Operational Effect: The Argument for a British Corps

By Steve Maguire

Captain Steve Maguire, is a serving British Army infantry officer with direct experience of both Air Assault and Mechanised Infantry roles.  He’s also served on the staff of the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (Land) and at UK Army Headquarters. In this guest article, which was also published in the British Army Review, Steve challenges the assumption that the 2* divisional level of command is best suited to future operations arguing that the division should be considered a tactical headquarters with more limited objectives.

A line of Challenger 2's fire as part of the Royal Welsh Battle Group during Exercise Prairie Lightning.
A line of Challenger 2’s taking parti in Exercise Prairie Storm 3 at the British Army Training Area Suffield (BATUS), Alberta Canada. (Image: UK MoD)

War is often described as having three levels; the strategic (the political), the operational (theatre level), and the tactical (the close fight).  Each has a level of command and resources to achieve differing requirements. Operational art is defined as the directing and sequencing tactical actions towards a strategic aim.  Field Marshall Viscount Slim was convinced that the division was the organisation to do this.  The division, he argued, is ‘the smallest formation that is a complete orchestra of war’. The ‘full orchestra’ refers to an organisation capable of integrating combined arms (infantry, armour, engineers, artillery, signals, logistics, etc.) and executing operations.  In more modern thinking, a former British Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, adds that a 2* headquarters has the right level of command and control wisdom to conduct the ‘orchestra’ because of the additional training and the experience of both its staff and its Commander.[1]  Critically, the division is seen as the first formation that can be employed to achieve an operational effect.  Traditional doctrine suggests that a division will fight in the deep battle, resource the close fight and protect the rear of their operations.  British doctrine wishes to reset the division as the lowest level in which operational ‘art’ can be practised and at which the Army will deploy. General Carter, stresses the ‘importance’ of the division but also calls for a reset in our understanding of what this means for hard power.[2]  The argument that the division is the first level of operational art is becoming set in British thinking.

The division should not be expected to conduct the ‘full orchestra’ of war.  Like any military organisation, the battlespace it should consider is bounded by the range of its weapons and, in the modern division’s case, this is not beyond the scope of the tactical fight. British doctrine should follow a hybrid of the Soviet ‘tactical deep battle’ as a stepping stone between the close battle and the corps deep, therefore there is a case for a British corps with three smaller divisions.   The proposals in this article offer a structure for a more flexible close battle with a greater focus on fighting the corps deep and therefore orchestrating a theatre level effect.  All of the suggestions here can be met within current resource and equipment programmes with only modest increases for supporting arms required.  There are two assumptions to this argument. Firstly, the use of the division as designed in Joint Force 2025as a base line structure and secondly focussing on the policy aim of a force capable of high intensity war fighting.[3]

Over the course of the last 100 years the expectations of the divisional level of command have changed significantly.  The idea that a division is the ‘full orchestra’ of operational impact has not always been firm in British military thinking.  The emphasis of training in the First World War was at the division level as a tactical formation, the smallest formation which was considered effective.[4] During the Second World War, divisional headquarters routinely only planned tactical activity for the following day.  The Second World War division was faster at planning, and therefore executing, than today but arguably had a limited 24-hour tactical horizon.  This tempo sometimes came at the cost of poor planning and mission failure with leaders who did not have time to plan effectively.[5]  The modern division can plan longer and more complex operations incorporating more assets but will take 36-48 hours to do so.  This is significantly longer than the division of 70 years ago and slows operational tempo.  Modern divisions also contain more vehicles and people meaning operations may take much longer to execute.  The change in the role of the division over time is natural evolution, but one which is not necessarily helpful in understanding levels of warfare.  The idea that the division has now become the currency of operational art has little evidence behind it.  The only real evidence seems to be quotes such as Slim’s and not a serious study of how we wish to employ military force.  The modern division is not in the operational space simply because it takes longer to plan or because we wish it to be so.

