Sunday, June 14, 2015

SDSR 2015: solving the problem of hollow army 2020





In general, the SDSR 2015 is far more likely to bring more cuts and bad news than it is to bring wisdom. So I fear that trying to reason on how to fix problems is most likely going to be wasted time. But nonetheless, I plan to write about some of the major challenges ahead, and explain what I think should be done to fix Future Force 2020 by making better use of what’s available, and by adding targeted investments in some specific areas.

I’ve decided to start from the army, since it is no mystery that Army 2020, in many areas, has never convinced me. If you’ve been following this space for some time, you are very likely to have read my sometimes harsh critique of certain decisions. Two of the many points I raised from the very beginning have actually been addressed (kind of): the demented decision of sacrificing the CBRN Area Survey and Reconnaissance has been subject to an epic U-turn, and the Fuchs vehicles and related equipment have been brought back into service. Meanwhile, 16 Air Assault brigade has been brought back to a three manoeuvre battalions structure by moving 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles under its command. This in itself does not make 16 Air Assault a viable brigade, since supports (medical, engineer, artillery, logistic…) have all been cut down to Binary structure and there’s no sign that they will be rebuilt (manpower, after all, is not available for that unless something else is cut). Nonetheless, they are steps in the right direction, and they are both things I had been calling for.

Now, let’s go in some detail. About these two changes, and about the remaining other weaknesses of Army 2020 as currently thought out.



AREA CBRN

Regarding CBRN, unfortunately, the U-turn has come not before a lot of hard won experience has been squandered in an unbelievably stupid way: according to the Royal Tank Regiment, which has been tasked to rebuild CBRN AS&R in its FALCON squadron, the withdrawal of the Fuchs and the passage to a Light Role only CBRN structure in the RAF Regiment has come with the outright cancellation, on the part of Air Command, of most of the documentation about Fuchs operations.
It is difficult to overstate how rushed and stupid such a decision was. FALCON squadron has now embarked on the reconstruction effort, seeking out veterans of the disbanded Joint CBRN Regiment, to get information from them. Germany’s help has also been sought and obtained. The Fuchs training simultator has been brought back into operations and the vehicles themselves are following.

FALCON Squadron is now planning for an establishment of some 80 men and 30 vehicles. The unit will be at permanent Very High Readiness, as AS&R elements are rightfully planned to be an enduring part of the Army’s VANGUARD pool of ready-to-use units. No Whole Fleet Management: the squadron owns 100% of its vehicles, full time, and it is responsible for keeping them going.
There are going to be 4 Sections, each with 2 FUCHS. Earlier reports suggested another would be in HQ squadron for follow-on confirmation of Section findings, and the remaining two would be kept back for evaluation and demonstration purposes. However, there must have been a slight change as apparently one FUCHS is actually going on a plinth to serve as Gate Guardian at the Harman Lines barracks.
The squadron is also receiving 6 COYOTE MEP vehicles fitted out for Command and Control and for Logistic support. The MEP (Military Enhancement Programme) is not the open-top Coyote 6x6 best known these days, but the closed-cockpit, shelter-carrying variant which was originally procured (in 35 units) to serve as prime mover for the SOOTHSAYER EW kit, which was sadly cancelled later on. The mechanical base is more or less the same, the Supacat HMT 600 6x6. Each Fuchs section will receive one MEP, with two held in Echelon Squadron.
A number of Panther CLVs are on the way, while the Multi Purpose Decontamination Systems should have been refurbished and put back in action by this point. For now, they will move on the legacy DROPS trucks, but by 2017 the MAN EPLS trucks will be assigned, presumably becoming the MPDS movers. 

The MEP was originally procured to be the prime mover of the SOOTHSAYER EW system, carried inside the shelter visible in the photo. The cancellation of SOOTHSAYER left 35 vehicles without an immediate use, and a big gap in the Army's EW capability. A gap which has yet to be closed, with the LANDSEEKER programme.

