeled regular reserve might serve as a useful means of providing reserve skills and availability, especially if this was formed as part of a flexible exit package, greater use of sponsored reserves also. Another suggestion that I think warrants consideration is limiting reserve roles to those found in the adaptable force and fully integrating reserves into the regular infantry and cavalry units found within it, disbanding the majority of reserve units as separate entities.

Army Support to 3 Commando

As the Future Commando Force evolves it would seem sensible to re-evaluate the support to 3 Commando provided by the British Army.

A Sustainable ORBAT

The British Army should maintain an ability to both sustain enduring deployments and react in force to an emergent crisis, thus providing decision-makers with a range of options. The former is likely to be at a lower intensity than the latter but credibility and effectiveness is just as important for both.

There is an enduring debate on organisational constructs; do you permanently assign support units to a brigade, or do you assign them from a pool. Do you task organise every time you deploy or generate formed units against a known and predictable force generation cycle. It would seem common sense that units that train together will perform better when deployed but task organisation is inherently flexible, no right or wrong answer exists.

Another active debate is that of unit size in a contemporary operating environment, does new technology and changes in societal and political environments mean smaller, self-contained units can now exert an influence that equals that of the larger but more traditional force? Making Brigades the principle organising structure certainly has lots to offer and may well better suit future conflicts. For now though, I think being able to fight multiple brigades in concert remains a capstone requirement for the British Army, even if some of those brigades might not always be British.

I tire of the endless trite ‘projectile fired by the navy’ analogies but at its core, the British Army should be deployable at a range of speeds over significant distances, self-sustaining and able exploit the technological advantages afforded by the advanced economy and huge research base that the UK enjoys. Many point to the fact we are not a continental power and the Army should be wholly expeditionary (and by this they usually mean very light) but I think having a modest heavy armour capability and a ‘bulked out middle’ is actually a good compromise, and an Army of 60-70 thousand personnel is not that large anyway.

In the pre-ISDR speeches and promotional material, it does seem to hint at a return to enduring forward deployments which might bring into question the split between the reactive and adaptable division but for now, have based my thoughts on some change, but not a revolution.

Strike is a concept that has created a great deal of debate, perhaps because of its roots in the ill-fated FRES programme, because it is not well understood outside of the Army, because it has the audacity to mix wheels and tracks, and is seen as a distraction when there are so many capability gaps elsewhere. Personally, I think is a very smart concept from my meagre understanding of if it, and believe it matches the UK’s aspirations really quite well. If we go back to its inception, it was always intended to shape the way the British Army fights and is much more than a pair of vehicles. The problem with a lot of discussion on Strike is it centres on vehicles and their weapons, not sensors and communications, indirect precision fires, integration with attack helicopters or logistics, all of which are more important.

Simply put, Strike is a screening and exploitation force that will enable divisional forces to counter-attack or manoeuvre more effectively and at a lower cost than without it. By operating in a dispersed manner, exploiting its ISTAR strength, making extensive use of precision fires, robust command and control, concentration where and when needed, and integration with airpower, it is an enabler for heavier forces.

And it can also operate alone.

But there is a problem with strike…

It is easy to criticise anyone talking about its lack of organic precision fires because it will exploit those of the division, but what if the division doesn’t have any, what if the division it is enabling doesn’t have sufficient air defence, or arguments about wheels and tracks operating together being moot because we don’t have enough transport to get any of them anywhere anyway. In short, it is all about the reality of a fixed budget that isn’t getting larger any time soon, and what does exist is being spread over increasingly large capability holes. As of today, Strike as a divisional enabler is a concept that does not look rooted in resource reality so some change might be sensible when viewed in the round.

The very nature of enduring deployments means they will likely not include the heavy metal, but threats like IED’s and proliferating ATGW, loitering munitions, UAV’s and sophisticated sensors mean light role infantry cannot now be the only answer, 1 DIV must be more than that.

None of this changes the fundamental need to have both enduring and reactive capabilities, but the nature of evolving threats means we have to have a re-evaluation of structures within that organising principle. Above all, and I mean absolutely above all, it needs to be self-sustaining without begging, stealing, or borrowing from allies. Much better in my mind to have a hard as woodpeckers-lips brigade-sized force that is not a burden to others than an all fur coat and no knickers division that is such in name only, failing to kid anyone except ourselves.

In all the years of writing at Think Defence, I have never produced a fantasy ORBAT, so anyway…

Home Command

Home Command is generally about the ‘UK firm base’ and a range of support and organisational services that are mostly for service in the UK although do have deployable elements. I posed questions about ceremonial, public duties, music, and regional brigades above, accepting these are not easy changes but for the purposes of this section, assume that the Army has managed to reduce its commitment to civil resilience, enact some form of reorganisation of the regional brigades, and moved the significant resource burden of ceremonial and public duties to a hybrid staffing model that whilst still utilising regular personnel, does so at a dramatically reduced rate. London District will also be merged into the Regional Command as part of this. Standing Joint Command would remain for those civil resilience tasks that are still required.

Recruiting and initial training, defence fire and rescue, army personnel, staff and personnel support, and directorate children and young people would remain, and the Army Legal Service, Educational and Training and Provost. Consistent with the simplification principle, a significant review will examine the requirement for many of these activities to be covered by uniformed personnel, with a view to absolutely driving that number down.

1 DIV (ADAPTABLE)

This is the Army’s campaigning and forward-deployed force, and also includes a number of logistics, engineering, medical, and other support capabilities. 1 DIV is currently light role infantry heavy, 4 brigades worth. If the Army has to reduce in size, which I think is inevitable, the preponderance of light role infantry in 1 DIV might be seen as most likely to reduce although the current trend of ‘light infantry’ bashing just because they don’t have vehicles or organic support capabilities needs to stop.

Given the variability of enduring deployments, I think flexibility to task organise is key, and so 1 DIV would move to a non brigaded model, simply a group of independent light role infantry battalions and light cavalry with a number of regenerative HQ’s and supporting capabilities. If we need an enduring deployment to Kabul or Mali, for example, the force would be generated from this pool with tactical command falling to one of the HQ’s, and equipped with vehicles from a non-committed pool. The existing protected mobility fleet (including Foxhound) and large parts of the light tactical vehicle fleet (e.g. Jackal) would be retained in 1 DIV.

