In the previous paper this blog set out some tentative ideas, in the hope of attracting comment more than anything else, and fortunately plenty of comment was received, all of it useful. DominicJ, Jed, Jackstaff and Steve Coltman all have the gratitude of this blogger, much was learned, many ideas rethought, and now its time to have another stab at the matter.
So what is the aim of the exercise, what capability is desired, and how should it be sustained?
First the assumptions used as a starting point:
1. The reality that even if Britain is not to become a COIN force per-se, the nature of conflict for at least the coming generation will require persistent effect, and we should be prepared to commit to that through NATO.
1.1. The primary fighting unit of the British Army is the brigade, so the battle-groups within that formation should work-up, deploy, and work down, as a unit, otherwise the brigade is merely an administrative formation.
2. Britain has the skill and experience to act as the ‘door-kicker’ in modern conflict, and a desire to maintain sovereign & strategic force projection, so the permanent ability to intervene in medium scale operations is desired.
2.2. To borrow a phrase from elsewhere; unless we wish to be permanently tied to US logistical apron-strings this requires ships, and in particular the RN amphibious fleet to deploy and sustain brigade level forces.
3. The accepted maxim for persistent force is considered to be at least a six month operational deployment followed by twenty-four months on work-up, work-down, and low-intensity activity, so a four-to-one ratio overall.
3.1 The accepted maxim for a permanent capability, i.e. one that does not have to be sustained to the detriment or rest and recuperation is a two-to-one ratio better known as work-up > deploy > work-down.
4. In addition to a continuous state of sustained force in support of multilateral operations of choice, Britain has both an obligation to keep forces ready for Nato Article 5 events and/or matters of British national interest.
4.1. In addition to maintaining forces both for sustained multilateral operations and medium-scale operations in support of Article 5 or British interests, it will be desirable to maintain a deployable battle-group in support of larger brigade level operations or to quell small-scale military events.
To meet the above requirements of permanent and persistent force available on both a brigade level and a battle-group level, and do so within the proscription of a ground force that numbers no more than 80 combat units, this blog has made the following compromises:
a) While it is accepted that larger and more specialised brigades are desirable, the need to keep the brigade as the primary battle formation necessitates smaller brigades given the limited numbers available to sustain the above capabilities.
b) While it is accepted that a four-to-one ratio is most efficient to sustain persistent effect, the desire to maintain persistent and permanent requires a five-to-one ratio in force structure.
c) While it is accepted that a two-to-one ratio is most efficient to sustain permanent effect, the desire to maintain permanent and persistent requires a eight-to-one ratio in force structure.
d) While (b) and (c) above might seem confusing, it results from a desire add additional permanent effect to persistent forces, and likewise incorporate some limited level of persistence in permanent forces.
The result of this is a slightly mathematical approach which includes six medium brigades comprising an armoured regiment, armoured infantry, a mechanised battalion and a light-infantry battalion, in addition to three rapid-reaction brigades comprising of three light-infantry battalions:
Each Line represents a battle-group within the highlighted brigade, usually built around a battalion or regiment.
A red “D” represents an active deployment, whereas a black “D” represents a potential deployment / reserve.
As is hopefully clear above the medium brigades rotate through two cycles of work-up > deploy > work-down with the second deployment held as a (permanent) reserve against Article 5 events or matters of British national interest, thus maintaining a regular schedule conducive to the welfare of the troops.
Likewise, the rapid-reaction brigades would not expect to be routinely deployed, kept as they are for what is notionally to be termed as Strategic Raiding, but would instead collectively maintain a battle-group persistently deployable at all times.
