Sunday, July 17, 2016

Status update: what is moving and what is not

Army plans

In April 2014, the MOD decided to split the massive “Mounted Close Combat Capability Change” programme into four:

-          Armoured Cavalry 2025
-          Armoured Infantry 2026
-          Armour; Main Battle Tank 2025
-          Mechanized Infantry 2029

The date at the end indicates the desired completion time. The budget for the Mounted Close Combat super-programme was 17.251,83 million pounds.
Data released this year, and current to September 2015, reveals that the Armoured Cavalry programme has a budget of 6831,55 million, for procuring, putting in service and supporting for the first few years the Ajax fleet.
The Armoured Infantry programme is chiefly composed by Warrior CSP, but the army also “aspires” to finally launching the Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle programme. The budget is currently given as 2176,45 million, but since ABSV is yet to come and the Warrior CSP procurement hasn’t yet been contracted, the sum is destined to grow.
No additional update is given on the status of MBT 2025 and MI 2029. Assuming the overall budget is still 17 billion, there are 8243,85 million to commit to the missing pieces, the biggest of which is clearly going to be the Mechanized Infantry Vehicle 8x8.

The Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme, another initiative that is navigating a tormented and endless path to a Main Gate point that never seems to arrive, was described as having a budget going from 1.2 billion to 700 million. The latest figure I’ve come across is 920 million.
Even 700 million pounds are quite a lot of money for a Life Extension Programme which is not expected to touch the gun and that will not replace the powerpack. It is hard to say why changing sights and communications should cost so much on Challenger 2 when a similar programme in France is going on for some 300 million euro.
Is it an implicit admission that Challenger 2 obsolescence is truly that desperate…?

We know very little about the MIV programme, too. The latest words of general Nick Carter suggest a requirement for 4 battalion sets (two battalions for each “Strike” brigade), which is one more than was planned under Army 2020 (one mechanized battalion in each of the three Reaction Force brigades). There are clear requirements for a multitude of variants, including mortar carrier, ATGW and ambulance, but there is no certainty that money will be there to actually do something about it.

Meanwhile, there have been reports about the British Army being very interested in purchasing American Joint Light Tactical Vehicles as solution for the Multi Role Vehicle Protected requirement. Due for production in the tens of thousands, the JLTV might be the only product with a realistic chance to achieve a pricetag close to the MOD objective of 250.000 pounds per vehicle.
The MRV-P programme remains, in my opinion, somewhat confused. Its relationship with existing vehicles such as Foxhound, Husky and Panther is unclear, and the numbers indicated for the first purchase are too low: if there is no money for greater numbers and if there isn’t actual clarity about what to do with it, the British Army should not add yet another vehicle to its already vast collection.
Clarity is needed, first of all. The British Army should also determine the future of Light Protected Mobility Battalions, and act consequently: if they are to be serious warfighting tools, they should not depend on old Land Rover WMIKs to provide firepower support to the Foxhounds. Mobility, but moreover protection, are unequal, with the Land Rover at serious disadvantage. Purchasing more Foxhounds, in WMIK and in Logistic configurations, would give these units a whole different level of effectiveness.
It is also necessary to think about how to distribute Husky and MRV-P, and how to move from the first to the second over time.

General Carter also candidly confirmed to the Defence Committee that the “defence engagement battalions” will be small (just 300 men) in no small part due to the need to recoup manpower to direct towards the Strike Brigades and the other units needed to make it feasible to deploy at Division scale, as mandated by the SDSR. Two to five infantry battalions will be downsized and re-orbated, meaning that the manpower margin recouped varies from 500 to 1300 men.
Beyond the obvious (freeing up manpower without being allowed to disband battalions and face capbadge bunfights), the Defence Engagement battalions are supposed to become the go-to units when it comes to training, mentoring and helping friendly forces abroad. Supposedly, these battalions will be elite units, containing a greater number of officers, SNCOs and specialists, but there is every reason to be doubtful in front of the claim: where are those specialists going to come from, considering that the manpower is already an issue now?


There are now an official announcement and a deal signed for the procurement of 50 Apache at the Block III standard, and this is good news, because it hopefully dispels the risk of seeing the number dropping even further.
The confusion around the Apache situation endures, however, since the MOD, Boeing and everyone else appear unable to provide details and a definitive answer to the question: is it a remanufacturing project, or a new build programme?

The answer seem to be: it is a remanufacturing project, but so much of the helicopter will be newly built that confusion is legitimate. Existing Apache AH1 will be dismantled and the valid systems and components will move across to the new machines, receiving the upgrades and changes needed.
The Apache remanufacturing involves a new rotor, new and more powerful engines, updated sights and targeting system, updated radar, newly built airframe, data link 16, manned-unmanned teaming and other upgrades. The US Army is rebuilding all of its own Apaches, uplifting them to AH-64E, and will also procure around 60 wholly new as replacements for losses and attrition.

The first british AH-64E is expected to come out of factory during 2020, and the In Service Date is given as 2022. The new airframe, made of composites and slightly modified to better accommodate the Block III systems, comes with a life of 10.000 hours. It should be less prone to corrosion issues, despite the lack of proper navalization: the US Army has been bringing the Apache out on ships more and more frequently in the Pacific theatre, so the British Army should not have any grave issue. Manually folding rotor should come as standard.
The AH-64E won’t be a naval helicopter, but the Apache AH1 never was, either. The addition of some features (including emergency floatation gear) over time remains desirable to make shipboard operations simpler and safer.

Boeing and MBDA have just completed a series of MOD-funded Brimstone launches from an AH-64E, and the results have been good. The MOD hopes to replace Hellfire in 2021, and Brimstone, offered by MBDA as the Future Attack Helicopter Weapon, is the obvious choice. An integration contract should materialize sometime in the near future, so that the AH-64E can enter service with it as its main weapon.

The MBDA video about FAHW is very interesting, and it shows two important features: airburst detonation mode and anti-air employment of Brimstone. The US Army has experimented ground-launched Hellfire missiles as anti-UAS weapons, and a similar capability for Brimstone, extending also to larger and more challenging targets (such as the KA-52 in the video) would be particularly helpful for British Apaches which have never been equiped with Stinger missiles nor with Starstreak, despite a demonstration campaign carried out years ago.

