Saturday, March 11, 2017

Building on strengths



 In this series of short posts I pursue two key objectives:

-          Argue that the British Armed Forces, in times of severe budget difficulties, should not pursue “ham tomorrow” at all costs, but focus instead on a number of areas in which they still have the seeds of excellence.
-          Provide a more detailed background to my “Alternative Army 2020” proposal, showing the reasoning behind certain approaches.

The approach behind my reasoning is simple: building on what is available, to secure and improve a number of key capabilities that make the UK a major player in defence within NATO.
Rather than dismantling mass and capability even further to pursue new “Strike Brigades”, or seek savings by cutting back on the more “exotic” specialties, I argue that it makes more sense to move back a step and watch the picture from a slightly different angle.

It is by now constantly repeated that the British Armed forces will always operate in Coalition and that this or that gap are not worrisome because allies will help plug the hole. However, unless the “ally” is invariably Uncle Sam, certain decisions make no sense as they are not at all aligned to what the European allies could effectively provide in a joint operation. The result is that certain cuts and proposals only exacerbate weaknesses that already exist within NATO and sacrifice precious specialism.

Does it make sense to cut back on Heavy Armour when, even with all the well known obsolescence issues of Challenger 2, the british heavy contingents are the only ones with true, recent wartime mileage in Europe?
Does it make sense to cut back on the ability to project power from the sea through amphibious operations when 3rd Commando Brigade and the shipping available for it remain a very large percentage of Europe’s capability in this specialist area?
Does it make sense to weaken the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and pretend that there is no manpower problem, when the RFA represents the vast majority of complex logistic shipping in Europe, making it a truly invaluable component not just for the UK, but for its allies as well?
Does it make sense to cut back on air-ground manoeuvre when there are 60 Chinooks, 50 Apache and 8 C-17 in service, giving the UK the best mix of tools for air manoeuvre in all of Europe?
Does it make sense to still tinker with the idea of cutting Sentinel, when the air ISTAR elements the UK can field are without rival in Europe?

Certain suggestions and, worse still, certain MOD moves appear to me to be absolutely misguided. Dismantling capability in areas in which the UK is the major European player is not going to make any favor to Her Majesty’s Government political weight. Being leaders in a number of specialist areas is more valuable than being able to field half-formed, half-tracked “Strike Brigades” able to respond “quickly” to… no one really knows what.
Not to mention that if the specialist capabilities are retained and nurtured, the potential for independent action, albeit on a small scale, remains more realistic. And the ability to take action independently is a key differentiator in the weight of a country at the table. An independent nuclear deterrent on its own will lose value if the rest of the armed forces turn into handicapped forces, plagued by capability gaps, pursuing political clout by being always the first to deploy in any new crisis. The UK still has a budget large enough and capabilities good enough to be a leader within NATO, a framework nation to which smaller players can contribute reinforcements. The UK should be, first of all, a Strategic Enabler: a military power lacking in mass, for obvious reason, but with the most complete range of capabilities possible. Even more so because it already possesses much of what it takes to do so. It is actually cheaper, or at least more cost-effective, to build upon what there already is.



Air Manoeuvre

While large-scale airborne operations are of questionable, at best, likelihood and of uncertain wisdom in this day and age, and anyway outside of the UK’s material possibilities; smaller scale parachute operations and, above all, manoeuvre by the air at battlegroup level, remain absolutely valid and useful. Air manoeuvre has been extremely effective and very widely used in Afghanistan and in Mali. In Mali, the French had some success with company-group parachute assaults as well, showing that there is still merit to having this kind of rapid insertion capability.

It is my belief that the British Army absolutely needs to maintain parachute assault as a capability, albeit at relatively small scale. Even more important is maintaining a significant ability to manoeuvre significant forces by air, both for securing key points ahead of the ground forces and for flank operations.
This is a complex, demanding and expensive proposition but, among the good reasons for insisting on this capability, is the fact that the UK is actually relatively well positioned to maintain and expand its know-how in this area. It is not my intention to produce here an history of the various SDSRs and of the procurement decisions they have generated, because it would take several pages at best, but the important thing is that the various decisions taken in the past have generated:

-          A fleet of 8 C-17 strategic cargo aircrafts, which provide a lift capability with no match elsewhere in NATO
-          A fleet of 22 A400M Atlas; not as numerous as desirable but certainly significant
-          A fleet of 14 C-130J to be retained in the long term thanks to a sudden dawn of wisdom in the SDSR 2015
-          A large and very capable helicopter fleet, composed of, crucially, 60 Chinooks providing a lift capacity that only Germany, having the CH-53, could hope to match.

Add the 50 Apache E with their proven firepower and sensors; 23 Puma HC2 and the Wildcats, and the resulting pool of resources is actually very considerable. It is easy to lose heart in front of the constant downpour of cuts and capability gaps, but there are actually still areas of excellence which could and should be better exploited.  

Arguably, the UK has better resources in this area than anyone else (always excluding the US, obviously) within NATO, yet 16 Air Assault brigade hasn’t fared too well in the last decade. Its organic supports (Artillery, Logistic, Signal…) have been eroded down to such a degree that the brigade today cannot be considered a “true” brigade. It has three regular infantry battalions thanks to the recent addition of the Gurkha rifles, but for lack of supports it would not be able to convert all three into battlegroups and deploy en masse. It has also lost the little bit of semi-organic cavalry support it had, and the Patrols platoons within the PARA battalions cannot be considered an adequate replacement.

In my opinion, this amounts to wasting a fine unit and a great opportunity. Those who have read my alternative proposal for Army 2020 Refine know that I called for a reinforcement of 16 Air Assault Brigade in its supporting parts as well as, if at all possible, the expansion to a four-battalions structure. What is needed is an “air-mechanized” brigade composed of two air mobile battalions and two light mechanized battalions (on Foxhound and Jackal). The whole brigade remains relatively light and easily deployed, but comes with everything it needs to be a true Strike force, tactically as well as strategically agile and able, from within its constituent units, to replicate the kind of combined air and ground manoeuvre that the army has most recently carried out during operation Herrick.
It is worth mentioning Operation Panther’s Claw (Panchai Palang) in the summer of 2009: 3rd SCOTS, then deployed as Aviation Assault Battlegroup, saw 350 soldiers of A and B companies (the Aviation Strike Coys in the group) airlifted in a single large wave to secure key crossing points in the Luy Mandeh wadi, north of Babaji. The reinforcements came in the form of a 64-vehicles convoy, with Mastiff, Jackal, Vikings and trucks from Camp Bastion, led by Task Force Thor, an American C-IED route clearance unit. The single-wave assault was made with 12 Chinooks, both british and American, supported by 4 Apache and 2 US Black Hawks.
2 weeks later, after holding the ground, B company carried out another aviation assault to secure another key passage ahead of the advancing Light Dragoons battlegroup. In July, during the third phase of the operation, Alpha coy was inserted using 5 Chinook and the support of 2 Apache. This operation included link-up with an armoured thrust by Charlie Company, 2 Royal Welsh in Warriors. The Fire Support Group operated on the ground, mounted in Jackals.