 
It will be interesting to see what FALCON squadron's MEPs end up looking like. New shelters might be a possibility.
As is to be expected in the British Forces, the chain of command for the squadron is a bit… complex. With the Joint CBRN Regiment gone, FALCON squadron is an additional sub-unit of Royal Tank Regiment. But its actual manager is 22 Royal Engineer regiment, so that the squadron sits under 25 (Close Support) Engineer Group, itself part of 8 Engineer Brigade, controlled by Force Troops Command.
Force Troops Command is responsible for task-generating the AS&R element at Very High Readiness from FALCON Sqn, with the ultimate 4-star owner of FALCON being the Commander, Joint Forces Command. 
Confused? Understandable if you are.  

The FUCHS simulator is back online

With the good news out of the way, the bad ones: even after the U-turn, the long term future of CBRN AS&R is floating in the air more than we all would like. As said elsewhere, FRES Scout brings sensors of its own to help in the wide-area detection of CBRN threats, but what comes after the FUCHS is still uncertain. Apparently, the Army is assuming that UAV-based sensors will take up the role. Not clear if it might be a Watchkeeper role fit equipment one day, or if there will be a specific CBRN UAV, or what.
I’m a bit… unconvinced still by the UAV idea, but as always it is the uncertainty that disturbs the most. It looks pretty likely to me that, barring the eventuality of FUCHS being chopped again (with HMG and the MOD, you never know), FALCON Sqn can expect to work for quite a bunch of years with what it has.




Bringing back some jointery with the now 20 Defence CBRN Wing, RAF Regiment might be desirable for obvious reasons, but the Army has now awakened to the importance of green control over CBRN, and the RAF Regiment on the other hand is unlikely to want to let go of the Defence CBRN scepter without a fight. Watch out for possible incoming mess.



Hollow force

Now for the biggest problem of Army 2020: despite the best efforts of Nick Carter and his team, the political orders about the preservation of capbadges at all costs have forced the adoption of what is, at least in part, a hollow force. 16 Air Assault Brigade itself is an example of hollow force: it is a brigade, but really isn’t. Its supporting elements have been cut down to size, and are now enough (barely) to support the generation of an Air Manoeuvre Battlegroup at VHR readiness, with the sub-units alternating yearly into the role.

3rd Commando brigade has partly suffered the same fate, since it continues to suffer a chronic shortage of engineer support, and, even though harsher cuts have been fought back successfully by Navy Command standing up to the Army, the Artillery element also has suffered indirect reductions (REME, for example) which make the survival of all 3 the batteries (down to just 4 guns each, by the way) somewhat symbolic only.

The “Adaptable Force” is a collection of false brigades to be raided whenever it is time to build an actual deployable one during an enduring operation, with supports having been preserved (partially) to enable the 7 brigades to form just 2, to cover the fourth and fifth 6-month tours in an enduring deployment.
I say “partially” because there are recognized shortages of resources even for achieving this base target, which is the key to achieving the SDSR target of an army capable to sustain a brigade-level operation in enduring fashion.
Specifically, these is a well known and rather dramatic shortage of Royal Signals: the need for them has never been higher, yet their number has been cut and one regiment removed from the count. In the current army structure, not a single signal regiment is aligned with the brigades of the Adaptable Force. Gen. Sir Peter Wall named Logistics and Royal Signals as points of concern in Army 2020 during hearings in front of the Defence Committee, and while presenting the Corps’s future after the SDSR, the Royal Signals’s journal made clear that there is not enough manpower to properly support the brigade-sized enduring operation ambition. 

Royal Signals are precious and more necessary than ever, but their number is currently insufficient to support enduring brigade-sized operations.