P-8 Poseidon and Sentinel R1: the future of ISTAR

The regeneration of MPA capability is finally confirmed and on the move, and we also have a delivery schedule:

2 aircraft will be ordered in 2017 for delivery in April and December 2019 (Production Lot 8)
3 aircraft will be ordered in 2018 for delivery during 2020  (Production Lot 9)
4 aircraft will be ordered in 2019 for delivery in 2021  (Production Lot 10) 

Unless there are delays on the US side, these dates imply that the UK Poseidons will come with Increment 3 standard. It should also come with 6 rather than 5 workstations, following the US and Australian decision to fit the additional console to better exploit the growing capabilities of the type.

What we do not know yet is how (or even if) these airplanes will be armed. The UK has elected to follow a pure Off The Shelf approach for the purchase, so that no british weaponry will be integrated, at least for now. The question thus becomes whether or not the UK will order a stock of US torpedoes (and wing-kits for their deployment from altitude) and whether anything will be done on the anti-ship missile front. With the loss of the Nimrod, the RAF also lost its last anti-ship platform, after all, and it is not clear if the old stock of air launched Harpoon is still in storage and if it could still be used. 

The current thinking in the MOD is that the P-8 Poseidon will also replace Sentinel R1 in the 2020s, but how this will be done is not, at this stage, clear. An obvious solution is trying to obtain from the US the export of their AN/APQ-154 Advanced Airborne Sensor radar pod, which is in development specifically for the P-8 and is also serving as base for the radar proposed by Raytheon for the USAF’s JSTARS replacement programme.
Fitting a different radar sensor is also an option: the P-8 can take it, and can carry out long range overland radar surveillance, despite flying tipically a bit lower than Sentinel.
One issue, already underlined by RAF officers, is that 9 aircraft are too few to properly cover both sea and land requirements. An additional batch of 3 aircraft would help, and the number 12 has circulated at times in the period leading up to the SDSR: if Sentinel will leave service in the early 2020s, increasing the number of P-8s and adding a land-surveillance radar will be very important.

As part of stealth cuts meant to free up money and manpower to make the investments of the SDSR 2015 possible, the RAF is due to cut the Sentinel R1 fleet from 5 to 4 aircraft and from 10 to 5 crews, while also reducing the extent of upgrades initially proposed for the platform. Air Commodore Dean Andrew, commander of the RAF ISTAR Force, however, has made it abundantly clear that he opposes this approach and will try to have the idea shredded. Unfortunately, time is not on his side, considering that the cut is scheduled for September.
The situation is complicated by the ever present problem of manpower: the RAF was granted a small uplift in personnel number in the SDSR, but at the same time it was loaded with a great number of requests which all require manpower. Supposedly, the Sentinel’s companion, the Shadow R1, should see the fleet expanded from 5 (+1 currently without mission kit, only good for training) to 8. There is a proposal to uplift the number of combat-ready Sentry crews from 5 to 12 by 2021. There will be Poseidon to man. There will be 20 Protector, which much greater endurance, in place of 10 Reaper, and these might have no pilot on board but require a great number of people back in the base. 14 C-130Js are now expected to remain, and the number of combat jet squadrons will now (thankfully) stay around 9, rather than drop to 6.
It is very clear that manpower is a problem. Poseidon alone is likely to require as many men as the SDSR gave, and maybe more, so the RAF needs to shift manpower around from within the current totals. If someone gains, someone else is bound to lose.
And, obviously, it also takes time to shift people around, re-train personnel and/or recruit and train new people.
There is an expectation that the CBRN mission will transfer to the Army, so the RAF Regiment is probably due to shrink by a sizeable number in the coming years, but the manpower margin is not immediately transferable and will not, in itself, solve the problems.
I do not think I’d feel surprised at all if the extra AWACS crews and additional Shadow R1 ended up never materializing. They seem to me to be commitments from which it will be easy to retreat in silence and darkness.

A number of upgrades for Sentinel have been funded and will proceed. These include a maritime radar mode for the radar, to appear sometime in 2018; increased SAR resolution and improved SatCom are also on the list, all to be delivered during 2017 and 2018.
A number of other upgrades remain, presently, not funded: these include adding ELINT capability, upgrading the cockpit and mission consoles and adding a Long Range Optical Sensor (the DB-110 used in the RAPTOR pod was mentioned in the past few months) to complement the radar.
Sentinel is a precious ISTAR asset and delivers extremely valuable battlefield surveillance that should not be lost, so its future (and eventually its replacement) remain a topic to follow with attention.

Meanwhile, the MOD has signed a deal to procure Protector itself through a hybrid Foreign Military Sale process, which will enable the RAF to work together with GA-ASI to modify their “Certifiable Predator B” to turn it into Protector.
The Certifiable Predator B is an internal effort started by GA-ASI to build a more capable Reaper complete of Due Regard sensor capability for flight in non-segregated airspace. It also comes with a new and longer wing carrying more fuel, giving an endurance in the 40 hours region.
The wings also should offer greater payload margins: an image released by GA-ASI shows 4 triple Brimstone racks and 2 Paveway bombs installed on a Protector. This would not be possible on Reaper, as the third station on its wing (never really employed) can only carry some 70 kg.

Certifiable Predator B with Brimstone racks. 

The Protector should massively expand the capabilities of the RAF, but it will be interesting to see if some efforts will be made to make it more survivable in presence of some enemy air defence. The Reaper is pretty much defenceless, but as Protector becomes more capable and more expensive, it would make sense to try and make it less vulnerable.
It could be worth a try to adapt the self-defence pods currently employed by Tornado GR4, since they have been upgraded and improved in recent times (first the BOZ dispenser of Flares, and lastly the Cerberus EW pods, which have been upgraded to “Common Jamming Pod, with electronics equal to those of the Typhoon’s DASS and with the same towed radar decoy added in as well) and could still be useful for years after the Tornado will be gone.