Describing ‘integrated action’, the UK capstone doctrine, ADP Land Operations, calls for commanders to integrate all ‘relevant levers to impart effects’ as the core of integrated military activity.[6] Here we have a clear statement of intent but one which means little to a division given the limited capabilities available and its focus on the tactical combat battle. Some of the levers required for operational success are not relevant to a close battle organisation slowing the tempo of war-fighting.  New units such as the specialist infantry battalions, who aim to partner with local forces and not engage in direct combat operations, or the capabilities required to conduct information and cyber operations, or managing political relations all detract from achieving tempo  tactical planning and execution.[7]  Recognising this, the Chief of the General Staff called for a greater understanding of how to ‘command and control’ these levers.[8]  However, in manoeuvre warfare, unless a division is static, it is unlikely to develop the human relationships and capabilities required to have a credible integrated effect within the sphere of operational art.  The division’s battle space is limited by the physical ground it can control and once it manoeuvres away progress is lost.  It has no guaranteed air power, which in any case is commanded elsewhere.  Indeed, the 24-hour modern world means tactical actions are often too late and it is more important to ‘link’ effects coherently.[9]  Operational command, then, is not well suited to a divisional headquarters which finds its focus trapped between co-ordinating tactical actions and deciding the next steps in the heat of battle.  Integrated action is best achieved by a headquarters with a broader and more stable outlook and a greater emphasis on fighting the deep battle than a modern division is resourced for.  These factors suggest that the division is actually a tactical formation.  Smaller divisions, with a slimmed down area of responsibility, would speed planning and generate tempo enabling a more coherent close battle.  A Corps headquarters with a wider responsibility and stability is required to sequence tactical actions to best exploit integrated action.  This requires the Army to reform and re-balance layers of command itself to achieve success in the future.

The second aspect to consider is how to maximise success in combat. Jim Storr’s research into warfare identified that success is more likely with increased flexibility and tempo. ‘The bigger a force, the less mobile it is’ and therefore smaller sequenced actions are faster and more effective than slower deliberate ones.[10]  When analysing combat over 1942-1944, Storr concluded that divisions routinely only used a third of their combat power.  During the first Gulf War, he identifies that brigades had combat force equal to a battle group that weren’t committed during most deliberate engagements. The Joint Force 2025design is for one large division probably deployed inside a multinational corps.  This is inherently inefficient and does not maximise combat power nor increase flexibility. Indeed, a British Army think tank concluded that the current divisional design could be defeated in a day.[11] Storr’s research suggests that divisions can be smaller with limited impact on their military output if their activity is sequenced by a higher headquarters.  With less resource a division is more effective but less suited to operational planning and must focus on fighting the close battle.  Tempo is generated by smaller formations seeking surprise not larger, albeit more powerful, formations that are more vulnerable to enemy action.

A doctrinal alternative is the Soviet concept of the ‘tactical deep battle’.[12] There is a sense across the British Army that thought and doctrine is already restricted by a ‘rigid set’ of mental hoops that mean resources are dispersed and not concentrated for effect.  The implication is that militaries are incapable of thinking outside of traditional formations.[13] The Joint Force 2025plan for a three-brigade division suggests this is true.  The resources available in 2025 do not adequately allow a division to have significant effect in the operational deep when focussed on immediate tactical objectives.  Divisions are fixed to the ground they occupy and the range of their guns.  Non-lethal effects will routinely take longer to achieve impact requiring more time and command stability than a manoeuverists fighting formation can offer.  The doctrine of ‘tactical deep battle’ is a hybrid between the traditional western concept of close, deep, rear, adding a new space between the close and the deep. The deep should be considered as larger, operational goals with fewer links to the close battle.  ‘Tactical deep’ acknowledges that a division is simply not large enough to achieve a credible operational effect other than the defeat of a close enemy.  It also conceptually frees capabilities such as information manoeuvre and cyber to focus on operational-strategic impact away from the immediate close battle. This is a more appropriate analysis of the equipment and capabilities that will be available to Joint Force 2025. It fits the ‘joint action’ model foreseen by the Ministry of Defence as a better model of future command.[14] Especially considering the increasingly complex battle spaces that we seek to operate in.  Strike brigades will find and enable armoured infantry brigades to fix and strike an opponent.  Divisions must focus on excelling at fire and manoeuvre and enabling other effects but not necessarily commanding them.  Accepting that the division is best placed to achieve effect within the range of its vehicles, in the tactical deep, means we must accept the need for a corps to orchestrate theatre level effect; and create operational-strategic effect by utilising the capability areas illustrated in figure one.  We must limit our outlook for the division to realistic ends, ways, and means and not apportion it more responsibility or capability than can be efficiently utilise or is already commanded elsewhere.

