Achieving A Common Size and Structure for UK Infantry Battalions

By Nicholas Drummond

British Army Infantry Battalions are a hodgepodge of different unit sizes and structures. This articles argues that it would create a more flexible and potent force as well as making it easier to re-role battalions if a universal, multi-role structure was developed.

Contents 

01 – Introduction
02 – Infantry Platoons built around 36 soldiers
03 – Fire Support Company structure
04 – Battalion HQ and HQ Company structure
05 – Weapon requirements
06 – Vehicle requirements
07 – Personnel summary

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British Army Infantry Battle Group in Estonia. (Image: UK MoD)

01 – Introduction

With a smaller army limited to just 82,000 soldiers, the organisational structure and number of personnel within individual units starts to become very important. The British Army has 32 regular infantry battalions, but six different battalion types. These are:

  • Armoured Infantry battalions -732 personnel
  • Mechanised Infantry battalions -709 personnel
  • Light Infantry battalions – 560 personnel
  • Air Assault Infantry battalions – 662 personnel
  • Specialised Infantry Battalions – 267 personnel
  • Public Duties Infantry Battalions – 560 personnel

At one end of the spectrum, Armoured infantry battalions are well-resourced with 732 soldiers, while Specialised Infantry battalions have just 267, but this is for training and mentoring, not a primary combat role. Many regiments of all types are operating well below their headcount caps, meaning that very few battalions operate with the same number of soldiers. 

Different structures are all very well, but if we needed to deploy a substantial size force in a hurry, there is a risk that we might fail to achieve critical mass. When it comes to ground combat, infantry mass matters. Therefore, there may be a case to standardise all infantry battalions around a common structure with an identical headcount for each. With this in mind, the objective of this discussion is to consider what a universal battalion size ought to be.

A second issue is the now universal threat of IEDs, which means that all deployed infantry units need some form of protected mobility. Ideally infantry should be carried in tracked IFVs or wheeled MIVs, but even light PMVs are preferable to MAN trucks and Land-Rovers that offer no protection. It is a genuine concern that the British Army lacks sufficient protected vehicles.

Screenshot 2018-11-21 at 14.05.52
Only 8 out of 32 UK infantry battalions have organic protected mobility.

Ensuring that infantry units can be accommodated by their vehicles can also be a challenge. Again, organisational structure is important.

02 – Infantry Platoons built around 36 soldiers

The central idea in proposing a universal battalion structure is to build it around platoons of 1 + 35 soldiers. Total battalion headcount can be determined by considering how many soldiers are needed within each component unit type. The basic building block of military capability is the infantry section. Therefore, this exercise will commence by considering how platoons and rifle sections should be organised and how this determines overall rifle company size and structure.

In the 1980s, BAOR armoured infantry units mounted in the FV432 APC routinely had 10-soldier sections. Light Role battalions had 8-soldier sections. In Northern Ireland, infantry platoons were often divided into multiples of 12 soldiers. Thinking about the need to operate from IFVs, Mechanised infantry vehicles (MIVs), from helicopters, and on foot, the first proposal is to standardise all Infantry Rifle Platoons around a common size that provides some degree of flexibility. In this respect, the number 36 is important, because it allows a range of groupings: 

3 x Rifle Sections with 10 soldiers each plus a Platoon HQ of 6 soldiers = 36 total

Or 

3 x Rifle Sections of 9 soldiers each plus a Platoon HQ of 9 soldiers = 36 total

Or

2 x Rifle Sections of 12 soldiers each plus a Platoon HQ of 12 soldiers = 36 total

Option A allows the platoon to be divided equally between four combat vehicles. It would be no problem to fit 9 soldiers in a Warrior IFV, Boxer MIV or Bushmaster PMV. This option also ensures that each section within a platoon has a dedicated vehicle driver and gunner. It also gives Platoon HQ additional firepower that can be allocated to individual sections as required. Nominally, an extra GPMG and DMR are proposed, but a light mortar or multi-role 40 mm AGL could be carried instead. 

 

screenshot 2019-01-29 at 15.42.00This structure also reflects the fact that most NATO IFVs accommodate a total of 9 soldiers, e.g. a crew of three (driver, gunner and commander) plus six dismounts. While the UK’s Warrior previously accommodated three crew plus seven dismounts, after has been upgraded, the need to stow 40mm cased-telescoped cannon ammunition is expected to reduce dismounted section carrying capacity to six. So Rifle Sections of 9 soldiers would work well.

Option B creates three sections of 10 soldiers plus a smaller Platoon HQ of 6 soldiers. This option maximises dismounted mass. Equally, it can be used for vehicles that have a larger carrying capacity than IFVs, e.g. Boxer and Bushmaster. It is also suitable for Light Role battalions operating on foot.

 

screenshot 2019-01-29 at 15.42.15Option C Platoon divides the platoon into three groups (or multiples) of 12 soldiers. This structure is ideal for counter insurgency operations where there is a focus on foot patrols and other dismounted operations. This structure was used during Operation Banner in Northern Ireland for many years and proved to be extremely effective.

screenshot 2019-01-29 at 15.42.29Platoons divided into multiples may opt for a different weapons mix, e.g. more machine guns. This structure is also suitable for Air Assault infantry operating in helicopters. The Puma HC2 support helicopter, for example, carries 12 personnel, while a CH-47 Chinook can carry an entire platoon. 

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Boeing CH-47 Chinook support helicopter (Image: UK MoD)

With the 1 + 35 structure, platoons can change their configurations with relative ease. Also, knowing that, whatever the role or the mission, you have 36 soldiers at your disposal is reassuring, because it the efficacy and potency of the platoon becomes a known quantity. When you constantly need to juggle different group sizes, there’s a risk of not knowing whether you have enough “boots on the ground” to complete allocated tasks.

Three platoons of 36 soldiers would need to be supported by a Company HQ comprised of the Company Commander, Company 2IC, CSM, CQMS, two storemen, two clerks, two radio operators, four drivers, and two runners. This adds-up to 2 officers +14 other ranks. This proposal is in-line with what rifle companies already have. 

universal battalion structure.001
The Universal Battalion structure avoids the need for a fourth fire support platoon in each rifle company.  Extra firepower is provided by organic vehicle weapons including the more potent 12.7 mm HMG and 40 mm GMG (which are similar in capability to tripod-mounted SF role GPMGs).  This structure also avoids the extra manpower requirement furnished by the Army Reserve. This allows AR battalions to be focused on reinforcement.

03 – Fire Support Company structures

UK Infantry battalions have a Fire Support Company with five elements. These are:

  • Mortar platoon
  • Anti-tank platoon
  • Reconnaissance Platoon
  • Assault Pioneer Platoon
  • Sniper Platoon

The Mortar Platoon typically operates 8 or 9 mortars each with a crew of 4 plus a Mortar Fire Controller for each detachment of 2 mortars. This creates a requirement for 1 officer + 44 other ranks.

The Reconnaissance Platoon usually operates 6 vehicles, with each crewed by four soldiers, or 8 vehicles, with each crewed by 3 soldiers. Either way, this creates a requirement for 1 officer + 23 other ranks. 

The Anti-tank Platoon typically has 6-8 Javelin ATGM launchers, with each one operated by two soldiers. With each Javelin vehicle requiring a driver and commander, this creates a headcount requirement of 1 officer + 31 other ranks. 

The Sniper platoon usually consists of eight sniper pairs or 16 other ranks. 

The Assault Pioneer Platoon is usually comprised of 19 other ranks. 

The Fire Support Company HQ structure is the same as a rifle company, except that it will have 1 officer + 15 other ranks.

04 – Battalion HQ and HQ Company

Battalion HQ will usually be comprised of 6 officers + 10 other ranks. It will include the Commanding Officer, 2IC, Adjutant, Operations Officer, Intelligence Officer, and Training Officer. Other ranks will include the RSM, Drill Sergeant, Chief Clerk, plus 7 additional clerks / drivers.