1 DIV would also contain forces for Cyprus, Brunei, and the Falkland Islands, and also a medical brigade, a logistics brigade, logistics support brigade, an engineer brigade, and a military police brigade, largely unchanged from now.

3 DIV (REACTION)

The Army’s main reactive fighting force should be capable of operating against peer and non-peer enemy forces in conjunction with allies.

First, merge the two existing armoured infantry brigades into a single, square, armoured brigade to create a credible and hard hitting force. Concentrating armour into eight 18 tank squadrons (four troops of 4 tanks plus 2 for HQ) and two regimental HQ also allows a two year higher readiness/lower readiness cycles to be maintained. Armoured Infantry battalions would be re-organised on the same basis, eight companies (A/B/C Platoon and Support Platoon) and two Battalion HQ’s. It is uncommon to move an entire division at once (not that we could anyway) so the aversion to mixing wheels and tracks is somewhat moot but relative deployability is a factor and terrain access differentials do become important, IFV’s must match the mobility of MBT’s, especially in poor soil conditions and those which have been repeatedly trafficked. Tracked vehicles also tend to have a lower profile and better protection (especially across the frontal arc) than wheeled vehicles meaning in the context of heavy armour, are better suited. The reason to have heavy armour is to concentrate in the attack, using their protection mobility and firepower to inflict dislocating shock on enemy forces, they are not called the battlefield bullies for nothing.

Reduction to a single armoured brigade means the number of support capabilities could be equally reduced although retention of the same armoured bridging and combat engineering resources means the brigade can improve mobility (I bet you knew I was going to say that). It may also be advantageous to forward deploy some elements of the armoured brigade, perhaps in Poland (Żagań or Świętoszów) and Oman, rotating a battle group into these areas as required.

Second, generate a Wheeled Strike Brigade with an aspiration for two. A wheeled Strike brigade has more deployability than a tracked armoured brigade but retains excellent levels of protection, whilst having the dismounted infantry strength to operate in complex and urban terrain, it requires fewer logistics resources and is able to operate for longer periods without maintenance.  It is obvious that tracks and wheels can mix, with each providing a range of advantages and disadvantages, but in the context of this article, have decided to try and simplify brigade structures and support requirements so the Strike Brigade would be exclusively wheeled (save for some engineering plant). They would be based on three vehicle families, MIV, MRV-P, and MAN SV, comprising three mechanised infantry battalions and one cavalry regiment, plus support.

Whilst a medium-weight wheeled force attacking a heavy tracked force on open terrain is likely to fare poorly, in the defence, they are likely to perform much better, especially when using their engineering, ATGW, ISTAR, and artillery resources in complex terrain, plus fast air and AH if available. This is also where their speed of deployment over distance becomes very useful, especially in providing route security for a deployment of heavy armour. It must also be noted that they can be mixed, heavy armour supplementing a wheeled brigade should it be needed. The one thing often missed from discussions on Strike is it is also a way of thinking, changing from a mix of tracks and wheels to just wheels might not be as much of a change as thought, perhaps, especially if the wheeled force has the same level of ISTAR as Strike as currently envisaged? The second Wheeled Strike Brigade is certainly aspirational, with MRV-P being used as an interim vehicle.

Third; Current support structure remains largely as is but reflecting the changes described above. Consistent with the simplification agenda, secondary HQ responsibilities will cease. There may be some merit in moving some ISTAR and very short range air defence, especially C-UAS, down to brigade level. I would also like to see some form of dedicated deception capability introduced to 3 DIV. There is no doubt that logistics remains a challenge for 3DIV and it would be a focus for future investment, as would artillery, electronic warfare, ISTAR, and precision fires (the list is long).

To summarise, 3 DIV would remain as a reaction force but evolve to a mix of heavy armour in a single brigade and a modified strike brigade (with an aspiration for another), together with support capabilities that will also attract significant investment.

6 DIV

6 Division currently comprises a signals brigade, an ISTAR brigade, 77th Brigade and the Specialist Infantry Group. As per comments above on specialised infantry, these would be removed from 6 DIV.

Aviation Brigade

A combined force comprising 1 Regiment of Wildcat, 2 Regiments of AH64 Attack Helicopter and the UK’s Watchkeeper TUAS, supporting ISTAR and attack, and some element of support to carrier strike. Work on introducing AH-64E and deciding on weapon options for it, continuing to develop the Wildcat/AH-64 partnership and integrating Watchkeeper will likely be the majority of development work for the aviation brigade.

Expanding the role of the aviation brigade into logistics support for deployed forces, having an open mind on re-introducing small fixed-wing aircraft or uncrewed rotary aircraft, and exploring how Army aviation can deploy uncrewed ground vehicles in support of the experimentation brigade would also be an interesting set of new challenges once AH-64E is in service.

Experimentation Brigade

As the name suggests, this would be a new force dedicated to experimentation, especially for emerging technologies and to act as a rapid fielding and training force. It would also look at how the British Army can more effectively work in a changing physical and social environment, not just new technologies. The brigade will establish relationships with industry, academia, DSTL, the other services and allies in order to shape the future of the British Army, combining parts of the Army Warfighting Experiment, Innovation Army, and the Strike Experimentation Group. There might be some crossover with the various trials and development units across the Army and bringing these under the experimentation brigade might generate a number of advantages.

A key part of the Experimentation Brigade would be agility in acquisition, although it would of course be subject to financial governance, it should be able to obtain equipment quickly from within a reasonably large budget and able to spend any windfalls from project underspend elsewhere. Speed is central to its success.

Special Forces and Support

Largely self-explanatory but with a larger support function that would include the existing ISR functions, together with enhanced cyber and information operations, EW and, in what might be somewhat controversial, 2 and 3 Para. Although parachuting is an important part of the Parachute Regiment history, ethos, and training process, its maintenance would be at a lower level than now, with more time spent on other skills. The Parachute Regiment seems to be under eternal siege but they remain extremely well recruited and should be developed into something more akin to their unique skills, still retaining the high readiness and tactical air landing aspect. There are some areas of non-infantry parachuting that still remain important; signals, airfield repair and enablement, medical and air operations, for example, these would also be maintained in this group but 16AAB would be disbanded. This is perhaps the most significant change in this article.

