Sunday, July 9, 2017

Trying to correct Army 2020 Refine


The cost of the official Army 2020 Refine

The King’s Royal Hussars lose actual tanks in favor of inexistent “Medium Armour” platforms, which are Ajax recce vehicles somehow posturing as tanks.

The number of Warrior-equipped battalions drops from 6 to 4.

There won’t be Light Mechanised Battalions on Foxhound. All six are reverting to Light Role infantry and only receive some Foxhounds on deployment. A portion of the Foxhound fleet is handed to the RAF Regiment which is building two permanent Light Armoured sqns, 1 Sqn and 34 Sqn.  

The Army intends to move from 3 Mastiff-mounted battalions to 4 MIV-mounted ones.

102 Logistic Brigade will vanish, and its units will be redistributed / robbed of manpower to rebuilt other units

32nd Regiment Royal Artillery will disband in 2021 with the withdrawal from service of Desert Hawk III. The provision of battle-group level ISTAR beyond 2021 is a floating question mark: cavalry regiments are arguing that mini-drones should be part of their role and equipment, but I’m not aware of any definitive decision in that sense, while the Joint Mini UAS programme, strongly wanted by the Royal Marines who do not consider the Black Hawk to be adequate for use in the littoral environment, is not funded and has failed to take off. As of today, after DH III there is just a black hole.

A “new” 26 Regiment Royal Artillery ceases to be a Close Support Regiment and becomes a “Divisional Fires” regiment by taking under command all of the Precision Fires batteries from 19 RA and 1 RHA as well as from the current 26 RA.

35 Engineer Regiment will become an EOD regiment, but it is not clear if any new EOD or Route Proving & Clearance (TALISMAN) squadrons will stand up as part of the move. The Army is making a U-turn on hybrid EOD regiments and will stand up a “new” 101 Regiment in which all reserve squadrons will be contained. 35 Regiment will go to supplement 33 Regiment (and 11 RLC). In the process, two of the current squadrons of 35 RE will be re-subordinated to 21 and 32 RE respectively, to bring these two regiments up to strength (under Army 2020 they were cut down to just 2 regular squadrons each) so they can support the Strike Brigades.

Headquarters 64 Works Group Royal Engineers will disband. Not clear yet if all STREs currently commanded by 64 Group will survive and resubordinate, or if they will disband as well.

2 Medical Regiment will disband,

Headquarters 4th Regiment Royal Military Police will disband

33 Field Hospital will disband

104,105 and 106 Battalions of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers reserve will be rationalized by “merging” them in 101, 102 and 103. In reality, it seems that their manpower margin will be used up in favor of other reserve units (including possibly the two extra infantry battalions formed with A2020R).


Overall, these cuts underline a drop from 3 + 2 deployable brigades (the two light brigades from the Adaptable Force were admittedly always quite threadbare) to 4.
The resulting Army has:

Two Armoured Infantry Brigades (20 and 12 Bde) each on one Type 56 tank regiment and 2 infantry battalions on Warrior, with no recce cavalry

Two “Strike” Brigades (1 Bde and another to be chosen later, initially know as Strike Expeditionary Group) on 2 Ajax regiments (one in recce role, one in “medium armour” role) and 2 infantry battalions on MIV.

All four brigades are in 3 Division, the only deployable division the army will have.


Strike Brigades: what for?

These half-tracked mechanized formations are a huge question mark. Nobody has yet given a credible indication of what they are for. The cost for setting them up is massive, while the gain is at best questionable. Carter wants these brigades to be highly independent and mobile, able to move “2000 kilometers” on their own, moving quickly back and forth across a vast and contested environment.
How, and for achieving what, against what kind of enemy?

Half the brigade is tracked (Ajax) and half is wheeled. It is honestly quite hard to imagine the tracked half coping well with a 2000 kilometers movement. At best, it will slow down the entire brigade because, remember, the tracked half brings the firepower, since MIV is unfortunately expected to be an APC, not an IFV with turret and heavy weaponry. Ajax is also tasked with recce, so, by definition, it will be scouting ahead of MIV.