HQ Company is comprised of five supporting elements. These are:

  • Communications Platoon
  • Medical Platoon (Regimental Aid Post)
  • Quartermaster’s Platoon
  • Logistics Platoon
  • REME detachment

The Communications Platoon (formerly the Signals Platoon) is primarily designed to support Battalion HQ by providing C4I services and radio operators. It usually consists of 1 officer + 27 other ranks. 

The Medical Platoon (which establishes a Regimental Aid Post when deployed) will be comprised of 1 medical officer + 19 other ranks. It will have 6 ambulances, each crewed by 3 personnel, although this may be increased to 8 or 9 for high intensity operations, creating a total headcount requirement of 1 medical officer + 25 other ranks.

The Quartermaster’s Platoon will be comprised of support staff whose job it is to manage and distribute material and other resources to each of the rifle companies. A nominal structure of 1 + 35 soldiers is proposed. 

A Logistics Platoon (formerly the Motor Transport Platoon) will be responsible for operating resupply and replenishment trucks. Personnel will primarily be drivers. A nominal structure of 1 officer + 19 other ranks is proposed. 

Finally, a REME Detachment will provide repair and recovery services for all Battalion Armoured Vehicles. The size of this sub-unit must be sufficient to support the tracked vehicles of Armoured Infantry battalions, so a Detachment structure of 1 officer + 37 other ranks is proposed. This will also be sufficient to sustain Mechanised Infantry Battalions and Light Role Protected Mobility Battalions.  Light Role Battalions are likely to need fewer mechanics, so there is room for downward adjustment.

Company HQ will be extremely lean with just one officer and five other ranks. 

screenshot 2019-01-25 at 19.23.44
05 – Weapon Requirements

The basic platoon structure of the Universal Battalion assumes that individual riflemen within sections will be equipped with the 5.56 mm L85A3 assault rifle (SA80) including two soldiers with 40 mm UGLs. In addition, each section now has an organic 7.62 mm L7A2 GPMG gunner plus a designated marksman with the 7.62 mm L129A1 Sharpshooter rifle. In Platoon HQs that have 9 soldiers, the same structure would be adopted, providing an additional machine gun and designated marksman rifle. This allows each platoon to have a total of four GPMGs and 4 DMRs. Various members of the platoon will also carry a 9 mm Glock 17 pistol.  As noted above, there is no reason why other weapon types and combinations could not also be used. 

With the US Army planning to adopt a new 6.8 mm High Velocity Armoured Piercing Ammunition (HVAP), the rest of NATO may follow its lead. This would see infantry platoons switch from two calibres (5.56 mm and 7.62 mm) to a single one (6.8 mm) for rifles, machine guns and DMRs. Radio operators, medics and anti-tank weapon operators would carry assault rifles with shorter barrels for reduced weight and increased convenience. 

Currently, infantry companies have a fourth fire support platoon equipped with 7.62 mm L7A2 GPMGs. With this weapon now returned to individual sections, in lieu of the 5.56 mm L110A2 LMG, there is arguably no need for a separate machine gun platoon, especially as platoon vehicles will have a mix of 12.7 mm HMGs and 40 mm GMGs.

One concern about the existing structure is that the third rifle platoon in each infantry company is furnished by the Army Reserve. Unfortunately, it is only attached if a battalion deploys and may not train often enough with the battalion to which it is allocated to achieve the desired level of integration. Returning to three standard rifle platoons with organic GPMGs, avoiding the need for a fourth fire support platoon, streamlines the overall battalion structure and reduces the administrative burden of bringing soldiers from Army Reserve units.

Weapons like the 12.7 mm HMG and 40 mm high velocity grenade machine gun are primarily vehicle-mounted systems. They are not man-portable, so will usually only accompany a platoon when mounted on MIV, MRVP, MWMIK (Jackal) or other vehicles. Platoons moving around the battlefield in MIVs may additionally get the 30 mm M230LF chain gun (the same light cannon used in the Apache attack helicopter). Troops in IFVs will additionally benefit from 40 mm CT40 cannons and 7.62 mm chain guns for support. Certainly turret-mounted 30 mm or 40 mm cannons are preferred. For dismounted infantry, the US Army is looking at .338 (8.59 mm) medium weight machine guns to provide increased firepower and range. Almost as potent as 12.7 mm HMGs, .338 MMGs are man-portable, so could help to increase overall platoon lethality, especially when operating dismounted. 

There is a case for a light mortar to be carried by each Platoon HQ. Indeed, one was carried until the 51 mm was prematurely retired (because the ammunition went out of production). It offered HE, WP, smoke and illuminating bomb types. Such a capability is definitely still needed and there is a strong case to re-instate the 51 mm exactly as it was. Some would argue that the 40 mm low velocity grenade is a substitute for 51 mm mortars, but maximum range is 300-400 metres not 700-800 metres. Some armies are looking at 40 mm medium velocity grenades to reach-out to 800 metres. Fired from multi-shot launchers, these can reliably deliver HE at distance. However, there is no escaping from the fact that a 40 mm grenade packs much less HE than a 51 mm mortar bomb. If it isn’t possible to reintroduce 51 mm, then a lightweight 60 mm mortar could be an option. The UK bought the 60 mm Hirtenburger mortar as a UOR weapon, but, in standard form, it proved to be too heavy and needed too much ammunition to get on target.  It has also been suggested that rifle companies should acquire 81 mm mortars. This is an interesting idea, but would impose an increased weight and logistical burden on rifle companies. The battalion-level system we have used since WW2, with mortars organised in a separate platoon, still seems to work well. Mortar platoons with 8 or 9 x 81 mm tubes has been proven on many occasions to be sufficient.

As far as anti-tank weapons are concerned, these tend to be issued according to the threat faced. Individual sections may carry between one and four NLAW disposable ATGMs. Often these will be stored in vehicles until needed. SAAB has produced a lightweight version of the Carl Gustav 84 mm recoilless anti-tank weapon. It offers a range of new ammunition natures from anti-tank rounds to bunker-busting HE. It may be worth returning such weapons to infantry sections or having at least one in Platoon HQ. Many armies are adding Javelin mounts to their 12.7 mm remote weapon stations. The UK is likely to do the same, but only a limited number of vehicles will get it – presumably Anti-tank and Reconnaissance platoons. 

Anti-tank platoons usually have 6-8 dismounted Javelin ATGM launchers. Those in IFVs or MIVs will have an RWS with a Javelin attachment so that it can be fired under armour. This is vital.  The ideal solution is to have a 30 mm cannon turret with twin ATGM boxes.

Sniper platoons use the .338 L115A3 rifle. This is an excellent weapon. Operating in pairs, the No.2 will have a L129A1 DMR.

06 – Vehicle requirements

The overall structure defined by sub-unit organisation reflects the fact that protected mobility is now needed more widely. With IFVs, MIVs and MRVPs, the British Army will have a range of vehicles that can each carry a full section or 9 soldiers. While Light Role battalions will primarily operate on foot, they will still need all-terrain vehicles that support them in the field. As we begin to look towards autonomous vehicles, REME support across all battalion types will become more important. With the Army embracing other new technologies, such as drones and loading carrying autonomous vehicles, having sufficient technical personnel to operate and maintain them suggests that having sufficient REME personnel is essential. 

It is estimated that a typical Armoured infantry or Mechanised Battalion will operate around 90 IFVs or MIVs and have an additional 60 support vehicles including MRVPs for command and liaison, MAN 4×4 trucks plus MAN 4×4 fuel trucks for resupply, and MAN Recovery vehicles. Infantry platoons will typically be divided between four vehicles as they are at present. 

07 – Personnel Summary

The structure outlined translates into an overall battalion size of 32 officers + 658 other ranks or 690 soldiers in total. This size of unit would do much to increase the deployability and resilience of UK infantry battalions, especially if we could field at least 18 out of 32 battalions with some form of organic protected mobility. 

