Friday, 8 March 2013

Army 2020 and the Desert Rats losing their tanks - does it really matter?

This week the Secretary of State for Defence was able to formally announce to Parliament the planned future basing strategy for the British Army. This significant announcement heralds the end of the British presence in Germany, some 70 years after the end of WW2, and perhaps forever sees the removal of significant formations of British troops from mainland Europe.

The announcement showed that in future, the British Army is going to be concentrated across several core sites and areas, rather than being dispersed to the four winds. This inherently sensible strategy of trying to base together units and formations means it will be easier to achieve collective training, and also hopefully instil some stability in what has often been a rollercoaster of a postings plot. In an ideal world, the greater stability offered by a home based army, coupled with more time at home should hopefully lead to better retention at all levels of the forces.

Additionally, some £1.8 billion of investment has been programmed to build new accommodation for the returning troops and units. While some may complain that this seems a lot, the reality is that much of this money would have had to be spent anyway at some stage as existing barracks were updated. One of the major challenges facing MOD is how to upgrade existing accommodation to make it fit for purpose – particularly when so much of the estate is often pre WW2 in age, and fails to match up to modern standards. There is seemingly little point in investing money on training and equipment if the location your troops live in is a dump – they will often walk away, and you end up with a real retention problem as a result.

So, in many ways this announcement was good news – the Army now has a clear plan to deliver to, and the way is clear to begin preparing for Army 2020,which will see a theoretical force of some 82000 regulars and 30000 reservists make up the future military.

Challenger 2 MBT
The problem to the authors mind isn’t the announcement, but the manner in which the media have chosen to interpret it. Buried among the details was the news that the 7th Armoured Brigade (the so-called ‘Desert Rats’) would lose its armoured capability and instead become an infantry brigade. The reaction from the media has been one of nearly controlled hysteria as they published article after article making out that due to the loss of tanks, the UK is no longer a military power (the articles were nearly identical in tone to ones stating that due to the loss, of potential loss of Sea Harrier, Aircraft Carriers, Trident, the Red Arrows, cuts to the SAS, the Household Cavalry and presumably the Women’s Auxiliary Balloon Corps, the UK has ceased to be a military power several times over).

To the authors mind this is a good example of how it is increasingly difficult to have a rationale and coherent debate about meaningful reform of the military in the UK. Of course it is difficult when units have to be disbanded, titles changed or roles amended. But fundamentally the military as it exists is a product of generations of exactly this sort of process occurring. Almost all of todays military units that exist in the Army do so as a result of generations of amalgamations, disbandment, role changing and different ways of doing business. Whether we accept it or not, the Army is inherently an organisation which exists in a state of near perpetual change.

One only has to look at the title ‘7th Armoured Brigade’ to realise that it doesn’t exactly have an ancient history as an organisation – formed as an armoured division in WW2, its name, title, assigned units and role have changed many times in the last 70 years. While the desert rat flash rightly occupies a place in the British mindset, as a symbol of victory in the desert and of later successes in other wars, it doesn’t mean that the organisation somehow automatically needs tanks in order for it to be a success.

It is emotive when units change roles or titles, and there is no doubt that from a purely emotive perspective it will be a sad day when the formation no longer operates armour. However, we have to be objective here. There are several armoured brigades in the British Army, and they will be reducing in number. There is nothing particularly special about the 7th Armoured Brigade that means it must be kept in priority to other Armoured formations – indeed, many of them have long and glorious histories. What is it about 7th Armoured that has gained it column inches in a way that many other disbandments- say the loss of the regional forces 2* HQ (2,4,5 Division – all formations with great historical past) or the loss of the BAOR Armoured Divisions in the early 1990s didn’t get?

To the authors strictly personal view, it is a case that the media chose to focus on simple symbols and issues that they get, and believe that their readers will ‘get’ in order to stir up the appropriate level of ‘outrage’. Most readers of a certain age will be familiar with the Desert Rat symbol, and its easy to tie this purported loss into a wider narrative of national decline and failure in a way that saying 4 Mechanized Brigade losing its tanks wouldn’t get (the so-called 'black rat' patch). This is perhaps ironic, that a unit of equal history, provenance and role as 7 Armoured has generated no meaningful coverage at all of its Army 2020 future, despite being affected in the same way. The difference is that while the 7th Armoured 'Desert Rats Brand' is vaguely known to many British people, 4th Mechanised has never ocuppied a similar place in the public conciousness.