Finally, the infantry battalions: the Army was denied the chance to cut more of those, with a firm ceiling put at 5, to prevent the loss of capbadges, notoriously a politically sensible subject. However, the battalions remaining are simply tiny: Light Role battalions have now an establishment of a mere 561 men, all ranks, all trades. This is very, very little indeed, and has been achieved by, among the rest, cutting all companies down from 3 to 2 platoons. A (very) partial mitigation has been obtained by re-distributing the GPMGs of the Machine Gun Platoon into fire support sections assigned to each Rifle Company.
This, at most, partially corrects a long standing deficiency of firepower in british infantry units, by adding a Fire Support Element in each company, like other armies have been doing for many years. But it is a nice dress up for bad news: the machine guns are just removed from the Heavy Weapons Company and reassigned, and the missing platoons remain missing, and they are supposed to come out of the paired reserve regiment. In principle it is a decent idea, but whether the reserve regiments will ever be able to effectively deliver all the pieces needed, is a very big guess to make.
The 561-strong Light Role Battalion should be uplifted to as many as 750 men for deployment, a value better in line with what is found in other NATO armies, the Army says. This in theory requires almost 200 men from the reserve unit, which is a 50% output from regiments which are established for 400. Can it be done?
Ideally, yes. In practice, it seems very, very likely that the regular regiments of the Adaptable Force will be raided far and wide to piece together something that can be deployed.
This makes the Adaptable Force very virtual indeed, with a realistic output which is a small fraction of what would be expected by reading a list of 7 brigade HQs, 3 cavalry regiments (+ 3 Reserve) and some 15 infantry battalions (+ 13 of the Reserve; 1st SCOTS and the Royal Gurkha Rifles don’t even have a paired reserve unit).

To me, this is a hollow force. There’s an acute shortage of Signals; enough supports for 2 brigades at most; a whole lot of questionable, under strength infantry battalions and the elite brigades which are handicapped by lack of a few hundred men in support roles.
It is pretty clear to me that this is not what 82.000 regulars could and should deliver. Infantry battalions, even understrength, are never useless, but it is clear that actual military value comes, at the lowest level, from battlegroups and then brigades.
Brigades, comprising of infantry, cavalry, signals, artillery, logistics, REME, medical and intelligence, are the main element of power for the army. And by associating support sub-units and infantry, they can produce battlegroups.

A very honest and in depth look must be given to the other 2-star commands in Army 2020: are a 2-star London District and a 2-star UK Support Command actually needed on top of the 2 divisions plus JRRF?
Can’t the London District and UK Support Command be combined into a single non-deployable Division HQ? I think it is more doable and less damaging than other cuts we have seen. The resulting Divisional HQ could control a couple of non-deployable brigades: Guards Bde, for the Public Duty units in London, and 11 Infantry Bde as administrator for the units posted to Brunei, Cyprus and for the Falklands Infantry Company. 

The Army will dismiss it as heresy, but i would also suggest tough questions about the ARRC. Is it justified? Is it a good use of precious Signals specialists and of manpower in general? The UK, Italy, France, Germany and Netherlands, Greece, Turkey, Spain... each have one NATO Corps 3-star HQ. But by now, in Europe, there are not enough deployable brigades, and even less Divisions, to form Corps. 
Sometimes i read of people saying that the Royal Navy's carriers are a "vanity project". I couldn't agree less. If there is a vanity project within NATO, is the ridiculous number of deployable 3-star HQs. I would suggest the ARRC is an ultimate vanity item: it is there so there is a capability to go in the field and command a big badass Corps of multiple divisions. 
The divisions to build the Corps up aren't really there, but everyone gets a Corps HQ. Read this list without laughing: 



These headquarters are multinational, but are sponsored and paid by one or more ‘framework nations’ who provide the bulk of the headquarters’ personnel, equipment and financial resources.  The United Kingdom is the framework nation of the ARRC, while France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey have sponsored the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps France, Greece Italy, Spain and Turkey, respectively. Germany and the Netherlands share costs for the German-Netherlands Rapid Deployable Corps, while Denmark, Germany and Poland are the three framework nations of the Multinational Corps Northeast and Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain are the Eurocorps framework nations.  Romania is currently establishing a Multinational Division Headquarters for south-eastern Europe, which is expected to be operational by 2016.

 http://www.aco.nato.int/natos-rapid-deployable-corps-.aspx


Neat, huh? 
Perhaps it is time to shift the precious resources down to "lowly" deployable divisions. It will not seem much at first, but getting back a Signals regiment for use with actual deployable brigades would actualy do a world of good...  