  • Armoured Infantry Battalions – IFV (Warrior) – 6 battalions
  • Mechanised Infantry Battalions – MIV (Boxer) – 6 battalions
  • Light Protected Mobility Battalions – LPPV / MRVP (Foxhound / JLTV / Bushmaster) – 6 battalions

Ultimately, this discussion is about maximising “Boots on the ground.” It can best be achieved by ensuring that British infantry units are structured around ground combat roles that ensure responsiveness and efficiency, rather than being organised according to financial constraints. The US Marine Corps already adopts a similar approach to the one described here. It allows Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) to be generated quickly. With common ORBATs, marine battalions can quickly be prepared for the allocated mission.

By having so many different existing battalion structures, it is more difficult to asses overall manning levels. With a universal size, it is easy to see gaps and to fill them. When infantry commanders are able to plan around having 36 soldiers in all circumstances, this is bound to have a positive impact on training, tactics and procedures.

43 comments

  1. Where does firepower fit into the manning equation ?

    If the mortar setup is still the same as it used to be, isn’t that 6 x 81mm in peace time plus 3 from TA for full war time deployment strength ?

    6 Javelins for dismounts might be enough if we had them fitted to Warrior turrets or RWS, but we don’t.

    Is putting the GPMG back Into the section enough to ditch 12.7mm or 40mm GMG from a heavy machine gun platoon in the Support Company ? Maybe Armoured Infantry on Warrior don’t need that due to their cannon, maybe Mech Infantry on a Boxer with 12.7mm HMG or 40mm GMG RWS don’t need these support weapons, but “general purpose Light role” do, even if their MRV-P ends up with a 7.62mm RWS, as these are not Armoured fighting vehicles but battle taxis with an MG for self defence.

    I would like to see the Hirtenberger 60mm mortars purchased under UOR deployed at least in the Rifle Company HQ, more for smoke and illumination rather than HE. A Carl Gustav 84mm in the Coy. HQ for direct fire support would also be nice (don’t forget those 10 man BAOR sections in their FV432 had a lot more of them).

    So while I like your idea of a standard, basic, modular structure, it seems very typically British in that it appears under-gunned compared to allied nations ?

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    1. Jed,

      I need to add a section on weapons. Thanks for the idea. At present, infantry battalions have a fourth platoon that provides fire support via GPMGs. Both 12.7 mm BMGs and 40 mm GMGs are vehicle mounted systems. They are not man-portable.

      Unfortunately, the third rifle platoon is not present in peacetime, but is furnished by the Army Reserve should a battalion deploy on operations. Now that the GPMG has been returned to rifle sections, a separate, fourth fire support platoon is no longer needed.

      I like the idea of having more fire support in Platoon HQ.

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      1. @UKLP The GPMG Light Role and GPMG Sustained Fire are very different weapons with very different roles and capabilities.
        I can understand not having an SF Pl in armoured and mechanised battalions because the loss of firepower is offset by 30mm but in light-role battalions it is a battle-winner, especially in the defensive battle!

        Moreover, having an SF Pl means that you have more PIDs to play with too, which could be redistributed to REME or Anti-Tanks, both of which should be enlarged in Armd/Mech BGs (as well as the extra personnel in Coy HQs: Warrior Sergeant Major, CQMS(T) etc). Perhaps in Armd/Mech it could even be comverted into a 120mm Mortar Pl, complementing the 81mm which can struggle in the faster-moving and dispersed Armd battle?

        I know that the manning requirement is already verging on fantasy but maybe pushing it a bit further could give your battalion valuable additional potency?

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  2. On a related subject, getting more Infantry into standard modular structured Battalions; how would you feel about an idea I think that was first floated over on Think Defence many years ago – moving the ceremonial role over to a specific, non-regular setup ? Guardsmen and women who get very basic training, plus drill. Not combat troops at all, maybe all wearing a common “foot guards” uniform with the same number of buttons…. I suppose they might have a home defence role or be trained as medics or something, but they would be on a specific contract and would not be deployable. They would free up the Battalions and companies now assigned to this role to shore up the numbers in “real Battalions” . Maybe if you feel they have to, actual Infantry roled Guards Battalions could have more establised posts for SNCO’s and junior Officers, who could do rotations with these ceremonial Battalions.

    Thoughts ?

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    1. A sacred cow! We already have two dedicated battalions for public duties and what you’re really asking is could we make do with just one? Perhaps, but only if we reduced the commitment.

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      1. No, I am asking us to attack the sacred cows of ceremonial roles to put troops in combat formations ! 🙂

        How about a Corps of Infantry ? 6 Battalions of “Foot Guards” (armoured infantry), 6 battalions of “The Light Infantry” 6 Battalions of “The Fusilliers” (Mech infantry in Boxer) and 18 Battalions of The Rifles ?

        Silly idea ? I think we need silly ideas and massive reforms, such as your ideas on simplify rank structures to fit with a much smaller army. I have manunauch silly ideas I can assure you.

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    2. Why is it that everyone thinks being a Medic is something easily relegated to a part time role? It can’t. Medics require a lot of expensive training and continuous clinical exposure to remain competent, in date, and able to operate in the complex world of modern combat medicine. Phase 1 and 2 training for a Combat Medic is around 40 weeks, compared to 28 for an infantry soldier, and even then they are not allowed to practice unsupervised until they’ve completed their class one training (usually a year into their first posting).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As you say Marcus part time Medics would not know what the’re about compared to full time regular army medics, I was told this many a time in my time in the TA/Army reserve/ what ever it’s called this week, a large number of which tend to work in the NHS and Private Health Care and although my abilities to get the shine of my boot to dazzle the sun, the razor sharp creases in my trousers to cut the RSM’s eye balls is very poor, I did 12 years of medical training and working in A&E. I of course being TA/Army reserve would have any idea how to be a Regular Army medic keep my medical competencies up etc as I do the job five days a week and not spend an inordinate about of time counting tent pegs. The problem the Army has is when it wants people to do two jobs at once in two different places at the same time .

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  3. @UKLP I fully agree that the infantry platoon needs a manpower uplift. This is will mean better effect of weapons and better for load distribution.

    However, what about this suggestion with platoon manning lifted to 36 as follows:

    Pl HQ: Pl Comd, Pl Signaller, Pl Sgt, Pl Medic

    3 x Rifle Sect: eight soldiers. C FT with SC and three riflemen, D FT with 2IC, UGL, SS, LMG (ASM/NLAWs if appropriate).

    1 x Fire Support Sect: SC, two-man GPMG team, two-man CG/SPIKE SR/C90 anti-tank team and three-man 60mm mortar team.

    In armoured or mechanised formations the vehicle crew would be drawn mostly from Fire Support Section. Warrior can only carry four dismounts comfortably with full scales and definitely not more than six so manpower is neutral in armour (you could even have a two man surplus (9+9+9+7=34) who could crew the Coy HQ wagons. Same for Mech Inf, if you are happy to reduce dismounted infantry mass to 22 (3×6 + 4).

    I know the 60 and LMG are going but if we’re doing something as radical as new infantry ORBAT then perhaps we can pretend it is done by enlightened headsheds…

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    1. @whitehaxkle – I like this idea, keeps the flexibility of providing vehicle crews while improving the firepower !

      Speaking from recent experience ?

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      1. @Jed In my fantasy army it’s the best allocation of resources. I think this ORBAT with this weapon allocation redresses the balance of infantrymen equipped to assault and those equipped to suppress as well as giving greater flexiblity and lethality by bridging the gap between it and support weapon platoons.

        It enables a return to pre-1950s rule of four: assault, suppress, reserve, exploit.