Air Mobility Force

With 16AAB withdrawn from the ORBAT, there remains a demand for a helicopter mobility force to deliver anti-tank screening, route security, counter SF/Para, as a strategic reserve, and support to forward recce. In many ways, this is similar to the older 24 Brigade (although the new Aviation Brigade now has its insignia), conventional light role infantry, optimised for helicopter transportability and mobility on the ground with light vehicles. It would own no vehicle or equipment that cannot be lifted by Chinook. The new force would certainly not be at brigade strength because it would have to reflect the ability of the RAF’s Support Helicopter force to provide lift, and this is always in high demand. It might also look to taking some aspect of personnel recovery. It would not be an independent command and likely be placed in the reactive force, although making it part of the aviation brigade would also be a possibility.

Army contribution to Strategic Command and HQ ARRC

This is relatively small but worth noting.

The Equipment Plan

It is vast and unaffordable, that much we know, we also know nothing is quick or cheap, even those quick and cheap solutions we hear so much about. We can look at public information and gain some insight but we can never know the full story of contracts, spending profiles, sustainment costs, and budget availability discussions. Therefore, we should only ever really talk in terms of broad themes, concepts, and priorities.

Rather than individual silos the British Army needs to generate a whole force development programme over a decade with spiral developments and technology insertion planned against an agreed timeline to avoid industry feast and famine that is so damaging as individual programmes never seem to align. There is no reason why this cannot be articulated in simple terms (See Project Scorpion in France)

Am going to discuss the enablers first, then vehicles and firepower.

Information

I may use the word agile in this section, apologies in advance

You don’t hear much about THEIA, Trinity, Land Environment Tactical Communication and Information Systems (LE TacCIS), MORPHEUS, and other information and communications related programmes but they are critical to success and will likely consume an increasing percentage of the equipment plan finances. To put this into context, just one aspect of building a digital backbone and tactical cloud, the evolution of Bowman to Morpheus is over £3billion. And there is a whole lot more to information manoeuvre than just a robust end-to-end network.

Agile command and control capability that can always be on the move or hiding. Pervasive surveillance and precision attack is no longer the sole preserve of highly advanced peer enemy forces, we need to get this right. Similarly, the ‘finding things’ area has to be improved, and this will also be expensive. We know the Army does not have brilliant EW systems and limited ISTAR in several areas but I think does seem to be being addressed, the new Dismounted Joint Fires Integrator and Thundercat programme for the Light Cavalry being two good examples.

Logistics

There needs to be a sustained increase in funding for logistics, stocks and theatre entry.

We need to see investment in improving packing density and efficiency so that what transport equipment that do we have is maximised. For example, a Role 3 medical facility, Brigade HQ or engineer stores are all likely to consume a huge amount of logistics so every single element of them needs to be subject to a design engineering study to determine how it can be packaged better. This is just a few examples, there are hundreds more.

Maximising the efficiency of logistics personnel should also be a priority investment activity, better mechanical handling equipment, uncrewed vehicle ‘platooning’, higher payload trailers, modularity in packaging, and integrated intermodal systems, are all avenues for improvement.

We can also look at reducing demand, especially for fuel, ammunition and maintenance spares. Fuel demand might be decreased by investing in hybrid technologies, ammunition demand decreased by improving lethality or precision, and reducing spares by virtue of having fewer variants of vehicles and equipment, especially in the same brigade.

To improve port accessibility, the UK should invest in an enhanced port repair and operation capability and rely less on over the beach logistics.

Vehicles and Firepower

Despite the first two categories being less visible, taken together, they will consume increasing quantities of a finite budget, which leaves much less for vehicles and firepower. If we look at the key areas, there are so many gaps, they will be impossible to fill quickly and would take a hundred articles of this length to adequately cover without descending into wish lists, which let’s face it, we could all do.

So, am just going to cover at the high level.

Challenger 2 Upgrade

A wholesale change from CR2 to another vehicle is not likely to be cost-effective across all lines of development and would require at least three engineering variants and a driver training vehicle. Existing designs are also likely to be replaced in the next 10-15 years. Therefore, confirm CR2 upgrade for about 150-160 vehicles; address equipment obsolescence and spares management issues, upgrade electronics and sighting to current standards and ensure it is ready for future implementation of active protection systems. To keep costs down, review whether an upgrade to smoothbore can be shelved (pending ammunition stocks for the rifled 120mm remaining viable). Start long-term CR2 replacement studies, especially with international partnership and innovation streams as described above.  Move the remainder of fleet to a strategic reserve and some to the experimentation brigade.

Warrior, Ajax and Medium Calibre Turrets

Warrior CSP does not have a manufacturing contract, Ajax does; this is the first reality we need to recognise. It would also appear from press reports and evidence submissions to the defence select committee, both Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics have struggled with their respective programmes (Lockheed Martin also supply the Ajax turret also). We can sit here all day long and mull over past decisions and what might have been but it doesn’t help anyone.

A few options;

  • Carry on with both, ideally, this is what we would do and then in the longer term, replace Warrior with an Ajax derived design
  • If the 40mm CTAS is the cause of all problems, proceed as above, but with a change to the medium calibre cannon, most likely a Bushmaster 30mm that has a growth map to 50mm
  • Cancel Warrior CSP and put CSP turrets on a Boxer, pretend that Boxer is an IFV, and change doctrine to suit equipment
  • Bin the lot and buy a load of CV90’s (like perhaps we should have done in the first place (Am looking at you FFLAV)

All these are possible, and no doubt there are other combinations and permutations, but none of them address FV432 replacement, another can that is being kicked down the road. We need to simplify, we need to drive down future support effort, and we need to have a coherent future fleet of capable vehicles that look and act the part alongside CR2 (and a bit).

/THIS SECTION ASSUMES AJAX MEETS ALL REQUIREMENTS AND IS ACCEPTED INTO SERVICE

Ajax is that future, at least for the Armoured Brigade as described above

Although it is actually great value for money in the round, is very close to completing development and has been used to develop a turret integration facility and electronic and electrical architecture that will be the basis for future vehicles, against a proposal to reduce to a single armoured brigade and a desire to simplify logistics to lower costs, it is easy to recognise the vulnerability of this programme. Cancellation would leave us with a developed IFV turret and a Lockheed Martin that will likely up-stick from Ampthill with associated job losses (their recent hinting makes this obvious).