I will stop short, in this article, of assuming the disbandment of ARRC and re-roling of 22 Signal Regiment, but i want to write it here: it might really be time to consider it.



How many infantry battalions?  

Solving the problem entirely is always going to be very problematic, as there are other considerations that need to be made. One of the UK’s battalions is committed in Brunei and is kind of out of the scope. Two more are routinely committed in Cyprus: one as garrison, one as Theatre response unit, forward positioned for action in the Med and Middle East.
Two more, plus elements of a third, get swallowed up by the Public Duties in London, with 5th SCOTS - Balaklava company in Edinburgh.
Another battalion is a Ranger-type unit, the SOF backup to the Special Forces proper.

This means that a minimum of 6 battalions are committed outside of a notional brigade-level Force Generation Cycle. There are also political (and in lesser measure military) considerations that dictate the presence in both Wales and Northern Ireland of regional brigade HQs and of at least a battalion.
Assuming an ideal force structure made up by 16 Air Assault brigade, 3 Armoured Infantry Brigades and 3 Medium/Light brigades, the minimum number of infantry battalions needed is 27.
That is four less than the current 31, and includes 3 battalions for 16AA, 18 for the 6 “line” brigades, and 6 for the other tasks. The Light Brigades would have to forcefully “lack” two or three battalions as these would be based in Northern Ireland and Wales, and under daily control of brigade HQs in those regions.
Effectively, they would however be part of the force generation cycle for the three Light deployable brigades.
Two of the current 7 brigade HQs would also be cut.

A cut of 4 battalions, while keeping the 82.000 men target, would release some 2250 invaluable regular positions, which would shift out of the infantry to go to supports. Some reserve manpower would also be made available for other uses, while there would be no more unpaired regiments.
The problem is even these numbers would not be quite enough to obtain the ideal force structure.



Brigades first

The ideal structure for the British Army, in my opinion at least, would have two Deployable Division HQs, each with 3 deployable brigades and with 16 Air Assault in addition. 3rd Division would not need to change from how it is now, while 1st Division would lose 2 subordinate brigade HQs and four regular infantry battalions in favor of uplifted supports. The Divisional HQ itself would need a manpower uplift to be restored to deployable status. Currently, it is envisaged as deployable only with augmentation, within the scenario of an enduring operation. 
The actual doctrinal work made alongside the Army 2020 restructuring has concluded that it is absolutely desirable to have effective 2-star HQs that can sit between the brigade in the field and the MOD / Government back in London. The Brigade HQ can so focus on the tactical side and on the combat operations, while the Division takes care of the strategy and of higher level management. 

Obtaining a third light brigade (as we said, elements for two such brigades are already available) for 1st Division and restoring 16 AA and 3rd Cdo to actual brigade efficiency would require significant additional Signals, plus reinforcements to the support units in 16 AA and 3 Commando. The third of the Light brigades would need to gain a hybrid artillery regiment, a hybrid engineer regiment, a hybrid medical regiment, a REME and a Logistic regiments.
The biggest manpower drain would come from new Royal Signals regiments, followed by the new RLC regiment and by the engineer. The Artillery would be relatively better placed as the regular regiments in the Adaptable Force already have an additional Tac Gp battery which could migrate to the new hybrid regiment.
Existing Adaptable Artillery Regiments (4 Royal Artillery and 3 Royal Horse Artillery) would be split to supply 2 gun batteries to each of the three new hybrid regiments, which would each have two regular gun batteries, a regular Tac Gp battery and 2 reserve gun batteries.
The number of reserve batteries would remain unchanged from now: the current two reserve Light Gun regiments would be removed and their batteries reassigned. The regulars would instead have to provide an additional RHQ and two additional gun batteries.

The Adaptable Force currently has two Hybrid Engineer Regiments. Under my restructuring suggestion, each gains a second reserve sqn. They were already technically planned to have 2 reserve squadrons each, but this was to be achieved only by taking control of the reserve Commando and Parachute engineer squadrons. This most evidently made very little operational sense, and the decision was changed, with 299 PARA and 131 Cdo now due to joint respectively 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment and 24 Commando Engineer Regiment.
A third hybrid engineer regiment would be required, with 2 regular and 2 reserve squadrons. The additional Engineer reserve would use part of the manpower freed by adjusting the number of infantry battalions.
The situation is identical on the Medical front, with two hybrid regiments that would need to be supplemented, ideally, by a third.
There are also two RLC regiments in the Adaptable Force, with a third needed for the third brigade.