        I really disagree with the LMG being retired. Gimpy is too big and heavy for a section weapon, it’s hard going over walls/fences/through buildings etc and shouldn’t really be fired from any position but the prone, unlike the lighter and more agile LMG. The LMG is a good belt-fed weapon up to 400m, perfect for D FT. Leave the general as a pl asset for depth targets and to join the suppressing section to give it big licks when needed.
        The GPMG requires a No 2 with binos to maximise the gun’s effect which is not going to be realised by the crow given the big heavy gun in a section.
        A dedicated anti-armour team can provide overwatch and have a capability to bridge the section-level short-range NLAW and the Jav Platoon which is overworked and undergunned in the current ORBAT.
        The 60mm Mortar is a tremendous asset we retire at our peril: not only does it have impressive reach and devastating impact (for a man-portable weapon) but the Boss doesn’t have to arrse about queuing (should it be ‘cueing’?) fire missions, instead the mortar team is at his immediate disposal. The psychological impact of fighting against a platoon with immediate indirect fire capability should not be disregarded – nor should the effect of hearing its noise and seeing its explosion.

        I am also a big advocate of platoons having their own medic and signaller.

        And yes, this is my ideal platoon properly-resourced as I see it based on recent – indeed, current – experience.

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  4. Nice edit 🙂

    The question of multi-shot 6 round revolver type 40mm grenade launchers with MV rounds versus the UGL is a good one. It could be the primary weapon and role of squaddie per section to be the grenadier.

    I don’t understand why the “commando” (no bipod) version of the 60mm mortar would be less accurate or more difficult to get rounds on target than a 51mm ? In Battalions with appropriate vehicles the longer barrel bipod mourned versions could be used with the hand held MFC computer, the ability for the Platoon commander to deploy smoke to scene manoeuvre or break contact is key I think.

    With a 7.62mm MG, 7.62mm DMR and 6’ shot 40mm GL in each section I would not want to follow the Yanks direction to an overly powerful 6.8mm AR for everyone. Rounds and weapon will be heavier for dubious long range body-armour piercing performance.

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  5. Just realized – your modular multi-role battalion has 42 people less than the current Armoured Infantry battalion establishment – who are these 42 peeps and what do they do? Or what is not getting done in the modular battalion ?

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    1. The fourth MG platoon in each rifle company is removed as GPMG is returned to other platoons. This reduces each company by 20 personnel. But each platoon then gains four or five extra soldiers. Small rationalisations made across other Support units help reduction.

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  6. Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood, but I don’t see how counting drivers makes for a bigger platoon, surely we should be counting dismounts, which given the ever shrinking number of seats and the ever increasing size of our soldiers should be 28. With that in mind I’d suggest four sections of six, so that everyone off a given platform is on the same page, four sections could also divide neatly down the middle with its vehicles to give two patrols of twelve under a platoon sergeant and a platoon leader respectively.
    If you’re looking to increase platoon strength without greatly increasing overall numbers I’d eliminate the support company and draw its manpower and vehicles down from battalion, possibly adding two dedicated support sections to a platoon. This would prevent your rifle sections from becoming overburdened and also allow greater autonomy at company level, perhaps creating miniature battlegroups akin to French SGTIA’s.
    I’d integrate a fourth rifle company from the TA into your battalion too, to train alongside it and to be fully conversant with its people and its methodology.
    Moving from the micro to the macro, the organization of the army overall is a little wacky, given the number of infantry battalions you’d expect to see simple structures equivalent to ten brigade combat teams, but you don’t; I’d say this is a worry not just operationally but because it lends itself to questions and to cuts, the fighting and the support units should explain and justify each others existence.

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    1. I have proposed just what you suggest in your comment. A platoon of 1 + 35 divides neatly into four sections of 9 soldiers, allowing 7 dismounts per section or your magic number of 28 dismounts total per section. It is important to include drivers and vehicle gunners in section ORBATs, because so often they are not specifically catered for in organisational structures. By specifically including them, you ensure that the total number of dismounts is not diluted. The thing about 36 is that it divides neatly a number of ways 4 x 9, 3 x 12, 3 x 10 + 6, 4 x 8 +4. So it is a very flexible number.

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    2. @Captain Nemo
      I like your idea: dismounted mass needs to be maximised. However, your suggestion of four rifle sections will require even greater manpower to maximise effect.

      Four section vehicles each having six dismounts with three crew is 36. Are your Pl Comd and Pl Sgt vehicle commanders or are they additional? If additional, they’ll require their own wagon with the necessary extra personnel as crew. If they are vehicle commanders of two of the four section vehicles then when they dismount their vehicle gunner will have double workload. For all modern technology, gunning and commanding really require two people, else you have an ineffective platform.

      To solve this problem, and to give flexibility through spare seats (needed for terps, picking up dismounts whose wagons are elsewhere and any atts and dets), to build on your idea would it be an idea to give the Pl Sgt and Pl Comd their own wagon each? The platoon could divide into two three wagon sub-platoons each having a dismounted mass of 1+6+6?
      Doing this has massively increased the company in vehicles (+6) and personnel (platoon now being 9+9+9+9+4+4=44 without a Signaller or medic).

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    3. I think that wider structures, instead of ten BCTs we should look at the French and Australians.
      My Army 2020 would see 1XX and 3XX each have an armoured brigade, mechanised brigade and motorised bridges.

      The armoured brigade would have Ajax Recce, Chally, Ajax IFV (bye bye Warrior!), probably Boxer SPH.
      The mechanised brigade would have Boxer 120mm TD, Boxer IFV, Boxer SPH.
      The motorised (Light) brigade would have MRVP/Bushmaster. In my world it would be EAGLE 4×4 and 6×6 to have commonality in light and medium protected mobility.

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      1. White Hackle

        Fantastic comments. On the LMG, I am sooo old that the “LMG” imteained on the in the RN was the 7.62 version of the Bren ! So while I have experience of this, and the food ol Gimpy, I have never carted them around In the field. In the TA i carries both L85A1 and Browning 9mm.

        I think we missed a trick not going for the much lighter 7.62 version of the Minimi, but’s a new purchase and would cost a lot more than just re-issuing old stocks of L7.

        Your fantasy FF2020 is pretty much identical to mine, but I want three brigades of each type, for 1 in 3 rotation cycle. I would also go with an old suggestion from Think Defence to use reduced numbers of RM and Para as enablers for light infantry brigades which would provide the bulk of air assault / heliborne ops and amphibious ops.

        Great minds think alike eh…..

        Keep up the good work and be safe.

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      2. White Hackle

        Fantastic comments. On the LMG, I am sooo old that the “LMG” imteained on the in the RN was the 7.62 version of the Bren ! So while I have experience of this, and the food ol Gimpy, I have never carted them around In the field. In the TA i carries both L85A1 and Browning 9mm.

        I think we missed a trick not going for the much lighter 7.62 version of the Minimi, but’s a new purchase and would cost a lot more than just re-issuing old stocks of L7.

        Your fantasy FF2020 is pretty much identical to mine, but I want three brigades of each type, for 1 in 3 rotation cycle. I would also go with an old suggestion from Think Defence to use reduced numbers of RM and Para as enablers for light infantry brigades which would provide the bulk of air assault / heliborne ops and amphibious ops.

        Great minds think alike eh…..

        Keep up the good work and be safe.

        Like

      3. @White Hackle

        I don’t understand what problem having a light, medium and heavy brigade in a division solves. It seems to be a way of thinking that stems form our past two operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and not from a perspective of a peer/near peer confrontation imo.

        If we have multi role divisions, then does this not theoritically make a third of your div redundant for any given operation? confronting an adversary such as the Russians in eastern Europe would require heavy and medium armour with the ability to mount a mobile defence via mobility and counter mobility along with long range fires etc what would the light brigade bring to this party? it would have a very vulnerable breaching capabilty and 105mm arty that is out ranged and very vulnerable to counter battery fire.

        Considering something like Mali or from our experience Afghan what would the heavy bring to the party? firepower and protection yes (which would possibly be over kill), but at the expense of a massive logistical footprint.

        How would they operate together from a logistical view point?

        I think that keeping divisions how they are is the better system and that each of the divisions should be organised into independent battlegroups (with some of their own logistics included) that can be used to bolt onto a heavier or lighter formation as and when required or massed together such as the armored div for a major confrontation.