The lack of firepower and the presence of just two battalions of infantry also make it inevitable to ask what these brigades are supposed to achieve once in place. How much maneuvering do you expect to do with 2 infantry battalions in a “vast and contested” battlefield? What kind of enemy can you face, when the biggest direct fire weapon available is a 40mm CTA gun?
The brigade will do well enough in a low intensity scenario (think Mali), but won’t fare well in any more challenging situation. Even in a “Mali-like” scenario the brigade might finds itself outgunned: the French have found out that the ubiquitous ZSU 23 mm guns and 14.5 machine guns can become pretty dangerous when you try to fight back with a .50, outranged and outweighted. They ended up hastily rolling back out the old 20mm gun and put it on the back of trucks to complement their Sagaie (90mm), AMX-10RC (105mm) and VBCI (25mm).
The French themselves do not seem to have learned their lesson very well since they are replacing both Sagaie and AMX-10RC with the EBRC with the 40mm CTA, shelving earlier plans and studies which had brought around the Nexter 120mm Low Recoil. I think the absence of something more punchy than the 40mm will be felt loud and clear going ahead. Compared to Ajax, the EBRC has the saving grace of carrying two MMP long-range anti-tank missiles for launch under armour.

The French “Strike Brigades”, clearly one of the inspirations behind the british ones, come with the same number of cavalry regiments (2, both with EBRC) but with more infantry (3 regiments, and French regiments are individually larger to start with, on 4 rifle companies rather than 3) and more firepower (120mm mortars, 155mm howitzers, and the missiles on EBRC).
The Royal Artillery does intend to acquire a wheeled 155/52 howitzer, thankfully, which might well be the French CAESAR, but funding (and consequently timelines) for that ambition to become reality is far from certain.
Another key development in the french army is the addition of 175-strong combat squadrons to logistic regiments to protect convoys and secure routes. If you want to manoeuvre in a "vast, contested, congested" environment, you can't really do without this particular capability. The British Army probably hopes to use Light Cavalry and extra infantry from the remaining infantry brigades for this (and other) roles, but this further exacerbates the problem of what happens after six months or so, when the deployed force has given what it could and there is next to nothing left for a follow-on. 

What is the Strike Brigade actually good for? I feel that this is an entirely legitimate and very key question, and the Army hasn’t given an answer.
Despite all the hype, considering that Army 2020 Refine is all about putting in the field a Division of 2 armoured and 1 strike brigades, it looks to me like the whole brigade is some sort of super-sized divisional reconnaissance cavalry formation. A mobile screen.
But even so, its composition (primarily the lack of firepower) brings to mind questions about what is the concept of employment and how the formation will face the enemy weaponry, in both "low" and "high" intensity scenarios. 


Is it worth it?

From the above comes the key question: is the Strike Brigade a revolution?
Honestly, I fear the answer is no.
Is the formation of the Strike Brigades worth the cuts elsewhere in the Army needed to (try to) fund MIV?
Again, I think the answer is no.

The army is consciously turning itself in a one-shot, short-term silver bullet. A division in the field, until it lasts, and then, maybe, but only maybe “put together something to maintain a presence at up to brigade level”. And the maybe isn’t mine, is general Carter’s. He is well aware that the Army will very much struggle to put the division effectively in the field and even more so will struggle to keep a fielded brigade after that.
Army 2020 Refine maintains “six infantry brigades”. These are what remains of the Adaptable Force of Army 2020 after robbing away all supports and converting 4 infantry battalions in Defence Engagement-roled “Specialised Infantry Battalions”. These brigades have nothing but riflemen and some Jackals for light cavalry work. There is no artillery, no logistic group, no signals, no engineer, no medical elements. A huge proportion of the Army’s manpower and several key resources will continue to be pumped into these “almost-brigades”, which can, of course, help, but cannot quite deploy anywhere as they are.


Alternative priorities

I advocate a different approach to the problem. Instead of focusing on equipment, namely on MIV, I want to focus on structures and on making the best possible use of what there is. Of all what there is.

-          The Army should not condemn itself to being a one-shot gamble by design. A two divisions structure is key.
-          The Army cannot afford to have 6 “half-brigades” of dubious deployability.
-          Communications are key to combat in contested environment. The current shortage of signal support must be corrected.
-          Combat Support and Combat Service Support cannot be cut ad infinitum because government doesn’t want to take the flak connected with shutting down an infantry battalion. The army is completely out of balance.
-          16 Air Assault and 3 Commando should not be “wasted” as brigades by being barely resourced to support a single battlegroup on rotation from within their structures.


Alternative Army 2020 Refine 

Below, I’ve provided tables detailing an alternative army structure on two Divisions, with each containing one armoured, one mechanized and one light / air assault brigade. 3 Commando brigade is restored to full combat strength as well, and the reserve force is organized in four “shadow brigades” supporting the main body of two armoured and two mechanized brigades.
The Army already has most of the pieces needed to make it happen: most of the changes are needed in CS and CSS units which have been cut back by Army 2020 Refine.