Weapon and sensor choices will also be important. Integrating Brimstone and Paveway IV seems the right thing to do, unless the special (and rather advantageous) current agreement with the USAF for access to their stocks of Hellfire and GBU-12 is to continue.
The RAF also spoke, back when the programme was known as SCAVENGER, of common pods to be developed and certified, with the ability to rapidly switch the payload within them to enable rapid evolution of the drone’s capability. This is a smart approach, and hopefully will still feature in Protector.

The UK is also looking at setting up a UAS School in the UK, since the USAF is already hard pressed to train its own UAS crews, and will struggle to take care of foreign needs. Simulation should enable aircraft-free training, but the actual solution has yet to be chosen. 

A long sundown for the Hawk T1

With 208(R) Sqn now disbanded, the Hawk T1 is no longer used in training of fast jet crews, but it remains employed for air support to operational training, playing Aggressor in air to air battles; helping to qualify JTACs and assaulting Royal Navy ships to let them hone their air defence skills. The Hawk T1 also is the Red Arrows’ mount.
It will be around for many years still, yet its sundown is due to begin relatively soon. The MOD has decided that 736 NAS will lose its Hawk T1s in 2020; followed by 100 Sqn around 2027 and finally by the Red Arrows in 2030 (or by 2035).

The Royal Navy is the first to have to grapple with the problem, which is also connected to the current arrangement for EW and threat simulation coming to an end in the same timeframe. Currently, a fleet of Falcon DA20 provided and crewed by Cobham provide 6500 hours a year of service in support of training exercises, jamming radars and electronically simulating aircraft and weapons. The Royal Navy is the main customer of the service, with 3500 hours, followed by 2500 for the RAF and 500 for contingencies.

The MOD has launched a new project for procuring a new solution to these requirements, under the name ASDOT, Air Support to Defence Operational Training. Interestingly, Qinetiq and Thales have agreed on jointly offering the Textron Scorpion aircraft as platform for the new service.
The pick is somewhat puzzling, because the Scorpion does not appear to be particularly suited to be an Aggressor, lacking in speed and agility. Even as replacement EW platform it seems not entirely suited, due to having only 2 crew on board, against a typical minimum of 3 for the Falcon 20.
The Scorpion will have no trouble carrying the panoply of pods employed by the Falcon (radar simulator pod, jammer pods, RAIDS pod) and it also has a weapons bay that could be used for additional payloads, but it might take some work to turn it into a proper replacement for Falcon.
It should excel at supporting JTAC and Fire Support Teams training, though.

ASDOT will be an interesting programme, judging by this beginning. We’ll see if and how 736 NAS will survive the award of the ASDOT contract: will the service provider be tasked with all the flying too, or will the current Hawk T1 part of the job still be carried out by navy pilots? It is not clear at this stage.

For RAF Red Air purposes, there have been suggestions which have included using some of the Typhoon Tranche 1, in order to have an enemy with the necessary speed and agility and sensors.

Fixed and Rotary Wing crew training 

With the award of the contract for the renewal of the rotary wing training fleet, the Military Flying Training System has made a decisive step forwards. However, concerns remain: the SDSR 2015 has brought a sizeable uplift in the number of crews to be trained, and while the number of instructors planned has been adjusted, the number of training aircraft has not been.

Before the SDSR 2015, the number of instructors was expected to be as low as 64 military and 34 civilian. This has been uplifted to 71 and 62. The number of aircraft purchased, however, has not changed from pre-SDSR expectations. 

The SDSR 2015, thanks first of all to the purchase of the P-8 Poseidon, has also re-introduced a sizeable training requirement for mission crew. The plan for training "back-seaters" has not been detailed yet, but is something that requires some thought.

In the Rotary Wing arena, we will have to see if Joint Helicopter Command will be able to pursue a further element later, that of "surrogate" helicopters for training. The idea emerged a while ago, of procuring cheap helicopters to equip as "flying simulators" to employ in some Wildcat and Apache training phases to save money.
It is to be seen what will happen to the Army's advanced helicopter crew course in Middle Wallop, as well.
An element of advanced training has been designed thanks to the formation back in April of 202(R) Sqn in RAF Valley. This "new" unit is actually the re-named and re-purposed SARTU (SAR Training Unit) which was no longer required in its original role of preparing SAR crews since that incumbence has now been moved under the Department for Transports.
202 Sqn will now provide overland and overwater winch training along with day/night mountain flying techniques and NVD operations for all RN/ RAF abinitio pilots and crewman who are destined for Support Helicopter (SH) roles.  In addition, a new course is being developed to offer bespoke training to current experienced SH operators in order to enhance their skill sets.

Air Weapons 

Brimstone 2 has been finally put into service, after several months of delays due to difficulties emerged during development. The weapon is now operational on Tornado GR4 and is being integrated on Typhoon. 
Typhoon weapons integration is finally getting serious, with Meteor, Storm Shadow and Brimstone to enter service over the next two years. 
The AESA radar has finally been flown for the first time (several months later than was hoped last year) and hopefully its integration will be part of the Phase 4 Enhancements, post 2018. 

Work is also ongoing on the new bunker-buster warhad for Paveway IV, which has begun validation trials. Discussions have also already begun on ensuring that the Block IV software for the F-35 will include functional integration of the bunker-buster warhead variant. 
SPEAR 3 has been dropped for the first time, from a Typhoon. The weapon is planned for integration on the F-35 sometime in the first half of the 2020s, as part of the Block IV programme, which is expected to also include Meteor. 

Royal Navy UAS plans: ambitions, but no money

The Royal Navy has tried to launch a couple of UAS programmes in the 2016 Budget Cycle, but at least one of the two did not receive funding, Jane’s reports.
The Navy had hoped to launch the Flexible Deployable UAS programme in order to procure a replacement for the current flights of contractor-owned, contractor-operated  Scan Eagle UAS. The idea for FDUAS was not particularly detailed in public, but the Navy was looking for a “Scan Eagle plus” system offering greater “Find” capability. Purchasing a number of RQ-21 Integrator, the larger brother to Scan Eagle, already selected for USMC and US Navy use, could have possibly been a solution on the table. For now, it won’t happen.
Jane’s suggests that the Royal Navy, as a consequence, will lose the embarked UAS capability, but given the ridiculously small sums of money required, I believe the Scan Eagle deal will end up renewed before it expires next year.