The seventh RUSI paper notes that of the following 98 major ground units listed below we might need to trim this down to circa 80:
Armoured regiments – 10 (presumed to include Armoured & Formation Reconnaissance)
Infantry battalions – 36 (presumed to include Armoured, Mechanised and Light)
Artillery regiments – 14 (presumed not to include home defence or training regiments)
Engineer regiments – 11 (presumed not to include 2x RAF support & 2x training regiments)
Signals Regiments – 12 (presumed not to include training regiment)
Royal Marine – 4 (inc Fleet protection)
RAF Regiment – 3
Special Forces – 7
The proposal outlined here would reduce this to the following:
Medium brigades –
6x Armoured/Formation Reconnaissance
6x Infantry (Armoured)
6x Infantry (Mechanised)
6x Infantry (Light)
6x Artillery (AS90/GMLRS)
6x Engineers (Combat)
Rapid-Reaction brigades –
3x Infantry (Light)
3x Artillery (105a/120m)
3x Engineers (Combat)
7x Special Forces
1x RM Force Protection
2x RAF Regiment
3x Light (Local)
2x Artillery (Air Defence)
1x Artillery (UAV)
1x Artillery (Training)
1x Engineering (Training)
1x Signals (Training)
1x Armoured (Training/CRBN)
This is nominally 80 major ground formations, and within the RUSI proscription of ~80 to meet the requirements of an expected budget cut of 15-17 percent. While the brigades are smaller than might be otherwise desirable, persistent reinforcement can come from the rapid-reaction battle-group, or alternatively, brigade level reinforcement can be temporarily provided by either the non-deployed medium brigade or the ready rapid-reaction brigade.
The end result appears flexible, as at any one time a brigade and battle-group can be sustained persistently, and a permanent capability to deploy a medium brigade and a rapid reaction brigade can be maintained temporarily. The persistent medium brigade deployment would include a 2-star / Northag style headquarters as part of a Contributory operation.
While it would be possible to surge the deployment to two medium brigades, this would be time limited to an operation enduring no more than three years, and likewise a continuous deployment of the rapid-reaction brigades could last no longer than eighteen months. This is deemed an acceptable trade-off for a Strategic Raiding / Contributory posture.
While it could be argued that rapid-reaction brigades composed of only three principle fighting formations are too small to achieve strategic effect, it should be remembered that there will always be a second, non-deployed, medium brigade in rotation able to provide a tailored battle-group for the situation at hand.
The matter of whether the six medium brigades should be uniform is entirely open, given the rotation through two deployable phases it is entirely possible for the reserve brigade to provide specialist function or reinforcement to the active brigade.
1. Are medium brigades composed of four primary combat formations an effective compromise to provide the flexibility of a larger number of brigades?
2. Will reducing the rapid reaction brigades to three primary combat formations grossly inhibit their effectiveness?
3. Is it still grossly unrealistic to expect to operate nine brigades in an army of 80,000, or to use RUSI FDR7 parlance; ~80 major ground formations?
4. Would it be better to ditch the idea of six small medium brigades, and substitute three large multi-role brigades on the understanding that persistent brigade level deployments would be impossible.
5. How would you provide a permanent capability for sovereign and strategic force projection (i.e. Strategic Raiding), without having three light rapid-reaction brigades?
6. Is the description of permanent and persistent force understandable, and does it make sense?
7. This UKDF article is very keen on the idea of maintaining a two-star headquarters along with a brigade to act as a useful spine around which multi-lateral missions can be coordinated, how is this different from Northag or ARRC?
Your thoughts are welcome…………….
Update – 06/08/10
A very interesting article written for RUSI by Major General Chris Wilson titled; Enhancing the UK’s Rapid Intervention Options: The Joint Medium Weight Capability. It is looking at how Britain’s medium weight forces can be reconfigured to provide a joint package capable of deploying Medium scale forces (brigade level?) at High Readiness for Focused Intervention and Power Projection, and also Small scale forces (battle-group?) at Very High Readiness for Peace Enforcement and Focused Intervention. It would indicate that I am at least on the right track with my proposal above, even if off-target on its implementation.
Again my thanks go out to DominicJ and Jackstaff, for injecting a little realism into my nine-brigade wunderforce.