We should view Ajax as a strategic platform for the British Army and plot out a future for it, supporting UK industry, skills, combat vehicle integration and the supply chain for many years to come. As part of that longer term plan we can also address some of those IOpC points as spiral developments.

It would normally be one of the great sins to change an already in progress manufacturing contract but there might be some scope to do so with Ajax. We deleted the Ajax ambulance variant as a cost saving measure but it was a relatively mature design. There is no mortar or IFV variant of Ajax, the turreted Ajax version is not an option for IFV due to a much larger turret ring/basket and moving the ring back towards the rear (I think). But look at the ASCOD 2 concepts and prototypes being marketed by General Dynamics, there is scope to create an IFV. One option would be to integrate an uncrewed turret onto Ares or a new design with the Warrior CSP turret. Lockheed Martin have accrued considerable turret expertise over the last decade and have started to talk about export, various developments such as integrating ATGW and UAS, and something called the ‘Urbanfighter’ uncrewed turret.

So whichever of the options taken for IFV, investing in Ajax to replace CVR(T), FV432 and Warrior such that the only two tracked vehicles in a future armoured brigade would be CR2 and Ajax, simplified.

/THIS SECTION ASSUMES AJAX MEETS ALL REQUIREMENTS AND IS ACCEPTED INTO SERVICE

Artillery

As above, we should simplify, withdraw MLRS and create a MAN truck-based version using the same rocket, not dissimilar to the South Korean K239 Chunmoo. Doing the same with AS90 would also reduce the vehicle type count, the BAE wheeled Archer a good example of the type. Combine this with the emerging concepts from MBDA on Land Indirect Fires and artillery could well enjoy somewhat of a renaissance after so many years of relative neglect. We might even dust off Fire Shadow now loitering munitions are back in fashion. This does sound like checking all of the optional extras tick boxes.

Boxer

It is great news that the British Army has committed so heavily to Boxer, a truly excellent vehicle and one which we can develop for many years, introducing new variants and technology as needed. Again, the key is to set out a long-term plan and develop an industrial capacity to support it. I think it makes sense to make Boxer a recce vehicle (like the Australian CRV), supporting both the wheeled Strike brigade and armoured brigade described above, perhaps even integrating the very advanced Ajax turret onto Boxer if weight and power allow, or some variant of it if not.

MRV-P

MRV-P is the one vehicle family that I think needs a major rethink and something that will allow the Army to anchor itself with British industry, much more than either CR2, Boxer, or Ajax. It is also a vehicle family that could satisfy the ‘dramatically reduce dependence on fossil fuels’ objective, especially as it is likely to be much more numerous over time than Ajax, CR2 and Boxer combined. A modern-day Saracen family has much to offer, the UK certainly has the automotive design skills and manufacturers to make it a success.

Am going to stop this article here, there is so much more to write about in detail and it is long enough. This is a relatively conservative proposal, and the equipment section is nothing more than a few relatively uninformed ideas but hopefully interesting enough to generate some debate.

And thanks to the many people that helped me to formulate my thoughts and correct my numerous errors

See you in the comments (or on twitter)

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
24 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mark
Mark
February 26, 2021 10:36 pm

A lot to think about.

Soldiers, simplification, stability, sustainable, sovereign. The 5s’s A TD motto.

Tony Sheffield
Tony Sheffield
February 27, 2021 3:39 am

A very interesting, lucid article. Would like to have seen more on the special forces as support to useless 3rd world countries to counter so-called Islamic forces becomes an ever-growing necessity.
Your comments regarding the overall mission of the Army are particularly valid and the structures needed to carry out the tasks. Although tradition has been an important part of the Army psyche, hide-bound lack of inertia is often disguised as this.
Your point about ceremonial duties is not something I have thought about before having served in an army that was too busy fighting a war to worry about such niceties, but must tie up a lot of resources in a toy-soldier role.
Perhaps the concept of having a separate navy, air force, and army is now outdated?

Robert
Robert
February 27, 2021 7:44 am

Thanks TD, one question. Did you consider the risk of reducing headcount to create headroom for modernisation only for that money not to materialise, like the case has been over the past decade? If the best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour, overspending by other parts of Defence will be fixed by forcing savings measures on the Army that have been more diligent with their budgets. The effect is a smaller force in size that does not reap the benefits of the modernisation it so sorely needs.

Jedibeeftrix
Jedibeeftrix
February 27, 2021 8:48 am

Great article, agree with both the assumptions and the thrust.

Do query this cryptically brief comment:

“As the Future Commando Force evolves it would seem sensible to re-evaluate the support to 3 Commando provided by the British Army.”

Does this indicate that providing these functions isn’t an army priority, or that FCF doesn’t need them?

I can understand the former, but i would disagree that a FCF limited to company-scale operations is a valuable capability.

Captain Nemo
Captain Nemo
February 27, 2021 2:13 pm

Good as always, more a consolidation of your past thoughts for followers but nice to see them drawn together.
I think you’ve identified a definite need for a Kernel of Truth meme.

I was actually hoping you’d go deeper into organization and task duplication this time. For instance, how much is repeated when you mash regiments together to make battlegroups? If we’re looking for redundancies, maybe we should be looking for them in redundancy.
That would be one of the reasons I’d favour multidisciplinary corps and I’d put my experimentation groups in those to drive prototype warfare, the corps as a whole might also drive their vehicle programme, lending some urgency.
That said, should procurement be a trade within say, the AGC? Donald’s comedy space corps was in fact a long standing requirement to create a career path for specific specialists, maybe the same thinking is required.

Should we maybe go Russian? Pick something troublesome and absolutely dominate at it.
Could the Royal Artillery become a superpower? It might dovetail well with complex weapon programmes in the other services and artillery goes well with anything.
On that support to 3 CDO, the navy pay the wages don’t they, if 29 is costing £10m a year, might they actually be asked to leave? That’s about fifty Dagor.

