By Jed Cawthorne
This article is a response to the RUSI Occasional Paper on UK Strike Brigades. In particular, it looks at the need to invest in new artillery to ensure that Strike has teeth.
The online defence community has produced numerous articles that have tried to determine the most appropriate size, structure and doctrine for the British Army’s new Strike Brigades. These have mostly tried to fill the void of briefings and other unclassified information presented by the Army itself. The latest piece to drive discussion on this topic is the RUSI Occasional Paper Strike: From Concept to Force.[i]As the title of this paper implies, it provides a tangible description of Strike including an outline of the organisational structure (ORBAT) and concept of employment (CONEMP). While this certainly goes beyond anything written before, ultimately it falls short because it fails to properly address some of the legitimate concerns raised by other commentators on this topic. It glosses over the problem of mixing wheels and track by suggesting that an increased number of wheeled equipment transporters will be sufficient, when the reality of operating dispersed at distances of up to 2,000 kilometres will make operational manoeuvre in a contested battlespace extremely challenging. Nor does it properly address the lack of Strike Brigade firepower and the need for substantial investment in new artillery systems. Overall, the RUSI Strike paper does not emphasise the need to put some kind of ability to “strike” into the Strike concept. This reflects the reality of Strike, which is that it must operate within the financially constraints imposed by the Defence budget. But when those constraints impose significant operational limitations, it is important that these are highlighted and that practical solutions to address them are considered, which is the purpose of this article.
How did we get where we are?
Mechanized infantry formations based on light and medium weight wheeled armoured vehicles are nothing new. The genesis and history of this class of AFVs have been explored by a variety of other reference articles (see below). The British Army has had them since it acquired the Saladin and Saracen family of 6×6 AFVs in the 1950s. It also had the 4×4 Ferret and Fox CVR(W) armoured cars. The Army gave-up playing within the light and medium space when it replaced its entire family of light and medium wheeled reconnaissance vehicles with the tracked CVR(T) family in the 1970s. Later the Army acquired the Saxon APC, which was intended to transport reinforcing infantry from the UK to the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). Although wheeled, it was an unsophisticated truck-based vehicle with limited off-road performance, not part of a coherent expeditionary capability as its predecessors had been. Saxon was retired from service in 2008 and would have been replaced by MRAV and FRES UV had these projects been carried forward to fruition. In other words, the British Army is no stranger to wheeled personnel carriers and armoured cars.
After the Cold War ended, the absence of any new or significant threat meant that it made sense to retain the existing heavy tracked forces we had built up. The UK’s Chieftain/ Challenger MBT, AS90 artillery, FV432 APC and Warrior IFV fleets remained in Germany. Within 24 hours of the 1990 Defence White paper, “Options For Change,” being signed-off, Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. The MBTs, SPGs and IFVs that had remained unused in Germany for almost half a century were deployed to the Middle East for use in Operation Desert Storm (First Gulf War) and compressively overmatched Iraq’s Soviet-sourced armour. A decade later in 2002, the same armoured vehicles were used again during Operation Iraqi Freedom (Second Gulf War). Warrior IFVs also provided protected mobility in the Balkans. As the British Army transitioned from fighting a desert campaign against an armoured enemy organised along Soviet lines, to peace support and then to counter-insurgency operations, it was not deemed necessary to invest in new heavy armoured equipment for fighting peer adversaries. Money set aside for renewal was spent on Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) for specialist vehicles use in Iraq and Afghanistan, specifically MRAPS that were urgently needed to counter the threat posed by IEDs. Today, the resurgence of Russia underlines the fact that heavy tracked armour still has a place, but our heavy armour assets are obsolete and worn out. Meanwhile, a corresponding need to establish expeditionary forces so we can deploy over longer distances has become paramount. This implies the need to renew medium and light wheeled armour as well as heavy armour.
After 2010, the Army’s core strategy fluctuated as new threats evolved and Government austerity measures cut the defence budget. We went from the “Multi-Role Brigade” concept based on five identical brigades that would enable sustained overseas deployments; to the “Dual Force” concept of Army 2020 with a “Reaction Force” comprised of three comprehensive Armoured Infantry brigades plus an Air Assault Brigade supported by an “Adaptable Force,” which was in reality a collection of infantry battalions without the Combat Support (CS) and Combat Service Support (CSS) elements they needed to be deployable; to the “Tri-Force” concept of Army 2020 Refine which has a single deployable division comprised of two Armoured Infantry brigades, plus two Mechanised Infantry or Strike Brigades” and a single Air Assault Brigade. All of these constructs have been uneasy compromises in the eyes of senior commanders, because each was driven by budget limitations not objective analysis of Britain’s defence needs. Some of the referenced articles cover this ground in great detail, but the bottom line is, it puts us where we are today:
- Smallest standing army since before the Napoleonic Wars
- No sustained investment in spiral development of existing platforms leading to block obsolescence
- UK Army desire to deliver capability across all key areas, leading to “salami slice” cuts, with the Army trying to keep at least something of everything
- A distinct lack of ‘fires’ – a Royal Artillery almost withered to the bone
- Increasingly expensive programmes that finally upgrade vehicles that should have been life-extended or retired decades ago (e.g. the 60-year old FV432)
- Insufficient resources to comprehensively renew every capability that needs updating
When it comes to the mix of Armoured infantry Brigades versus Strike Brigades and taking a holistic view of Army modernisation, an important question is – what do we prioritise if we cannot afford to fund everything the Army needs to provide a broad spectrum of capabilities?