The problem is that it makes it increasingly hard to have rationale debates about how the military is structured. Its an old joke, but it is tellingly true that you know that a planning round is going ahead when the tired old ‘Disband the Red Arrows’, ‘Scrap the Household Cavalry’ or other such stories start doing the rounds. Certain elements of the military have achieved a near mythological status in the public mindset, which means any effort to do away with them is all but impossible. For instance, we recently had the sight of the Prime Minister turning the existence of the Red Arrows into a political matter, even before any decisions on the final size of the budget were taken, due to it being on the front page of the media.

The irony is that the same papers that go into ‘outrage overdrive’ the moment they see a defence issue that they think the public will understand (such as Aircraft Carriers with no planes, or Desert Rats with no tanks), are the first ones willing to complain that the MOD is unwilling to modernise, needs to do more with its resources and needs to be more attuned to the 21st Century. All well said and done, but how is this possible when the moment even a hint of change is considered, we see the nations media mobilised for war against the Ministry for even considering such disloyal thoughts?

More than just a symbol?
The reality is that the UK will not find itself militarily impaired simply for providing a force structure where the Desert Rats don’t have tanks. One only has to look at recent military operations to realise that in the 70 odd years since the end of WW2, the UK has employed armour on military operations on relatively few occasions (Korea, Gulf War 1, Kosovo and the Balkans, Operation TELIC). Outside of the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars, these deployments have been limited in number to at most a couple of squadrons of vehicles. Even the 1991 and 2003 wars only saw the deployment of at most some two brigades worth of armour. This isn’t to ignore the role played by the British Army of the Rhine, with its armoured divisions held against a theoretical Warsaw Pact attack, but the reality is that for most of the last 70 years, the UK has had very little need to call on armour for actual, rather than contingent, military operations.

The tank does still have an absolutely critical role to play in the modern military environment, but it comes with a significant footprint attached to its use. Even in Iraq during Operation TELIC, once the initial warfighting phase was over, there were rarely more than 12-16 tanks actually based in theatre. In Afghanistan not a single British tank has been deployed, although there has been enormous innovation and development of wheeled vehicles capable of mounting significant firepower. One only has to look at the future force structure to see that there is a significant appetite and requirement for the mid level vehicles – the lightly armoured reconnaissance roles and fire support roles which can be filled by a variety of vehicles. At the same time the growth of capability such as Apache, the Javelin anti-tank missile and Brimstone means that a wide range of means of delivering firepower exist, which do not always require a tank to do the job.

So, given that the UK has only deployed a maximum of two armoured brigades on any operation since the end of WW2, and given that the future force still envisages three armoured brigades on the order of battle, it is hard to see a threat to national security from this small change.

The real challenge is trying to win the PR battle to explain why these cuts are required, and how difficult it is to field first rate military force these days. The British public tend to be remarkably morose when it comes to discussing their nations military potential. There is a real tendency to do down the remarkable achievements of the British military over the years, and look back with misty eyed fondness to a past that never really existed.

It is very easy to look at a table showing how many troops and tanks may have been in service in the 1960s and compare that to today, and then think that we somehow no longer matter. Of course it is sometimes sad to look at the many units and equipment which no longer exists, but at the same time we need to be coldly realistic about this. The harsh reality is that to own and successfully employ a first rate, world class, military is extremely expensive. To buy the high end equipment, to support it, train with it and operate it takes a lot of money, and that only gets more expensive when you factor in wage costs too. Our military is a world class organisation, but it costs a phenomenal amount of money to run.

Of course the UK could adopt a different path, and instead of buying world class equipment, it could buy slightly cheaper and less effective equipment – this would increase manpower requirements, add significantly to the costs needed to buy sufficient vehicles or planes to do the job, and reduce our ability to work at the head of a coalition force. We’d not really save money, but we could perhaps convince the public that somehow possession of a force of 800 – 1000 tanks was a good thing – even if they weren’t as good as what we wanted, and even if we didn’t have the ability to manufacture or modify them (assuming we bought off the shelf from overseas). One only has to look at many of the armies out there to see orders of battle full of tanks, guns and troops, but relatively few logistical, signals or support elements. On paper these armies look incredible, but in reality their lack of investment in things that really matter means that they would struggle to deploy or sustain themselves for any length of time. At best they are almost a means of symbolic defence – much as an animal can modify itself to look bigger, scarier or more dangerous than it actually is, these armies have a similar function. They look dangerous, but when push comes to shove, many will struggle to achieve the most basic of military tasks.