Reserves on a busman’s holiday would be the right thing to do I think, whether our tapping specialist skills or their simply looking at it as welcome overtime.

The Strike thing, there’s no glossing over the firepower issue.
From the army’s own overview of Strike: How it does it – “Mutual Trust and Daring”
You can’t put lads in a box with a fifty on it and tell them someone else will take care of the BMP3 they just bumped into, it’s an inhuman amount of faith to have when procurement is so demonstrably broken.
Strike and variations on Strike might be the army’s selling point though, if only the word. The army has an entanglement problem for which politicians and public alike lack enthusiasm (that’s why they’re reaching for the navy and the air force), the army needs an instrument with which they will go, they will win and then they will come back again.
‘Expedition – A short trip made for a particular purpose’

Tanks, it’s not been said for a while but at 10 -15 years could we gap? We gapped MPA and that is literally our back door.
Somewhat similarly FV432. If Ajax, Boxer and MRVP are correctly implemented it’s a non issue isn’t it, they’re simply written over, why yet another problem to ponder?
Assume Warrior cancelled and that’s £3bn worth of breathing room.

End ramble.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
February 27, 2021 4:00 pm

A lot to talk about here so I will start with just a couple of points.

Spending more on Soldiers.

Education and vocational qualifications should be one of the drivers in recruitment and retention, but I also believe that if we change our structures in the way these are delivered, we can tap into industry technologies and practices faster while also allowing the Army to quickly disregard the current new thing in industry that does not suite the way the Army operates.
 
If we co located our trade training colleges with the current industry leaders such as Rolls Royce or CITB etc then we will have access to the current theories and practices and changing technologies that are occurring within said industry.
 
The current situation sees the Army being decades behind industry and cross over technologies (when procurement is factored into) and relying on industry to tell them what they want/need rather than being the driver. I think this could be a way seeing what is around the corner a lot quicker.
 
It would also subject the British public to the qualifications and spectrum of trades used within the armed forces which could help post service employment and recruitment.
 
Everything can flow from this with relationships in academia, industry etc to drive innovation and will compliment your experimentation brigade.
 
Procurement needs to be a career path that soldiers can transition to after a reaching a SNCO rank or technical qualification such as artificer or Clerk of Works etc or make it a technical qualification in of itself but military experience will always be a deciding factor.
 
The same career path should be made for officers with the option of transferring in or even joining the army to have a career in procurement from the start. The prerequisite for being eligible for this would be a STEM qualification dating from enlistment into the army.
 
The Equipment Plan.

Cancel Challenger 2 upgrade and look to leasing Japanese Type10.

I know this is a bit out there but if we could lease type10’s with a view to buy later (Do not say it is a replacement for our MBT’s! It is a medium wight fire support vehicle and we are gapping our MBT capability) This could allow us to reduce some manpower within the armoured regts and possibly delay the requirement to replace our bridging stocks and use the money saved to help pay for the lease.

I know it is a big If but still you can only ask.

Secondly, we are skint use more of what we have.

. Descope Warrior programme buy only buying enough turrets to fit out a support element with the AI Btn’s and use the remaining warriors as APC’s fitted the same RWS as MIV.

·        Replace Bulldog/432 with the Boxers on order within the armoured brigades.

·        See if it is feasible to mount an AS90 turret on a Boxer drive module before spending money on a new wheeled 155mm system.

·        MRVP is a massively important programme to the Army at this point and should be part of the Strike make up we need to not fuck this up.

·        We are about to retire a large number of CVRT hulls. These should be the basis of our UGV vehicles and not go looking to buy something like Thetis etc. It will be available in large quantities can carry a very decent load already has logistics and parts in place along with rigging and transportation quails etc plus it has decent off road and road speed.

Any way just a starter hope TD’s article generates a lot of interest and debate.

Mark
Mark
February 27, 2021 4:08 pm

Some thought after reflecting on the article. How the army integrated its home command function I think is a much wider question that just the army and will involve many other government departments. The worst position would be the army giving up personnel as a pretext for not being involved with such civil contingency tasks only for the next crisis to come along and government tasks whats left to do it anyway.  Hard one to square and perhaps where the reserves could be reprofiled to play a much larger part with assistance from regulars in certain key areas who may wish a home posting as they enter certain phases of life that may mean there skills are retained rather than leaving 

I think the split the army had defined previously with the adaptable and reactive forces makes sense to continue with and will become more relevant going forward.   However I think I would do it differently to what your suggest.   This  article argues it very well for what the role of 1 uk division should be 

https://wavellroom.com/2021/02/24/the-futures-bright-the-futures-light/

if we stick to foxhound and supracat hmt you have a uk design and manufacturing story that can feed into the main government jobs narrative with innovation and future variants while providing a force able to deal with the majority of the day to day tasks of the army and is much more suited to the global engagement strategy of government.  4 of these brigades in 1 uk division could also take on the roles you highlight for the airmobile and specialist infantry groupings.  

The proposition for 3 uk division I don’t fully understand I’m not entirely sure what it would achieve beyond keeping everyone moderately happy.  I doubt a uk only operation would require such a force and its main role is in supporting NATO or a major international coalition on some sort. 

“Simply put, Strike is a screening and exploitation force that will enable divisional forces to counter-attack or manoeuvre more effectively and at a lower cost than without it”

So would ask if this is such a bad thing for what the UK contribution to nato or an allied operation should be.  I get the impression this is seen as a lesser task not prestigious enough for the army. But if you consider we will be deploying from the UK to support other heavy forces is this not the task we should be doing, screening the fwd based heavy armour of allies and supporting them with heavy artillery.  Why are we trying to construct a heavy force to reinforce a heavy force that is already in place do we have the logistics to support a fast moving heavy armoured assault at distance. Should the army’s reaction force simply be 2 or 3 strike brigades as currently envisaged.

Moving the parachute regiment toward army commando/ special forces roles would seem like a worthwhile adjustment much like what were hearing from the marines these are the armys pathfinders and the need for such forces is only growing.

Allan Sneller
Allan Sneller
February 27, 2021 8:49 pm

Is it now time to drop the policy of having a separate Army, Navy and Airforce in favour of a merged UK Defence Force? The savings in ‘backroom’ personnel alone would be significant, as would the reduction in command ranks.