- Challenger 2 MBT life extension and Warrior IFV capability sustainment programmes
- Introduce Ajax family (FRES Scout vehicle) into service
- Introduce MIV into service and establish Strike Brigades
- Select and introduce MRV-P into service
- Replace or upgrade AS90 155mm SPG
- Introduce new GBAD system to replace Rapier
- Introduce new communications and battle management systems to replace Bowman etc.
If we need to do all of these things, we need to accept that they cannot all be done at the same time. We also need to review the scope of each programme to ensure they are still relevant to the threats we face. At a fundamental level, there is a need to re-think the Army’s role, mission sets, size, structure and capabilities. Whatever we do, so long as the Army continues to operate within a fixed budget, it may need to cut or reduce the scope of some programmes to pay for others. Given headcount caps and other constraints, there is an increased risk of the Army being deployed as part of a coalition in NATO Article 5 scenarios in Western Europe, or for operations elsewhere in the world (most likely the Middle East or Africa). So it may make sense to reconfigure the Army around the Strike Brigades and at the expense of Armoured Infantry brigades.
To be clear, this would involve cancelling Challenger 2 and Warrior upgrade programmes and abandoning the Armoured Infantry brigade concept. This means no MBTs, no heavy tracked IFVs. Instead, Army modernisation would focus on building a distinctive capability around medium weight wheeled forces capable of long-distance autonomous deployments and with a reduced logistical footprint. Such an approach would not automatically reduce the UK to being a second-tier player of no real value to our allies, but it give us renewed focus and a chance to develop new doctrine and acquire capabilities that would allow us to excel at expeditionary warfare, making it an area of expertise.
Why we must stop “Salami slicing” and jealously guarding “Sacred Cow” capabilities.
When you try to fulfil every capability requirement, you end up performing every role at a basic level, but none with distinction. A question for anyone who thinks that retiring our tanks is heresy: after we have spent around £1 billion exquisitely updating 148 ancient Challenger 2s, how useful is such an insignificant number going to be in deterring Russian aggression in the Balkans, or against some terrorist group in the horn of Africa? This is not to suggest the concept of the MBT is obsolete – not at all, but Poland’s 200+ modernized Leopard 2s and 500+ PT90’s, plus US Army M1A2Cs Abrams forward based in the same country, are going to be a lot closer to the fight than any British contingent, even if we retain a presence in Germany to store them. Then there are those who think that leased civilian low-loaders or new military HETs are not particularly expensive and could solve the strategic mobility problem of how we get to the fight. While this adds further cost to the budget, the potential impact of “hybrid warfare” tactics being used against deploying UK forces – SF/ Spetsnaz ambushes, sowing intended route with IEDs and mines, sabotage by sleeper cells, air attacks and so on, makes such an approach marginal at best. There are also many threats that would challenge a naval convoy trying to position armoured infantry brigades where needed. Assuming we could eventually deliver a tracked formation to where it was required, we simply would not have sufficient numbers of Challenger 2 and Warrior to achieve a worthwhile impact once deployed, because we lack sufficient artillery and ground-based air defence (GBAD) assets to support them. Life extension programmes are now so late and costly in terms of the longevity they add, that they fail any reasonable cost/ benefit analysis.
Force generation and readiness
The other major concern about the present plan is that resource constraints may well result in us “spreading the jam too thinly” to properly resource two Armoured Infantry and two Strike Brigades. What kind of proper training and deployment cycle can be achieved with only two brigades of each type? Traditionally, we have always maintained a minimum of three brigades to ensure that we always have one available at a state high readiness at any given time. With just two, we will struggle to field a brigade at short notice. This is why we have a single Battle Group in Estonia, not an entire Brigade.
It would be even better if there were four formations in the force generation cycle, especially if we plan to deploy forces out of area as well. At a bare minimum, there is a strong case for returning to a structure of least three of any given formation type so that we can sustain a full force generation cycle:
1 in basic training / reset
1 in advanced training,
1 in high readiness (or deployed)
This also goes for the Air Assault Brigade. This should have three Parachute Regiment infantry battalions not two, for exactly the same reasons. Alternatively, high readiness forces could be generated by rotating the Air Assault Brigade with 3 Commando Brigade and a third high readiness infantry brigade made-up from other miscellaneous infantry battalions out of the total of 32. High readiness forces could also be achieved by considering the idea of the Light Strike Brigades.[ii]
In any event, at its core this proposal re-focuses the Army around three fully-equipped Strike Brigades with infantry and artillery mass, on wheeled platforms, to establish an agile and resilient war fighting capability, so that the Army better invests the resources at its disposal and is better equipped for the range of specific missions it will be needed to execute.