The other UAS programme the Royal Navy wanted to launch is the Joint Mini UAS, and its target is procuring a more capable replacement for Desert Hawk. Obviously, the hope is to have a single programme run in common with the Army. It is currently impossible to say whether this has been able to secure some funding or not. Desert Hawk III has received an upgrade giving it digital communications and has seen its operational life extended 6 years, out to 2021. Further upgrades are being evaluated but are not under contract: LM offers a "3.1" upgrade package that extends endurance from a maximum of 90 to 150 minutes; fully waterproofs the drone and replaces the current interchangeable sensors with an integrated electro-optic, infrared and laser illuminator payload, so that all functions are available at the same time. 

This upgrade might be a cheap solution for making the DH III the mini-UAV of choice well into the 2020s, but the Army and the Royal Marines are already investigating a replacement. Plextek is working to develop a miniaturized solution for Sense and Avoid and also a mini radar sensor that could fit within a mini-UAV fit to replace DH.
Sense and Avoid would make it much safer to employ low-flying UAVs in areas where helicopter movements are also present: the British Army has had near miss events which have caused some worry.

Potentially good news for the Royal Navy come, indirectly, from the Apache CSP deal going to Boeing, as Leonardo Helicopters (ex AgustaWestland) has received, as a consolation prize, MOD reassurances about funding for the development of an unmanned helicopter. The Royal Navy wants a Rotary Wing UAS in the 2020s, so at least on this front it might have managed to move an important step forwards.

Frigates despair

Waiting for the Shipbuilding Strategy due in October, I can’t help but despair at the direction that frigate programmes have taken in the Royal Navy. The General Purpose Frigate programme launched by the SDSR 2015 is apparently aiming extremely low, and the lack of ASW usefulness is a real concern when looking at these frigates that seem not to have a clear role other than existing.
BMT is offering its Venator 110 design, and now BAE has revealed two proposal of its own, Avenger and Cutlass. The first, incredibly underwhelming and ugly, is a stretched River Batch 2 turned into a 111 meters “frigate” with some CAMM missiles and a 127mm gun.
Cutlass is little better, being a 117 meters extended Khareef corvette, in itself a development of the River design.

Above, the Avenger concept and, below, the Cutlass. Avenger seems to have CAMM cells in the boxy superstructure added amidship, while Cutlass has them in the same position occupied by Mica VL on the Khareef class. Both ships have some mission reconfigurable space amidship. 

I can only be deeply critical regarding the whole affair. Again, we are back to the actual question: what is this "frigate" actually good for? And the answer always is, not much. Everything it can do comes with a load of caveats and assumptions about enemy capabilities and about other ships accompanying. 
This is looking, to me, as the very definition of waste of money, especially considering that the Royal Navy is going to have some 6 OPVs (and it could easily have more by life-extending River Batch 1s) and, soon enough, it'll have to start thinking about what platform to build to replace the minesweepers. And that one will probably emerge as a platform good enough at a range of constabulary tasks as well. 

Suddenly, the Royal Navy goes from having pretty much no low tier at all to having 3 different low tier classes, paid by opening an even bigger hole in Escort numbers. In my opinion this is abject failure in planning and strategic coherence. The result of having few ideas, and well confused, shaped by eternal budget-driven short termism. The same short termism that, elsewhere, generated air refueling tankers with drogues and strategic platforms (the receivers) fitted with receptacles.

Escort ships must be good at escorting. In a world of ever faster and deadlier missiles, of drones and of resurgent submarine fleets, Avenger and Cutlass have little to offer. Even Type 26 itself is concerning. I’ve been worried all along by the propulsion architecture chosen, which I fear will become a major issue in the future when new systems will require more power. The feeling is that the Type 45 propulsion fuck up resulted in a full and hasty retreat from integrated fully electric propulsion, and the fear is that this retreat might be, in a non distant future, cursed bitterly.

I’m increasingly worried about the capabilities that the Type 26 will actually deliver. With no programmes evident about replacing Harpoon and with no real talk about ASROC-like weapons for ASW, nor about cruise missiles for land attack, the question of what will arm Type 26 becomes more and more pressing. Someone is bound to ask, at some point, if the MK41 modules at the front are meant to contain something, and if the Royal Navy hasn’t planned ahead for it, the only possible outcome is “Fitted For But Not With” MK41. It is a movie we already saw.
But if that happens, and it is looking more and more likely, Type 26 will be an extremely underwhelming ship, without ASuW (there are no provision for above-deck canisters), without torpedo tubes, without ASROC, without anything other than CAMM and 127mm gun. 
The ship will have become uselessly expensive just to incorporate empty space "for future growth", while lagging badly in every area for at least the first part of its service life. 

If the Royal Navy ends up with such a planning failure, we will no longer have doubts about why admirals no longer make it into the Chief of Defence Staff chair. It is a bitterly painful state of affairs, because the Type 26 was the programme that had to save the Royal Navy, and might instead be, along with GPFF, the one that sinks its credibility for good. 

It is my firm opinion that it is time to think long and hard at how to make surface combat ships (bothering with the terms "frigate", "destroyer" and "cruiser" has been steadily losing relevance) actually good at something again. 
They are increasingly vulnerable to air attacks and to submarines, yet little is being done to improve the situation. The US Navy is at least trying, retrofitting its destroyers for ASW, developing the Continuous Active Sonar and investing on the rail gun, on networked, cooperative engagement of air threats etcetera, while the Royal Navy seems to be almost dead in the water.

I've written a lot about my views regarding surface warships for the future, and i recommend reading the two main articles, which i hope will contribute to encouraging discussion and innovation.

Are escort ships still up to task? 

What is a Type 31?

MARS Fleet Solid Support 

The MOD confirms that the Heavy RAS demonstrator from Rolls Royce proved that the 5 tons RAS is achievable. This is a key future feature for FSS, enabling it to transfer large paylods to the aircraft carriers, much quicker. It will also enable the new supply ships to resupply the carriers with spare F-135 engines for the F-35s. 