Air manoeuvre remains an essential capability, and the Army and RAF own the most expensive pieces already: there is no reason not to expand on them to put meat on the bones of 16 Air Assault Brigade.
As 3rd SCOTS example proves, in addition, air mobility is not necessarily a job for PARA troops, provided that the necessary expertise and procedures are well rehersed and understood within the army. In my alternative Army 2020 proposal, 51 Brigade has the same structure: 2 Light Role Battalions replace 2 and 3 PARA, and are meant to provide the air mobile element, while two light mechanized infantry battalions provide the ground mobility element. Each brigade also has a Light Cavalry regiment on Jackal.  

Several equipment problems are immediately evident:

-          The army currently lacks the capability to parachute Jackal into battle, and this means that the first Fire Support elements are forced to enter the fight as dismounts.
-          The Jackal is a good vehicle, but it was not engineered to be a rapid air landing assault platform. As amazing as it might sound, the Jackal cannot charge out, combat-ready, from a C-130 since the machine gun on top has to be removed in order to fit. So, even as an air-landed follow on reinforcement, it needs some time to make ready before it can move into the fight.

The latter problem is possibly going to go away thanks to the A400 Atlas. The first can only be solved by procuring a strong enough parachute platform system for use on the Atlas. The British Army has decided to entirely gap Heavy and Vehicle airdrops by withdrawing from service the old Medium Stressed Platform, which was compatible with the old C-130K cargo floor but not with the J’s. After seeking a modification to integrate the platform on the C-130J, the army decided that it was too expensive and accepted the gap. In the last few years, 16 Air Assault brigade has been able to parachute its artillery and other heavy loads into action only by exploiting US help and kit.
A new platform and the A400M are supposed to fix the problem.

The light cavalry mounted on Jackal has a firepower deficit, as the .50 HMG and 40mm GMG alone can’t give the reach and the heavy punch required to stand up to more threatening adversaries. Without even needing to go all the way up to Russian or Russian-style light armoured vehicles, the Jackals could end up being severely outgunned by “technicals” such as those seen in Syria. While the accuracy of fire coming from a ZSU-23 mounted on a Toyota pick-up might be questionable at best, it is not acceptable to step into a fight knowing that the enemy already has a range and firepower advantage almost every time (14.5mm machine guns, ZSU-23s and even old BMP turrets are easily found around in every theatre of war). Syria and Iraq are also showing how dangerous hastily and crudely armoured vehicle-born IEDs are: having a 30mm gun to decisively hit and stop them at a safe distance would make the difference.
The cheapest and easiest solution is to fit a number of Jackal vehicles with a remote turret armed with the same 30mm gun employed by the Apache. It is a weapon the army already has and supports, limiting its impact on logistics, and it would help the Light Cavalry a great deal. It does not weight much and it is getting a boost thanks to US Army plans to have it on top of JLTV in the reconnaissance role.

In this photo by Army recognition, a particularly capable RWS, my Moog Inc., integrating 7.62 coax, Javelin missile and M230 30mm gun. 

A simpler, lighter M230LF installation on M-ATV. The US Army is probably going to require this weapon on top of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles used in recce role. 



From heavily armed technicals to russian Tigr with 30mm guns. The Light Cavalry is not good for much unless it has the firepower to at least compete with this range of threats. 


Another issue, until recently, was the non exploitation of the C-17’s tactical capabilities. Thankfully, in the last couple of years the Army and RAF have begun to open up airdrops, rapid air landing and austere runways capability latent in the Globemaster fleet. Hopefully, it is only a matter of time before the C-17 can be fully exploited.

Heavy Air Drop capability needs to be rebuilt; it cannot be delegated entirely to US help

Relatively small investments can have a major impact on the British Army’s capability to manoeuvre from and through the air. Much of the required equipment exists. Central to my alternative Army 2020 proposal, air mobility is a key attribute of light brigades. Two such brigades, one of which based on 16 Air Assault; would provide the army with a sustainable and quickly deployable core of Aviation Assault battle groups supported by light mechanized formations ensuring post-landing mobility and lethality.
Parachute capability, normally at company group-level, continues to come on rotation from within the 2 PARA battalions, while air assault is more widely delivered by Light Role battalions.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Army 2020 Refine detailed


“Rationalisations”

HQ 102 Logistic Brigade, 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery, 35 Engineer Regiment, Headquarters 64 Works Group Royal Engineers, 2 Medical Regiment, Headquarters 4th Regiment Royal Military Police, 33 Field Hospital and 104,105 and 106 Battalions of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers reserve will be rationalised, with all manpower in those units being redeployed to other areas of the Army.


Armoured Infantry Brigades

The armoured brigades of Army 2020 Refine will be 20th and 12th Brigades. 1st Brigade will convert into a Strike Brigade.
The armoured brigades will have two armoured infantry battalions and a tank regiment each. The transfer of Ajax into the Strike Brigades apparently leaves the armoured infantry brigades without a cavalry element, with an obvious negative impact on the overall capability of the formations.
The loss of a tank regiment (King’s Royal Hussars, to convert into a “Medium Armour” regiment mounted on Ajax) is also a particularly negative development.
To this day it is not clear whether anything will be done to expand the surviving tank regiments and/or remedy somewhat to the loss of organic recce cavalry.
The heavy brigades of the French army do not have a dedicate cavalry regiment for reconnaissance, but they have two tank regiments and each formation includes a couple of 117-strong reconnaissance squadrons. The British Army might or might not attempt a similar mitigation of the problem.

The MOD says that the Challenger 2 LEP programme has a 700 million budget, which is, depending from where you look at it, both small and gigantic, since on the other side of the Channel, France is paying a third of that sum for a very substantial update to as many as 225 Leclerc. The extent of LEP modifications isn’t clear yet, and the MOD is of course not saying how many tanks will be life extended. Army 2020 downsized the active fleet to 227, and a further shrinkage seems assured.

At the same time, the Army is giving vague hopes by dropping messages such as:

“The Army has conducted initial planning to understand how a further armoured or medium armoured regiment (equipped with Challenger 2 or Ajax) may be generated from both the Regular and Reserve component. This work will inform the final decision on the future Challenger 2 Life Extension Project fleet size.”

A number that has circulated is 160 to 170 tanks retained, one of the smallest fleets in the world. As for the LEP, although everyone knows that the rifled gun and the powerpack are big weaknesses, there are currently little hopes to see big changes.