Where does Ajax fit in an all-wheeled Army?
Before proceeding further, we need to consider what should be done with the Ajax family of tracked reconnaissance vehicles that are now starting to be delivered. We are committed to purchasing 589 Ajax vehicles. It would be extremely difficult to cancel or reduce the contracted number without incurring significant financial penalties. While tracked vehicles are no longer a primary part of new brigades, Ajax can still play a useful role in a mostly wheeled force, but unlike the Army’s current plan and RUSI paper proposal, it would not be employed in mixed wheeled / tracked formations. We will have enough Ajax vehicles of all types to equip three Armoured Reconnaissance Regiments in a brigade, plus training vehicles at BATUS etc. This gives us sufficient regiments for a 1-in-3 rotation in a revised force generation cycle. As part of NATO article 5 commitment, we could have the high readiness Reconnaissance Regiment based in Poland, as the formation Recce element of either a Polish Division or a US Armoured Division based there. This could be backed up by other tracked assets, such as the M270 MLRS and combat engineers. To this end, it may be worth retaining a single regiment of AS90 with at least three batteries to provide close support fires.
The important point is that Ajax could still play a useful role even though the MBTS and IFVs it was intended to support were no longer used. We just need to think differently about the value they bring. The high readiness regiment in Poland could provide a squadron to one of the Baltic states as part of the strategy for forward engagement and training allies. It just doesn’t make sense to mix Ajax with Boxer simply because we have it. However, with turreted Boxers, we would not need it in the Strike Brigades, allowing to perform a more specialised role.
Why focus on Strike Brigades not AI Brigades?
The RUSI paper justifies the need for Strike Brigades well by articulating the Army requirement for a force able to self-deploy at distances of up to 2,000 kilometres. It also reviews some of the capability gaps that are likely to exist within Strike Brigades as currently envisaged. It suggests that a wheeled medium Armoured force has utility in a Northern European Baltics / NATO Article 5 context, as well as in a global out of area operations context. A long-range self-deployment capability is also important when considering the sophisticated anti-access / area denial technologies available to terrorists organisations and other non-state actors. We may want to deploy a brigade by sea to a port some distance from its eventual area of operations in order to reduce the risk of obvious lines of approach by being disrupted by mines, anti-ship missiles, small boat swarms and even raids on, or sabotage of unloading shipping.
Under current plans, Strike Brigades will have Boxer 8x8s equipped with 12.7mm HMGs supported by 40mm cannon-equipped Ajax vehicles. This may be sufficient for neutralising terrorists in Africa, but for independent formations countering a potential Russian / Russian-backed hybrid force in Europe, it will need additional firepower. This is why Strike Brigades design needs to focus on investment in new artillery systems.
Firepower, putting “strike” into the Strike Brigade concept
The RUSI paper attempts to address firepower constraints within the context of the Army investing in Challenger 2 and Warrior upgrades. It suggests that 120mm automatic mortars (Patria NEMO) on the Boxer would fulfil an important close range fires requirement at the battle group level. Such mortars provide the punch of 155mm artillery at ranges of up to 10 kilometres, but have a reduced logistical footprint and, if mounted on Boxer, would offer vehicle platform commonality. This would deliver a considerable uplift in close-range firepower, and would be particularly useful in rapidly evolving meeting engagements. However, the RUSI paper goes on to suggest that there is no ideal wheeled 155mm self-propelled artillery presently available, so it jumps straight to the 227mm NATO standard MLRS, in its wheeled truck mounted form developed for US Army and USMC, known as HIMARS. A wheeled multi-launch rocket system would certainly be a useful addition, especially for deep fires, but can 155mm artillery be overlooked so easily?
Strike Brigades will excel at delivering infantry mass when and where it is needed, to seize and hold vital territory, to degrade an enemy’s war fighting ability, and to close-with and defeat the enemy. While the agile nature of such a formation will allow it to manoeuvre to critical points to deliver effect and respond rapidly across a variety of situations, artillery remains a critical component in achieving all of these goals. So the firepower that a Strike Brigade brings to the party will be its most important enabler. As much as Strike Brigade infantry units will rely on artillery to support them, artillery components will correspondingly rely on infantry, plus ISTAR and C4I assets, to protect them. In fact, infantry battalions will play an increasingly important role in ensuring that artillery can deliver lethal effect.