The reason why the British Army has been reasonably successful is because of its investment in the less glamorous equipment and support areas, and focusing on being able to deliver capability when required. This means that when changes go through, it is still able to deploy effectively – one only has to look at the size of deployments in recent decades to realise that despite the army being half the size it was compared to 1990, it is still able to deploy an almost identical level of troops and capability.

 We are as a nation rightly proud of our history, and it is something to be moved by, the way in which the British take such a fierce pride in their military heritage and history. We associate ourselves with concepts, units and names that have long since ceased to be part of the order of battle, or whose veterans have long since passed away. Despite this, we continue to value these links. In the authors family, a prized possession is the Jerboa flash of his Grandfather, who was a founding member of the Desert Rats during WW2 and who fought with the Division for much of its wartime adventures. Similarly, the author himself feels an affinity to the Desert Rats, having served alongside them at a Divisional level during one of the TELICs, and a prized possession of his is a more modern ‘Jerboa’ which sits as a quiet reminder of a particularly challenging deployment.

So to the authors mind, the challenge here is to be able to explain to the public why the Desert Rats not having tanks doesn’t mean that the UK is no longer a military power. There is no easy way of doing this for its much easier to look into a headline and believe that the lack of a tank under an organisational structure means that we’re doomed, than it is to believe that little has changed beyond the units assigned to the formation. One only has to look at the quality of the people assigned to a unit to realise that for all the administrative changes, the quality of the individual British soldier continues to be a unifying and reassuring symbol of hope and pride, regardless of the role, structure, organisation, capbadge that they wear. That is perhaps the only thing that really matters in this debate.


  1. "due to the loss, of potential loss of Sea Harrier, Aircraft Carriers, ..., the UK has ceased to be a military power several times over"

    OTOH, your comfortable opposite argument is not that comforting either, since death by a thousand cuts is still death. How much more could be lost before you would judge cessation of effective military power status?

    1. Frank - an interesting question and one that almost deserves a blog post in itself. What I find fascinating is that the UK has reduced significantly military capabilities over the years, but has still demonstrated an ability to operate at the highest levels of military operations. Somehow cuts have yet to result in a demonstrable lack of capability if that makes sense - yes we have less, but we still have enough to get by for what we do.
      Meanwhile other countries seem to have gotten out of vast swathes of the military game altogether with similar cuts, and have lost influence and the ability. Somehow the UK is able to keep going, and I'm still not 100% certain why this may be!

    2. But it would be a different story if we had to undertake a major operation against a capable opponent without the support of allies. In all recent campaigns involving the UK armed forces the US has done the heavy lifting. Obviously the planning assumption is that this is unlikely to happen and the UK will always be working as part of a coalition, but if the UK HAD to go it alone as we did in 1982 I think that we would struggle.

      Yes, the hysteria of the media does make rational analysis and debate almost impossible. But it also needs to be acknowledged that the repeated cuts of recent years HAVE impacted on what our armed forces are able to do. To be eternally optimistic is just as misplaced as the eternal pessimism of the media.

    3. Thats a fair point - but as a return question, under what conceivable circumstances can you see the UK being committed to a solo campaign without international support.
      Its been a reality of UK defence planning since the 1950s that the UK will not be doing solo major operations anymore. Partly out of cost, partly because few credible opponents exist who could also work solo.
      So, my question would be, define any nation out there who could conduct a solo campaign against the UK = after all, I see this line bandied around quite a lot, but I've yet to see anyone define who we are supposed to fight against, or why their power is so much more capable than our own that they can fight alone and unhindered.

      I agree eternal optimism is dangerous, but I'm trying in my own head to formulate a post about what we cannot do anymore as a sense of 'what have the Defence cuts stopped us doing' - may be a while to do, but its something I'd like to try and bottom out.