The MOD has begun talking with industry about the 3 FSS ships, which should be delivered "around the middle of the 2020s". The current ships Fort Rosalie, Fort Austin and For Victoria are expected to pay off beginning in 2023, but we have to assume there could be a further slip to the right to adjust the timeframe. 

The requirement has been officially classed as "non warlike", meaning that foreign shipyards will be able to present their offers, making it quite likely that, just like the Tide tankers, the FSSs will be built abroad.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Few revelations, lots of questions

The chief of the general staff, general Nick Carter, has spoken today to the Defence Committee within the frame of the Army 2025 inquiry. Unsurprisingly, very few solid answers have come out of the long session, and the few which did arouse even more questions and worries:

- The general has confirmed what was clear all along: the "Defence Engagement Battalions" will be tiny and the manpower recouped from their downsizing is what will be available to beef up the units needed for the Strike Brigades. N battalions (2 to 5) will go down to "around 300" personnel, from the current 560 (Army 2020 Light Role battalion establishment, all-ranks, all-trades). The DEBs are tiny, but don't you go thinking it is yet another fudge to avoid disbanding unsustainable battalions! No, they are just going to be "very specialized", with more officers and NCOs, linguists etcetera, according to the general. We'll see. 

- The Strike Brigades are apparently going to have a very questionable structure: Carter talked of 2 regiments on Ajax and "probably" 2 mechanized infantry battalions for each brigade. 
This suggests a very modest uplift of one battalion compared to earlier plans for 3 mechanized / heavy protected mobility units. What cost will be paid by heavy armoured infantry and tank units, we do not yet know. 
With 4 regiments of "50 to 60" Ajax vehicles planned as key parts of the Strike Brigades, we are most likely looking at armoured brigades without a heavy cavalry formation: 4 regiments is already one more than earlier planned, and with no extra vehicles on the horizon it is hard to imagine any more regiments using the type, unless all recce troops within armoured infantry and tank regiments are sacrificed to scrape up enough Ajax to build up some kind of recce formation. 
The Ajax will be the "medium armour" element of the Strike Brigade, and this is incredibly annoying because FRES SV did include an actual Medium Armour segment, which envisaged a medium tank with a 105 or even 120 mm smoothbore gun, but it was cancelled and it is not coming back.
Ajax was then designed and built for reconnaissance, and now will be squeezed into a medium armour construct, with reconnaissance a distant second and with the heavy armour formations apparently cut out.
The whole Strike Brigade concept appears to be built upon the french army operations in Mali, which have evidently fascinated Carter to no end. Supposedly, the Strike Brigade will be a self-contained, self-deployable formation able to move "up to 2000 km" on its own, covering a large battlespace, "dispersing and regrouping" as necessary.
This is what the french did in Mali with their mechanized, highly mobile battlegroups, but whether that experience is in any way indicative of future scenarios and needs is up for debate.
The french in Mali have enjoyed the firepower of 105mm guns on AMX-10 and 90 mm guns on Sagaie. In the future, they will have the EBRC Jaguar with the 40mm CTA plus 2x anti-tank missiles, so they won't have the same kind of direct fire punch. They might very well feel the loss.

Ajax comes with no anti-tank missiles, as of current plans, so it'll have even more of a firepower deficit. That Medium Armour element would be very handy now, if this is the plan the british army thinks it needs to follow.

Also, it is worth noticing that the french medium brigades will have 2 cavalry regiments, but more than 2 infantry units. In addition, french infantry regiments are much, much larger than british ones.
The Strike Brigade seems an imitation made by the poor cousin.
Again, the french have taken the "self-deployable", "highly mobile" part of the concept very seriously by introducing combat squadrons in the logistic regiments to ensure that supply convoys have a permanent, organic escort.
Again, the french can count on mobile, mechanized artillery in the form of CAESAR, while the British Army is most likely going to count on towed L-118.

Having to rely on Ajax for the Medium Armour capability also goes against another of the British Army's own recommendations from the Agile Warrior experiments: do not mix track and wheel in combat formations.

Many, many doubts remain. The price that the heavy armour will pay to allow this to (try to) become reality will be the measure of the wisdom of this plan. If the cost is contained, it'll be somewhat acceptable. Otherwise, it'll be a disaster under a fancy label.

- Force generation cycle. According to the written evidence submitted to the Committee, the army will adopt a new 4-year cycle, with 2 armoured and 2 strike brigades, alternating in such a way to ensure that one of each type is always at readiness. 
How it is supposed to work, i sincerely can't quite imagine. There are only so many ways you can try and keep at readiness 2 out of 4 brigades, year after year. 

- Reserves. The Army has suddenly awakened to one fact: it is not realistic to expect that reservists will be available in sufficient numbers to routinely complete understrength, mutilated regular units.
The Reserve will still be "integrated", but it'll return to a "warfighter reinforcement" model, as well as continue to be a supplier of specialists (for example, 80% of the medical capability, as already happens).

I'm not paid by the Army or MOD, nor am i inside their secrets, but if you read this same blog in November last year, you were faced by the prophecy about the true nature of the Defence Engagement Battalion and by the problem of force generation cycle and all other adjustements needed for this 4 brigade approach.
Had the defence committee read my post, they would have had today's answers with greater detail and background, several months early.
And this should be a reason for concern all by itself, because the MOD and Army top brass are supposed to do a little bit better than me on my own in my spare time... 

The little we learned today, in practice, is enough to confirm that we are heading into a new questionable castle of fragile compromises, as was easily predictable. And we still do not have a measure of the other stealthy cuts that will be involved in this exercise of make believe. What will be the two armoured brigades look like? Will the number of MBTs fall further? What about reconnaissance in the heavy formations?
And what will be the capability of the 6 remaining infantry brigades? What will their role be in the force generation cycle, and will the UK retain the ability to sustain an enduring brigade-sized deployment?

Meanwhile, from Eurosatory we hear that the expected date for the first MOD choices regarding the Multi Role Vehicle - Protected has come and gone in the silence, with no decisions evident. 