Strike Brigades

The Strike Brigades will be 1st Brigade, converted from the armoured role, and a "new" brigade. 
This year will see the Scots Guards and the Household Cavalry move into a "Strike Experimentation Group. In 2019 they will be joined by King's Royal Hussars and 4 SCOTS, and at that point the Group will become a brigade, picking a badge. To me, 4th Infantry Brigade, being based in Catterick, continues to seem the best positioned candidate, but it seems the deal is not quite sealed. 
The planned structure of the two brigades is as follows: 






Specialised Infantry Group

The newly formed Specialised Infantry Group will take command of 4 RIFLES and 1 SCOTS in April this year, to achieve an IOC hopefully by the autumn. The Specialised Infantry Battalions are expected to take a permanent regional focus. 4 RIFLES has been assigned to the Middle East.
1 SCOTS will move from Belfast to Aldershot in 2019, to be co-located with the Specialised Infantry Group and its other constituent units.
There is uncertainty still about how large these “specialized” infantry units will be in the end, with figures having given as 200, 270 or 300. There is much still to do to actually build these units and their very peculiar role.

In 2019, two more battalions will join the group: 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (currently Light Role) and 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (currently Light Role). The requirement for a fifth battalion hasn’t yet been ruled out.


Royal Armoured Corps

The Queen’s Royal Hussars and the Royal Tank Regiment will continue to employ Challenger 2. As said before, there is no telling at the moment if they will see any expansion to compensate somewhat for the loss of a tank regiment and the absence of dedicate recce cavalry in the armoured brigades.

The King’s Royal Hussars will convert from Challenger 2 to Ajax during 2019 and are now expected to be the first operational formation on the new vehicle. Their new role will be “Medium Armour”, which the MOD describes by saying that “specific tasks are expected to be similar to those conducted by Challenger 2, albeit against a different threat”. They’ll have, in other words, to play tanks with Scout vehicles.
This is one of the most extraordinary blunders of all times in British Army history, and a spectacular example of utter confusion on the future of the force, because a specific “Medium Armour” variant of FRES SV, then Scout, then Ajax, used to exist. It was part of the requirement, and the base hull was specifically given a very wide turret ring to support a variant armed with large guns, up to 120mm smoothbore.

The Medium Armour Segment was however sacrificed to pursue a large purchase of vehicles in Recce configuration and Recce support only. The contract was signed in September 2014, and the vehicles aren’t even in production yet, but already the army has managed to completely change the requirement that shaped said contract, and now the Scout will be rammed into a completely different role, for which it is ill suited. That the Army could, from within, mess up its biggest contract in decades in about two years is the demonstration that not all problems in the UK armed forces are due to politicians. The services sure know how to create chaos in their own plans.

Four, rather than three, regiments will be mounted on Ajax: Household Cavalry, King’s Royal Hussars, Royal Lancers and Royal Dragoon Guards. Two regiments will be tasked with reconnaissance, and two with “Medium Armour”. One between RL and RDG will join KRH in the Medium Armour role.

In theory, with Ajax not having entered production yet, as I said, it would be possible to procure a true medium armour variant, which General Dynamics is offering to the US Army for their Mobile Protected Firepower requirement. However, there is no sign of willingness on the MOD part to try and renegotiate the contracts and change the number of variants. In addition, 245 CTA 40mm guns have already been ordered for the Ajax programme.
In the land of dreams, a part of those guns would be directed to a turreted MIV variant and a part of the Ajax vehicles would get the 120mm smoothbore, but in the land of harsh reality MIV will have nothing more than a Protector RWS and Ajax will be a Scout out of role.

FRES SV when it was a much larger programme. In 2013 it became evident that the Medium Armour and Manoeuvre Support segments had been abandoned, as well as Recce Block 3. Recce Block 1 and Block 2 were then merged together, and a Ground Based Surveillance sub-variant of Ajax added, to be purchased in very little numbers in the September 2014 contract. To this day it is not clear what kind of sensors the GBS will come equipped with. Curiously, both the GBS and Joint Fires sub-variants, once expected to be variant of the turretless APC variant (now known as ARES), are now sub-variants of the turreted Ajax.  
General Dynamics, and maybe the Army itself, continued for a while to hope that bridgelaying, ambulance and direct fire / Medium Armour variants of Ajax would one day follow.

General Dynamics is now capitalizing on work done initially for the British Army to propose the Griffin, a medium tank with 120mm gun, on Ajax hull base, for the US Army's Mobile Protected Firepower requirement. 

Nothing has emerged about the remaining regiments, currently in the Light Cavalry role with Jackal: Royal Scots Dragoon Guards; The Queen’s Dragoon Guards and the Light Dragoons. They will probably stay more or less as they are, lost in those six highly questionable, support-less  infantry brigades that will be part of 1st Division. However, there have been reports in the past of CBRN returning from the RAF Regiment entirely to the green army, while the future of the Protected Mobility fleets (from Foxhound to Mastiff) is still up in the air. Among possible outcomes, it cannot be ruled out that one regiment becomes a "protected mobility provider", driving Foxhounds and Ridgback and Mastiff in order to provide lift, mobility and protection to supported infantry formations. 


Infantry

The introduction of the Specialised Infantry capability will be accompanied by a restructuring of the infantry divisional structure, within which infantry regiments are administered, from seven to six divisions. The Scottish and The Prince of Wales’s Administrative Divisions of Infantry will merge, incorporating The Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Royal Welsh Regiment and The Royal Irish Regiment. This administrative division will be called The Scottish, Welsh and Irish Division. The Mercian Regiment from the Prince of Wales’s Division will join with the King’s Division. Army administrative divisions of infantry are the groupings within which the Army manages its infantry soldiers and officers to give them the necessary broad spread of relevant career experience from across a number of different units and activities. They have no operational role. There will be no changes to the names or regimental construct of The Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Mercian Regiment, The Royal Welsh Regiment, or The Royal Irish Regiment as a result of these administrative changes. 

1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment) will re-role from Warrior-equipped Armoured Infantry to become a Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV)-equipped battalion. The change is expected to happen in 2020 and will also see the relocation of the battalion from Warminster to Catterick.

1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment will re-role from Warrior-equipped Armoured Infantry to become a Light Role infantry battalion.

The MOD says that: “A2020 Refine force structure will have sufficient Warrior platforms to field two armoured infantry brigades each containing, amongst other capabilities, two armoured infantry battalions. Should the Army require additional personnel capable of operating Warrior, they would be trained as individual battle casualty replacements to be employed within these battalions and might initially be drawn from their paired Reserve battalions.