The guiding principle is that each brigade should be able to field three battlegroups, built from within the brigade itself.
Armoured brigades employ Combined Arms Regiments replacing the separated Infantry and Tank formations.
The 3 tank existing tank regiments are each split into two “battalions” of 2 tank squadrons (14x) and 1 recce squadron. 
The six existing armoured infantry battalions all lose one rifle company. This cut is unavoidable unless more money can be found to upgrade more Warrior IFVs, as 245 are not enough for 6 complete battalions.
The resulting combined arms regiments will each have 2 armoured infantry companies, each supported by a tank company (Every company of 14 Warrior accompanied by a squadron of 14 MBTs), plus one Support Company (mortars, ATGW, snipers etc) and one large recce company (at least 8 Ajax, plus a dismounted element).
Compared to Army 2020 Refine as currently envisaged, this approach:

-          Cancels the reduction in the number of operational MBTs (168 active tanks, the same as 3x Type 56 regiments, spread on 12 squadrons of 14 rather than 9x18 plus RHQs. Wouldn't hurt to have tanks in the recce cavalry as well, if possible.) 
-          Forms 2 extra square battlegroups. The amount of rifle companies is the same as in the official Army 2020 Refine, but 2 extra support companies survive. 

Army 2020 Refine armoured infantry brigades will only be able to field 2 square battlegroups each, by task-organizing the remaining 2 tank regiments on six “demi-squadrons” of 9 tanks, allocated to each rifle coy.
I’m merely forming permanent battlegroups, with the tank regiment split becoming a daily reality, with more tanks retained.

The Mechanized Infantry Brigades will continue to employ Mastiff and Ridgeback for longer, adding a fourth battalion to the 3 that were always part of the original Army 2020 Refine.
The third battalion in each mechanized brigade will be lighter and equipped with Foxhound. This is partially because there might not be enough heavier vehicles for more battalions (some Mastiff and Ridgeback are used in CS and CSS formations, after all) and in part due to the need for six infantry battalions to rotate in and out of Cyprus. The units involved in the rotation should ideally be Light Role, at most Light Mechanized. Trying to keep six battalions in a pool to sustain the Cyprus rotation was one of the most complicated factors in working out this structure, because the Guards already have their rotation in and out of Public Duty; the Gurkhas have to cover Brunei and the PARAs are busy. Doesn't leave much room to wiggle into. The British Army is burdened by all of these lateral tasks. 

16 Air Assault brigade gets a Foxhound-mounted Gurkha battalion, and 4 Brigade is built up as a light / air assault formation with 2 Light Role and one Foxhound battalions. 16 and 4 Brigade won’t have a “shadow brigade” of the reserve in support, but will include a reserve battalion directly into their structure (4 PARA and 4 PWRR).

All Light Role and Light Mechanized battalions receive a manpower uplift towards an establishment of over 600, rebuilding the lost companies that were dismantled under Army 2020 (the 2010 one). Note that also the official Army 2020 Refine includes this correction, an implicit admission that what was always clearly bound not to work (binary companies counting on reservists being there to form the missing platoons) did not, in fact, work.

Each “shadow brigade” of the reserve gets three infantry battalions, one cavalry formation and one artillery regiment. This should ensure that there is a good and timely availability of reinforcements. Again, the official Army 2020 Refine partially does this by coupling 4 reserve battalions to the regular armoured infantry battalions; by reinforcing the Royal Wessex Yeomanry and by tipping 104 and 105 Royal Artillery for support to the Heavy, armoured artillery. I’m pushing on further with the concept.

I also encourage the formation of Combat Aviation Brigades under Joint Helicopter Command, to synchronize resources and readiness mechanisms. The deployable aviation HQs to make it happen already exist: JHC 1 is routinely generated from the Attack Helicopter Force and JHC 3 is generated from the RAF Support Helicopter Force, while JHC 2 is provided by the Commando Helicopter Force.
Ground supports would be reorganized accordingly, forming Aviation Support Groups combining elements currently spread over Joint Helicopter Support Squadron, Tactical Supply Wing and 132 Sqn RLC.
The fleets to be used already exist, but I encourage the formation of an additional Chinook squadron, to enable a more regular distribution of the tasks and the permanent allocation of one squadron to maritime ops (as done within the Attack Helicopter Force with 656 Sqn).
In general, I’d recommend 7 Sqn to use the Chinook HC5 for Special Forces support and long range operations; one squadron with up to 8 HC6 as primary actor in maritime tasks (as I understand that this mark comes with foldable rotor blades) and two large “green” squadrons using the remaining HC6 and HC6A (the HC4s’ new name once retrofitted with Digital Flight Controls).
One Combat Aviation brigade will support each deployable division while the third brigade, essentially Commando Helicopter Force expanded with 656 AAC and the new Chinook sqn, supporting operations at and from the sea.