Screenshot 2018-11-09 at 10.44.05

The British Army is capable of task organising to form a deployable corps. By 2025 the British Army will have two types of combat brigades; armoured infantry brigades based on Challenger 2 and Warrior and Strike brigades based on Ajax and a new mechanised infantry vehicle.  Armoured infantry brigades will have three capable battle groups but lack dedicated reconnaissance assets to find an opponent, meaning this becomes a divisional responsibility.[15]  The lack of organic reconnaissance assets is mitigated by Strike brigades that will utilise the new Ajax ‘medium’ vehicles and are optimised for operations at reach. Strike brigades lack armour and firepower and therefore cannot fix or defeat a capable opponent undermining the doctrinal model of FIND/FIX/STRIKE/EXPLOIT.  One British officer’s analysis of the concept points out that Strike brigades will enable ‘divisional manoeuvre’ through enhanced mobility and the ability to find the enemy enhancing operational awareness.[16] Yet Strike brigades will be largely dependent on others for their protection undermining their utility in supporting to armoured manoeuvre.  The two types of brigades will complement each other but create a greater need to synchronise their individual strengths to maximise effect this will require a higher headquarters with a greater the capacity to do it.  Critically, mixing the two concepts will add time to planning and complexity to the execution of an operation reducing the chance of operational effectiveness.  It would be better to task Strike Brigades together into a Strike Division focussed on the find in the deep battle and an armoured infantry division focussed on fixing and striking an opponent.

Figure two outlines the proposed structure for a British Army Corps.  It utilises the same troops as before but in a different and more efficient organisation.  It adds significant depth to the current division and maximises the capabilities available. The proposed model is not without gaps and requires more thought to balance capability coherently.  The 3* Allied Rapid Reaction Corps Headquarters could take command.  It could equally be a reformed and deployable Headquarters Field Army, which is currently responsible for doctrine and training amongst other things.  The chosen headquarters would need a radical over-haul of staffing and the Army does not require both.  Likewise, there are questions about sustaining this force. It is likely that there will need to be some investment in logistics and engineering assets but this has been the case since the defence review of 2010. A lack of long range ‘deep’ and precision fires is also an area of significant concern.  There would be no need to deploy the corps together to achieve a coherent effect but an understanding that the sum is greater than the individual parts.  Force cohesion, however, will be formed by training together before deployment and this should be the peacetime structure of the British Army’s deployable elements.

This essay has argued that the division should be considered a tactical formation.  Future divisions should be smaller.  This will increase the tempo of operations and the change of tactical success on the battlefield.  With small changes to the current task organisation the British Army could deploy two highly mobile and flexible divisions under a Corps HQ, able to subsume another division from an ally.  This would enhance the best of the two types of combat formation and enable a corps 3* to truly focus on developing operational design and achieving operational aims.

Figure 2 – British Corp Structure

  • Deep battle, 1x Strike Division: 2x Strike brigades + 1x light brigade (2x light role battle groups), technical intelligence assets: MAMBA, ASP, UAS. Manoeuvre support engineering.
  • Close battle. 1x Armoured Infantry Division: 2x armoured infantry brigades (3x battle groups), 1x light brigades (2x Light Role Battle Group). Division troops (1x armoured battle group, formation recce BG, engr, guns, ISR), technical intelligence assets.
  • Rear battle. 1x Light Division:x5 light brigades (of 2x battle groups). Firm base provision.
  • Corps Troops:16 (Air Assault) Brigade, Joint Helicopter Force, 77 Brigade, Special Infantry Battalions (x4 units) Predator, Watchkeeper, EW, cyber, political & cultural, special forces


[1]General Sir Nicholas Carter, ‘Opening Address to the Royal United Services Land Warfare Conference 2016, 28 June 2016. Transcript accessed 05 November 2018 https://rusi.org/sites/default/files/160628-lwc16-cgs-opening_address.pdf

[2]General Sir Nicholas Carter, ‘Speech to Royal United Services Land Warfare Conference 2017, 28 June 2017. Transcript accessed 14 November 2017 https://rusi.org/sites/default/files/20170628-rusi_lwc17-cgs_keynote.pdf.

[3]United Kingdom House of Commons Defence Select Committee, ‘SDSR 2015 and the Army’, April 2017.  Accessed 14 November 2017 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmdfence/108/108.pdf.

[4]Christopher Pugsley, ‘We have been here before’, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Occasional Paper No.9’. https://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/rmas_occ_paper_09.pdf.

[5]Anthony King, ‘Why did the 51st Highland Division Fail?’, British Journal of Military History, Vol. 4, No.1.