The Royal Signals factor is worth a better look: currently, the regular regiments are roled as follows:

-          1 Sig Regt is principally aligned to 20 Armd Inf Bde and provides deployable communications for operations
-          16 Sig Regt is principally aligned to 12 Armd Inf Bde and provides deployable communications for operations
-          21 Sig Regt is principally aligned to 1 Armd Inf Bde and provides deployable communications for operations

-          2 Sig Regt provides general support communications services to the Reaction Force Division HQ and to the Reaction Force Logistic Brigade

-          3 Sig Regt provides general support communications services to the Reaction Force Division HQ and to the Reaction Force Logistic Brigade


-          10 Sig Regt provides specialized deployable support, including ECM (Force Protection)
-          15 Sig Regt provides Level 3 support for delivered and deployable CIS
-          14 Sig Regt (EW) provides electronic warfare teams
-          11 Sig Regt is the training unit
-          18 Sig Regt delivers communications to the Special Forces units

-          22 Sig Regt provides communications and data for the ARRC HQ

-          30 Sig Regt has a mixed role. 1 sqn is committed to ARRC alongside 22 Regt; 1 sqn (244 Sqn) is the air support role, providing communications to the Support Helicopter Force; the remaining two squadrons deliver HQ infrastructure and communications for the deployable HQ of the UK Joint Rapid Response Force

There is no regiment aligned with Adaptable Force brigades. As said in other occasions, the brigade signal squadrons, no longer sufficient on their own, have been removed from the army’s brigades and absorbed into the regiments. The so-called Multi Role Signal Regiments are meant to provide theatre-wide networking and communications points. The signal units no longer provide Life Support to the brigade HQs. The change is one of the most noticeable in the whole of Army 2020, and the Army is still experimenting and working on defining how deployable HQs will be resourced, structured, deployed and supported in the future. The final outcome depends also on the choices that will be made on LeTacCIs (Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems), which is in practice the replacement for the Bowman radio and data infrastructure, supposed to deliver around the middle of the 2020s.
Whatever the outcome, it seems evident that, at a very minimum, 7 Royal Signals Regiment needs to be resurrected as a Multi Role Signal Regiment aligned with the brigades in 1st Division. As the divisional HQ is brought back to deployable status, one between 2 and 3 Sig Regts would also move to support it.
One single additional regiment might well not be enough, moreover. As we know, the Army works to a 1 in 5 rule, which means that 5 brigade-aligned regiments are necessary to ensure that an enduring deployment of one brigade can actually be supported. The “ideal” force structure would have to include a careful study on the need for communications and networking in brigade operations, so that each deployable brigade receives the support it needs, adjusting the regiments again as necessary.

Restoring 16 AA brigade to a true 3-battalions structure will also require an additional troop and other uplifts within 216 Parachute Signal Squadron, the one and only remaining signal unit which is organic to its brigade and which also maintains a life support role in the field.
16 Air Assault would also need to uplift to 3 subunits each its artillery, engineer, logistic and medical units.Currently, it has a two-companies organisation in all of these areas.

16 AA could use a Reconnaissance and Surveillance Sqn of its own, incorporating the Pathfinder Platoon and adding a bit more land-manoeuvre capability, considering that it has lost the support of D Sqn, Household Cavalry. One solution might be to stand up a Command Support formation, like 30 Commando IX in 3 Commando Brigade. This unit would include the brigade recce squadron, the HQ support and 216 Signal Sqn, plus the other supporting elements task-generated by Force Troops Command (vSHORAD missile troop, RMP troop, EW team…).