The Royal Artillery is expected to put out an Invite To Tender early next year for two precision artillery solutions for the 155mm calibre: one requirement is for "Near Precision", and will be most likely fullfilled (assuming it receives funding one day) with course-correction fuzes that can reduce the CEP of standard, unguided shells. 
The "Extreme Precision" requirement would be met by a guided shell, which could be Excalibur, or Vulcano, or the Standard Guided Projectile, or any of the other contenders on the market. Even if the ITT goes out early next year as now apparently planned, it'll be 2019 before a choice is made. Don't hold your breath. The Royal Artillery has been trying to get this programme to progress for so many years that it isn't even funny anymore. 

Industry is forming teams that will compete for the Challenger 2 LEP programme, but, again, it'll be a while before anything happens and for now, apart from the pricetag, there is nothing particularly exciting in this obsolescence-removal programme of desperation. 

ABSV, as always, tends not to make any news, ever. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Army 2020 Refine: a proposal

This post summarizes, in broad points, my proposal for the reworked structure of the British Army as the forces try to turn Joint Force 2025 into a reality.
So far, very little, if anything, is known about "Army 202 Refine", the internal British Army effort to try and make sense of the SDSR's "Strike Brigades" and other changes that were announced before being properly thought out.
My proposal attempts to close some capability gaps and bring a better balance to the force structure, correcting several weaknesses of Army 2020.

The main assumptions behind this proposal are:

- Regular Manpower capped at 82.000
- No real additional resources

As such, it can only be a case of shifting resources from an area to the other to achieve a better end result. Army 2020 is poor of supports and deployable brigades, with over half of its (understrength) infantry thrown messily into that big bag that is the current "Adaptable Force".

Rationalize HQs

Army 2020 has a recognized shortage of Signal specialists, which have been sacrificed in 2010 to avoid cutting other infantry battalions. The shortage is making it complex to support brigade and division HQs, and the Multi Role Signal regiments rotation is already in crisis. Last year, after a brief experience of regiments rotating in and out of role, the army made a U-turn and 3rd Signal Regiment resumed its “Divisional” title, returning full time to division support.

Army 2020 and the other internal studies carried out by the Army have reaffirmed again and again the importance of having a 2-star HQ level to handle the “strategic” picture and allow the brigade(s) to focus on the tactical side. But for all the good intentions expressed, the British Army is nonetheless down to a single deployable division HQ (3rd UK Div) while 1st UK Div would first require augmentation and the generation of a supporting signal regiment from the little resources available.

On the other hand, the Army is working to generate a new “Standing Joint Task Force HQ”, and maintains support for the ARRC and two small “Early Entry HQs”.
As for brigade-level communications and ICS support, the Army has a single sqn in support of the Air Assault Task force generated from 16 Air Assault brigade and 4 Multi-Role signal regiments to cover for the three Reaction Force brigades and everything drawn from the Adaptable Force.
The shortage is real: the whole Adaptable Force, with its 7 “brigades” does not include a single assigned Royal Signal formation. Not one.
With the Army moving to a 4 reaction brigades structure (2 armoured and 2 “strike”), the Multi-Role Signal regiments will probably stop pretending to rotate in and out of role and will end up aligning permanently each to a particular brigade.

It is fundamental to rationalize the HQs and the (insufficient) resources that support them. The largest deficit is in Royal Signal regiments. Entire formations are needed yet inexistent, and there are obvious difficulties in trying to re-generate such specialized, training-intensive formations, even if Light Role infantry battalions were cut and manpower allocations shifted. It would still be complex, expensive and slow to recruit, train and organize the very many communication specialists needed.
So, how do we improve the current situation?
By cutting the ARRC. Or, at least, by removing the signal resources assigned to it.

Sometimes, when talking about defence, the infamous “vanity project” accusation comes up. I despise that kind of argument, but if there is one area where it is applicable, it is in the area of big, hulking NATO Corps level commands. Europe is crammed full of 3 Star land HQs, as everyone wants to get the chance to be the leader in a large NATO operation. The UK has the ARRC, France has its own 3 star HQ, Italy has another, Spain has one, Germany and Netherlands maintain another, one is in Greece, one in Poland, one in Turkey. And there is the Eurocorps too, which is not a NATO formation but is linked by an agreement that allows its employment.
There is a shortage of deployable Divisions to populate army Corps, but HQ-wise, we are well covered.
It is my opinion that the UK and NATO would both be better served by a more rationally structured and equipped British Army, better able to support enduring operations.
Re-roling and re-assigning the resources of 30 and 22 Signal Regiment would greatly ease the Royal Signal crisis, and reduce the amount of extra formations to be rebuilt. It would still be necessary to raise a number of squadrons to complete the force structure:
-          The two Early Entry HQs would become aligned with the HQs of 16 Air Assault and 3 Commando brigades. Being the early entry formations, they are best placed to be the first Joint Forces command deployed in a theatre of operation. This will also restore both formations to “true” brigade status, from their current resourcing more adequate to just generating and supporting a battlegroup.
-          The two Deployable Division HQs would become the frameworks of two Joint Task Forces HQs. They will have a “traditional” manoeuvre division HQ element and a more capable Joint Force main HQ element within the same organization, and will each have a Divisional Signal Regiment as enabler.
-          244 Sqn, 30 Signal Regiment is currently the only formation tasked with providing communication support to aviation elements. A second Av Sp Sqn would be required, and would have to be formed, in order to assign one formation to each Combat Aviation Brigade.
-          216 Signal Sqn should be expanded to a Multi Role Signal Regiment. This would require taking command of 250 Gurkha Signal Sqn (currently part of 30 Signal Regiment, but already tasked with support to the Air Assault Task Force) and of at least part of 258 Sqn (also from 30 Regiment), which is tasked with supporting and enabling the Early Entry HQs. 3 Commando brigade’s signal element will get a similar reinforcement.
-          30 Signal Regiment will need, effectively, 3 new squadrons to replace the existing ones, which will keep their specialization and will move towards the relevant supported HQs. 30 Signal Regiment will become a Multi Role Signal Regiment of the brigade type.