In order to build up this structure, a number of changes have to be made, including the sacrifice of two infantry battalions: without additional manpower forthcoming, the adjustements have to be made within what is already present, and while the Combined Arms Regiments and the Specialised Infantry Battalions release a significant number of posts, the many holes in CS and CSS require a larger shift.
A particularly massive hole exists in communications, and in order to close it I recommend rationalizing deployable HQs and the attached Signal resources. The UK created a Standing Joint Task Force HQ and a Standing Joint Force Logistic HQ, and there also are two small early entry elements, supported from within 30 Signal Regiment.
22 Signal Regiment is tied down by ARRC needs, but I’m recommending a review of whether this is an appropriate use for finite and invaluable resources already in short supply. ARRC is just one of 9 deployable Land Corps HQs in the European side of NATO. A lot of HQs without deployable Divisions. The Army should not cling on to ARRC just for pure vanity. It might be sensible to seek out the help of a smaller country which might be willing to replace 30 Signal Regiment in the supporting role. A number of the other existing HQs are multi-national, and the ARRC might well take that path too. Or vanish entirely. 30 and 22 are needed elsewhere.
Joint Standing Task Force HQ should really become one with the Division HQs. Early Entry has its most obvious home as part of the deployable command elements of 16 AA and 3 Cdo. Rationalization is key.
Standing Joint Logistic HQ should not be disjointed from 101 and 102 logistic brigade, as these are the main supporting formations the UK has and would be the core of the whole logistic element in any case.
As a consequence, with the signal regiments assigned directly to the formations they support, 1st Signal Brigade will be disbanded, leaving 11 Signal Brigade in charge of the reserve element and of the technical support for networks and infrastructure as well as specialisms such as ECM.

1st Artillery Brigade will also vanish, replaced by strong Div Arty cells aligned with the deployable divisions.
Instead of building a Division Fires regiment, I recommend adding a fourth Precision Strike battery, so that each armoured and mechanized brigade has one. Ideally, an Exactor element should be made available to the Light brigades as well, but it will probably be impossible due to manpower and resources constraints.

The other changes, detailed in the tables, are primarily in CS and CSS. Missing squadrons must be rebuilt (as in 21 and 32 Engineer regiments, for example), REME resources expanded and better distributed, logistics assured to each formation.



The end result

The end result is a more complete and sustainable army, which makes good use of every major formation it has. The Force Generation Cycle could try to replicate the ambitious 2:2 model pursued by Army 2020 Refine, with one armoured and one strike brigade at readiness at all times, but doubts about the sustainability of such a rhythm suggest that a different approach might be favorable.

I suggest that each Division should be at readiness for 18 months; with each of its brigades generating a battlegroup at readiness for 6 months. In every moment of the year, the UK would be able to deploy a 2-star command element overseeing a brigade including, from the start, an armoured battlegroup, a mechanized battlegroup and an air mobile battlegroup including a parachute company group. 3rd Commando adds an amphibious battlegroup.
Every single battlegroup would be at readiness for six months.
Each Division would force generate from within its formations: its three combat brigades, its logistic brigade and its aviation brigade.
The air mobile battlegroup and the amphibious one are notionally held at 5 days notice to move; while the others are at 30 days (as already happens). The balance of at least one, and possibly two brigades would follow over another 60 days. 



What could not be fixed

As all plans, my Army 2020 Refine proposal is a compromise. It prioritizes mass, sustainability and deployable formations over equipment (MIV delayed to better times), vanity (ARRC at all costs, because playing Corps without having Divisions is politically tasty) and, in part, capability. Mastiff has well known problems off road: its tactical mobility is inferior to any realistic MIV candidate. Mine is, however, a wider assessment: I do not believe the costs of the current Army 2020 Refine are in any way justified by a more tactically mobile MIV. There are too many holes elsewhere.