3rd Commando would need an uplift to its engineer regiment (it has been planned since 2008, but never really happened) by restructuring on 54, 59 and an additional (56) Sqn. Sub-units within 3rd Commando and 16 AA should continue to have an even split of capabilities among them, as they will continue to rotate into Very High Readiness, as well as training to support a possible brigade-level deployment.



Ideal, minus

The “ideal” force structure is not achievable within the manpower and budget figures of Army 2020, so a bit more change is actually going to be required to go as close as possible to it. One possible solution is having only 2 “full” (complete with supports) brigades in 1st Division. The manpower margin from the removal of 4 infantry battalions would be used to reinforce 3rd Cdo and 16 AA, and to remove the worst weaknesses, principally the lack of Signals for the “light brigades”. It is not enough to do more.
The result would be a non laughable 5 “true” brigades, plus para and commando brigades, and some additional infantry battalions. It would still be better balanced than Army 2020 as currently envisaged.

Another option is the removal of 3 further light infantry battalions from the ORBAT, and the transfer of the Heavy Protected Mobility battalions from the Armoured Infantry Brigades to the Light/Medium brigades.
The Heavy brigades would lose their wheeled element, focusing on tracks only. They would have only two infantry regiments each, but of course, they include the tank regiment as third manoeuvre unit.
The Light/Medium brigades would each have one Heavy wheeled battalion, and two light wheeled battalions (with Foxhound vehicles). The Heavy brigades would become somewhat “lighter”, shifting part of their support train to the “light” division.
With this additional sacrifice of a further 1680 infantry posts, more manpower could be moved towards support units, to build up the elements needed to have 3 brigades in both Divisions, plus full supports for 16 AA and 3 Cdo.
I tend to support this option more, since having two complete divisions, one specializing in heavy & tracked and one on Wheeled and Light/Medium is the most balanced option. This way there are two harmonic force generation cycles going on at any one time, and two brigades available. These two brigades at readiness can then be combined to deploy a single, larger, mixed brigade to a single theatre, or be deployed separately to better achieve the Defence Planning assumption of two contemporary dispersed operations.

One remaining problem for consideration is the higher cost of some support elements, primarily, once more, the Signals, due to their special training and equipment. Although the manpower count remains the same, the cost might well increase. Whole Fleet Management and other carefully thought out measures might be necessary to fit into the budget.

Cutting so many infantry battalions would cause a capbadge outcry rarely seen before, and is not something that I suggest with any pleasure. And it is most clearly something that could ever happen only with a government and Army leadership with some serious courage.
I make the proposal, despite the clear difficulties it would imply, because in an age of cuts and shrinkage, all the manpower available must be used to deliver actual effect, not to keep alive scrawny battalions purely to preserve symbols. Symbols are immensely important, but if we continue on this course at some point the regiments will have the strength of companies and the brigades will be battalions, and without supports to add insult to injury.
A working brigade is always to be preferred to a great number of disjointed light role battalions, in my opinion. The usefulness that can be squeezed out of a brigade is countless times superior.

In the wake of Army 2020 there has been a great amount of talking about flexibility, adaptability, task-organizing, centralization and other catchwords which, again in my opinion, make little actual sense 90% of the time.
For all the innovation we might try and achieve, the army remains a construction made of brigades. At the end of the day, for any operation of any kind of complexity, it will be necessary to put in the field a communications network and a command and control HQ; ground units for combat and seizing of terrain, artillery support, logistic support, equipment repair and support, medical support, engineer support, plus police, air defence, EOD etcetera. The Adaptable Force and Force Troops Command are no revolutions and no great adaptability innovations. There is nothing more adaptable than a brigade complete of its supports, to which higher commands can require to task-generate battlegroups for the need at hand. There might be some merit to centralization of support elements into their own brigades to oversee administration and training in an organic way, but that is about it. Force Troops Command can certainly stay, but the balance of infantry to supports needs to change if Army 2020 is to be a realistic fighting force and not a paper tiger.



Combat Aviation Brigade?