Commonising officer-level rank titles across all 3 services would save uniform costs and avoid confusion when inter-agency working (eg MACC/MACP etc).

There would still be Sea, Air and Land elements within the UKDF but provide the ability for all ranks to apply for posts in *any* of those 3 divisions providing a broader, more attractive career path for all its service-people.

I realise these suggestions will be very unpopular in terms of regimental tradition etc but all the public services have seen fundamental restructuring since WW2, and the military should be no exception.

Get the overall structures right first, THEN worry about how many tanks you need.

Allan Sneller
Allan Sneller
February 27, 2021 11:19 pm

Further to my last at 20:49 on 27.02.21, within the composition of the new purple UKDF would be a combined UKSF inc SAS,SBS,SRR as well as its support troops of Royal Marines, Parachute Reg & Pathfinders all under a single command.

Simon m
Simon m
February 28, 2021 4:17 pm

As always a great read & well thought out. I will have to reread to comment properly. I am not 100% sure about the super AI brigade but I would probably need to educate myself more TBH.

I would say we really do need to be more thoughtful about the people & have they can work for the army and how the army can work for them. Shoe horning people in to roles/positions that doesn’t meet their aspirations or practical needs family life e.g. can’t be good.
I am glad you mentioned home Command etc. As well as ceremonial duties etc. I think a young person starting out tends to want adventure, excitement etc. However, older people tend to start looking at families as well as looking after older relatives etc. There maybe a large people happy to fight & go abroad on occasion, but not want to be deployed all-over the globe regularly. So the reserve & indeed regular forces should look to take this in to account – surely better having a soldier in the UK vs not having at all. I would suggest a home force could form larger formations such as AI reserve regiments.

As well as mentioning new technology etc. Soldiers do need to be invested in & adapt with the times Ajax is coming with an app store, smart fires and ability to add new weapons technology at pace. The use of technology is not always the issue but the optimum use of technology is a different proposition e.g. it’s easy to fire rounds from the CT40 at everything that moves, but to evaluate a situation under fire as to whether to use a combination of rounds, a missile, UGV, UAV etc. requires extra consideration and thought on the person pulling the trigger.

I can say with ease as an outsider to bin the regimental system etc. But to me it does look like the current structure is not delivering & the army is there to deliver effect for the UK at value for money. So it maybe time now to start from a fresh clean sheet, very much around role & purpose not tradition.
Certainly having some functions such as UAVs, SHORAD under the RA is not sustainable in my view or direct fire support in RTR etc.

I am not certain about disbanding 16th AAB as we still have some commonwealth responsibilities and have scenarios where elite light troops are required in larger formations. Where having large number of vehicles would hinder rapid deployment.
I definitely think we need an airmobile/light Strike capability & if done well could provide a huge capability. This relies on a large AT & helicopter fleet – which would likely be the biggest expense TBF I don’t understand how we manage with what we do.

In terms of the equipment plan In some ways I hope that everything continues as it is. But to me delay in WSCP means that in the longer term Ajax IFV would have made sense for procurement at this moment in time as any extra will likely pay for extra years service & 589 Recce vehicles even with Strike doesn’t really make sense so a rebalance if done properly would be an ideal. I think it would be possible from a Ajax + WSCP budget which could also be around £5 billion for 600 – 700 vehicles.

However, I think it is probably wishful thinking though. Instead the hope comes from an industrial strategy which is desperately needed I very much believe a tracked Boxer drive module makes sense I would look to replace FV432 & Warrior with such a system.

One thing I disagree on is that the next generation tank cannot be a national enterprise. We have the expertise in this country we just need the will & foresight to ensure whatever we come up with is not only tactically viable but exportable & work to assemble the expertise during LEP, WCSP, Ajax Boxer etc. Ideally this would be modular in terms of high low end mix to suit customers pockets.
We will and are learning masses in the aerospace & naval industry via Tempest
ensuring skills thread in to this next generation tanks will keep us at the forefront as well as us being able to tailor a solution to our way of fighting. Ideally these industries would work best as defence capability suppliers rather than domain suppliers. In some ways EO is EO, Radar is Radar, Digital architecture is digital architecture size & power constraints may change but the fundamental intellectual processes & engineering is not that different. Where there is specialisms I would be surprised if individuals could not retain their knowledge say in naval architecture then turn their hand to contribute on a land project?

IMO MRVP should be one vehicle e.g. Eagle 4×4 & 6×6 or preferably a British 4×4 & 6×6.

A further thought considering Strike & deep manoeuvre is should a Patria 6×6 type be procured as a multi role Strike support vehicle. If so this could replace FV432 instead of the Boxer tracked module. It would also have the advantage of better protection, mobility than current MRVP types as well as effective platform for Nemo mortars, SHORAD etc. Rather than needing Boxer to provide ancillary roles.

Also a generic armoured truck such as Wisent either using components from existing MAN fleet could be useful as GOATor Sky Sabre carrier, long range precision CMs? This could also provide a troop carrier, Command on the move & other aspects not suitable for cramming in MRVP or diverting Boxer
A few ramblings for now…

Orlok
Orlok
February 28, 2021 7:13 pm

I think there is an obvious and fundamental problem with all UK defence reviews in that they seem to take place without any discussion of our NATO partners.

What do they want from the British Army? What forces, skills and abilities would logically fit in with the other armies we would operate alongside?

The prospective front line has moved further east, so what, if anything does this imply?

Its not solely a UK problem, but there never appears to be any meaningful allocation of tasks and roles among the NATO nations.

Its a fair question… For example, if the Poles and the Germans have all the tanks, why do we need them? Would we be better to design a rapid reaction force which can self deploy and protect the NATO rear and provide a reserve that could counter a sudden break through?

What do others think?

mr.fred
mr.fred
March 1, 2021 4:18 pm

The integrated operating concept points strike me as odd, as many of them are not demonstrated in recent historic and current operational use and near future plans for equipment

  • Have smaller and faster capabilities to avoid detection

When Ajax is several times bigger in any measure compared to what it replaces

  • Trade reduced physical protection for increased mobility

Every vehicle out there is stacked with appliqué armour before deployment. Warrior in Afghanistan is the only example I can think of where the appliqué fit has been reduced.
Challenger’s armour is modular but if there has been consideration of using a stripped down version for improved mobility, it’s not been made public.