The end result should be:

-          6 Brigade-level Multi Role Signal Regiments (2, 21, 22, 30, 16 and another formed with 216 Parachute Signal Sqn as base). Two regiments in heavy armour role, two in mechanized role and 2 Light / Air Assault.
-          2 Divisional Signal Regiments (1, 3)
-          2 Aviation Support Squadrons

These resources are meant to enable the re-organization of the Field Army upon two identical Divisions, on the same general model followed by the French Armee de Terre, with each formation including one Light / Air Mobile formation (parachute role to stay focused within 16 Air Assault Bde only); one Medium (or Strike, if you prefer) bde and one Heavy bde. The Division will have its own Logistic Brigade, an Artillery Group and an attached “Combat Aviation Brigade.
The two divisions will alternate yearly into readiness.
HQ UK Support Command would control the remaining elements of the Army, with “London District” replaced by a Brigade-level HQ, the Guards Brigade.

Combined Arms Regiments

Resources available: 227 Challenger 2; 245 Warrior CSP in IFV configuration; FV432 Bulldog then ABSV

Army 2020 has 3 Type 56 tank regiments, each with 3 large squadrons of 18 tanks plus 2 for the RHQ. Exercises have shown that this arrangement (and in general the number of tanks available) is not sufficient to provide MBT support to all battlegroups generated from the brigade.
The Warrior CSP programme will retrofit 245 vehicles with the new turret and 40mm gun. This number appears insufficient to equip 6 armoured infantry battalions, especially considering a healthy number of vehicles is assigned to BATUS.
Each tank and armoured infantry regiment should enjoy a recce element with 8 Ajax vehicles, but this will become hard to accomplish now than a fourth cavalry regiment is required for the 2nd Strike Brigade.

One solution to these issues is the Combined Arms Regiment, already adopted years ago by the US Army and, in several variations, by Israel, Italy and others.
The existing 3 tank and 6 armoured infantry regiments / battalions would be integrated to generate six new units, named “regiments” and formally composed of two “battalions” (for capbadges preservation, mostly):

-          1 “battalion” with 2 tank companies, each with 14 Challenger 2. Ideally, 2 more tanks would be required for the HQ
-          1 “battalion” on 2 armoured infantry companies, each with 14 Warrior CSP
-          1 regimental HQ Coy
-          1 regimental Support Coy with mortars and ATGW
-          1 regimental Reconnaissance Coy with 3 recce troops (8 Ajax plus as many Ares APCs and/or Warrior CSP carrying dismounts) plus Sniper platoon and Pioneers (the snipers commonly end up working in close collaboration with the recce platoon anyway)

This extremely powerful formation is, in practice, a formed, stable battlegroup. Each of the two armoured brigades would have 3 of these, which could alternate regularly in the role of Lead Armoured Battlegroup at high readiness. Supplemented by one squadron from the brigade’s Cavalry regiment; one artillery element from the brigade’s Fires regiment and one logistic and support group, it would make for a very capable early entry heavy force.
Having three in each brigade could allow an 18 months readiness period, in which each battlegroup is at high readiness for 6 months.
This should enable a somewhat reduced pressure on personnel, which could otherwise end up facing a demanding schedule in the passage from a 3-brigades to a 2-brigades rotation model.


The centralization of supports that took place in the last few years will be, in good measure, reversed. Signal Regiments first of all: it has already become evident (arguably, it always was, if you ask me) that the “rotation” does not really work. My suggestion for the future army assumes that signal regiments will be closely related to a brigade or division HQ.
1 Signal Brigade would be disbanded as a consequence of the end of the ARRC mission as detailed earlier.

Artillery regiments will also 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. This group 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.
The Div Arty group will also regularly control the assigned Air Defence Regiment generated from Joint Ground Based Air Defence, with 12 and 16 Regiments alternating in readiness and coming with a mix of Stormer HVM and FLAADS Land Ceptor batteries.
3 AS90 batteries will re-role on L118 as one Heavy brigade converts into a mechanized / Strike formation.
A 4th Precision Fires battery on GMLRS and Exactor should however be formed, so that each Heavy and Strike brigade have one.
Reserve Artillery regiments on L118 will be disbanded and the batteries assigned directly to the currently small and rather under-strength Adaptable and Air Assault artillery regiments on L118. These regiments currently have only 12 guns each (in two batteries of 6 in the case of 7 RHA, possibly in 3 batteries of 4 elsewhere, a final decision might not have been made yet).
They should be ideally uplifted each to 3 batteries of six guns, but it might only be possible to achieve a 3x4 structure due mainly to manpower problems. The two Light / Air Assault regiments should receive two reserve gun batteries each.
4 Royal Artillery Regiment is currently classed as “Adaptable Regiment – Large”, as it has 6 batteries, having an extra Tac Gp Bty in force. It is the obvious candidate to become the Fires element of the second Strike Brigade, converting its “extra” bty to GMLRS.
Some manpower will become available thanks to the downgrade of one of the regiments currently on AS90. It should be enough to make the extra GMLRS Bty possible.
7 RHA should also see V Parachute Battery brought out of Suspended Animation to return to a 3 gun batteries structure.

Close Support Engineer regiments will also be aligned to the brigades. The current two adaptable regiments only have two regular squadrons, plus 1 or two reserve squadrons. The Parachute and Commando regiments also have only 2 regular squadrons each, plus 1 reserve. An uplift would be required, but the manpower margin from “downgrading” one regiment from Heavy Armour to Mechanized will probably only suffice to fix one of the two Adaptable regiments, to cover the second Strike brigade. Additional manpower can only be obtained at the expense of infantry posts, if the total is to stay at just 82.000.
The uplift would be needed as currently 21 and 32 RE have each only two regular squadrons and one reserve sqn. 23 PARA and 24 Commando are in the same situation, and all would benefit from an extra regular sqn.