At the same time, the MOD refuses to provide numbers for the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme. 245 guns have been ordered for it, and 245 IFV and IFV-command variants are more or less what is needed to support the four battalions planned, plus a margin for training and support.
The remaining uncertainty is almost certainly not on the number of “turreted variants”, but on the number of the supporting variants: Repair, Recovery, Artillery Observation Post, and, hopefully, Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle.
The Warrior CSP programme is part of a wider “Armoured Infantry 2026” programme, which should modernize the capability as a whole. Clearly, the replacement of the FV432 in its sub-variants (command and communications, APC, mortar carrier, ambulance) is necessary but the status of this workstream, as always, is mysterious. The Army has allocated designations for an APC and an Ambulance variant of the Warrior, however; the FV525 and FV526, in a confirmation of what, for well over 12 years, has been the general direction of travel for the Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle. Turretless conversions of surplus Warrior hulls, in addition to the supporting variants of Ajax (Athena and Argus, mostly), should eventually replace FV432 and CRV(T) vehicles (Spartan, Sultan, Samaritan).
Considerable uncertainty surrounds the FV514 variant as well, the Artillery Observation Post. The Royal Artillery wants to transform the vehicle in a modern Joint Fires direction platform able to direct mortar, artillery and air attacks, and was experimenting for a suitable mission kit already back in 2010 and before. Funding and timelines, however, were up in the air: the Royal Artillery needs to find the money for its own specific upgrades and additions, and hopefully have them included in the final manufacture contract.
Warrior CSP and ABSV are key elements of the future armoured infantry brigade, which will only work if the programme is brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

FV510 Warrior Section Vehicle ----- FV520 after CSP
FV511 Warrior Infantry command  ----- FV521
FV512 Warrior Repair   ------ FV522
FV513 Warrior Recovery   ------- FV523
FV514 Warrior Artillery Observation Post  ------ FV524
FV515 Warrior Battery Command Post  ------ no longer employed
Conversion of surplus hulls  ------  FV525 Warrior Ambulance
Conversion of surprlus hulls ------ FV526  Warrior APC (and sub-variants such as mortar carrier)

245 between FV520 and FV521 are expected. The FV514 has the turret as well, but the gun is a dummy. 
Warrior bridgelayer. It is tracked, but so is Ajax: can it be the Strike Brigade's close support gap crossing capability? FRES once called for several medium weight bridgelayers.  
From FV514 to FV524. One of the most complex and uncertain elements of Armoured Infantry 2026. But the ability to direct supporting fires from under armor is absolutely crucial. 

Light Protected Mobility battalions seem to entirely vanish from the ORBAT, reverting to Light Role infantry. The future role and employment of Foxhound has yet to be determined.  

Light Role battalions will rebuild the 3 rifle platoons they lost in the original Army 2020, thanks largely to manpower released with the creation of the tiny Specialised Infantry Battalions. The establishment for Light Role battalions grows from 561 (580 for those currently on Foxhound) to around 630.

In connection to the “Better Defence Estate” review, a good number of battalions will have to move to new bases over the next decade and beyond.


Royal Engineers

Royal Engineers are working on their own restructuring plan for Army 2020. What is already decided is that 35 Engineer Regiment, on return from Germany, will re-role to EOD & Search. As part of the process it will lose 29 Sqn, re-subordinated to 21 Engineer Regiment; and 37 Squadron, which will go to 32 Engineer Regiment. This will bring the future Strike Brigade engineer regiments up to strength. Currently, as part of the earlier Army 2020, both 21 and 32 are severely understrength, missing a whole regular sub-unit, although they control a reserve squadron each. 
At the moment they are under control of 12 Force Support Engineer Group, but they continue to support the brigades in the Adaptable Force.

The enlarged EOD & Search group will be reorganized, but details are still being worked out. However, the hybrid Regular – Reserve regiments created by the original Army 2020 plan are already coming to an end. The four reserve squadrons (217, 221, 350, 579) will re-subordinate under a newly formed Reserve regiment HQ, which will take the already existing 101 Regt title.
35 Engineer Regiment will take the place of the current 101 and will apparently be composed of regulars, not reserves as it initially appeared from the announcement made by the secretary of state for defence. At the moment, the EOD regiments are structured as follows:

33 EOD & Search Regiment

-       58 Field Sqn
-       821 Sqn (Very High Readiness, contains two PARA and two Commando elements that support 16 Air Assault and 3 Commando Brigades)
-       217 Sqn (R)
-       350 Sqn (R)

101 EOD & Search Regiment

-       22 Sp Sqn
-       17 Field Sqn
-       21 Field Sqn
-       221 Field Sqn (R)
-       579 Field Sqn (R)

29 EOD & Search Group as of now. 35 Regiment coming in and all reserve EOD going into a new 101 (Reserve) Regt. 

The transfer of the Reserve squadrons will, I assume, be compensated by increasing the regular component. 35 Regiment currently includes, in addition to the already mentioned squadrons headed for re-subordination, 44 HQ & Sp Sqn and 77 Armoured Engineer Squadrons, and their fate hasn’t yet been detailed: they might convert to an EOD role.
While waiting for details to emerge, my comment to this restructuring is that the Strike Brigades, if they are to be anywhere near as independent and highly mobile as Carter seems to expect, will need greater availability of crucial Route Proving and Clearance capabilities, because mines and EODs are not going away.

This EOD restructuring might be connected to this need. If this is the case, 20 Squadron, currently part of 36 Engineer Regiment, Force Support, and in charge of the TALISMAN equipment and Route Proving & Clearance know-how, might be involved in the reshuffle. If it depended on me, I would want a TALISMAN squadron for each Strike Brigade.




Growth is expected in Wide Wet Gap Crossing, which might be a way to say that some regulars will get back in the M3 rig business, after it was offloaded to 75 Engineer Regiment (Reserve) in the earlier version of Army 2020. Another effect of the "return to East Europe"?
Again, no details have been released yet.

Another requirement that the Strike Brigades re-introduce is one that was once part of FRES: the need for a medium weight close support gap crossing capability. TITAN is tracked and Challenger-sized, so is obviously not an option, while REBS and ABLE are too vulnerable on their current truck bases. Will a MIV, Ajax or perhaps Warrior-based bridgelayer emerge? The Warrior bridgelayer has already been demonstrated to the army, but did not receive funding. This is one of the areas in which 21 and 32 Engineer regiment will have to try and find solutions.

Works Groups will also face yet a new reorganization as HQ 64 Works Group disbands.

170 Engineer Group, the changes it was undergoing as part of Army 2020. Now it will have to reorganize again as 64 Works Group disbands and Better Defence Estate measures hit home. 

Royal Engineer Reserve units will be realigned to better support the new structure and new aims. An unknown number of reserve squadrons will be aligned, for the first time, with the Heavy Armour regiments. At the moment, however, the Royal Engineers have very little in the way of reserve field squadrons: 131 supporting the Commando regiment; 299 supporting the PARA regiment; 103 and 106 in the Field Army. 71 Engineer Regiment is part of Force Supports (Air) and 75 Regiment is currently in the Wide Wet Gap Crossing and Land Force support role, so there aren’t many squadrons to re-role or move around unless new ones are formed or the reserve regiments get re-focused.