The need to concentrate on delivering superior firepower where needed is because the British Army no longer has sufficient infantry (or other arms) to achieve blanket coverage, as we have done in the past. Even during the Cold War, we moved to a doctrine of highly mobile, dynamic defence. We no longer have the size or mass to dig-in with solid overhead protection to save us from enemy artillery. In a NATO Article 5 scenario , we would need to leave fixed defence to the regular, reserve and militia forces of Poland and the Baltic states.
If we cannot provide a solid, multi-layered static defence with the traditional reserve for blocking enemy breakthroughs, what can we do? We can and should focus on destroying an enemy’s combat power and combat effectiveness. That does not require us to go static or hold a particular terrain feature or geographic locale. It does require us to find and reliably target enemy units, to pass the targeting data to suitable weapons systems, to hit the enemy hard, and then to quickly move to a new position to avoid counter fires. It requires us to protect our own ISTAR assets, artillery systems, logistics and command elements, and it requires us to do this in an environment without a traditional “front line.” Indeed, contemporary warfare will involve tactical penetration with overlapping enemy and friendly forces. As noted by the RUSI paper, it will be an environment where we will need to operate dispersed so as not to present an juicy target opportunities to the enemy. Adding further complexity, we will need to do this in an environment where we are denied air supremacy or even air parity and therefore we will lack the abundant close air support and interdiction that our ground forces have become used to. In fact, NATO air forces will increasingly rely on ground forces to take-on an anti-A2AD role, targeting and destroying integrated air defence systems.
The Royal Artillery – core of the Strike Brigade
Central to this revised Strike concept is the need for substantial investment in the Royal Artillery. We must place revitalised fires capabilities at the front and centre of the Strike Brigade. This means investment in the following systems:
- 120mm mortars at company group level as mentioned above
- 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzers
- Wheeled multiple launch rocket systems
- Precision guided and anti-armour munitions / systems
- Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) from Counter-UAS (C-UAS), through Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD – Starstreak HVM) to Short to Medium range (25km) from SkySabre
It doesn’t matter if the 120mm mortars used are fully-automated NEMO systems, or one of the many other systems on the market, nor does it matter if they are grouped within infantry battalions as they are at present or artillery batteries attached to battle groups. But we do want as many as possible; perhaps as many as 32 per brigade. Whether it’s air bursting HE, laser guided precision attack rounds, rapid deployment of smoke screens or IR illumination, 120mm mortars are affordable and effective.
The UK Land Power view is that the RUSI paper is wrong to forego 155mm tube artillery. There is definitely a need for some kind of L/52 calibre 155mm self-propelled howitzer. The gun-on-a-truck (GOAT) concept is not ideal, especially if the system takes more than a few minutes to bring in and out of action; if it is unarmoured; or, if the crew needs to dismount to operate it – all of which make it vulnerable to counter-battery fire. While the French wheeled 155mm Caesar mobile artillery system offers many benefits, it cannot match the mount and dismount times of a tracked self-propelled howitzer, like the K9 Thunder, or move across country as rapidly. So some kind of wheeled self-propelled gun is preferable. The South African C6 Rhino 155mm howitzer is an interesting and proven option. The new Boxer RCH155 has an automated howitzer and is built on the same Boxer platform that the UK is acquiring. It is still in development and there are concerns with its mobility and the fact that it only carries 18 ready rounds when it really needs 40. It will also need its own logistics and ammunition carrier to support it in the field.
While a credible wheeled 155mm gun does not yet exist, we should not exclude the need for wheeled 155mm artillery. If we save cash by cancelling Challenger and Warrior, we should use it to invest in a viable wheeled L/52 155mm artillery platform. Fully-automated systems are preferred, not just for their “shoot and scoot” rapid engagement and withdrawal capabilities, but because people are expensive to recruit, train and retain, and smaller gun crews are thus a good thing, but since electronics are prone to malfunction, some kind of reversionary capability is desirable. 155mm logistics are somewhere between the smaller individual rounds of the 120mm mortars, and the very large rocket packs of the 227mm MLRS. With MLRS re-supply trucks it is more about volume and how much space the rocket pack takes up on a truck, which could probably carry considerably more 155mm rounds / charges. With speciality rounds including long range GPS guided, BONUS anti-armour rounds, and the ability to put down a large number of standard HE rounds, I think the Brigade needs a full regiment of 32 guns, and the logistic support that goes with them. Archer or Caesar 155mm howitzers on a MAN 8×8 truck would be a viable alternative to a Boxer AGM or G6.