        We can tailor our forces now for a sustained operation, such as we have done for Bosnia until the present I don’t think we need to radically change the div structure just refine the battlegroup concept to reflect the modularity aspect of the force but reataining the mass of the individual capability the heavy, medium and light bring when needed.

        If Warrior was to go, is there a reason for not looking at the KF41 Lynx rather than Ajax? Lynx can carry 8 dismounts and would allow us to really increase the mass of the armored infantry withot adding to vehicle numbers in any significant way.

        Could we not then consider having whole crews staying with the vehicle rather than depleting them when the section has to dismount? Maybe have the armoured corps supplying the vehicle crews in a similar way to the Mastiff group on Telic? (just to muddy the waters)

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  7. Interesting article on a subject I personally know little about. Hence a few questions.
    1) What is the total manpower bill of the new proposed battalions compared with the current manpower liability in all infantry battalions?
    2) Would it work for the role of the specialised infantry battalions?
    3) What about the Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment, which tend to work at company group size?

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  8. I basically used six as a starting point in the interests of standardization because six dismounts seems to be where heavy IFV’s are heading and so a six man section seems rational unless you’re happy to play musical chairs on arrival and it means you can task one section in a vehicle; presuming you can pull one guy out of the turret you max out at 28 dismounts which is the traditional platoon size.
    I understand the need to count drivers and gunners in overall numbers, but in an armoured infantry platoon the actual number you put in the field is 28 because your vehicles might want to go away again, whereas (if I understand you correctly) para’s would land and fight with 36, so platoon combat effectiveness is going to vary by up to 25% by unit.
    I was throwing around the idea of top slicing the TA and just plugging companies into existing battalions with the intention that it would enhance their professionalism and that they could pull through the three regular companies as casualty replacements. This has the unfortunate side effect of not creating many TA officers above the rank of major. Or fortunate, as you will.
    Public duties, which I think are widely despised and probably don’t help with guards recruitment, should be shared by units on low readiness across the services as much as possible, there are probably some very colourful uniforms gathering dust somewhere that would keep the tourists happy.

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    1. @Captain Nemo
      Interesting thoughts and ideas covering a few topics. I’ll break my reply into a couple of comments…

      Firstly, four sections of six troops:

      I agree fully that each section should have its own vehicle for so many reasons. You are spot on that dismounted mass should dictate the ORBAT rather than vehicle capacity. I further agree that 28 is a good number: four six-strong sections and a four-strong Pl HQ has sufficient flexibility, lethality and survivability (it can absorb casualties, something current AI platoons struggle to do).

      What I have a problem with is your suggestion to “pull one guy out of the turret”. As I said in a previous comment, IFVs do require all THREE crew to be properly effective. Each have different jobs and roles each of which is necessary to keep the wagon fighting and surviving. If push comes to shove, the gunner or commander can do both but it is such a struggle to guide the driver (who has very constricted situational awareness in Warrior), talk on the various nets, look out for anti-armour threats, identify, track and shoot targets and watch out for dismounts and all the other stuff going on from the cramped turret (which was not designed for blokes encumbered by today’s mandated PPE). The wagon’s overall capability is diminished because you’re tasking a soldier to do two soldiers’ jobs in an incredibly stressful situation – the middle of a firefight!
      You have robbed Peter to pay Paul.
      It just seems a bit of an own goal to me – you’ve got a big powerful IFV that you can’t exploit fully. You wouldn’t task the Mortar No4 to act as CPO and lay and prep fuses and fire and correct all on his own as a matter of routine, would you?

      Clambering out of the turret, the other problem I have with this idea of ‘max capacity’ is that there is no flexibility for transporting additional personnel (for example: terp, MFC, A/Pnr, EOD, blokes whose wagon has been hit, casualties etc) or carrying extra stores. Losing this space (currently in the Pl HQ wagon) is a big problem.
      Instead, why can’t be we be open to moving beyond the status quo of four vehicles per platoon? If not six wagons as I suggested previously, maybe four section vehicles plus a Pl HQ wagon? This means wagons to have space for additional personnel and stores, are all properly crewed and that dismounted mass hits the desired 28 (plus crew 5×3=15 so 43 total).

      New Zealand’s cavalry (which would be considered mechanised infantry in the British Army) do this, having 46 soldiers and six NZLAVs per Cav Tp. I can’t upload pics but their SOIs are on AKX if you have access to it and are interested.

      So the question is ‘does effective dismounted mass require an increase from four vehicles per platoon’?

      Like

    2. @Captain Nemo

      Secondly, top-slicing the Army Reserve and a Regular-Reserve integrated ORBAT:

      I struggle to see what the problem is you seek to solve and what the advantages are of integrated Reserve companies compared to the current system.

      You say this would “enhance their professionalism”. Are you implying that there is a problem with their professionalism and, therefore, competency? If so, the Army Reserve has undergone an immeasurable transformation over the past ten years. Of course, there will always be exceptions, be you Regular or Reserve, but to dismiss them as second-rate soldiers is unfounded and outdated.

      It is worth noting that the current model of the Army Reserve infantry actually achieves the endstate you seek already: generating an additional rifle company as well as generating an additional section per specialist platoon. This is because the Army Reserve Infantry works to a 1 in 3 model whereby a battalion-strength Reserve unit is expected to muster one third of its strength for a deployment.
      This is because Reserves are not expected or asked to deploy more than once per five-year period. Additionally, not everybody will volunteer. After all, the Army Reserve is not the job which pays the bills. Unless you seek to change the structure of Reserve TACOS call-up liability then keeping reserve battalions ‘paired’ to regular battalions is a good way of being able to generate an extra company of volunteers. It’s important that they are volunteers as far as possible.
      Significantly, you would reduce the Reserve Infantry from 16 battalions to just 33 rifle coys and so lost not just 15 rifle coys but lost all the support weapons specialists and G1/4/6 troops. Culling BHQs may be good for the budget, but by nowhere near enough to justify trading such depth.

      It may indeed prove a good idea if explored and developed further but I don’t understand what problem you seek to solve nor what the advantages are: it will do nothing for quality of training, Reserve professionalism and competency, morale and retention or, crucially, deployability.
      What it does do is massively hollow out the capability and capacity of the Reserve Infantry for little tangible gain beyond having a structure which is more aesthetically pleasing on an ORBAT chart.
      I don’t mean to bash your idea but I do think that the current system, despite its flaws, is generally fit for purpose.
      Unless, of course, you want to really shake up what the AR is for and how it works…

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    3. @Captain Nemo

      Thirdly, public duties:

      I really like your idea of sharing public duties!

      This is in the interest of reducing the standing commitment to one Guards battalion instead of two.

      Jed touched upon it earlier, rekindling Think Defence’s rather outlandish proposal to create a non-deployable ceremonial unit. Whilst I absolutely do not think that that is the right way to go, perhaps a shake up of public duties manning is in order?

      I have always been rather sceptical that public duties require two battalions plus the incremental companies. Are ~1,200 troops really needed??

      Not being Guards and having never done public duties, how would this sound:
      – Each Guards Regt have an incremental coy (so 500 troops).
      – Rotate one Guards Bn posted as public duties resident Bn (another 560 troops under current ORBAT or 690 under UKLP’s Universal ORBAT)
      – Have the shortfall taken up by a line battalion. Does this need a full battalion or just a Company? Does it have to be infantry? Opportunity for Reservists too? Tri-Service?

      This means that you have moved a battalion of Foot Guards out of LONDIST and back into the deployable force – that’s good, right?

      However, guarding Buck House entails huge levels of scrutiny – screw-ups will be recorded and shared online. Regimental pride is at stake. Remember this guy? No one wants a similar video of their cap badge.

      This means units/sub-units pinged would spend a colossal amount of time rehearsing at cost of other training and tasks.
      That said, mounting guard for a month would I think be novel and exciting and interesting, not least because of the opportunity for the junior ranks to live it up in London. I advocate that dressing up and waving the Colours to the sound of the drums enhances and instils pride and camaraderie tremendously. Perhaps I am just projecting after all as I am one of those who quietly enjoys drill…

      Though I strongly disagree with replacing the Woodentops, it is always good to see non-Guards have a turn. In recent years the Royal Welsh, RAF, Royal Navy, Gurkhas and even the Royal Malay Regiment have done it.
      For what it’s worth, I think it would be good to have a rotating other-arms presence.