In an ideal world, Mastiff would still be replaced by a capable 8x8, and at least a quarter of those should be well-armed IFVs, not just APCs. Because being able to move a lot, and quickly, means nothing if you can’t fight, and win, once you are there.
In an ideal world, the “Medium Armour” element would be delivered by 8x8 with 120mm smoothbore, rather than by Ajax trying to be two very different things at once.
In an ideal world, the Mechanized Brigades would not use Ajax (tracked) for reconnaissance.

This is not an ideal world. The dramatic change of heart of the Army, which in 2010 prioritized tracks and heavy armour just to change its mind less than 5 years later, means that the Ajax contract is now effectively an hindrance, not a benefit. With the Strike Brigade idea, Ajax is suddenly the wrong vehicle. And this is eloquent about how confused the army is, because the damn thing isn’t even being delivered yet.
There used to be a Medium Armour variant of FRES SV in the plan. It was cancelled. Now, a few years later, the Army wants two regiments worth of medium armour, but will pretend that the Recce variant can double up as medium tank. This is rather extraordinary and extremely depressing: the Ajax contract was announced in September 2014. General Carter was there already, not yet CGS but in charge of Army 2020 and tipped to replace general Wall. Army 2020 was there. The need was for three armoured reconnaissance cavalry regiments.
A year later, the Army says it wants two wheeled brigades, and since it is now stuck with an expensive Ajax contract, it puts tracks into those wheeled brigades, and since it only has recce vehicles with 40mm guns it pretends that half of the same fleet can cover recce and the other half can somehow magically become two regiments of “medium tanks”.
This is an extraordinary mess. Extraordinary. Within one year, Ajax, which was bought to do recce for the armoured brigades, ended up hijacked so badly that it now won’t even be part of the armoured brigades (save for small numbers assigned to armoured infantry battalions and tanks regiments replacing Scimitar in the scout platoons, unless these vanish as well). Within one year. One year. It is almost impossible to believe, yet it is what is happening under our eyes.

My proposal includes two (mostly) wheeled brigades because there is merit to the greater on road autonomy of these formations. Moreover, there are not enough resources for an army with an armoured division of three (tracked) brigades and one mechanized division of three mechanized brigades. I wanted a symmetric force, because it allows for evenly spreading of the tasks, and so of the burdens.

From whichever direction you look at it, however, Ajax becomes, at least in part, the wrong vehicle.
In Army 2020 Refine as proposed by general Carter it is completely out of place; in my proposal two of the regiments are in the right place and two… not so much. You’d ideally want to halve the number of Ajax on order in favor of 8x8s with the same turret, to put tracks with tracks and wheels with wheels.

The army has completely messed up its own plans and its own internal balances. It has Warrior to upgrade, Ajax on the way, and a big number of ancient FV432 to replace with ABSV, but this last program has been in the limbo for years and it is not clear if, when and how it’ll finally move onwards. And then there is MIV.
It is almost impossible to fix the mess now, because the Ajax contract is huge and probably cannot be modified. It ties up a lot of money and does not deliver quite what is needed.
In a better world, the Army would sit down with General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin and find a reasonable arrangement to change current contracts. Basically, it would have to say “look, we messed up. Here is what we need to do to remedy”:

-          Cancel Warrior CSP (which is continuing to encounter problems with the new turrets)
-          Reduce the purchase of Ajax from 245 to 140 or so (two Cavalry regiments plus 6 scout platoons of 8 vehicles each for the six Combined Arms Regiments)
-          Cancel the Warrior FV514 upgrade for the Royal Artillery, replace with Ajax Joint Fires sub-variant, increasing the number of these
-          Introduce an IFV variant of Ajax and purchase 245 to replace Warrior instead of going with the CSP for it
-          Remove the turrets from existing Warrior and convert the hulls into ABSV variants (APC, Command Support, ATGW, Mortar Carrier…)

And then, eventually, get on with MIV, purchasing a number in IFV configuration and a number armed with 120mm for the direct fire punch.

But this is the real world, and that would probably never work out. There’s a big contract signed, and the Army can only blame itself for the mess it now is into. It cannot change its mind every five minutes. It cannot purchase a new, expensive vehicle after years of suffering to trial it, define it, get it funded, and then decide that it is not what it wants. Pretending that said vehicle can be what it clearly isn’t will only make the mess worse, and more painful.


28 comments:

  1. Which 2 Infantry Battalions are you chopping ? I think one of the Scots and 2 Lancs would be the prime candidates.

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    1. Probably they would, but politics would step right in the middle of that. I don't think the Rifles could escape the pain yet once more; the Scots are toxic these days.