This does not preclude the use of a wheeled (MAN truck) mounted MLRS system similar to the US HIMARS. Although the original “steel rain” sub-munition rockets, providing the MLRS with its “grid square removal” capability have been phased out due to international treaties banning sub-munitions, the Army has made great use of the M31 Unitary warhead Guided MLRS rocket nicknamed “the 70km sniper” in Afghanistan. Such rockets obviously have continued utility depending on the scenario in which the brigade is engaged, and whether they are in a GPS denied EW environment. The US is currently working on the Alternative Warhead Program to provide a heavy fragmentation effect from a single 200lb warhead, in an effort to replace the effects that used to be provided by the sub-munitions warheads. The UK should definitely get in on this act and invest in this type of rocket. However despite the great utility of a wheeled MLRS, the bulk of the 6-round rocket packets remains a concern, along with the number that can be carried by a single re-load truck. If the Strike Brigades is going to operate autonomously, with its logistics tail travel closely behind it wherever it goes, it will need to protect those supplies as it moves. This means that ammunition density may favour the tube artillery. So perhaps we would have fewer HIMARS launchers in Strike Brigade.
While it makes sense to constrain the procurement of new capabilities to available, off the shelf systems, one capability that is also worth investing in is a ground launched Brimstone anti-armour capability. The US Army’s Multi-Mission Launcher (MML) was developed quickly and inexpensively, using some HIMARS components and has test fired a Hellfire. If it can fire Hellfire, it should be able to launch Brimstone too. With 15 missile cells on the launcher, this is equivalent to a full Brimstone load-out on a Typhoon, and could provide the Brigade with a very useful autonomous anti-armour over-watch capability in all weathers, when tac-air cannot make it to the party. If we were to invest in this system, we might as well buy some Miniature Hit-to-Kill missiles for the C-UAS / C-RAM capability from the same launch vehicle, because the Brigade is going to need this capability too.
In terms of Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD), more SkySabre batteries are needed. Under present plans, we will acquire just 24 SkySabre launchers with a significant number being deployed to the Falkland Islands. We need a minimum of 96 or three air defence regiments each with 32 launch systems. We also need to mount the Starstreak HVM SHORARD missile used on the Stormer platform on a wheeled platform, ideally Boxer. The RUSI paper suggests that we need a cannon-based SHORAD system because missiles are too expensive to be used to defeat small drones. The Skykeeper 35mm system mounted on a Boxer module is extremely good. Its revolutionary AHEAD ammunition with tungsten fragments has a large burst pattern. Although the ammunition is expensive, fewer rounds are needed to defeat a target than with systems like Goalkeeper.
We would also need commensurate investment in ISTAR, and C4I systems. The Army presently has a total of 5 counter-battery locating radars with a limited range. Moving on from ARTHUR (Mamba in UK service) to Giraffe 4a would give us the ability to track aerial targets as well as artillery shells. Linked to our air defence systems, this would give Strike Brigades much greater resilience.
The Mechanised Infantry Vehicle
At the heart of Strike is the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle, the ARTEC Boxer 8×8. Developed between 1998 and 2008, it builds upon the success of the USMC’s LAV-25 and US Army’s LAVE III (Stryker) platform, but offers much greater protection. Good on-road and off-road, it delivers 80-90% of the cross-country performance of an equivalent tracked platform, while being 30-40% less expensive to acquire and 50% less expensive to support through its lifecycle. If we make this platform the focus of the Strike Brigades, just as we made the FV432 family the core armoured platform of BAOR during the Cold War, then we will need to buy a significant number – not just the 514 currently envisaged, but something like 1,800-2,000.
An ideal brigade configuration would be four primary Boxer equipped units. One would be a medium reconnaissance regiment with the fire support variant of Boxer mounting a 30-50mm cannon in a manned turret; the other three would be mechanised infantry battalions with a Boxer infantry carrier mounting some form of light cannon in a remote weapon station or unmanned turret.
The infantry carrier variant of Boxer is expected to mount a 12.7mm HMG. While this is suitable for command, engineer and other support variants, it is not sufficient for high intensity engagements. The Northrop Grumman M230LF chain gun (used in the Apache AH-64 attack helicopter) would provide a better capability that would enable an overmatch versus 14.5mm and 23mm cannons. Mounted in something like the the Leonardo / Moog Reconfigurable Weapons Installation Platform (RWIP), this allows various missile systems to be included in the configuration. We might want to add a pair of Javelin or MMP ATGMs, quad Light Weight Multi-Role Missile (LMM) for anti-helicopter, C-UAS and anti-light armour roles, or even tube launch UAS for STA roles. The same highly flexible system could also be fitted to Ares vehicles in Ajax regiments, and even for JLTVs purchased as part of the MRV-P programme.
Given that Ajax will have the 40mm CT cannon, it makes sense to mount this system on a Boxer reconnaissance variant. We might be able to re-purpose the LMUK turret destined for Warrior on Boxer.
We will acquire an extensive range of Boxer variants including C2, ambulance, combat engineer, repair and recovery and other specialist configurations. If the budget could be stretched far enough, Challenger 2 could be replaced by fitting a Leonardo 120mm HitFact turret to a Boxer Direct Fire variant. Or, we could simply but the Italian Centauro 2 off-the-shelf, which has the same turret. We could equip one regiment per brigade with this to back-up the formation’s ATGM component with APFSDS penetrators.