Personally, I would also recommend the formation of a Combat Aviation Brigade to unify, not just at 2-star administrative level (JHC), but at the daily working level, the crucially important aviation elements.
In practice, the Combat Aviation Brigade would take the Chinook and Puma squadrons of the Support Helicopter Force, and organize them into regiments.
The brigade would be structured as follows:

-          244 Signal Squadron (Air Support)
-          1st Army Air Corps Regiment (4 Wildcat Sqns)
-          3rd Army Air Corps Attack Helicopter Regiment (2 Apache Sqns)
-          4th Army Air Corps Attack Helicopter Regiment (2 Apache Sqns)
-          1st Support Helicopter Regiment (2 Chinook, 1 Puma Sqn)
-          2nd Support Helicopter Regiment (2 Chinook, 1 Puma Sqn)
-          Aviation Support Regiment RLC (would be built by bringing together the existing 132 Avn Sqn RLC and the Tactical Supply Wing to organize a complete ground-support formation for the combat and support helicopters)
-          7 REME (existing 2nd line aviation support teams, reinforced by taking in the RAF Support Helicopter ground elements where applicable)

The Combat Aviation Brigade would be assigned, alongside with 16 AA and 3 Cdo, to the Permanent Joint HQ, specifically to the Joint Rapid Reaction Force. Not just for deployment, but routinely.
The brigade would be tasked with supporting a binary Force Generation Cycle, in which, each year, a Support Helicopter Regiment, an Attack Regiment and 2 Wildcat Sqns are put at very high readiness, alongside the relevant package of ground support elements from RLC, REME and Signals.
In my opinion this would help in obtaining the most out of the very significant Air Manoeuvre fleet of some 60 Chinook and 24 Puma HC2. The regiments at readiness would primarily support the Air Assault Task Force and the Lead Commando Group. Like it is planned for the 2 Apache squadrons at readiness, the 2 Chinook squadrons at readiness would focus one on the Air Assault Task Force and one on shipboard ops with the Commando battlegroup.
The Commando Helicopter Force would remain responsible for providing one Merlin HC4 squadron at readiness for the Commando Battlegroup, plus 847 NAS with its Wildcat for the shipboard side of operations.

The training units would sit outside the Combat Aviation Brigade, as well as the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing. The Chinook force, once at full strength, would be organized on 4 “line” squadrons of around 12 machines each (HC4 and HC6), with 6 Chinooks assigned to the joint Puma-Chinook OCU (28(R) Sqn, which will stand up soon in RAF Benson, once 28 is disbanded from its current form as Merlin HC3 squadron) and with the 8 HC5 assigned to 7 Sqn, inside the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing.The HC5, with the ""fat" fuselage with the enlarged fuel tanks, was originally procured for SF work. Once upgraded and even retrofitted with Digital Flight Control, i would suggest it finally is assigned to the mission it was originally procured to do.

7 REME currently includes also the 8 Parachute REME Field Company, which is the equipment support element of 16 Air Assault Brigade. I would finally split the two units, which are already located in completely different bases and doing pretty different jobs, forming 8 Parachute REME.



Summary of Changes

2 deployable division HQs, plus JRRF HQ

1 less 2-Star HQ,

1 Combat Aviation Brigade added by regrouping existing resources, splitting Chinook force in homogeneous squadrons grouped in Support Helicopter Regiments

Regular manpower total unchanged or slightly inferior to current target

24 Regular Infantry Battalions (2 PARA, 1 Air Mobile, 6 Armoured, 3 Heavy Protected Mobility, 6 Light Protected Mobility, 1 SFSG, 5 Light Role)  -  Down from 31, with removal of 7 Light Role battalions

Restructure 3 RHA and 4 RA into Hybrid Artillery Regiments, each with 1 Tac Gp Bty, 2 Gun Batteries and 2 Reserve Gun Batteries; add a third regiment of the same type

Form a third hybrid Engineer Regiment

Form an additional Hybrid Medical Regiment

Form an additional REME Close Support formation

Form an additional RLC Brigade Support formation

Rebuild the third sub-unit within 16 Air Assault’s support regiments

Build a Command Support formation within 16 Air Assault Brigade 

Split 7 REME and 8 Parachute Company; uplift strenght of the latter to support 16 Air Assault brigade in its roles