Royal Artillery

The Royal Artillery of Army 2020 Refine will have:

2 “Heavy” Close Support regiments on AS90: 1 Royal Horse Artillery and 19 Royal Artillery. Their structure is planned as follows:

- HQ Battery
- 3x AS90 batteries of six guns; 3 Fire Support Teams and 1 Tactical Air Control Party. Each FST will include 1 JTAC.

The current Tac Group batteries will be re-absorbed and the manpower used elsewhere.
1 Royal Horse Artillery will leave Tidworth for Larkhill in the Easter period of 2019.


2 “STRIKE” Close Support regiments, initially with L118 and then with a future Medium Wheeled Gun. 3 Royal Horse Artillery and 4 Royal Artillery. Their structure includes:

-       HQ Battery
-       2x Gun batteries of six guns; 3 Fire Support Teams with 2 JTAC each; and 1 TACP.
-       3x Tac Group Batteries with 3 FSTs each, including 2 JTACs each, and 1 TACP

The Reserve gunners in support will be expected to man a third battery of six guns and an expanded echelon during operations. Probably each regular regiment will continue to be paired to a reserve regiment (103. 105, 104).

4 Royal Artillery will joint 3 RHA in Newcastle during 2026.


1 “Division Fires” regiment, obtained by removing AS90 from 26 Royal Artillery in exchange for a re-centralization of GMLRS and Exactor. 26 Regiment will have 3 batteries of GMLRS each, plus two Exactor batteries. This replaces the earlier Army 2020 de-centralization that had attached one Precision Fires battery of GMLRS and Exactor to each of 19 RA, 26 RA and 1 RHA regiments. I assume the regiment will employ 18 GMLRS in batteries of 6.
The regiment will be paired with 101 RA, in the Reserve, also on GMLRS, but with a smaller manpower count than currently. The structure should remain on HQ plus four batteries, however.
26 Royal Artillery will arrive in Larkhill from Gutersloh during 2019.


32 Royal Artillery will have 1 HQ Battery and 4 Batteries of Desert Hawk III mini UAS, but, and it was one of the most surprising decisions of Army 2020 Refine for me, the regiment has no future beyond 2021, the expected Out of Service Date for DH III. There will no longer be a dedicate UAS regiment, and currently the plans for the replacement of DH III in the Find role at Battlegroup and Brigade level are completely up in the air.
The current infrastructure used by 32 RA will be taken over by 5 Royal Artillery, which will so be able to move out of Catterick in favor of Larkhill.
It seems unthinkable that in 2021 the Army will want to be without a mini-UAS for battlegroup level FIND functions. The Royal Marines were trying to kick start a Desert Hawk III replacement already last year, and while that failed to progress due to lack of money, new attempts can be expected as time progresses. 
Could the mini-UAS mission end up in the Cavalry, as part of reconnaissance tasking? 

47 Royal Artillery will continue its Watchkeeper build-up to deliver 1 HQ Battery and 4 UAV batteries.

5 Royal Artillery will deliver an HQ Battery, a “General Support” Surveillance and Target Acquisition bty, 3 Close Support STA batteries and 4/73 Sphinx special observation post battery. This is more or less today’s composition, but one battery today (53 Louisburg Bty) is aligned with 16 Air Assault brigade, while Refine seems to do away with that in favor of a “Divisional” approach with a battery in the General Service role.
The Honorable Artillery Company, in the reserve, will provide support with three surveillance squadrons and it will also continue to provide an Air Assault gun group in support of 7 Royal Horse Artillery.

7 Royal Horse Artillery and 29 Commando are not formally touched by Army 2020 Refine and remain “unchanged”. In reality, the structure of the latter is under pressure and the loss of an artillery battery cannot be ruled out, amid uncertainty that lasts since the SDSR 2010. 29 Commando is also in search of a new base as part of the Better Defence Estate review, that decided to sell their current home but hasn’t yet shaped an actual plan for providing new infrastructure.

Bittersweet news come from the air defence regiments: 12 Regiment and 16 Regiment will return to be fully independent and deployable regiments by splitting the currently shared Support Battery (42 Alem Hamza Bty). However, one Stormer HVM battery in 12 Regiment will convert to LML.
12 Regiment will have 2 Stormer HVM batteries, one for each armoured brigade, and 3 LML batteries, presumably one for each Strike Brigade plus 12 Bty in the Air Assault role that it already covers in support of 16 AA Brigade.

16 Regiment will have 1 HQ Bty, 49 Inkerman Bty with LEAPP and 4 batteries with Rapier (then Land Ceptor) and the new Sky Sabre air defence C4Inode.

The precise role and composition of 106 Royal Artillery, the reserve Air Defence regiment, has yet to be determined.


Royal Logistic Corps and REME

The Strike Brigades will, for whatever reason, be supported by a "super" CSS regiment formed by merging one RLC and one REME battalions.
One such regiment will be formed by 2 REME and 27 RLC. 2 REME will become part of a regiment in combination with 27 RLC in 2021, but it'll be 2030 before the REME element leaves Leuchars to join the rest of the unit in Catterick.

The other CSS regiment will be born out of 1 RLC and 1 REME. The ministerial statements names both units as parts of the 1st Strike Brigade but fails to mention the merging.

The merging of RLC and REME does not seem to extend to the rest of the Army. Support to the armoured brigades seem set to stay "in traditional format".
7 RLC and 6 RLC will transit into 101 Logistic Brigade, presumably to become Force Support elements for 3rd UK Division:
7 Regt RLC will remain in Cottesmore until 2029, when it is due to move to Topcliffe. The Regt will come under command of 101 Log Bde in 2019. The detailed structure and role are still being worked on.

6 Regt RLC will also come under command of 101 Log Bde in 2019. The Regt will remain in Dishforth until 2030 when it will move to Topcliffe along with 7 Regt RLC.

I've seen suggestions that 9 RLC will move to 104 Logistic Brigade instead, but i have no way to confirm this as of now. Much has yet to be announced.


Army Reserve

According to MOD written evidence, changes to reservist roles include the following:

- Reserves will be paired for the first time with the Armoured Infantry (Warrior)
- Reserves will be paired for the first time with the Armoured Artillery (AS90)
- Reserves will re-role to support the Armoured Engineers.
- The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers will re-role to form an Off Platform Repair Battalion. This will provide essential capability to the Army and will be vital for the deployment of the Division.
- Removing Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) from the Reserve Artillery and re-rolling 104 Regt RA to light gun.

The new Reserve organization has yet to be announced in full, but 7 RIFLES has been paired with 5 RIFLES, which is an Armoured Infantry battalion. 
5 FUSILIERS is being paired with its parent battalion, 1st FUSILIERS, also in the Armoured Infantry role. 

Other pairing changes are to be expected. The artillery regiment to pair with the AS90 formations has yet to be chosen.