Summary and Conclusion
There is much good work that went into the RUSI paper on Strike and there is a lot of great thought that has gone into the various articles in the reading list at the beginning of this one. Comments in the RUSI paper on logistics are not considered here, but it is important to emphasise that the logistics system behind the Strike Brigades will be essential. Second, the Army as a whole is going to need to invest in a more substantial EW capability through which we can listen-in on enemy conversations, jam communications, target headquarters and disrupt the enemy’s own logistics chain.
To conclude, there essential characteristics of the all-wheeled force proposed here are:
- Strike Brigades become the core of the UK’s land component, with a focus on equipping three multi-role formations
- Retiring heavy armour would not make us a third world military power
- The MBT is not obsolete, but rather than spending huge amounts of cash on penny packets of capability, it’s time for a fundamental re-think
- Let the countries that will be fighting on their own turf build their own forces around heavy armour, which has much shorter distances to deploy into action
- Remember there is a reason why the Russians have always considered artillery as the “Queen of the battlefield” – it wins battles – so the RA needs considerable investment
- Artillery should be at front and centre of Strike Brigades capability – in this respect it is a wheeled medium armour version of Lt. Colonel Douglas McGregor’s Reconnaissance Strike Group (RSG)
- The Strike Brigade has three mechanised infantry battalions to give it the dismounted mass needed for flexibility and resilience – but this means investing in a large of Boxer platforms
- There is a role for the Ajax vehicles in this new way of doing things, it is just not mixed in with wheeled Strike Brigades
- Apart from the Immediate Reaction forces, there should be three of everything: three Strike Brigades, with three Infantry battalions, in order to have reasonable force generation cycle
- To achieve a credible force, we will need to take some tough decisions, but if we are prepared to sacrifice older, less relevant capabilities to concentrate on others that relate directly to the unique challenges the UK would face, we would establish a modern and credible force that would make us a more useful and flexible ally our NATO allies and coalition partners.
Ultimately, this discussion isn’t about challenging individual equipment choices, such as which cannon or missile systems should be acquired, but about the viability of a new operating concept. In any event, our approach to contemporary warfare must acknowledge that we will never have enough boots on the ground to hold a line, or defend a city. This means we need to consider innovative doctrines. The Strike concept implies we can effectively manoeuvre in the land domain (including within the littorals and cyber / information domains), and we can destroy or render combat ineffective enemy formations, while denying their capabilities. So long as Strike Brigades are properly resourced, there is no reason why they cannot be transformational.
- UK Strike Update: https://uklandpower.com/2018/05/21/uk-strike-brigade-update/
- UK and US Strike Comparison (Gabrielle Mollineli) https://uklandpower.com/2017/12/04/uk-and-us-strike-brigade-comparison/
- The Genesis of Medium Wheeled Forces – https://uklandpower.com/2017/12/06/the-genesis-of-medium-weight-wheeled-forces/
- Concept for UK Recognisance Strike Group (Jed Cawthorne) https://uklandpower.com/2017/12/11/concept-for-a-uk-reconnaissance-strike-group-rsg/
- The British Army – Transformation in the Age of Complexity: https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/the-british-army-transformation-in-an-age-of-complexity/
- The Boxer and the British Army – third time lucky https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2018/03/boxer-and-the-british-army-third-time-lucky/
- The Light Strike Brigade – https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/light-strike-brigade/
- British Army Medium Weight Capability (a “long read”) https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/british-army-medium-weight-capability/
- The Strike Brigade – what, why, and how (Jed Cawthorne) https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2016/10/the-strike-brigade-what-why-how/
- Those new fangled Strike Brigades – https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2015/11/40238/
Gabriele Molinelli – UK Armed Forces Commentary:
- RUSI tries to fix Strike – but can it be fixed? http://ukarmedforcescommentary.blogspot.com/2019/06/rusi-tries-to-fix-strike-but-can-it-be.html
- Theory and practice of the medium weight force: http://ukarmedforcescommentary.blogspot.com/2017/09/theory-and-practice-of-medium-weight.html
- The Czar of Battle: Russian use of artillery in Ukraine portends advances: https://www.janes.com/images/assets/111/80111/The_Czar_of_battle_Russian_artillery_use_in_Ukraine_portends_advances.pdf
Strykers on the Mechanized battlefield https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/November-December-2017/Strykers-on-the-Mechanized-Battlefield/
[i]Strike: From Concept to Force: https://rusi.org/publication/occasional-papers/strike-concept-force
[ii]Think Defence: https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2018/02/light-strike-brigade-concept/
A very interesting and well-thought out article. Thank you for taking the time to write it.
What you are saying is that UK Strike Brigades are far more than just a medium weight capability; they will form the basis of a new and highly-effective future operating model for the British Army. If that’s the case, then, as you suggest we should prioritise Strike investment over all else and build other capabilities around it.