Form up to 3 Multi Role Signal Regiments for the brigades of 1st Division




Total Reserve manpower target maintained or possibly decreased

11 instead of 13 reserve infantry battalions

Remove 2 Reserve Artillery Regiments, spreading their batteries evenly across 3 Hybrid Reg-Res Regiments (4 RA, 3 RHA and another to be formed)

Add 4 Reserve Engineer Squadrons (one to 21 Engineer Regiment; one to 32 Engineer Regiment; 2 to a new Hybrid Regiment to be formed)

Reorganize Reserve Medical Regiments to account for a third Hybrid Regiment (2 Sqns to be assigned to it)



The resulting 1st Division will have all the pieces necessary to support a 3-year Force Generation Cycle of three wheeled brigades. Up to three battalions will however be geographically and administratively assigned to 160 and 38 Infantry brigades (Wales and Northern Ireland), while being part of the force generation cycle under 51, 4 and 7 brigades.

Each brigade will be able to field:

-          1 Light Cavalry Regiment + Reserve
-          1 Heavy Protected Mobility battalion
-          2 Light Protected Mobility battalions + reserve
-          1 Hybrid Artillery Regiment
-          1 Hybrid Engineer Regiment
-          1 Hybrid Medical Regiment
-          1 RLC Force Support Regiment
-          1 REME Equipment Support Battalion

The Armoured Infantry Brigades will have:

-          1 Heavy Cavalry Regiment
-          1 Tank Regiment
-          2 Armoured Infantry Battalions
-          1 Heavy Artillery Regiment
-          1 Armoured Engineer Regiment
-          1 Armoured Medical Regiment
-          1 RLC Close Support regiment
-          1 RLC Theatre Support Regiment
-          1 Armoured Close Support REME Battalion

16 Air Assault and 3 Commando will both be again able to deploy as complete brigades. The availability of 3 sub-units per role will greatly ease the constant provision of a battlegroup at Very High Readiness.

16 Air Assault Brigade will include:

-          1 Command Support Battalion (Identity to be determined; will have a Reconnaissance and Surveillance squadron combining Pathfinder Platoon with patrol troops with a cavalry role; 216 Signal Sqn plus the supporting elements force generated from 14 EW Signal Regiment, 33 EOD and others)
-          2 Parachute battalions. The para companies will rotate into Very High Readiness.
-          1 Air Mobile Battalion (Gurkha). Gurkhas will not be trained to parachute, but will help generate the 2 air mobile companies at very high readiness, spreading the work load across 3 battalions instead of just 2.
-          1 Parachute artillery regiment on 3 Batteries (+ HAC Gun Troop as reserve), each combining all functions, so that they can routinely alternate into VHR
-          1 parachute engineer regiment on 3 squadrons (+ 299 Squadron reserve), each combining all functions, so that they can routinely alternate into VHR
-          1 parachute logistic regiment with 3 Air Assault squadrons to rotate into VHR, plus Air Despatch and Log Sp squadrons
-           1 parachute medical regiment with 3 air assault medical squadrons to rotate into VHR, plus support
-          156 Provost Company, 4 RMP Regimen, on three troops
 
3 Commando stays basically as it is, with one squadron added to 24 Commando Engineer Regiment (54, 56, 59 + 131 Reserve) and reinforcements given to stabilize the 3 sub-units mechanism in the rest of the support elements. 29 Commando Royal Artillery already plans to establish a Reserve gun troop.

Adding also the output of the Combat Aviation Brigade the Army’s VANGUARD pool would include, each year:

-          1 Armoured Infantry Brigade
-          1 wheeled “medium-light” brigade
-          1 Commando battlegroup with full supports plus 1x Apache Sqn, Chinook and Wildcat support and 1 Merlin HC4 sqn
-          1 air assault battlegroup with 1x Apache Sqn, 1+ Chinook Sqn, 1 Puma Squadron, 1 / 2 Wildcat squadrons

Force Troops Command would continue to add CBRN, EOD, STA, UAV batteries, theatre entry logistics, VSHORAD and Local Area Air Defence and so on.