[6]United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, ‘Army Doctrine Publication Land Operations’, DATE. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/605298/Army_Field_Manual__AFM__A5_Master_ADP_Interactive_Gov_Web.pdf

[7]General Sir Nicholas Carter, evidence to the United Kingdom Defence Select Committee.  Accessed 14 November 2017 http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/defence-committee/sdsr-2015-and-the-army/oral/34418.html

[8]General Sir Nick Carter, ‘The Future of the British Army’. Speech at Chatham House 17 February 2017. Transcript accessed 14 November 2017 https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/field/field_document/20150217QBritishArmy.pdf.

[9]Lieutenant Colonel Steve Cornell, ‘The Operational: As Valid And As Dangerous As Any Other Abstraction’, Military Operations, Volume 3, Issue No. 2, Winter 2016, pages 11-13.

[10]Jim Storr, The Human Face of War, (London, United Kingdom, MPG Books 2009).

[11]Michael Peak, ‘Russia could defeat the British Army ‘in an afternoon’’, The National Interest, 25 February 2017. Accessed 14 November 2017 http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russia-could-defeat-the-british-army-afternoon-19580. 

[12]Charles Pickar, ‘Tactical Deep Battle: The Missing Link’, Army Command and General Staff College School of Advanced Military Studies, 16 December 1991.  Accessed 15 November 2017 http://www.dtic.mil/get-tr-doc/pdf?AD=ADA258092.

[13]See e.g. ‘Fairbairn’, ‘Plan to Fail’, The Wavell Room, https://wavellroom.com/2018/10/25/plan-to-fail-how-should-the-military-improve-its-planning-process. ‘Tom’, ‘Is The British Army Paralysed by Risk’, The Wavell Room, https://wavellroom.com/2018/07/03/is-the-british-army-paralysed-by-risk/ Lieutenant Colonel Steve Cornell, ‘The Operational: As Valid And As Dangerous As Any Other Abstraction’, Military Operations, Volume 3, Issue No. 2, Winter 2016, pages 11-13.

[14]Ministry of Defence Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre’ Joint Concept Note 1/17 Future Force Concept’,https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643061/concepts_uk_future_force_concept_jcn_1_17.pdf

[15]‘Steve’, ‘The Divisional Paradox’, Wavell Room, https://wavellroom.com/2017/10/19/the-divisional-paradox.

[16]‘Steve’, ‘Strike as an ISR Enabler’, Wavell Room., https://wavellroom.com/2017/11/02/war-in-the-21st-century-Strike-as-an-isr-enabler


  1. Thanks for sharing this article here. I found the Captain’s thoughts on this subject to be fascinating. I completely understand his points about the differing levels of command from strategic down through theater operational to tactical close battle. Having only worked in the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps HQ for a couple of weeks for a major exercise, I do understand the idea that some responsibilities need to be lifted above the Division in order to enable operational agility in the close battle.

    However I fail to see how the modern British Army of 2025 will have the organizational design, Orbat, manpower or resources to field three Divisions in a Corps. I can see that the author is trying to re-org the units that exist / will exist in 2025 to work in a better way, but I don’t think it really works.

    The Army really has no capability for deep battle, and very little for the Russian style “tactical deep” level. Our longest range capability is Guided MLRS rockets. We have no system planned to be fielded with the Strike Brigades that is equivalent to the US HIMARS, so our Armoured Infantry will have the MLRS capability. Our tube artillery is short ranged 39 cal barrel 155mm SPH or short range and practically un-survivable towed 105mm Light Gun. We have no A-TACMS or long range guided 155mm rounds. So to fight the deep battle we rely on scarce RAF resources to potentially fight their way through a highly integrated air defence environment.

    So the author puts the 2 Strike Brigades together in a Division and gives it the “deep” battle role, after describing the Strike brigades as the “find” element – in essence making the Boxer equipped Strike Brigades into an armoured recce formation. However now we are back to the great debate on tracks versus wheels in the Strike Brigade. The Ajax family of vehicles may well be an awesome armoured recce vehicle, but how does it enable the deep battle? The Strike Brigades as currently designed and with the investments made as we know them, really do not seem to be equipped to enable the tactical deep battle.

    So a fantastic article, which just leaves me even more confused as to the future size, shape and doctrinal role of the British Army.