  2. I think its a step not far enough.
    For all our investment in logistics, A British Armoured Brigade would have a somewhere in the region of 465 combat vehicles and at least another 200 logistics vehicles, probably far far more.
    The RN and RFA can deploy some 156 vehicles, if every landing ship is used.

    The reality is we can deploy an armoured battle group before we need to start begging for support, be that more landers, a secure port to land a cargo ship at, or logistical support in theatre so that we can deploy more teeth and less tail, but even then, its a third of our teeth.

    1. TRT - a very good point, although I think you underestimate the amount of vehicle lift available via the RN, RFA, RORO and so on.
      That said, take one look at the amount of chartering required for TELIC, and you'll realise why deploying an armoured division is a challenging undertaking - without rail assets or ships to charter, its probably impossible.

    2. The Point Class does bring us in to deploying a full Brigade with supplies (one assumes that was planned), but the Points require a secure port, and I question the ability of a force deployed by the Amphibs to secure a port against competent opposition.
      Or for that matter, the fleet to protect them from a hostile airforce during off loads.

  3. Makes sense to retain 7th brigade in some shape and form being that's it's the most recognisable to the wider public (although as you say a lot of other units have lengthy and interesting histories).

    Beyond that I don't really mind whether they have tanks or are infantry, I agree with what you say about sensationalism and hysteria in the media and with the general public making it very difficult to have rational discussions and make logical decisions.

  4. got to visit the desert rats in germany, their brigade catering team put on THE BEST bbq I have EVER experienced in my life, and then they gave us jerboa cookies, assuming the cooks are retained I have no problems with this

  5. In what type of conflict will we retain a decisive land force?

    It is also a bit disingenuous to describe the deployability of the 1990 army as equivalent to today. When gulf1 kicked off there was a concurrent operation in NI and, of course, we had a NATO commitment in Germany. In terms of numbers I would be interested to see the result.

    For GW1 the question is, did we send what we did because it was all we could send, or was it what we could send whilst meeting all the other commitments?

    Lastly, I suppose even if we can send more or less the same numbers anywhere for a defined period, it will always be the same people in future?

    Anyone can be a cheerleader for change

  6. The army should at least say how they chose 1st, 12th and 20th BDE and not 4th and 7th. And why 3rd Division gets the glory (or danger) of being the reaction force and not 1st Division.

    1. I suspect the actual process will never be made public, but I am sure there are good reasons. Equally for every argument in favour of 7&4 Bdes, its important to remember that 1,12,20 also have equally vocal supporters who'd express similar views.

    2. I suspect and well don't quote me, it is due to the GOC of 3rd Division.

  7. I don't know why Sir Humph still vibrates with righteous indignation over the journalistic hype that pretends to enlighten and inform the barely literate readership of newspapers.
    It's what they do. Their job is to sell papers to a declining number of less influential chavs who believe that Westminster is the centre of all things intelligent and noteworthy. To do that they create dissent, intolerance, argument and spite in order to make more of the same mischief.
    In the course of that, they also create the Humphs of this world to dispel the hysteria and spread calm, order and rational, informed, debate.

    1. Derek - I suspect I'm still naive enough to wish for higher standards in the media - I really should know better by now :-)

      That said I agree entirely with your very astute post.

  8. Sir Humphrey I broadly agree with this and you are right there are far too many sacred cows in UK defence. It is also true that the services or units mobilise public affection (gained from past glories) to protect themselves anytime they are threatened with cuts (or more constructively, re-structuring). The most obvious example is the RAF's use of the Battle of Britain & the sacrifices of Bomber Command to command public & political support which translates in to funding sometimes against all logic.

    You are also right to suggest that the case for keeping significant numbers of British main battle tanks is weak given their cost, increasing vulnerability and very rare use. (Not to mention their huge logistics tail and that they will require transport by sea and a good port even to get close to any likely battlefield).

    Curious that when I suggested restructuring the RAF you dismissed it as a 'pub rant'. It would seem the Army and Navy are fair game but RAF enjoy special status within the Civil Service?

    1. NavyLookout
      the problem is that the suggestion you made had absolutely no economic sense and would massively hinder UK defence as a whole.
      I'm going to sound slightly harsher than usual here, but here goes. I've worn dark blue uniform for my entire adult life. I adore the Naval Service, I am immensely proud to be part of it, and I am happy that I have served my country in some very nasty and incredibly dangerous places as a result of this. Along the way I've had some great adventures and met some incredible people - BUT, I am sick to death of the ridiculous level of conspiracy that some attach to the RN/RAF debate.