  • Depend increasingly on electronic warfare and passive deception measures to gain and maintain information advantage

How is our EW capability? Has anything been procured since the cancellation of Soothsayer?

  • Employ non-line-of-sight fires to exploit the advantages we gain from information advantage

What was the last core NLOS system in service? How much development has the Royal Artillery had in the last decade?

I think that if new capability is desired it should be demonstrated as far as possible with current equipment rather than wait until there are fully validated systems available, at which point it might not be what is needed. Too much “changing paradigms” and “disruptive technologies”

wojtek
wojtek
March 2, 2021 1:25 am

I am curious as to why in the British system there seems to be so little interest in training students? You have, what, ~2.5 million students in UK? According to some recent studies, a year or 2 out of college about a third of them either work in a different field than their major, or are unemployed.

If you offer them an interesting support package, you are going to have an opportunity to shape young people, to form them by adding necessary components to their university training, rather than to take grown ups and re-form them from the beginning. Americans do it pretty successfully with ROTC. I am sure the model is easily adaptable to train specialists, NCOs, while the students who are still in their training can fill up non-specialized roles. Retain them for 4-5 years in a reserve status, and you have a sizeable force, still under 30, highly trained.

Interestingly, these young people can benefit from this program as much as the BA could.

PeterS
PeterS
March 2, 2021 6:17 pm

I have read this twice to make sure I follow. The structure you propose seems sensible. Operational realities are likely to need adaptation, but if we start with the simplest possible top level structure, adapting to new conditions should be easier not harder.
A couple of thumbs up: an expensive upgrade to Ch2 is unnecessary. It is a newer design than Abrams or L2 and has not been hard used. Exaggerated fear of the T14 Armata isn’t a good enough reason to install a new gun and turret, esp in the light of the Warrior turret debacle.
If we are reducing head count, we should end all the ceremonial roles. These should be funded by the Dept for Media etc. A small but useful saving.
And a question: if we do keep a heavy armour force, will this not need tracked artillery to accompany it? The Archer looks impressive but I’m not sure how it copes with rough terrain. For the Strike force, LIMAWS might be a low risk wheeled option.

brain
brain
March 2, 2021 8:43 pm

Army Reserves

Back in the day TA pay did not affect any unemployment benefits, consequently lots of people on benefits joined the TA as a source of extra cash and a chance to get driving licences and other useful skills (REME/RSigs). A significant number chose to go regular which no one ever thought was a bad idea, a recruit rocking up at depot that already knew what they were doing, and one less person claiming benefits.

It also meant that there was a significant pool of soldiers that could be called up at short notice with no employer objections and no salary matching issues.

The cost to the exchequer would be almost trivial, but in terms of shoring up the overall numbers and the subtle benefits to society it should be a no brainer.

Oh, and start putting regular officers into TA units at all levels to up the skills the soldiers experience and provide the man hours and experience the roles require.

Zach
Zach
March 2, 2021 11:55 pm

I don’t see why the Warrior stock can’t be covereted into a FV432 replacement, remove the turret and add some seats.

I’d then rework the Ajax programme and get the IFV version and get the recon version of the boxer. Strike is then all wheeled and you’ve got a cheap FV432 replacement.

mr.fred
mr.fred
March 3, 2021 8:41 pm

Zach,
All well and good, but where do you get the money for all that?

Take the turret off Warrior and you’ll have to find a way to fill the hole in the roof in such a way to give a vehicle commander a position. Not so expensive as a turret but still an additional cost.

Ajax is already contracted to supply 250 each turreted and unturreted for an average of £6m each. Reworking that to provide n hundred IFVs will cost to develop then prove the design, Plus the costs for more turrets.

Recce version of Boxer adds a turret, so a couple of £m each on top of the base vehicle.

People talk about getting money back by cancelling Warrior, but you’ll only get back what hasn’t been spent. Which isn’t much when compared to proposed spending plans.

Adam
Adam
March 3, 2021 11:09 pm

I’ve read a lot of comments lately referring to the AJAX order providing more recce turreted variants than necessary and plenty have written already on whether it really suits the Strike Brigade concept or whether Recce and Direct-Fire versions of Boxer would be better.

If we are to keep heavy armoured brigades. Given AJAX will have a vastly superior sensors package to CR2 and the superiority of the CTA 40 vs the 120 against other threats ie helicopters, drones, infantry etc. Is there a potential case for integrating AJAX into armoured squadrons at troop level (1 AJAX to 3 CR2 per troop). If peer conflict looms an AT missile could be integrated into the remote weapon system such that it need not be considered a “weak ark of fire” and arguably would provide an alternative AT capability given the hit from above missile option which could help counter dug in enemy tanks if direct fire is restricted.

If Warrior could be replaced with an AJAX/ASCOD derived IFV the armoured force would remain focussed around two main vehicle types.

Not suggesting this solves the equipment budget issue at all! although it would allow more CR2 to be mothballed without weakening the overall force, and perhaps supported by AJAX the CR2 remains a little more near competitive (though at least a limited networking update would be required to allow it to see and target what AJAX can detect) plus generally the mix might create a more effective armoured force, at least until a new MBT.

To be clear I’m not advocating recce at troop level! just the broader sensor and weapon package the turreted AJAX could provide. I’d welcome an experienced view on this as I am out of my wading depth but don’t think I’ve seen the point raised before (possibly for good reason).

Zach
Zach
March 3, 2021 11:46 pm

mr.fred

Fixing a hole in the roof is fairly straightforward, we have a material called metal, that can be welded, very cheap.
 
No need to rework Ajax or create an IFV version, one already exists called Griffin III, very cheap to fit a CT40 in there.
 
The additional Boxers would cost more but i would argue that the FV432 can’t live forever. There is currently no funded replacement, when this takes shape it is either likely to be more Boxers, the MRVP package 2 or nothing.
 