The infantry component of the Reserve undergoes the changes detailed below: 



The Royal Wessex Yeomanry, the reserve tank regiment, is being expanded with an extra crew in each tank troop and has seen its role expanded: it now supplies both Armoured Reinforcements and Armoured Replacements.
105 Battalion REME will change its name to 101 Theatre Support Battalion in 2019 (the name 105 will cease to be used, as will 104 and 106). It’s new role will be to support 5 Theatre Support Battalion REME in the regeneration of theatre-level equipment during a time of war.

It will consist of Bn HQ and four sub-unit locations as follows:

· HQ 101 Bn REME will be in KEYNSHAM
· Sub unit 1: BRIDGEND & GLOUCESTER
· Sub-unit 2: SWINDON & BRISTOL
· Sub-unit 3: LIVERPOOL & BELFAST
· Sub-unit 4: TELFORD & WEST BROMWICH



Sunday, February 12, 2017

A different refining process


This post explores in more detail my alternative proposal for Army 2020 Refine, which has already been the focus of several other posts. Here I will explain, and visualize with a table, the extent of the adjustments required to ensure that the Army has two workable divisions, with six workable brigades.
The comfort given by this alternative structure is a degree of repeatability. The army maintains the ability to support a brigade-sized deployment abroad enduringly. The army has two deployable divisions and does not reduce itself to a one-shot only 3rd Division, a six month “make it or break it”. Overall, it looks to me like a more rational and intelligent use of the scarce resources available.

It would be challenging, for many reasons, to accomplish this restructuring. The main concern is how bad recruitment figures are at the moment, particularly in key areas such as REME and Signals. The numbers, even with the removal of 3 infantry battalions, remain tight and cruel masters and careful management of resources would be required to assign the invaluable margin to this or that area.

As I’m not expecting any real budget increase, this restructuring is achieved by cancelling the Mechanized Infantry Vehicle, delaying the programme to a date to be determined. The current shape of Army 2020 Refine makes it clear that the army does not have enough resources to tackle MIV in a complete and proper way. Its introduction comes at the cost of a tremendous mutilation to the rest of the army, and I simply do not think it is worth it.
Manpower is recovered by removing 3 Light Role Infantry battalions; moving to Combined Arms Regiments in Heavy Armour and proceeding with 4 Specialized Infantry Battalions.
Extra manpower could be obtained by not rebuilding some of the Light Role battalions to a 3-companies structure, but this should be a measure of last resort. Cutting other battalions will be challenging unless supplementary tasks (2 battalions in Cyprus, 2 on Public Duty, 1 in Brunei, 1 in support of Special Forces) are downsized.

The complexity of the changes involved are significant, but Army 2020 Refine as described currently is not easy either, and the original Army 2020 wasn’t, either. What I’m advocating for is, for how I see it, a desperate call to the army and to government towards honesty and coherence. They cannot keep cutting while “saving capbadges” and pretend that they can contain the damage. They cannot. It is no use having 31 infantry battalions if there are supports to deploy 10 at best, two in each Army 2020 Refine armoured and strike brigade plus 2 in 16 Air Assault.
Preserving capbadges but cutting the means to deploy them meaningfully as complete battlegroups is simply idiotic, and it is time for realism to win the day, or attempting to fix the disaster later will result in a truly painful process.



Note to the document: the above tables should make it easier to visualize the proposed changes and their impact. 

The image on Pintrest shows the resulting Army 2020 Refine as a whole, with the two divisions drawing supports from Force Troops Command. 


Infantry

The reorganization will continue to include 4 Specialized Infantry Battalions, as planned in Army 2020 Refine. The concept is challenging for a variety of reasons, but the attractive of it is in moving the “enduring tasks” away from the other battalions, which can then focus on their primary combat roles. The SIBs also help in freeing up a lot of manpower which is desperately needed elsewhere.
The challenges of the concept come from the very aim of the Specialized Infantry Group: train, advise and assist allied forces abroad, maintaining an enduring presence in key areas of the world, such as the Middle and Far East, East Europe and Africa.

The concept of the Specialized Infantry Group sees each SIB aligned with an administrative Infantry Division, which feeds qualified personnel into the small but very busy battalion. The enduring presence in all sectors is to be achieved by assigning each region to a battalion, which will then rotate its companies in and out of the area, enduringly. With the battalions numbering some 270 to 300 men, all trades, the balance of deployed and dwell time will be tricky to manage, and the composition, strength and number of the companies will require accurate study.

Another huge question mark is on the Assist objective, and on the comparison, repeatedly used, that draws a parallel between SIBs and American Green Berets. The extent of the Assist objective will be absolutely central in determining what these battalions are going to be: will they become Special Operations Forces, a “second tier” element to the Special Forces proper? Will they step directly into the fight alongside those they have trained, and will they provide key direction  and support? It seems to be the intention, and it should be, to give proper meaning to this force. But this in turn introduces all sorts of questions about the status of these battalions and their recruitment need. If they become battalions about which the government might want, in some occasions, to use the “we do not comment on special operations” line, this will have obvious consequences in terms of pay, terms of service, etcetera.

It is also clear to me that if these battalions are going to “assist” in any meaningful way they shall be able to carry out complex tasks, one of which would be to reconnoiter and mark targets for air attacks. The Specialized Infantry Group should really be a Specialized Brigade, aligned with the UKSFSG, and to do its job properly would need to include extra Fire Support Teams / “stay behind” observation teams from the Artillery and, ideally, it would need a “cavalry” with its squadrons equipped with protected mobility and firepower vehicles to provide lift, force protection and firepower. But to achieve this, time and investment will be required, so I’m forced to leave this out.

More immediately, the Army 2020 Refine which I propose would disband 3 Light Role battalions. The Army has too many, more than it can adequately support with Combat Support and Combat Service Support formations. With no extra money and manpower on the way, the army needs to be honest with itself and sacrifice capbadges if need be, and recollect invaluable manpower by cutting some infantry battalions rather than by messing up and reducing supports even further. Reducing supports causes less political and media flak than disbanding a historic infantry battalion, but it is far more devastating to army capability, because it means being less and less able to properly deploy and support the infantry battalions that remain. Army 2020 Refine as currently planned is a brutal blow to army capability, reducing all supports from 5 to 4, further reducing the meaning of the Adaptable Force.
Removing three infantry battalions will recoup some 1680 posts. 1160 more posts come from the downsizing of 4 battalions into SIBs.