      It drives me up the wall to see this continued 'isn't the RAF nasty because it stole our aircraft carriers' line of debate. I've worked with the RAF for many years and while they are a proud organisation, they are also immensely professional. They invest a lot of time in understanding staff work, of training good staff officers, and of developing proponents of Air Power at all levels. They've had a very busy 23 years since the Cold War ended and proportionately have taken cuts far more damaging than the RN or Army (27 Fast Jets to just 7 in the last 13 years IIRC).

      The concept that the RAF enjoy a special status is utter rubbish. They are a valued organisation that do a good job at delivering airpower across a range of roles. The idea that they are somehow an evil bogeyman is utter rubbish - and herein lies the problem. I've heard so many generations of RN Officers blame the RAF for their woes, and in particular 1966, rather than manning up, investing in staff skills and coherently making the case for Maritime Power.
      The reason the RAF does well is that it makes a credible case at all levels and trains its officers from Cranwell onwards to do so. The RN seems to regard the study of doctrine and policy as vaguely un-officer like and anyone who does well at it should be regarded with the utmost suspicion.
      Bluntly, rather than blaming the RAF, perhaps the RN should ask a few hard questions of its own attitudes, and perhaps if it approached things in the same way as the RAF, perhaps things would be different?

    2. This i really agree with Sir Humphrey.

  9. 1. It would save money in the long return to RAF to it roots as a Crops of the Army. It would be complex process but could be done if people dared 'think outside the box' - surely the key point of your post

    2. Well done for serving in uniform - I really mean that. But your blog gives the impression you have always been a Civil Servant??

    3. I am not saying there is a specific "conspiracy" against the RN rather the RAF has better connections, support and profile in political and Civil Service circles mainly because they are have been more astute than the RN in their dealings with Whitehall.

    4. I fully advocate airpower - it is really the key weapon in most conflicts. I just question why we really need a third service and all the costs that entails to deliver it. Of course the RAF is very professional in many areas and has lots of key capabilities and I am not advocating abolition, just re-structuring. There are many brave skilled and hard working people in the RAF but the senior management has a self-promting agenda which is damaging to UK defence interests. It also seems to be relatively overmanned - for every 1 aircrew there seems to be extraordinary numbers of personnel on the ground.

    5. Of course the RN is not perfect and have at times failed to present the case for maritime power strongly enough, given that it is a very strong case. Maybe you are right about RN officers needing more training in doctrine but the ones I meet seem very up to speed on that issue these days.

    6. Fundamentally it is the job of government to see past the individual service s or units arguments and determine what should be the priorities for UK defence based on setting a strategic direction.

    1. NavyLookout

      Have you read RAF Squadron Manning on

      it is a generalisation of why you need so many people in the RAF. I found it very informative.


    2. @NL

      If you took a disspassionate look at the FAA structure, you'd see an organisation which is driven with a titular 2&, which requires (last time I checked) a 1* and an OF5 to command two small air stations (plus 2 satelite landing grounds) and a very heavy level of support elsewhere in the organisation. The FAA is a fairly rank heavy structure - merging the RAF is not going to save the rank structure!
      Fundamentally by merging you have to ask what jobs no longer need to be done and where savings can be made - what exactly do you propose that the British Army (and RFC) will no longer do that the RAF does now - there will still be senior figures for Airpower, there will still need to be a credible career stream, there will still need to be all the maintenance, training and safety aspects continued.
      Surely the reverse is true - would it not be better to have one single service doing airpower properly acros the piste, than running one large, one small and one even smaller airforce with massive potential for harmonisation.

      Further, I wouldnt describe the RAF as being better placed in the civil service circles - a short period of time in Main Building would quickly lead you to realise that the Services rule the roost there, and decisions are taken by uniformed and not civilian personnel. One of the perennial bugbears that I have is the way that the military blame civilians for cuts, when in reality (and as I have seen first hand) a very large amount of responsibility for how things are done rests with the military hierachy.