    1. Excellent reply. I’m so sorry (for fantistic British soldiers) that I have to agree with your conclusion.

      I’m a pure armchair soldier, and I try to read up on as much as I can, but I know I don’t have the depth of real knowledge to comment effectively on the article, so I’ll just say like I feel it:

      I just want to vomit. Corps? when was the last time the UK had the resources to deploy anything more than a brigade? Isn’t the definition of a corps a force of 50-80,000 men? So, from 60-97% of the projected end strength of the Army? Deep battle? As JedPC states, how would this be supported by fires? Could we actually move it anywhere? Do we have enough ammo on hand to fight it? And on, and on, and on….

      Now I want to cry for the British Army. Our troops are fantastic, so why don’t we do them a favour and make realistic assessments of what we are going to be able to do, and focus on that, and work with our allies more closely on that?

      why not create a maneuvre warfare “corps”, as the author states, that regroups all the relevent trades and create it as a specialisation, and then base it where it needs to be: in Eastern Europe, close to a railhead or port. But once there, as part of a larger, multinational formation. That might be scary for Ivan.

      why not beef up the Air Assault Brigade and actually use it? Put both Gurkha units into it, give it some decent fighting vehicles and ensure it can get to where it’s needed. And use it. That would have an effect all of its own, especially working with Para forces from allied nations. why not beef up the Royal Marines, and have a true forcible entry capability? why not use light infantry in the regular force for specialised roles, like jungle, mountain and urbain warfare, and stop posting 10000 regulars to homeland defence and counter-terrorism roles: let the Territorials do that.

      we don’t have the resources we had 50 years ago. There is no shame in that. The Aussies are reputed throughout the world, and their armed forces could scarce fill a pub. There’s no dishonour in not being able to do everything, far better than being a misused and abused jack-of-all trades, master of none (our artillery situation is really not funny). Better to excel at what you know you can do. Better than anyone else.

      Glad I got that off my chest!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m still concerned about the small number of CH2’s that can be fielded. The debates over the last twenty years or so about the true worth of the MBT, were at best modest and at worst daft. There is no better way to bulldoze across a battlefield than using a MBT, and with increased technology in close in protection and multiple targeting the prospects just get better.
    With the UK’s ability to build an all-new replacement no longer available, the UK can only consider a joint programme with another interested partner as the way forward. In the meantime, the UK could consider expanding its MBT fleet with a number of reconditioned US M1’s and these units could be fitted out with UK kit? Such a purchase would enhance the UK’s MBT component, and possibly help to lubricate a joint replacement with the Americans? A rift appears to be in evidence between the US and Europe about defence policy, which might become more polarised as time passes? Britain however, will always want a serious link with the DOD, and placing our future MBT strategy with them, may just be wiser than any European consortium?


  3. Coming from a different angle, I concluded that reconnaissance assets should not be subordinate to manoeuvre formations (brigades, divisions), but be under corps HQ control. They should cover the corps’ sector of responsibility instead of being sent along changing axis of advance or main interest of manoeuvre forces commanders. A manoeuvre forces commander should not send recce, wait, receive reports – he should look at an already existing situational picture.

    The strike role follows from this. raiding parties could follow the LRDG model, and be under corps control. Deep strikes on land do not need to be formation activities; armoured recce-like formations can do deep strikes (raiding). Moreover, some (not all) recce assets can double in this role. This, too, leads to Corps HQ control.

    I say corps because divisions would have to be aligned in a ‘line’ to maintain stable deep individual sectors of responsibility – which is mobile warfare.
    That being said, I wonder about the author’s proposal for corps troops. It may be nation-specific thinking there, for I miss a lot of components:
    – area air defence
    – military police (not the least for POW handling)
    – medical support
    – engineering (especially for pontoon bridging)
    – supply and transportation units, enough for 2 major temporary depots
    – major repair workshops
    – tank transporter units

    And there’s way too much light infantry / “special” forces in there:
    2 heavy, 2 medium and 9…10 light brigades equivalents.
    Such a balance may fit to the woodland-dominated Northern Sweden, but almost nowhere else. Not enough boats for Southern Finland, not enough mountain expertise for Carpathians. It’s way too much LI for almost all European, North African and Mid Eastern terrains.


    1. Re: your comments on to much LI. I think we have far too many ‘light’ brigades without the required enabling units needed to deploy (e.g. signals, engineering, logistics, artillery etc) within the current ‘Adaptable’ force. I can’t help thinking that the main purpose for these hollow brigades is to avoid the merger/loss of cap badges. I would rather see a British Army 7 combat brigades with all the mobility, tools and units than maintain cap badges.