      Perhaps there’s an article to be written somewhere in there, UKLP, especially being an ex veg head?

      I must ask though…
      Public duties are “despised” and “don’t help … Guards recruitment” – really? Are/were you Guards, Captain Nemo? Genuine question because I do not think that Guardsmen do dislike public duties to the extent you suggest. Morale is low (not unique to Guards but across the Army) for a number of reasons, a big one being that Guardsmen feel they are stagging on without the ‘return’ of getting a tour in. It’s more the lack of balance than PD itself. Contrarily, in my experience the ‘Gaaards’ are very proud of their role and it forms an important part of their ethos, setting them apart from the rest – after all, they haven’t much else to boast about! 😉

      Like

  9. One of the most readable and enjoyable articles on defence I have read recently. The discussion has been first -rate too.

    I just wanted to pick up on a comment by White Hackle. He says at one point that in his Army 2020 organization, “The armoured brigade would have Ajax Recce, Chally, Ajax IFV (bye bye Warrior!), probably Boxer SPH.”

    I’m not sure that he can wave farewell to Warrior so easily. In the most recent issue of “Soldier” magazine, there is an item headed “New Warrior stays on track”, in which the proposed “new incarnation” of the vehicle receives quite a lot of praise , including the statement “On paper the platform looks impressive and offers a raft of refinements and upgrades over its long-serving predecessor.” These apparently include not only the new 40mm cannon but also enhanced mechanical underpinnings, beefed-up armour and better comfort for the crews. There are apparently 11 demonstration versions of the Warrior being put through their paces in Dorset. So it looks as if the developments for the vehicle are at a pretty advanced stage, making a cancellation of the vehicle and its replacement by the Ajax IFV variant unlikely. If it did by any chance happen, though, I wonder if UK Land Power could tell me whether it would make a difference to his manning arrangements. The figures given for the number of soldiers carried, number of dismounts etc. of the two vehicles seem to vary somewhat according to which source you use.

    Another question I have concerns the mention in one of UK Land Power’s tweets (I do not use Twitter) that the BAE Rheinmetall Joint Venture could lead to the AS90 155mm self-propelled howitzer being upgraded to Braveheart standard. Is that a “firmed-up” concept or is it still at the level of general discussion and possibilities?

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    1. @MikeW
      Good points. In actuality, I agree that Ajax IFV replacing Warrior is highly unlikely. Indeed, I can see Warrior being used for the next ten, fifteen, even twenty years.

      However unlikely it is, I think it is desirable though: replacing CVRT, Warrior and Bulldog with a common base platform would be hugely beneficial. It is a proposal discussed at length already by a host of military commentators including UKLP.

      Reference capacity:

      Short answer: Ajax IFV has six seats (link at bottom). The Warrior has two benches – how many can you squeeze on? In the brochure it is seven. In a pinch, sure, but routinely just five or six.

      Why some say Warrior can carry seven and why some say less:
      Forgive me if this is obvious but I don’t know how much you’ve seen/been in a Warrior.
      In the back of the Warrior 510 are two benches, not individual seats. This is why the dismount numbers vary – a bench seats however many can fit, a seat is for one. There is also the fact that it’s not just about seating the troops but stowing all their personal kit and still having room for all the extra section kit and all the spare ammunition and stores and all the vehicle stores.
      Officially, Warrior carries three on the left bench and four on the slightly longer right bench. Of course it is doable but cramming seven blokes in the back is a right palava – not only for the troops but for all their kit! Bear in mind that you have to fit everybody’s kit in – that’s not just kit to fight but to live from. Storage space is hardly ample; the wagons were designed for blokes to fight from, not live in.
      Vehicle tools, pegs for the troop shelter and bits like that that don’t live in the side or back bins usually go under the left bench, the right has the hydraulic ram for the back door under it and a big tray for the rations. There are pouches hanging off the turret cage. On each side behind the benches is a shelf for personal kit (actually designed as a rack for a couple of LAWs). Cramming ten blokes’ kit in is a nightmare. Eight is hard enough (the driver helpfully stows his away in the tunnel between him and the gunner – although that is likely a death sentence if the wagon brews up or goes underwater).
      The way my unit does it is to strip kit down to belt kit and daysack for fighting and then have gonk bag in a canoe bag and a single rocket pouch containing ‘admin’ kit. Life would be easier if we had nets so boys could just strap bergens to the outside of the wagon. Anti-Tank platoons do that but that’s because in the anti-tank variant the left bench is replaced by racks for Javelin LTAs so there really is NO space for personal kit.
      Consider too the fact that soldiers are bigger now and less flexible in such cramped space, having bulky rigid body armour, helmets, belt kit and the ubiquitous daysack which did not factor to the same extent when Warrior was designed.
      Anyway, having filled all the racks with ammo for the cannon and chain gun and having packed the rations away, stowed everybody’s gonk bag, admin pouch, daysack and squeezed the six dismounts in, you give them a couple of NLAWs (12kg, 1m long each), an ASM (9kg, 1m long) and hand the 2IC a couple of spare crates of ball and a couple of link, half a dozen extra smoke, boxes of cyalumes, handful of shermulies etc etc and you see that quite quickly it’s become so crowded that six dismounts is the absolute maximum. You might be interested to know that my battalion reflects this by rarely having more than five dismounts as a matter of routine!
      Indeed, it is my opinion that four dismounts is all Warrior can really operate with for the dismounts to have any degree of comfort. But war is not about comfort, I know.

      Did your article mention or show pictures of the benches being kept or are they being replaced by seats?
      Is heating/air con being installed? I hope so. That will make a massive difference.

      And it is ‘Soldier’ so of course Warrior 2 is the best thing that ever happened to the Army…

      https://gdls-aus.com/products/ajax-ifv/ajax-infantry-fighting-vehicle/

      Like

  10. I appreciate I’ve written a lot but have a few more broad questions on future infantry structures and would be curious to hear others’ views.

    More vehicles, more dismounts:

    Building on Captain Nemo‘s comments: in solving the problem of dismounted infantry mass the starting point should be ‘what is the minimum number of dismounts sufficient’ not ‘how do we fit more troops and firepower into four vehicles’.

    Is it time to recognise that for platoons to have sufficient dismounted mass in lower-capacity IFVs we now require five or six vehicles per platoon? Why are we tethering ourselves to four?

    New Zealand’s cavalry troops are structured in this way, having 46 soldiers in six NZLAVs (18 crew, 28 dismounts). Their light cavalry troops are even bigger: 50 soldiers in eight LOVs (Pinzgauers).
    A step in the right direction?

    Organic Drones & UAS:

    Man-portable drones and UAVs could be battle-winning assets. The French and Germans have them at infantry-company level and the Australians have a surveillance section as part of their recce platoons. Should we be looking to bring UAVs to company or even platoon-level?

    Organic Air Defence:

    The UK has a problem with air defence.
    Do MANPADS have a place in the future infantry battalion?

    If so, what would this look like? What capabilities are needed? Combat enemy fast air? Anti-drones? Part of a wider CRAM matrix?

    How would an improved/expanded capability be equipped, funded and manned?

    One suggestion might be to convert the light-role battalion’s GPMG SF Pl into a MANPADS Pl?
    This assumes light-role units are geared towards lower-intensity than the operations which Armd/Mech Inf will conduct: higher-intensity warfighting with an increasingly potent air threat.