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    2. Makes the 5 administrative Divisions the same size battalion wise and potentially you just recreate 40 Regiment and transfer the colours ( I haven't checked your ORBAT thoroughly)

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  2. I love the way the first posts on here are not about how well thought out and rational the whole piece from Gabriele is, but instead is to ask which two Battalions would be chopped. Who cares!!!!!!!!!! Yes there are politics involved, but really - we just get rid of whatever is required. Says a lot about the British Army thought process..... We should set out the right Orbat, funded and equipped as best we can and then worry about fitting in cap badges or not. I know this is anathema to most people involved in the Army, but I often wonder whether the competitive and destructive nature of the "Regimental System" needs to be tackle once and for all.

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    1. the question and the answer highlight one of the fundamental issues (and it was more curiosity than anything else). As long as we hold on to regiments that are undermanned even with slim ORBATs, we've got no chance of a sensible force structure. FWIW, I think the outline above is pretty sensible, I don't agree with every part of it, but it's a lot better than the current dogs breakfast.

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    2. I would try and keep 16 AA outside of the divisional structure, even if it meant the light brigades were demi-brigades, maybe 1 Mech, 12 AI, 51 Inf (7 Bn's), 4 Mech, 7 Inf, 20 AI (7 Bn's), 16 AA (3 Bn's), the rest garrison and DE.

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  3. ...and I say again, why cant you draw recruits from across a large regiment like the The Rifles, and re role one of the battalions as signals/engineers/as required. It can keep the name, the golden thread, provide an additional career choice to personnel within the regiment, to me it is win win

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    1. Something (remotely) similar has been done at times, most recently with one of the reserve AAC squadrons which carries (The Rifles) in the title due to having earlier been an infantry reserve unit of the same regiment. But eventually, the separation must become rather clear: entirely different roles, different Corps.

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  4. yes, Gabi, I can see the challenge, but if the greater fear is a loss of 'regimental badge'then people would have to make it work, much like the Brigade of Ghurkas embraces infantry, logistics, signals, I think it would be a positive step.

    On the matter of Ajax, and your titter comments, that this is all Army self inflicted, I agree entirely... it is a sorry state, and we cant even blame politicians ...

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  5. Hi Gaby

    First-rate post Very thought-provoking.

    However, when you say:

    “Cancel Warrior CSP (which is continuing to encounter problems with the new turrets)”

    that might prove rather difficult. As you pointed out to me in a reply not so long ago “Warrior is already ongoing, there are contracts signed, money committed etcetera. I don't think it will be cancelled." It would seem to be a programme which is fairly advanced already, if contracts are at that stage.

    Nicholas Drummond, in another Twitter discussion, mentioned that the 432 hulls are actually “in better nick than the Warrior hulls due to aluminium delamination issues.” I think the FV432 hulls were made of steel, which might explain it. Am I right in saying that with the Warrior, only the turret was made from steel?

    Lastly, I can understand the frustration Anonymous has with cap badges but when he says, “I often wonder whether the competitive and destructive nature of the "Regimental System" needs to be tackled once and for all.”, I think that you have to tread rather carefully here. The Regimental system used to be the envy of many other nations because they thought that its regional and “family” nature bred cohesion, esprit de corps, etc It was not so long ago that the Americans sent over a team to investigate why it was so successful. I think we have to beware of destroying something like that and replacing it with a Corps of Infantry or something similar. Having said that, the creation of “The Rifles” seems to have been well thought-out and, on the whole, successful.

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    1. Cancelling Warrior CSP would be unpleasant and would involve sunk costs bringing nothing into service. That's how it is. The thing has been going on for years, so that is inevitable. However, most of the work and the one big contract already signed relates to the turret more than the hull. And LM also delivers the Ajax turrets (although they are not the same). IF, mind you, if, there is a chance to "migrate" the Warrior turret work and contract towards a Ajax-IFV, that is about the only way to come out of the mess with a decent final result. But there are reasons why i said that at the end, in a "what could not be fixed" chapter. It is a problem with little chances of solutions at this stage.