  4. The quintessence of the authors argumenation is (if i understand him right with my limited english skills) that the division is in reality not able to conduct warfare at the operational level (because of the limitations of the available equipment / units) and therefore it should be used only at the tactical level. But for this level the current division TOE is to big, therefore the division should be smaller to increase tempo and maneuverability. And instead of mixing different kind of abilities in a division, this smaller divisions then should become more specialised.

    One problem in the military is IMO the fixation on terms. If you stop thinking that one term means this and that, you can free yourself very much in your thinking. In the end, the author suggest to use small divisons for tasks in which now a brigade would be used. So one could also name that idea to use stronger brigades instead of naming them smaller divisions and so on. So one problem i have with the article is, that no exact numbers are mentioned. How strong should the smaller divisions be exact ? How many thousand soldiers, how many vehicles etc

    To exclude several units and tasks to the corps level which are not necessary for the fight / for the tactical leve makes divisions of cause smaller and more streamlined, but it in comparison such a smaller division would be still bigger, slower and more difficult to maneuver than a brigade and even a strengthend brigade.

    So there could be also other solutions to this problem, which are IMO perhaps better: 1 you could strengthen the brigades and the divisional troops and then the “divsion” would become in truth a Small-Corps. 2 Or one could sacrifice the division at all and (slightly) strengthen the brigades (but not to become mini-divisons – only to increase their fighting power) so that a corps would then consist directly of brigades (like in the russian military reform of 2008). 3 Or you could increase the necessary range and firepower of the weapons and increase the abilities of the division by using new and much better weapons / new and better techology and therefore enable the division to take over operationals tasks.

    Solution 1 would need additional soldiers and equipment which are both not available for the UK. Solution 3 would need new and expensive equipment and cannot be paid, and the solution of the author would lead to slower combat units (smaller division) in comparions to faster combat units (brigades) which would in reality have the same fighting power because most times only a part of the troops of an combat unit is truly used.

    With such 3 smaller divisions i can therefore only work on 3 tasks. And because the divisions are specialised, i cannot work on all kind of tasks with such an division.

    With the same ammount of troops and equipment i could instead mantain deploy more strengthend brigades. They would be smaller than the smaller divions the author shows, but stronger than todays brigades. With more such combat units i could then work on more tasks at the same time and therefore would not waste units.

    More and smaller units are moreover faster, more maneuverable, could be transported easier (especially at the strategical level) and they would out-maneuvre such smaller divisons and could control more space / territory at the same time than the smaller division.

    The TOE of the authors shows around 12 brigades, organised in 3 smaller divisions with each 3 brigades, 3 brigades and 5 brigades and 1 brigade as corps unit.

    Instead you could for example think of 9 (strengthend) brigades formed out of the same amount of soldiers, equipment and units. For example (only a theoretical sample and not a real TOE): 3 Strike Brigades, 3 Armoured Brigades, 3 Light Brigades. Such a structure would also be good for expeditionary / colonial warfare, because you could send 1 brigade of each type to such operations (1 in preperation, 1 in actual operation, 1 in post-processing).

    With such a structure the divisional level becomes unnecessary. Instead you can then built the corps directly out of brigades. So solution 2 would be especially for the UK IMO the best solution. To give up the divison at all. It would be logical: if the division cannot deliver operational level work and can only be used for tactical level, but brigades are better and more maneuverable and faster at the tactical level, the solution should not be to make divisions smaller but to not use them at all.

    Instead the corps should be built directly out of brigades. This would also be better for expeditionary / colonial warfare, for strategic transport and for co-operation with allies which could use a UK brigade then together with their brigades in their divisional structure if the need arises.

    So far my thesis for this question: Dissolve the division at all. Built corps directly out of brigades.