The logistic element requires a rethink. Army 2020 leaves the Army with the Reaction Brigades well supported each by a Close Support, a Theatre support and a Reserve transport regiments, while the support available to the Adaptable Brigades is made up by two bare-bones “Force Support” regiments.
A re-organization is needed, to create a modern “Brigade Support Regiment”, in Heavy, Medium and Light variants, thought to cover the needs of a maneuver brigade in the field, with the Theatre level of support held back at divisional level, within the Logistic Brigade.
It is important that the Brigade HQ is not detached from the logistic element of maneuver: the brigade commander must be very much involved in the logistical aspect, always. He cannot and should not attempt to maneuver without having a clear understanding and grip over logistics in his area.
At the same time, the commander must be relieved of theatre-wide considerations, which must be handled at a superior level.
Close Support Logistic is a brigade task, Theatre Support should be a Division task, handled through the Logistic Brigade.
Close Support Logistics must also include the maintenance of vehicles and equipment, so that the brigade’s REME battalion is also an important part of the restructuring. Closely related is also the medical aspect: the experience of brigade logistic support in other countries (but also, to stay within the UK, in 3 Commando Brigade) shows that Medical, Equipment Support, Fuel and general stores are so closely related to be pretty commonly reunited inside the very same regiment (It happens in 3 Commando but also in US BCTs and in Italian army brigades, to make a few examples).
Each Brigade should have its own “Support Group” comprising a capable Brigade Logistic Regiment, a REME Equipment Support battalion and the Medical Regiment.
Theatre-level support, movement of supplies, transport of heavy vehicles, reception staging and onwards movement (RSOM) and field hospitals are instead better left at the Divisional Level, via Logistic Brigade.
The relevant elements will be generated from Force Troops Command to compose the Vanguard Enabling Group.

The Brigade Logistic Regiments would be built from the existing Close Support Regiments (1, 3, 4 RLC) and from the Adaptable Force Logistic Regiments (6, 7 RLC). The latter will need expansion, as currently they are composed only of one supply sqn and a Fuel Sqn plus HQ.
13 Air Assault Regiment RLC would be restructured to accommodate a wider brigade role compared to its current structure, optimized for support to the sole Air Assault Task Force.
The three Theatre Support Regiments would redistribute part of their manpower and capability and would become two, held at Logistic Brigade level.
Currently the Army has a single Tank Transporter Sqn. It might make sense to recreate a second sqn, so each Division has its own. This will also depend on the future face of this capability, as the current PFI arrangement ends in 2024 and there is no info yet on what will be done next.

REME resources would also need to be redistributed and re-arranged. Each brigade should have a capable Equipment Support Battalion, which would be obviously larger in equipment-intensive Heavy Brigades and smaller in the Light Brigades. The current 3 armoured close support REME formations (3, 4 and 6) can cover the two Heavy Brigades and one Strike Brigade (one regiment will become a bit smaller as it is “downgraded” to mechanized). 1 and 2 REME battalions currently are 2-companies formations assigned  to the Adaptable Force. Each would need uplift, with one being assigned to the second Strike Brigade and one to the Light Brigade.
16 Air Assault Brigade currently only has 8 Field Coy REME, under command of the RLC Regiment. This needs to be uplifted to a light role REME battalion by adding two extra coys and one HQ.

Finally, each Division should have its “Theatre-level” Force Support battalion. Currently, only one exists (5 REME). Another should be raised, with both becoming Hybrid formations with 2 regular and 2 reserve companies.
This substantial restructuring would be eased somewhat by the fact that at least 6 regimental Light Aid Detachments would become available for reassignment as the Tank regiments are incorporated into the Combined Arms Regiments and at least 3 Light Role infantry battalions are disbanded. The RLC restructuring could also possibly free up some resources.

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 make force structure of readiness mechanism that, in large part, already exist. Under Army 2020, for example, 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.

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 HQ, structured to support 2 deployable elements alternating into readiness
-          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
-          One Watchkeeper battery, in close contact with the ISR brigade

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.

Mechanized and Light brigades

Each mechanized brigade should have one Cavalry regiment on Ajax and three infantry battalions mounted on MIV vehicles. These infantry elements should be large and capable, and be built to the numbers of the Army 2020 Heavy Protected Mobility Battalions. This means being established for 709 men and women, and currently there are only 3 such battalions planned: 3 more will need to re-role and expand in order to form two brigades.
Obviously, the required manpower will have to come out of other battalions. The fourth and additional Armoured Cavalry regiment will also require a shift of resources within the cavalry. The formation of the Combined Arms Regiments in the Armoured Brigades should help in freeing up some personnel both in the Cavalry, Infantry and REME domains, but wider restructuring will be required.

Two Light Cavalry regiments would be assigned to the Light / Air Assault brigades. The third would give its Colours to the resurrected CBRN Regiment, and part of its manpower would shift towards 3 Commando Brigade to help form a Cavalry element within 30 Commando IX.

The Light Brigades would be structured on 4 regular infantry battalions each. 16 Air Assault Brigade would keep the 2 PARA battalions (and with them, the Parachute entry role and capability) and add two Light Protected Mobility battalions. 51 Brigade would have two Light Role / Air Mobile battalions and two Light Protected Mobility Battalions.
The Light role and Light Protected Mobility battalions should receive a manpower uplift to at least restore the lost rifle platoons that were sacrificed within Army 2020 planning.

16 Air Assault needs extra REME resources: it has been given 8 Field Company, removed from 7 Battalion REME, but needs to receive further resources to form a Lightweight Equipment Support Battalion commensurate to the task of supporting the enlarged brigade’s capability.

In order to make possible the restructuring of the Army, manpower margins have to be created, and the only way to do so while preserving wider capability is to cut a number of Light Role infantry battalions. At least 3 battalions would be removed from the ORBAT, resulting in over 1600 posts “recovered” and available for other uses. Of these, 450 would go to beef up three battalions for the second Strike Brigade, and another 600 to reinforce the Light Protected and Light Role battalions in the two Light brigades. The Royal Signals expansion would absorb much of what’s left, and any remaining margin would be useful in Royal Engineers, REME or Artillery figures.  

28 battalions are enough to sustain the proposed force structure and continue with all other commitments (1 Special Forces Support Group, 2 Public Duty battalions, 2 battalions in Cyprus, 1 in Brunei), with a margin of 2 Light Role battalions (at Army 2020 establishment) for Defence Engagement and other tasks.

So I believe that, overall, this proposed structure delivers the best balance of capability and makes the best possible use of available manpower, vehicles and equipment. It closes some of the worst gaps that Army 2020 created, and does so at an overall acceptable cost for the infantry.