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    2. On the contracts piece - I would suggest there are interesting conversations to be had here -
      1. General Dynamics -
      a. It is in their interests to maximise the number of Ajax hulls
      b. Ajax came from Pizarro - an IFV!! Indeed it is oversized as a scout - it should not be a huge problem to revert back to that hull structure with the new Lockheed turret
      2. Lockheed -
      a. They are struggling with the turret on Warrior. It would be in their interests to cut that contract and get an alternate to deliver more Ajax turrets - they are not losing per see, they are just moving to an item that works
      b. As I understand it the Lockheed work on the hulls (and the prototype for ABSV in particular) is progressing ok - ie powerpack, armour and electronics. They would still get all of this work and it is potentially easier and for more hulls

      Yes there are contracts here but they are also commercial businesses who want to work with the MOD (and indeed are "lucky" to work with them versus most other European countries) - it is in their interest to work with their customer to shift things around.

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  6. From MikeW:

    Hi Gaby

    I have not written in since the announcement was made about the prospective large UK purchase of the JLTV.

    What sort of part do think that the JLTV will play in the formation of the Strike Brigades (that is, assuming that they ever get off the ground). Could they provide fire support, and if so, what kind; reconnaissance; be used in the personnel carrying role or what?

    At the moment the potential kit for the Strike Brigades seems more than something of a hotch-potch. Is it now more likely to be mainly a combination of the new MIV and JLTV?

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    1. The JLTV became the army's pick for Multi Role Vehicle - Protected Group 1, the "short" half of the requrement. Group 2, if it still exists, is about larger vehicles, probably 6x6.
      MRV-P is not Strike Brigade specific. It is meant to be used by everyone. It will replace unprotected Land Rovers in several roles and probably will take the place of at least Husky as well. Over time, Panther, RWMIK and Foxhound itself are all candidates for replacement.

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  7. There was a mention of nearly 2500 JLTVs possibly being bought.

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  8. In the ideal world, Ajax should be the replacement for both Warrior CSP and ABSV (turretless Ajax variant), while Strike Brigades are built around a single 8x8 wheeled platform, taking a clue from Aussie Land 400 program. Purchasing enough JLTVs to replace the entire 8x8 uparmored inventory: Foxhound, Ridgeback, Panther, etc. Strike155 settles on CAESAR 8x8 as the cannon artillery for Strike Brigades. A modified 155/52 AS90 for Armored Infantry Brigades. A big recap for Challenger 2 tank that includes RM 120/55 smoothbore cannon and associated ammo rounds.

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  9. Just a little correction for french infantry regiments : they have 5 infantry companies and 1 support company.
    (Yes 5!!!!)

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  10. From MikeW:

    I have just read your Tweet, which read: “Warrior CSP is in for 12 months delay, and the Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle element was removed in 2016 budgeting. FV432 forever... “

    I really cannot understand this at all. It seems only a very short time ago that I was looking at reports of British military exhibition (I cannot remember whether it was DSEI or DVD) but a fairly recent one and I recall that the principal British Army spokesman on equipment was talking in terms of ABSV being a possible solution to so many of our armoured vehicle problems and now it looks as if it has been cancelled!

    Do they really know what they are doing or are they just talking waffle a lot of the time? Surely some decisions should have been made by this time and stuck to? Or is it that funding has suddenly and unexpectedly been pulled by the Treasury yet again? I suspect that the advent off MIV might have something to do with this.

    I really do feel that the FV432 cannot soldier on very much longer. That vehicle came into service just as my father was leaving the Army (late 50s/early 60s) and yes, I know that the Bulldog version had an upgraded power pack and much more mobility than formerly and yes, I know that there is a school of thought that believes that the vehicle is essentially a very robust steel box and that it might be preferable to retain the 432 rather than create an ABSV from Warrior hulls, which are apparently suffering from aluminium delamination problems.

    However, that is by no means that whole story. Warrior is a much more capable vehicle altogether. It is larger, faster and and so many of its components are much more modern that those which are on the 432. A book written 21 years ago on British Army equipment actually states: “There is no denying that the FV432 is now getting rather old.”

    Lastly, I cannot reconcile the information about ABSV being removed from the 2016 budget with the comment by Anonymous (who seems to know his stuff): “As I understand it the Lockheed work on the hulls (and the prototype for ABSV in particular) is progressing ok – i.e. powerpack, armour and electronics.”

    Do you have any comments on this?

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    1. I can only hope that the ABSV was not a complete cancellation, but yet another delay. Earlier, there had been reports about ABSV becoming "a separate Category A programme" from Warrior CSP. I can only hope this is what happened, and that we will at some point (soon, one would hope) see an ABSV re-emerging. The FV432 will be 70 years old and more by the time of its OSD (2026), so there is no real scope to ignore the problem for much longer.