The Armoured Infantry battalions of Army 2020 Refine fall to a total of 4, from 6. This is kind of unavoidable because the Warrior CSP programme is planned to deliver enough vehicles for, you guess it, 4 battalions. Unless more money can be provided and more vehicles upgraded, there is no way around this single, massive roadblock.
Since more armoured infantry would also require more tanks in support, and so more money, we are not likely to go anywhere trying to maintain six battalions. My proposal is to follow the American (and, to a lesser degree, the Israeli) model and go for Combined Arms Regiments. In  fact, permanent, square 2+2 battlegroups that the Army knows well and appreciates.
6 such combines arms regiments would contain a total of six “small battalions” of infantry and six “small battalions” of tanks. 2 Tank Squadrons, with 14 tanks each, and an ISTAR Squadron with Ajax and Warrior-mounted scouts would form the “tank battalion”, while 2 armoured infantry companies plus a Support Weapons Company would form the infantry element.
All six capbadges currently connected to the Armoured Infantry stay in the role, but lose a company each. The loss of 6 companies, or two battalions, fixes the Warrior problem.
The new tank organization erases the cut to MBT numbers that the current Army 2020 Refine implies. 168 tanks are spread in squadrons of 14 across the 6 regiments, for a total of 168, the exact same total of the earlier Army 2020 with 3 regiments of 56 tanks each.

One challenge connected with the smaller battalions is career management for the soldiers within them. The infantry elements should not have too many issues as the battalions would all continue to be part of their respective infantry capbadges. The loss of companies is bad, but far from unprecedented: Army 2020 effectively robbed all Light Role infantry battalions of one company.
Tank “battalions” might benefit from being coupled together into regiments, since the “battalions” would not have a real independent HQ element of their own. For example, the Royal Tank Regiment could return to having a separate 1st and 2nd, as was pre-2010. The “Royal Hussars” could have a Queen’s and a King’s battalion. I have thought long and hard of the identities to choose for the last couple of battalions, but eventually I’ve decided to leave the issue unsettled for now. The romantic in me has tried to give life to a “Union Regiment” which would somehow tie together cavalry elements from across the UK. I’ve thought about splitting the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards into Royal Scots Greys and Carabiniers, but I’m hesitant to move them back to the heavy role and away from Leuchars or, at least, Scotland.

The Combined Arms Regiments have been described in detail here, although I would now recommend forming a separate “cavalry” company for reconnaissance / ISTAR. The manpower total would still be equal or slightly inferior to the 6135 men necessary for the original Army 2020 structure (3 tank regiments with 587 men each and 6 infantry battalions of 729).

Finally, on the infantry front, the plan requires an extra Mechanized Infantry battalion on Mastiff. Being 709 strong, such a battalion requires the expansion of one of the existing formations, and the use of some 150 posts.
The number of Foxhound-mounted battalions drops from 6 to 4, in order to move to 3-companies battalions (currently, the six light protected mobility battalions have only 2 rifle companies each). One Light Mechanized Battalion on Foxhound is assigned to each Mechanized and Light Brigade, plus one to 16 Air Assault.
All Light Role infantry battalions will rebuild the missing rifle company as well (Army 2020 Refine already includes this, uplifting the battalions from 560 or 580 for the Foxhound-mounted ones to 630). The cost in manpower is around 800 posts.

In order to fund all the changes and uplifts in other key areas, the main victim, money-wise, is the Mechanized Infantry Vehicle programme, which is delayed to a later date, to be defined. Although Mastiff has very real mobility problems, particularly over wet and soft terrain, the MIV programme as currently envisaged, in my opinion, costs too much and solves too little. The Army is mutilating itself in order to scrape together four battalions mounted on 8x8 vehicles which will almost certainly be mere APCs, very lightly armed. Their greater mobility would help, but the current Strike Brigade concept is full of contradictions and generally looks like a solution in search of a problem. It does not respond to any real need, especially because, in its current envisaged structure, even assuming it could move as much and as rapidly as general Carter claims, they would lack the firepower to be decisive once they get there.
As a consequence, instead of making one of the many 8x8 producers happy and rich, I’d want to focus on other areas first.



Armour

Army 2020 Refine is supposedly shaped by the “realization” that state on state warfare is not dead. However, while Germany, US and France rebuild their heavy armour components, the british army slashes its own and makes it even smaller. As so often happens, action is not coherent with narrative.
My Army 2020 Refine proposal removes the cut to MBT numbers. Indeed, I’d recommend adding a tank squadron within the reconnaissance cavalry regiments in the two heavy brigades. This would partially solve the lack of firepower of the fully-Ajax based regiment, which can hardly be a “recce by stealth” formation yet lacks the decisive punch to do recce by force. It would also contribute to more closely aligning the british heavy brigades with the US Army ABCTs, which are putting a tank company of 14 Abrams back into their own reconnaissance squadron, although, at least for now, by moving said company out of one of the three Combined Arms Battalions. This could change when the 2017 budget is approved and the manpower boost confirmed. The two british heavy brigades would be “super ABCTs”, more readily understood by the US Army alongside which they are most likely to operate.

An absolute priority for the british army must be solving the obsolescence of Challenger 2, so the cancellation of MIV should see some of the savings repurposed towards a more ambitious upgrade programme for the MBT, with the aim of replacing the powerpack and the rifled gun. Once the smoothbore gun is retrofitted, adoption of the latest advanced multi-purpose rounds and long-rod armor piercing rounds should immediately follow to give the MBT the necessary anti-armour punch and a true multi-role capability against structures and infantry in the open and behind cover.

Adding a tank company within two of the cavalry regiments would require an extra 28 frontline tanks on top of 168 for the Combined Arms Regiment. 196 active tanks still fit within the original Army 2020 fleet of 227, but re-activating some extra tanks would never hurt.

The Mechanized Infantry Brigades will get a Cavalry regiment on Ajax each. This requires the expansion of a Light Cavalry regiment (404 strong) to an Armoured Cavalry formation (528), with the use of some 124 posts. Heavy mortars should also be added to provide long-range, indirect firepower to the recce formations, so a number of extra posts would be required.


Artillery


Artillery regiments will return to a formal alignment with the respective brigades. 1st Artillery Brigade will be replaced by two smaller Artillery Group HQs attached each to a Division. These groups will have much the same functions as the resurrected Div Arty commands in US Army divisions, ensuring both coherence in training, force structure and methods and a greater connection with the division’s commander and the maneuver forces. They will also oversee, on deployment, the regiment tasked with air defence and whatever extra Fires resource is available from the Reserve and/or allies. 

N Bty, 3 Royal Horse Artillery converted from Tac Group to Precision Fires, with GMLRS and Exactor. Army 2020 Refine goes back and cancels the decentralization of Army 2020 in favor of rebuilding a single "Division Fires" regiment. It does so, however, by repurposing a brigade Fires regiment, and this is something i want to avoid. 

L Bty (1 RHA), 129 Bty (4 RA), 38 Bty (19 RA) and 19 Bty (26 RA), currently all Tac Group batteries, would be re-invested as Brigade STA batteries with mini-UAVs (Desert Hawk III and, later on, its replacement) and Fire Support Teams. Centralized within 32 Regiment Royal Artillery for ease of training, logistics and career, the brigade SRA batteries would be aligned each to a different brigade and particularly close to the reconnaissance cavalry. 
At the end of the restructuring, 32 Regiment should have one 'UAV and Tac' battery for each brigade, including 3rd Commando Brigade. 47 Royal Artillery should form 4 Watchkeeper batteries for brigade and division level tasking. 