  5. In my very uninformed opinion, although how we fight and use assets is very important, however the training, amount of resources, the equipment, logistics is more important in modern warfare. Discussions such as this cover up the fact that the army currently needs major modernisation, more planned investment in equipment, and greater numbers etc. The problem with the deep battle is the army seems to have little in the way of plans as to how strike brigades are to be equipped lack of heavy weapons or atgms surely would leave them vulnerable? Also the tracked/wheeled mix prevents proper use in independent scenarios e.g. Kosovo as well as making the deep potentially more shallow. The challenger is not built for speed currently and how long would strike have to wait for support whilst deep and trying to combat tanks etc. with 40mm cannons and handheld javelins? Surely a recipe for disaster! If they are to find and fix they need the firepower to do so. In general the British army seems to be happy to under gun everything, warrior without atgm, 81mm mortar versus 120mm, 105mm light guns versus m777 155mm, 155mm 39 calibre instead of 52 calibre, wildcat helicopter with virtually no offensive firepower, reduction in Apaches, continuing with 120mm rifled on ch2,
    why was spike not considered for Ajax? Also I am not convinced that the logistics exist to go deep – in 2003 the UK seemed to have little ability to deploy to Bagdad to support the US forces. I think we have to choose either we can’t do both and let allies fill gaps in the ability for deep battle or we need the proper investment and resources.


    1. Simon:

      An excellent post in my opinion. To write an ad-on for it: the question is also, who is the enemy ? Whom are you fighting ? Before one is talking about deep battle, new structures, new equipment and whatever the question should be: who is the enemy, what does he want, what are his abilities, how strong is he etc etc ?!

      The structure (and therefore the TOE) should be orientated to an real existing thread and the real demands of the operations, the military has to conduct. What is the enemy of the UK and against whom should the Army of the UK fight and in which terrain and under what circumstances ?

      Only after specifying this questions one could define a TOE / Structure of the Units of the army. Because what makes sense against one type of enemy in a specific territory does not make sense against another enemy in an other kind of territory.

      Because no one could foresee the future here completly, the army must therefore fullfill imo two main demands:

      1 to be as flexible as possible – because no one could for sure say what would win the war of tommorow, all weapons and everything else must fit as many multipurpose demands as possible. This is especialliy true because the rapid changing technology could lead to very different solutions to specific military problems and no one at the moment could say in which direction the overall developement will go. Therefore a every weapon system and also every TOE / structure of the armed forces must be as multifunctiona and as multipurpose as possible.

      2 Modern western tm societes cannot afford a sustained war / especially not a protacted war. So the only war the can wage is a short war. To win in a short war, you need therefore as much fighting power as possible in the first phase / the first days / weeks of the war. Every weaponary and also the TOE / structure must therefore be in line with and specialised with this fact. To win the first battle and to achieve decisive results right in the start of the war, every structure and equipment must be specialised for this effort.

      For the UK this means to invest much more in the military. And for the military this means in the case of the uk to invest much more in fast deployable and mobile forces with an high fighting power.

      In general this would mean in my opinion, that the UK Army should invest much more into army aviation. Several light aircraft groups with new and much better army aviation helicopters could make here an true difference to the force as it is or as it is planned. Because the USA are also at the moment searching for new helicopters / army aviation, this is the chance within to invest with the US forces into the same systems for army aviation and to increase the Army Air Corps not only by numbers, but also in its equipment heavily.

      To strengthen the army air corps as much as possible could be the solution within – especially for the british army.


  6. An interesting proposal but it appears to be missing a key question – ‘best structured to achieve what?’ The article appears to be addressing traditional combined arms manoeuvre however this is but one requirement for the Army. How would this Corps structure work in much more likely hybrid or sub-threshold conflicts if divisions have had resources removed and not trained to incorporate components such as information manoeuvre?


  7. The argument is confused as it tries to make the case for a corps level force, an East European focused orbat, and a deep battle capability…without making each case convincingly.

    The proposal would see the whole army permanently deployed to eastern Europe and therefore unavailable for the defence or recapture of UK territories or other coalition operations. Not to mention a recruitment and retention challenge from inability to rotate personnel home.

    The proposal cannot be sustained on either a rotational basis during peacetime or during high intensity combat. It is a one shot effort and once degraded is the end of our land force.

    The proposal does not make the case that European NATO allies need the UK to focus its limited resources on this capability. Allies may rather we focused on securing their sea and air lines of communication, where they are relatively weaker in capability.

    The reality is that sustaining a brigade level commitment under the command of an allied division is a credible, realistic and value adding proposal to our allies – while permitting the two non-deployed brigades to act as a reaction force for the defence of UK territories and freeing resources to strengthen the alliance in other domains.

    Russia does not challenge European NATO one domain at a time. It uses the other domains to support the land domain. It must be overmatched in every domain by working as an alliance of complementary capabilities.


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