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  11. Hello White Hackle,

    To clarify, I don’t think we should be finding a person in the turret, I’m saying that’s where they’d have to come from at four vehicles unless one lies on the floor. There are ways and means around problems though, if I recall correctly when they introduced warrior with its seven seats, they split a section into a four man squad and a three man squad and the warrior became a fire support squad, but there’ll have to be some very creative thinking with twenty four seats unless you shrink your platoon or fund a fifth and sixth vehicle.
    No, I hesitated on the TA bit because it sounded derogatory, but note that I said enhance their professionalism, not that they were unprofessional. With caveats.
    Every review mentions making increased use of the reserves which sets alarm bells ringing for me. The understanding we always had with the TA was that they would fight the big one, the clue was in the name really, well until 2014 at least. Increased use of the reserves suggests to me that government wants to underpin our foreign adventures on the cheap and at the expense of the regular army. I submit that it’s the job of the regular army to be equipped to fight small wars, and not to rely on civilians for what might prove an unpopular undertaking. Whereas In a peer conflict you’re going to lose and need a lot of people very quickly and you’re probably going to find the army reserve faster than you’re going to find the regular reserve.
    I think it’s generally accepted that reserves simply cannot be expected to attain or maintain the same level of professionalism as regular soldiers, because it’s not their day job, so I posit their embedding with regular formations and should the need arise, the two diluting.
    I’ll add defence inflation here, everything costs a fortune and will cost more, all the time do more with less, how much will the reserves get? What if you disbanded the reserve artillery regiments and added reserve batteries to your regular regiments? The regular army gets guns and spare gun crews to keep them going 24/7.
    As I say I’m just throwing ideas around, not trying to invade Poland.

    Regards, Nemo

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  12. White Hackle and Captain Nemo

    Great conversation going here, I am squished onto public transit in – 30 c temps in Ontario, so please excuse typo’s !

    To deal with 3 points – infantry mass, use of TA, and number of vehicles, which are all interconnected:

    1. Infantry mass – do we have to give up on this concept ? Does it belong to WW1 and before ?
    Do we have to acknowledge the British Army lacks mass on any scale and that includes the dismounted close combat platoon ?

    Why did / do we need mass, as in large numbers of infantry boots on the ground ? To take, and then hold ground is the usual answer. Is this concept outdated ? If it’s not can we at least work round it by concentrating on fire and manoeuvre?

    That might work for armoured Infantry or Boxer based mechanized infantry, where the infantry are close protection for armoured vehicles, or their closely supporting artillery firepower. However number of boots might make the difference for protected mobility (motorized) inf. on Bushmaster as their ride.

    2. Reserve infantry

    This where I would fit the reserve infantry into the mix, sticking with 1 inf battalion providing 1 Coy on the 1 in 3 rotation to their twinned regular battalion for the regular “motorized” inf Battalions. I am not sure I would even attempt to provide reserve reinforcements to Warrior or Boxer based units.

    For the rest of reserve infantry I would convert to “home defence force” non-deployable security force for the UK home base.

    3. Number of wagons

    Linked to above hopefully we could afford extra MRV-P APC, let’s say Bushmaster, and JLTV to fully equip extra reserve Coy’s deployed to the motorized infantry. The Bushmaster I believe is a 2 crew, 10 pax vehicle with some room for stores and kit. So providing extra seats at platoon level should be affordable.

    At the armoured end, I believe Boxer is designed to also carry all the kit required for an 8 man section, which does not mean extra seats / space for more stores is not a bad thing with 6 dismounts – which takes us right back round to mass of dismounts.

    Given that kit is cheaper than people in the long run, do we need fire firepower to make up for lack of infantry mass ? At least in tracked / wheeled armoured infantry ?

    Automatic 120mm mortars have small crews for high firepower. A HIMARS trucker mounted single pod MLRS rocket launcher has only a crew of 3. The Artillery Gun Module (AGM) on tracks (Donar) or on Boxer has only 3 crew ? So back to my original question , can firepower and manoeuvre replace infantry mass, at least for armoured infantry units for the missions they will be used for, while maximizing boots on the ground for protected mobility Battalions which would have a different primary mission set ??

    Ok that’s a long post – so short range air defences, and infantry use of drones later !!

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  13. For context I’ve remembered where my TA train of thought originated, it was during the general discussion on strike brigades and a resurgent Russia. Someone pointed out that US stryker brigades had been gamed against Russian motorized and were looking at I think 50% casualty rates in under a week. I was wondering how you would fill that gap as a matter of urgency.
    As a bonus I thought that a closer relationship with reserves at battalion might serve as a nice middle ground, with regulars perhaps choosing that as way out of the service as well as for reserves finding it a way in. Either way possibly improving retention and a quality of life issue for regulars who may need some acclimatization to civilian life.

    Nemo

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    1. Captain Nemo

      I agree on the close relationship between regs and reserves, having been in a specialist reserve unit, I have seen it work really well.

      However I don’t think any future peer to peer (or near peer) conflict will allow us to stand up reserve units as reinforcements, we will go with what we have, they will fight. They will win, or loose. Maybe reserve Infantry can protect reserve loggies delivering stores and ammo. It’s a conundrum for,sure.

      I do think the reserves however have a huge role to play in defending airfields, HQ’s, dockyards, ammo dumps etc etc. In the UK.

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  14. I think we’re missing a trick with not using the reserve transition from regular service. I don’t think I was spoken to once during my six years in the reserves.

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  15. If you want to replace all kind of different types of specialised infantry with only one type of general purpose infantry, the latter will only be as good as the more specialised types today, if not only the structure and size of the bataillons is changed, but also the overall equipment and its underlying doctrine and you also must invest much more in the training of this infantry.

    This will lead to higher costs per bataillon and therefore to higher overall costs. To the other side you would then have more bataillons for one type of mission and if you go to another mission again more troops and as the author stated correctly this would lead to an overall more potent, more flexible force and you can also re-role the identical units much more easily.

    This said i think such an general purpose infantry would make much sense especially for the UK despite the higher costs but: i think also, that one of the main arguments with which the author started is a problem here: He said, that the now universal threat of IEDs leads inevitable to the logical result to equip all infantry units with protected (and therefore expensive, heavy, less mobile etc) mobility. All infantry ideally would then become mechanised infantry.

    This would increase the overall costs extreme and such an all-mech-inf force with the ability of the mech-inf to also fight as light inf if the need arises would create a high logistical footprint, high equipment costs and much higher training costs etc

    Such a doctrine would also change the very nature and character of many infantry units which would then become mech-inf and therefore their thinking, their self-understanding, their military culture and so on will change. This would inevitable change their way of fighting and therefore hinder them to be an true general purpose infantry.

    Also such an all-mech-inf force would hinder the UK forces very much in the primary target to achieve critical mass of infantry in any combat. Because of the protected mobility this general purpose infantry would become to slow, to few and to dependent on specific logistical assets. This would lead directly to an to small infantry force wich would not be able to create the said necessary critial mass and also such an infantry would simply not have the overall size which is necessary to fight in an infantry-terrain (like woods, urban etc)

    If you look only at the bataillon here one should realize that a bataillon because of its small size is very insufficient for any real infantry combat in terrain which is suited for infantry. And to the opposite for open terrain which is tank friendly the said general-purpose all-mech infantry would be more expensive than simple tanks without infantry which would dominate the open terrain against such infantry as the more numerous enemy infantry would rule the closed terrain against the to few of the general-purpose bataillons because the number of infantry outside the vehicles would become much lower if you include all this vehicles in an infantry bataillon.

    A common structure with an identical headcore for each bataillon and protected mobility for each of it would therefore create an force which in the case of the UK forces would be to small to fight in closed terrain and would not achieve the necessery critical mass there and to the opposite would not have enough fighting power to achieve victory in open terrain against an more tank heavy but despite of its higher fighting power smaller and therefore more faster and agile enemy force.

    My conclusion out of this is therefore that the UK infantry should be an general-purpose trained force and also that the headcore and structure of all bataillons should be the same, but that the protected mobility should not be an organic part of the infantry, but organised in an complete different and independent form, in own and indipendent units. My idea would be here to adept and develope the russian/soviet idea of the Bronegruppa to the extreme. So that the tanks can seperate from the infantry completly and then act as an force for their own. This would imo truly increase flexibility, fighting power and would it make even more easier to re-role the units.