      The case for maritime power is hugely potent, but the RN seems to score own goals on a regular basis. I groan when I think of some of the submissions I've seen which rely on emotion and not cold factual logic as the assertion for an argument. My personal view is that the RN argues from the heart on too regular a basis - a laudable thing, but when cuts are needed, surely a more objective assessment is required. This is what the RAF does well - it doesnt treat staff work or non seagoing postings above SO1 as some kind of jolly or punishment. Arguably too many RN personnel see their career topping out at the post surface drive moment, and not staying for the long haul, when sailing a desk is not seen as important as driving a ship.

      Finally, yes I have served both organisations as a reservist and a CS - I've seen good and bad behaviour in both camps! Drop me an email ( if you'd like to chat more privately on that front.

    3. My own experience, as a mostly Main Building based civil servant for 20-odd years, is that most of us are throughly agnostic about whether it is strategically essential to have a 3rd Service dedicated to airpower, but are disinclined to waste time and effort we don't have to spare on something that's not going to change without a very clear political will to address the question. (In which context I would note that the 2010 SDSR had only two absolute political prerequisites not open to review: keep Trident and keep 3 Services). Should any Government ever want to look into the question, we'd do our best to make sure it got a rational, dispassionate and evidence-based presentation of the pros and cons, whatever those may be.

      In the meantime we'll try and focus in the Head Office on making the organisation we have deliver as much capability as possible, in line with the UK's strategic needs, from the resources available, and doing our best to ensure that the Government understands the consequences of further reductions so that it knows what it's doing if it decides to cut the budget further. Which is quite challenging enough to be going on with at present!

  10. "We’d not really save money, but we could perhaps convince the public that somehow possession of a force of 800 – 1000 tanks was a good thing – even if they weren’t as good as what we wanted"

    How wonderfully Soviet that would be ;)

  11. in the 70 odd years since the end of WW2, the UK has employed armour on military operations on relatively few occasions (Korea, Gulf War 1, Kosovo and the Balkans, Operation TELIC).

    Even if by "armour" you actually mean "tanks", that list is missing the Falklands (Blues & Royals Scimitars). And Suez. And Aden. If you take "armour" to mean "tracked armoured vehicles", which are, of course, also part of an armoured bde's ORBAT, then you can add Afghan and Northern Ireland.

    In fact, it might be more accurate to say something along the lines of "in the 70 odd years since the end of WW2, the UK has employed tanks in almost every military operation it has conducted, with the exception of a small number (Afghanistan, Brunei, Malaya, Northern Ireland) where either the terrain was completely unsuitable, the airlift requirement was prohibitive, or there was no need for tank firepower."

    1. Ajay
      Thanks for your comments. I should perhaps have been more specific in saying 'heavy armour' (e.g. Main Battle Tanks).
      I deliberately did not look at the lighter recce end of the spectrum as this is an area which remains vibrant and has done very well in recent years - if anything the Recce role has been massively expanded since the Options for Change review.
      The value and role of the lighter tracked vehicle, particularly the CVR(T) series is beyond question, and sits beyond the scope of the article. The article itself was focused on the very high end of the market such as the Challenger 2.

    2. Well, even if you focus on MBTs, that really only covers the Falklands (where the Chieftains would probably have sunk into the bogs). 6 RTR took their Centurions to Suez, and the Royal Scots Greys were in Aden with Centurions.

      So there's this:
      Didn't take tanks because they would have sunk:

      Didn't take tanks, because we didn't have the airlift, to:
      Afghanistan (note: other ISAF members took tanks, though)

      Took tanks to:
      Desert Storm

    3. Tanks were deployed to Kosovo in case of course attack by Serbian Forces and acted as a deterrent by their presence as much as their availability in theatre for active use should the need arise. We have half the combat MBT Challenger 11 numbers of tanks than we had in 1991. Sure we have been fighting in conflicts which does not require tank warfare over the last 10 years but up against forces with Tanks then we will need them. If a warrior gets hit by a HESH round or Sabot it will destroy it and those Infantry fighting vehicles which were hit during Gulf War 1 were up armoured with Tank quality armour to increase their survivability, Not to mention TOGs night firing capability tanks give. Sure advancements in Infantry hand held Anti Armour rocket launchers have advanced, but they have been anyway . If we have to go up against an enemy with Tanks without USA help and support spearheading the advance with medium track IFV and Recce Screen tracked vehicles without TOW fitted to every vehicle we are going to get hammered. 9n the issue of re role for the Desert Rats, well that's like giving Manchester United tennis rackets. Let's go all the way and get rid of Maroon Berets too from the Famous Parachute Regiments distinguished history, No we wouldn't because these units send fear into our potential enemy's and the soldiers fight up to the mark within the ranks. No aircraft carrier no tanks sorry guys but are capability is being degraded and we are in danger of loosing that world class fighting capability we hold. We are not always going to be fighting terrorists period and the next threat could come against a Modern equipt army with Tanks. I hope we stock pile enough 94 mm HEAT rounds.

