As a companion to the Medium Weight Capability history series, this is a look forward to the British Army’s Strike Brigade concept, comparison with other nation’s medium weight forces and a number of speculative alternatives to the current plans.
Two key factors must first be acknowledged;
First, the concept of Joint Land Strike is still emerging, the Army Strike Experimentation Group continues to experiment and revise its plans.
Two; the British Army has not revealed a great deal of information about Strike beyond high level objectives and key points.
Recognising these two makes any discussion difficult; at best, speculative, at worst ill-informed nonsense.
As if that ever stopped me commenting though!
We also have to be wary of getting into semantic dead ends about what constitutes a medium weight force, whether Strike is just FRES in new clothes or even for that matter, a medium weight capability.
Conceptual underpinnings are important but we should ditch the FRES baggage and look forward.
What is a Medium Weight Capability?
There is no single accepted definition.
Each nation has evolved their own definition of ‘Medium Weight’ depending on their own industrial, defence and political needs.
We should also be wary of defining it my weights or whether the vehicles are tracked or wheeled, look across NATO nations and others and there will be exceptions to any rule that defines a medium weight capability.
That said, the generally accepted definition describes a force that can move at much greater speed and over much greater distances than a traditional armoured/armoured infantry force, yet have much greater combat power, sustainability and resilience than a light role formation.
It is not a replacement for light role or heavy armoured forces, but instead, provides additional political and military options for decision makers.
Is Strike a Medium Weight Capability?
With the goal of being quicker to deploy over longer distances than heavy armoured forces yet more powerful and resilient than light forces, at the highest conceptual layer, yes, it is.
Where Strike departs might seem different is inclusion of a tracked vehicle, Ajax. Just as a note, FRES always had a tracked component as well.
Ajax will provide both a reconnaissance capability and act as ‘medium armour’, providing fire support for the yet to be obtained Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV), in effect, a medium weight tank. Now I use that term with caution, Ajax has neither the protection nor firepower of a main battle tank.
Using enhanced mobility and reduced logistic footprint, it is designed to be able to disperse and concentrate at key points in time and space to deliver a decisive effect. Because of the pervasive power of modern surveillance and communication systems allied with precision munitions and old-fashioned artillery, the STRIKE Brigade concept must be able to exploit its mobility to compensate for its reduced protection.
So to the question…
Strike, and if we are using ‘weights’ as a defining factor, should perhaps be visualised as a heavy medium weight force. It is potentially not quite as mobile as an Italian force but is better protected than, say, a US force, both of whom use only wheeled vehicles in their ‘medium weight’ equivalent.
Because Strike is intended to support divisional manoeuvre as well intervention it spans what might be seen as both heavy and medium.
As I said, reality defies easy categorisation.
Perhaps a better way of visualising it is not to imagine a hard boundary edge between heavy and medium but a porous mass as one gradually turn sinto the other, seamlessly.