      There is a possibility that they might be looking at purchasing more MIVs instead... but that would mean mixing up wheels and tracks yet again, in another fashion than in the Strike Brigades but always resulting in a dog's breakfast.

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    2. From MikeW:

      Many thanks for your reply, which all made sense.

      I think that the original requirement for Warrior section vehicles (the FV 5100s) was 387, apparently enough to equip eight armoured infantry battalions (2 in the UK and the remainder in BAOR). That included sufficient vehicles remaining for training and reserves. That worked out at just under 50 section vehicles per battalion.

      I don’t know how out-of-date my figures are but I understood that the Warrior CSP programme would involve upgrading 380 Warriors. I further understood that, under the latest plans, 245 vehicles would also be fitted with a new turret and weapon system. The remainder, which would be designated as ABSVs, would be the turretless version for support work.

      Under the latest proposed orbat, there will only be four armoured infantry battalions left and that works out at approx. 60 turreted section vehicles per battalion (245 ÷4). Now, of course there will have to be support vehicles: e.g. repair and recovery variants, mortar vehicles, ambulances etc. and that is where, it would seem to me, that we cannot do without an ABSV-type vehicle. A Warrior conversion would provide approx. 34 per battalion (135÷4). The choice between a Warrior and 432 based vehicle will have to be made, won’t it? Or have I got all these figures wrong?

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    3. Warrior WCSP should deliver 380 vehicles indeed, with 245 in the IFV configuration. The others are not properly ABSV vehicles, but rather Artillery Spotters / Joint Fires directors (FV514 variant) plus repair and recovery (FV513 and FV512). Warrior Repair and Recovery are to be found in REME battalions and, in small numbers, in tank regiments as well as in the armoured infantry formations. The FV514 is found in AS90 artillery regiments.

      Together, these variants make up the vehicles from 245 to 380, although the FV514 numbers might well reduce as AS90 regiments drop to just 2. Overall WCSP numbers might no longer be 380. We don't yet know.

      I think there are a good 20 FV432 for each infantry battalion between mortar carriers, APCs, signal-support vehicles and ambulances. FV432 is also found in every mobile Brigade HQ as part of the Multi Role Signal regiments. It is also used as HQ vehicle and support vehicle in Joint Ground Based air defence, and elsewhere. While a portion of these might be involved in "shift to wheels" as part of the Strike Brigades, there will still be an important requirement for tracked vehicles in the tracked brigades... unless they settle for yet another dog's breakfast.

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    4. Don't forget the three Armoured Medical Regiments, they all are build around a core of FV432's in the APC and Ambulance variants.

      MR

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    5. That too. Although it'll drop to two as the armoured brigades reduce in number. There are quite a few FV432s doing the roung still, and i'm always terrified by how little the army seems to think about what to do about it going forward. The thing has a notional 2026 OSD, and by then it'll be 70 years old and more. Worse still, if a replacement programme doesn't start moving now, with the time it normally takes to get anything done, there will be no replacement ready by then at all...

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    6. From MikeW:

      Hi Gaby

      Just to say thank you for answering all my questions in such a well-informed manner. One thing I would not like to happen is what you describe in one of your answers:

      “There is a possibility that they might be looking at purchasing more MIVs instead... but that would mean mixing up wheels and tracks yet again, in another fashion than in the Strike Brigades but always resulting in a dog's breakfast.”

      That would not be quite as bad as mixing wheels and track s in the Strike Brigades (where presumably speed is of the essence) but would lead to further undesirable mis-match.

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    7. That depends on what the "Strike Medical Regiments" will be mounted on. Samaritans? BFA? FV432? Mastiff? None of them seem a good fit for the Strike Brigades so I feel it's very up in the air what they will get (probably a mix of all four).

      MR

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    8. It does indeed. But the ambulance variant of MIV is included in the very first selection of variants, for what i've heard so far. Of course a few are needed inside the battalions themselves, but if MIV order is around 350 as expacted it might include those for the medical regiments as well. Probably banking on FBPA for the rest of the unit. Just a guess, though. Ridgeback and Mastiff ambulances probably as interim solution, one would think.

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    9. Fingers crossed. A lot of people are resigned to using the 432's until 2030 at least, and ambulance variants of thinks like Ajax, ABSV, MIV always seem to be the first to be axed off. It would be great to get a vehicle with a modern interior, like the US Striker Ambulance variants.

      MR

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