  12. Slightly off topic, here is the full Army 2020 ORBAT, derived from a (wow!) non-MOD document

  13. There is of course a more subtle reason why tanks cannot always be deployed. Wars are now fought in the full glare of multi-media 24 hour news. A few landrovers, APCs etc driving around looks like peacekeeping, intervention, help against insurgents. Tanks rolling down the road looks like an invasion.

  14. As a retired member of the U.S. armed forces, this is not a surprise. We are doing the same thing. However, what concerns me is that the British military will be unable to meet it's expanding world wide commitments, especially in the Middle East. While 200 tanks in the force should be adequate, built into one or two small British armored brigade structures, wars in the Middle East against robust opponents has shown that one can never have enough equipment, manpower, and stores. Since we are pulling out of the Middle East (probably totally) and the UK is moving back in (maybe), the British government might want to rethink this. Plus, British forces may not have the robust support force and firepower that has been offered by the U.S. to overcome shortfalls in war fighting capabilities. On the other hand, should the UK not press forward with plans to fill the void in the Middle East, then the issue of even retaining 200 tanks and storied armored brigades becomes moot.

    One last thought. In 1982, the UK fought a brilliant war in the South Atlantic. What is forgotten is that even with a much larger and better equipped armed forces at the time and the U.S. taking up the slack in NATO, as well as providing critical direct support, the UK was barely able to scrap together adequate forces to retake the Falklands. The Royal Navy and British Army were stretched to the limit and beyond. The handful of RAF units could not fill all of the gaps being presented. It is also forgotten that while the men and women who were in the task forces at sea and on land fought well and professionally, if the Argentinians had shown better professionalism in her military or had caused even a few more losses in British ships or held up her land forces a few hours more, the whole issue might have been in doubt unless the U.S. was prepared to land forces in the South Atlantic to help the British forces to meet their objectives. That is a reality and a lesson to remember.

    In the end, the UK might want to rethink what its armed forces will be able to do realistically, both at home and abroad. Is it war fighting? What about peacekeeping? Filling voids that the rest of the European forces in NATO cannot fulfill? Joining the U.S. in other theaters of operations? It is obvious that economics is forcing these decisions, as they are here. Let's not be tempted to send forces into harm's way under equipped or overly reliant on technology with the hope that they can meet the mission efficiently and with little cost in terms of personnel and equipment. This was the mistake made by us in Vietnam, Iraq (2003), and Afghanistan as well in your own history in South Africa during the Boer Wars. History tends to repeat itself especially when governments do really stupid things. In the end, the men and women of the armed forces pay the ultimate penalty.

  15. no it does not matter.

    if like the scottish regiments all reduced to single battalions and for the A&S a company. the desert rats could be sized down to just a smaller unit but its not and that is fine.

    the look at 1982 above, this time around the falklands is about 500% better defended. and argentina is far weaker now than even the uk was compared to the 82 levels.

    Can i see the UK or the US even take on a large scale campaign against anyone without a coalition no i cant at very least in bed with each other. the only areas that could with a lot of IFS that might catch britain unprepared would be major ww3 type events and the few i see in the world only one could get the uk and us making a major stand.

    possible future engagements.

    serbia fighting kosovo with albanian help.
    india against china and or pakistan
    an islamic crusade of some sort

    and the only one that could be seriously difficult and is the most likley.

    north korea should they srart an engagment and a force of multinationals go to help the south, nuclear weapons could wipe out most troops that go and its when heavy casulties are taken that modern size becomes a worry.

  16. My only question is if the Army was re-organizing into three Armoured Infantry Brigades, why wouldn't they keep the 7th and 20th Armoured Brigades in that role and re-role the 4th Brigade back to Armoured? This would keep the traditions of the three most recent armoured formations alive.