    So to summarize it up: my suggestion would be to create identical infantry bataillons, but without any organic protected mobility. This would increase the size of fighting infantry men in the bataillons heavily so that they become numerically sufficient enough for infantry combat and would protect them to become mech-infantry only troops. To be true general purpose infantry they would be trained to act together with the tank units which can transport them and then assist them in the fight, but this tank units would be a world for them own and would even in the case of an unit of IFV be an complete seperate unit which could and should also fight for its own if the need arises.

    This means instead of giving every infantry unit organic protected mobility, i would even take the units that have such now this vehicles and would create own fighting units out of them which are then part of the tank troops. This would give the UK forces also more (and smaller and therefore faster, more agile, better deployable etc) units overall and would therefore increase their flexibility enormous. Also not every infantry unit would then need an kind of sister tank unit (because of rotation, because of terrain and so on) and so the number of vehicles for the protected mobility units which could at the same time act as independent fighting units seperate from the infantry could be smaller as if every infantry unit would have its own protected vehicles.

    So i think to create such an kind of modulare force, a design in which absolut necessary abilities (here protected mobility) are not an organic part of the units, but modular abilities of the overall-forces would truly create a more potent and much more flexible force as every such mech fighting unit which can offer protected mobility for an infantry unit can also offer this to any other infantry unit as the need arises and could also fight for its own seperate from the infantry.

    This would truly maximise the boots on the ground and moreover at the same time the tanks in the open and moreover the overall agility, speed, deployability and so on because of smaller units sizes for both the infantry and the Bronegruppa Tank Units (which are complete seperate independent units) which then can assist them if the need arises. Also in such an modular overall force you can also much more easily deploy and re-role then only tank units or only infantry units and this would the increase the strategical mobility and the overall flexibility of the UK forces imo very much. And as i wrote here in this blog in an earlier article especially the UK forces should be as multi-purpose and as flexible and mobile as possible, especially on the stratetigic and operational level.

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  16. The article gives the numbers and personnel strengths of each type of battalion. The total then is simply calculated as 18338. The proposed universal battalion of 690 gives a total of 22080 for 32 battalions, an increase of 3742. The specialised infantry are acknowledged not to have a primary combat role and if these are left unchanged then the increase is 2050. The Army overall is about 5000 under authorised strength and an increase to about 7000 under strength does not seem a good change.

    Ulrich gives an alternative of all battalions being light role and armoured vehicles being in independent extreme bronegruppa units. This would fit the MoD whole fleet management. If the light battalions have the current strength of 560 then 28, with the specialised infantry unchanged at 267, gives a total of 16748. That gives a reduction of 1590 from current strength that could be used for the new bronegruppa. That idea could be developed but I don’t think it is right for all British infantry.

    My preferred direction is to to look at a common organisation for the Armoured and Mechanised infantry, and a different organisation for light infantry including air assault. The Specialised infantry battalions should be a separate discussion because of their different role and very different strength.

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  17. Infantry Headquarter Company’s have the following elements:
    Company Headquarters
    Signals Platoon
    Light Aid Detachment
    Mechanised Transport Platoon
    Quartermaster’s Department
    Technical Quartermaster’s Department
    Catering Platoon
    Regimental Administration Office
    Medical Centre
    Officers Mess Staff
    Sergeants Mess Staff
    Training Wing
    Gymnasium
    Provost Staff
    Welfare Office
    Intelligence Cell
    And sometimes Recruiting Team

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  18. Exellent article and I just thought I’d add some thoughts.

    9 man sections work very well, in effect the section commander is free’d up to command 2 Lcpls who then command thier fire teams. Section commanders can step back without having to control 3 privates whilst planning his sections manouver.

    Carl Gustav could perform many of the roles that 51mm/60mm mortars were employed for and also do a better job of it than 40mm MV weapons. While it cant do indirect fire into dead ground the CG is very acccurate and very lethal which I think more than makes up for the reduced number of rounds plts will be able to carry for them. To put it in perspective I’ve never hit a target with 51/60mm and never missed with CG. Also the logistics and training burden of all the various disposable rocket systems could be removed with CG.

    Getting rid of minimi/ LMG was a mistake based on the assumption that medium to long range contacts will dominate future conflicts. In a trentch or a building 5.56mm belt feds are superb. At some point in the future it would be wise to introduce a a new light weight section belt fed ( see knights armament LAMG for example) perhaps in one of the many new calibres emerging ( e.g. 300 BLK ).

    338 MMGs are going to make GPMG SF obsolete. Increased range and lethality for less weight will kill off 7.62mm guns in the fire support/ mg section / mg plt role.

    While the US army will no doubt eventually start fielding thier new 6.8mm super calibre I think 2 rifle calibres in sections will remain wise. Intermediate ( think 300 blk or 7.62 AK) type calibres optimised for under 300m for carbines and/ or section belt feds. The newer light weight medium/ long range calibres ( eg. 6.5 grendel or creedmore) for DMR type weapons.

    40mm MV is would be an excellent addition to the ammo mix in sections bit there will be some work for the SASCs to update Pams and traces so unlikely to happen. 40mm is under used in general in my opinion.

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  19. I have done a similar analysis and share your view that a company’s optimal size is 36, after that we deviate for the following reasons:

    I have a company size of 180 that includes 4 combat combat platoons and a single combat support group (platoon), This replicates at the Battalion level so a battalion 4 combat companies and a single Combat Support Company.

    This essentially gives us a diamond structure with a centralised support function for each unit and is creates a fully contained self supporting unit at battalion level that has everything it needs, crucially this structure allows for every battalion in the force to have 1 company at high readiness, 1 training up, 1 coming off and 1 at rest and this can revolve in 3 or 6 month cycles.

    This is followed at the brigade level at which point the support scale starts to really kick in.

    1. Commando Battalion (joint para/RM group)
    1. Light infantry Battalion
    1. Strike battalion
    1. Heavy armour battalion
    1 Combat Support battalion

    By embedding these assets at the battalion and brigade levels these organisations get used to working autonomously and are supported by more CSG as each level moves up.

    A division would consist of 2 Brigades and a CnC org (900) there would be 8 Divisions bringing the deployable combat force to 79.2k with an army HQ (4.5k) and Support division of 22.5k personnel inc. Army reserve backing this all up.

    This means for the same total numbers as today we have a far more agile and deployable total force.

    CnC can be further rationalised across the whole unarmed force by having a single force structure around 1 HQ, 4 commands, each operating 2 divisions that hold all naval, land, cyber, air, space and command assets assigned to them and having a flatter structure.

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  20. I am not going into the argument about a Battalions manning however the REME manning is open to question.
    REME do not just fix vehicles, an Infantry Battalion has a huge amount of other equipment that REME have to support. An important issue that has to be maintained are weapons then there are radios. Two items that the infantry cannot do without.

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  21. I’m late to the party sorry.

    I like your set up for the battalion except for the support company which I think itshould be split into 2. For light role battalions the ISTR company with the recon platoon, assault pioneers, sniper platoon, and hopefully a uav plankton. The weapons platoon would have the mortar platoon, the anti tank platoon, and an assault gun platoon with some sort of wheeled TD or support gun. I thought of this after reading your article on assault guns.

    The heavy battalions on Boxer and Warrior would be different. Instead of an ISTR platoon it there would be a mort company with 3 platoons with 120mm mortars, plus a patrol platoon combining the sniper and recon platoons, and finally a UAV company. The other support company would have the assault pioneers and the 2-3 anti tank platoons. This would give the heavy infantry battalions more fire power when dealing with more formidable foes.

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    1. I see that you failed to include the Adjutant Generals Regimental Administration Office Platoon with around 20 personel. 2 Officers and 18 Othr ranks and the RLC Catering Platoon again a similar number commanded by a WO2 and then the SASC Sergeant and the RAPTC 2 to 3 SNCO/WO all those also add to a Battalions strenth as attached arms.

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