L118 Batteries within 4 Royal Artillery regiment would be uplifted from 4 to 6 guns each; and V Bty would be rebuilt within 7 RHA, with six guns plus Fire Support Teams. 26 Royal Artillery regiment would transition from AS90 to a new, lighter self propelled 155mm artillery system, possibly wheeled. My recommendation is to go for a system which can also replace the increasingly aging and short-ranged AS90. The DONAR system looks to me like the best candidate. On Ajax hull, it could replace AS90 and support the Mechanized Brigades, but for the latter, if it was financially feasible, a wheeled base could be even better.

Other artillery priorities would be programmes that the Royal Artillery has been unsuccessfully pursuing for years: a Course Correcting Fuze for 155mm shells, to improve general accuracy of the heavy artillery; a long range guided 155mm shell, for precision engagement; and the new Long Range Precision Fires missile for GMLRS.
Purchasing a stock of Alternative Warhead rockets for the GMLRS would also finally restore anti-area capability to the system following the demise of sub-munitions.

Air Defence has been highlighted, correctly, as a major British Army weakness. Unfortunately, solving this issue would require resources that simply won’t be there. The latest RAF strategy document includes mention of the service acquiring an “anti-ballistic capability”, but of course no details are provided. The british army only option is to work together with the RAF towards the acquisition of a long-range air defence system with anti-ballistic capability, to provide a more realistic umbrella over deployed forces and, at the very least, some protection to deployed HQs and other key targets from the Iskander threat.

From within its resources, the Army  should in the meanwhile re-organized 12 and 16 regiment to turn each formation into a Divisional Air Defence regiment with a battery for each brigade. Each battery should have a vShorad element with HVM / LMM and a Local Area element with Rapier and then Land Ceptor.


The number of batteries is unchanged, but T bty becomes a support battery to enable 12 Regiment to serve as a Divisional air defence asset, and a Commando battery is formed to support 3rd Commando Brigade. All batteries need expansion to have a HVM / LMM element and a Land Ceptor element.


Engineers
Royal Engineers won’t lose 35 Engr Regt under my proposal, but will instead form new regular and reserve squadrons to better support the brigades. 21 and 32 regiments need an extra squadron each; and 23 Parachute regiment needs to recreate the lost 12 Sqn plus a new HQ element. Heavy equipment (Titan and Trojan) is concentrated in two heavy regiments. Two “medium regiments” (21 and 32) are equipped, and two light regiments complete the Close Support group.


Signals

One of the greatest weaknesses in Army 2020 is the lack of Royal Signal resources to support formations. It is not a secret, yet little to nothing has been done about it. Army 2020 cut a signal regiment, and then Peter Wall complained about signals shortage in front of the Defence Committee. Very smart. But, of course, infantry capbadges had to be preserved and five battalions were the most they were allowed to cut, as we know, so the pain had to hit elsewhere.
During 2016, reality emerged once more, as it has the bad habit of doing, and the Army has realized that it really cannot rotate “multi-role signal regiments” in and out of role to do the work of 6 or 7 regiments with 5. It just doesn’t work, and so regiments are aligning with one brigade. Or, in the case of 3 Signal, with 3rd Division.
The uplift required is significant: 216 Signal Sqn, within 16 Air Assault brigade, must be supplemented with other squadrons to form a new brigade signal regiment, if the formation is to be able to deploy as a large maneuver formation and not just support a battlegroup at readiness. I’ve suggested 210 and 215 as squadron identities as those have had parachute and air assault roles in the past.
A further two regiments need to formed, while 1 Signal becomes a Divisional signal regiment, in support of 1st Division. Much of the manpower margin created by reductions to the infantry would be absorbed by these measures.


Logistic and equipment support

Logistic regiments also need reinforcement. My proposal eliminates a small regiment (7 RLC, in the Adaptable Force) in favor of reinforcing what is left, building up capable brigade support formations backed by Theatre Support regiments at Division level.
REME expansion is also required: lack of maintainers has been causing “indirect cuts” within artillery and even infantry: the struggle to realize Light Mechanized Infantry is also due to lack of REME resources to support Foxhound.



Combat Aviation Brigades

Despite the efforts of Joint Helicopter Command, the integration between aviation and land forces is still cause of concerns, as evidenced in the Operation Herrick lessons learned report. To try and improve the alignment of precious helicopter resources with the readiness cycle of the land forces, my proposal is to form two deployable Combat Aviation Brigades. Their structure would formalize readiness mechanisms that, in large part, already exist. 

Under the first Army 2020, the two Attack Helicopter regiments alternate yearly into readiness, and align one squadron with the Air Assault Task Force and one with the Amphibious Task Force.
The Attack regiments are also tasked with generating a deployable Aviation HQ element, and another is generated by the RAF’s Support Helicopter Force.
Under Army 2020 Refine, the attack helicopter regiments are entering the age of "continuous readiness"Gone is the training year, and the demands increase a lot as 4 Regiment is assigned permanently to support of 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando, with 664 Sqn specializing in Land Air Assault and 656 Sqn in Maritime operations.3 Regiment, on the other hand, will align with 3rd UK Division. Details are still to come, but it seems reasonable to assume that its two frontline Apache squadrons will be required to align to the Armoured and Strike Brigade that will hold Readiness every year.

The Aviation HQ, in my proposal, would be enhanced and removed from the regiments, to be concentrated at brigade level with the formation of the two CABs.
Each CAB would have:

-          One deployable aviation HQ
-          One Signal Sqn (the existing 244 and another)
-          One Reconnaissance, Command Support and Light Utility regiment with two WILDCAT Sqns
-          One Attack Regiment with two APACHE Sqns
-          One Support Regiment with one CHINOOK and one PUMA Sqns
-          One Aviation Support Battalion, composed of elements from the current Joint Helicopter Support Squadron (LZ management, underslung loads); logistic element from 132 RLC Sqn, Fuel element from the Tactical Supply Wing and Aviation Support Coy REME.
-          One RAF Regiment Field Sqn for force protection and for MERT defence
-          Two Watchkeeper batteries from 47 Royal Artillery 
  

Joint Helicopter Command would maintain direct control of the Joint Special Forces Support Wing (including one CHINOOK Sqn) as well as of the training units, including 673 Sqn (APACHE OCU), 653 Sqn (APACHE Conversion to Role), 652 (WILDCAT OCU) and 28 Sqn (Puma and Chinook OCU). The two deployable brigades would be aligned each to an Army Division. The elements needed for the CABs are mostly already existent, although adjustements would be required.