I also agree that new artillery systems are essential if Strike formations are to have sufficient firepower. We definitely need the extra range that 120mm mortars will bring over 81mm mortars at battalion- and company-level. We will also need HIMARs (preferably mounted on a MAN HX. not the US M142 FMTV) to provide a multi-launch rocket capability at divisional-level (and I hope this would include purchase of the new DeepStrike missile which has a 499 km range.) As you suggest, we will need 155mm tube artillery at brigade-level to complement both. If not Boxer RCH155 then something like Caesar or Archer on a MAN truck. We will also need to up our our game in STA and counter-battery capabilities.
For me, the most transformational capability would be a ground-launched Brimstone ATGM with a beyond-line-of-sight capability. If concealed units operating dispersed in forward areas could direct anti-tank missiles fired from 45 kilometres away, enemy tank units would never know what hit them.
I also like your point about having three Strike Brigades instead of two, because three or four would allow for more efficient force generation and readiness cycles with one brigade deployed, one brigade training in preparation for deployment, and one brigade resting/ resetting prior to repeating the cycle.
What I don’t agree with is scrapping Challenger 2 and Warrior, even in the short-term. Such are threats we face, that the likelihood of needing to deploy in the near future is higher than at any time I can remember. The enduring need for MBTs is linked to something else that the RUSI paper didn’t fully explore and this how Strike Brigades will work with Armoured Infantry brigades. I can see both deploying together. Strike gets there first and acts as a blocking force, then AI arrives later to add resilience and firepower.
A 120mm mobile gun system like Centauro 2 would be excellent, but I see these complementing MBTs rather than substituting them. Main Battle tanks can absorb punishment that would wreck an 8×8 mobile gun system. Of course, a Centauro that deploys quickly enough to influence the outcome of a battle is much better than an MBT that fails to arrive in time.
I also think it is important to have both Ajax and an Ajax or Warrior IFV. The only real difference between these vehicles and Boxer reconnaissance and infantry carriers is that they are tracked. Though wheeled AFVs can go just about anywhere a tracked ones can, tracks still have a mobility edge across the most testing terrains. If we needed to deploy to the Baltics in mid-winter, tracks would probably be crucial.
We can only make a mix of Strike Brigades and Armoured Infantry Brigades work if we have three of each. This means having an Army with two deployable divisions. If we don’t have the money to generate the six component brigades and we are forced to prioritise, then Strike should be the focus. But, if we really want to implement both, then your article makes a strong case for an increased defence budget.
Firstly thank you for providing a venue to publish this article, and a for being a great sounding board to bounce ideas back and forth.
I completely understand your point about retaining MBT’s and IFV’s but as I noted in the article and as you acknowledge, I am afraid of the constant salami slicing cuts resulting in “penny packets” of capability that in an operational environment might not provide the mass or depth required of any given capability.
Of course if we saw an up tick in budget and manning levels, we could perhaps keep a broader spectrum of capability. To your point about us being in a time where a potential unplanned, and rapidly organized deployment might be required – well a well planned transition between Armoured Brigades and Strike Brigades is a must. No breaking up or selling off Challengers or Warriors until their replacement are actually in service. Unfortunately another thing we are really bad at is placing equipment in reserve / maintained storage,
Basically, what I am saying is, if we cannot get the funding to retain a broad set of capabilities in what is now a small army, then we should concentrate on a niche so that we do not become, as ThinkDefence is so fond of saying “all fur coat and no knickers”, but can provide a “hard as nails” capability that is flexible enough to meet differing operational objectives, mostly by destroying enemy combat formations via fire and manouver rather than by taking and holding ground.
Excellent and well thought out article. Very much like what you are proposing. I do have one question though, what are your thoughts on 105mm arty? Would it be worthwhile to consider if fitted to a “common” RCH turret or is that capability essentially duplicated by the 120mm mortars in your view?
The RUSI paper as much as said that the best brigade for fulfilling the requirements of strike would be a stryker brigade, they began by papering over removing Ajax and ended by suggesting a third infantry battalion.
There was some quite concerning stuff in there I thought, particularly fighting dispersed in such small packets, they made specific mention of Russian infantry breaking under heavy fire but go on to suggest that strike might see platoon sized units using stay behind tactics to get amongst soft targets, whilst ignoring the extreme psychological effects on our own guys who’d probably be sandwiched between the first and second Russian echelons. They were also pretty vague about how these units would support each other, being pretty liberal with the javelins but falling short of suggesting a modern NLOS system with which dispersed units could remotely swarm a larger formation. With strike wheels at Catterick I also didn’t understand why they didn’t just embark on ferries at Hull and drop them in Gdansk next day, I couldn’t really envisage the Russians escalating to attacking shipping so early, but I guess the point was to say they can drive a long way.