Reusing the Warrior hulls in the format i propose is the most rational use of a limited budget and has the dual benefit of rationalising strike around a single wheeled platform.

mr.fred
mr.fred
March 4, 2021 9:38 am

Zach,

I fear that you are being optimistic.
Simply plating* over the hatch aperture on Warrior doesn’t give you room for extra seats or a commander’s position. While adapting the vehicle to be a practical fighting vehicle without a turret isn’t going to be expensive, it’s not free either.

Griffin III is a concept tank. It’s probably where Warrior CSP was around five years ago. If you were to go that route it would be a decision between buying new on top of the existing Ajax build or trying to modify the existing delivery. Neither is going to be cheap. Adding new builds is likely to be in excess of £6m per vehicle while modifying the existing delivery could cost a little less or a little more, depending on how complicated that is.

Boxer CRVs wouldn’t replace FV432, they’d replace Ajax. Not necessarily a bad thing but at present they’d have to be bought in addition to Ajax (previously let contract and all that) If they are replacing part of the current Boxer buy then you save the £5m each for the vehicle but it’s another £3m (or more) for the turret, plus you then lose those vehicles as FV432 replacement. If they’re additional then it’s £8m+ each.

Based on the previous Defence committee on AFV procurement, FV430 series replacement was tentatively suggested for late 2020’s/early 2030’s. It could be Boxer or a mix of Boxer and converted Warrior. I’d favour the latter if we retain WCSP for armoured infantry to aim for a common vehicle within the unit, but it comes down to relative cost.

*Bolting to the existing turret interface would be quickest and easiest. Warrior is aluminium hull which is possible to weld but not the sort of thing you’d hand to a car mechanic with a MiG welder.

Pacman27
Pacman27
March 5, 2021 2:19 pm

firstly we need to agree the actual domains/tasking we have and then go from there

this is my list

  1. CASD
  2. Space
  3. Cyber
  4. Ballistic Missile Defence
  5. Carrier Strike 1
  6. Carrier Strike 2
  7. Special Forces Group
  8. UK Patrol & Defence
  9. NATO commitments
  10. Commonwealth and Protectorate Commitments
  11. Public Duties

so whilst the above is a mix of strategic intent (1-7) and standing duties (8-11) , it does demonstrate the difficulty we have with squaring this particular wheel and how stretched the force actually is and will become even more so as Space, Cyber and BMD rises up the agenda.

it seems to me that successive UK governments have opted for a very uniquely British way of trying to be everything but not focusing on actual capability.

with Such a small force it should now be integrated into a single force that fights as one.

if we accept the above is our strategic capability then that broadly means there are only 15k personnel available for each task type based upon current headcount plus 60k civilians.

although each task/ capability does not require the same amount of personnel, the above demonstrates we are probably well short of people, if the above does accurately identify our intentions.

ultimately we need to alter our intentions/capabilities or fund/ manage them better.

may be obvious but I think we really need to decide whether investing in our defence industrial bas (as well as our heavy engineering for railways etc) will present long term benefits

I believe it will if handled properly

Pacman27
Pacman27
March 6, 2021 3:30 pm

Perhaps the answer is to have a planned cycle through lifespan that is ruthlessly adhered to.

warrior is still a good platform in its current guise and would suffice for a lot of situations for the next 10 years, so why don’t we retain as is, canabilise the whole inventory to get 500 or so vehicles that are deployable, at little to zero new cost.

we should then look at buying new for its replacement.

lets say we have 3 brigades/small divisions of personnel for heavy armour and the same for strike that gives us a force of 66k + another division for everything else brings us up to around 77k

we separate the kit from the force but ensure that there is a progression available for training.

so for Armour it may be that leopard 2 and Ajax IFV is the all new primary operational with CR2 warrior being the secondary, or training up force and whatever is left as the general duties force.

for strike it would be boxer/ supacat/JTLV for the primary, with all of the relatively new op Hedrick kit in the secondary role and land rovers/man in the low readiness role.

this gives us the ability to draw a line under everything and start the process of renewal of 1 division / brigade at a time, tactically we need to make sure that the training on the secondary platform is as close to the end platform as possible and supplement the upgraded ISR capabilities with simulators where required.

vehicles would have dedicated drivers/ gunners and CISTAR commanders and each vehicle should have 6 infantry dismounts as this is the warrior capability.

so what I am saying is stop all LEP’s in the land force, work out what we need to fight a future war and buy that for 1 division today and then get a proper vehicle management system in place that sees the whole inventory fully replaced every 24 years, which means that the boxers we buy today have an 8 year front line lifespan before they are cycled to the medium readiness force then onto the low readiness force before finishing their useful life with the army reserve and as spare parts as appropriate.

time to buy new and then use the current assets to support force generation through the readiness levels.

Renown
Renown
March 8, 2021 9:23 pm

Thank you for another excellent article TD.

The way I see it is that the British Army currently has 5 combined arms brigades with a total of 15 or so battlegroups. This is the core of the army and needs to be protected along with the supporting signals, EW, cyber, logistics, ISTAR assets, and other supporting elements. This is alone is going to take of most of the army’s manpower no matter what.

The problem you mention that I would like to talk about is the various light infantry and cavalry units. Half of the army’s maneuver units are composed of these light role units. This presents a tremendous amount of fat in an army where every other arm is already lean. Do we need roughly 20 light role units for various operations or could we do with roughly half that number? The other thing is that since these light role units are going to be operating more independently should we cut some of these light role units and remake the remaining light role units larger with a more diverse set of skills to enable them to carry out long-term operations on their own? This could be reinforced ISTAR capabilities, more mentors to train allies, MP’s to teach local police forces, more logistics to support the larger units, etc, etc. Again, this would give the remaining light role units more skills than just light infantry in a more self-contained package.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
March 25, 2021 7:25 am

After the revelations coming from the defence paper the French now have the most capable strategic military in Europe.

They have equiped their armed forces with the equipment they require for the role and doctrine they have chosen to follow and done this by leveraging French industry.

We on the other hand have squandered decades of money with no coherent vision and are left with a hollowed out force considering our budget.

The sooner the Army admits it was militarily defeated in Iraq and faced an opponent that adapted quickly to us and fought us to a stalemate in Afghanistan then maybe real change might come. While we still have senior officers stating that they commanded this and that in Iraq and Afghanistan like it is a badge of excellence and are not questioned about the success of the operations then this will not happen.

24
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x