I fully agree on artillery, the army will basically have to bring its own air force against a peer but I think you need to get pretty specific about how you go about it, I looked at this a few months ago and the resident experts on ‘arrse’ were pretty confident that any attempt to introduce Nemo or AMOS would lead to an almighty bun fight between the infantry and the royal artillery, if you assume that platforms would be replaced on a one for one basis then the infantry need to get those mortars if you want to modernize your big guns.
I personally favour MAN mounted Archer as trucks mean you’re probably looking at under £5m a piece which means you’re more likely to get them and more likely to get them in numbers, then there’s the fact that you have a lot of trucks and a lot of parts for them and that all your ammunition is coming on trucks too and it’s the biggest part of your logistical puzzle so your guns are never going to be that far away.
I would also favour upgrading SkySabre to use the MLRS system (and podding the CAMM) so that it can do everything. If you take it as written that you will not get more than 36 MLRS replacements then at least you have 60 multi purpose systems rather than 24 air defence and 36 HIMARS toting one pod apiece (which is probably what will happen).
I’ve kind of reached the conclusion that what with UAV’s, micro drones, internet and mobile phones the enemy is probably going to know where you are the majority of the time if you’re on his turf, the challenge will be to accept this and work to ensure that you attrite him faster than he can attrite you, particularly as regards his artillery; the ground launched Brimstone which Nicholas mentions would be particularly effective here, a minute after a battery opens up you could put a dozen in a search box overhead, probably needs more range though, something that could reach out to Smerch would be helpful, it would also allow you to start breaking rear echelons early on.
I see I have wittered on, many thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts on paper.
Kind regards, Nemo
By the way: the Donar Artillery System is based on the chassis of the ASCOD 2, therefore the same chassis as for the AJAX. It is moreover air-transportable in the A400M and relativly lightweight. Also in my opinion a maximum cross-country mobility is one of the most important abilities for an self-propelled howitzer and therefore a solution on wheels is for such an weapon system not the optimum in an peer war.
Instead of basing the artillery on wheels, a solution with an lightweight, tracked, air-portable self-propelled howitzer (=DONAR) which even shares the chassis with the AJAX / ASCOD 2 could be especially for Britain here the best solution.
For the Ajax recce units Donar makes sense but for an all wheels based Strike, I’d have to say a wheels based arty makes more sense. So a combination of Donar and RCH 155 might be preferable as the common gun system would make training and logistics easier.
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I doubt, that an all-wheel medium (armoured cavalry) brigade would be able to operate dispersed at distances of up to 2000 km as the text suggests in the pracitcal reality of peer warfare. Even the attempt to manouvere in such an big and moreover contested eastern europe battlespace is hardly possible to say at least. Also the terrain and the infrastructure in eastern europe are not good enough for such an doctrine and as an soldier of the german armed forces i also highly doubt the numbers mentioned for the cross-country performance of the boxer out of may practical experience with this vehicle (this should not mean, that this is not an excellent tank, to the opposite, and i also think that britain has made here the right decision as the gtk is an excellent vehicle for many things. But the gtk is not so good in cross-country as many people think (good enough for sure for many types of terrain, but not good enough for the suggested immense dispersion and distances).
So the advantages of an all wheel brigade to fight over such enormous distances in such an extreme dispersion are imo mostly theoretical, but not so important in the praxis. Because of the tremendous reach of howitzers today, the artillery must also not always stay near of the other troops of the brigade. One could even doubt that organic 155mm artillery must be part of such an brigade and this is especially the case imo for an wheeled strike brigade, as the155mm artillery would 1: slow it down significantly even if the ari is based on wheels, 2: would complicate the supply chain, the logistics and the logistical footprint for such an brigade and 3: would result in some kind of security forces for the artillery (as the text also mentions) and this would then reduce the amount of available fighting power that can be developed against the enemy and would also reduce the amount of units that can manouver.
That said, 155mm howitzers should perhaps not be an organic part of the all wheeled strike brigade, but should be in seperate independent artillery brigades, combined there with other nlos-strike assets. This brigades should then have an organic security element in form of their own armoured infantry bataillon which then could also use the older infantry fighting vehicles (warrior) without so much modernisation as this units would then be not first line combat troops but the organic security element of the artillery.
So i absolutly agree with the author, that the strike concept could only work if it is based around firepower of the artillery, but i disagree that therefore this artillery should be an organic part of the strike brigades.
The following macro structure could be imo better:
3 (Tracked) Armoured Reece Regiments (AJAX / delegated DONAR from the artillery brigades if the need arises)
3 (Wheeled) Strike Brigades (GTK / GTK CRV / GTK Skyranger)
3 Artillery Brigades (several kinds of NLOS Strike Assets / DONAR / organic AI Bataillon)
This would also allow to concentrate overwhelming firepower if necessary much more easily and would keep the artillery more easily out of reach of fast enemy armoured units Even in peacetime it would make the training more easy.
In the long term then the Warrior IFV in the artillery brigades could be replaced bit by bit again with ASCOD 2 IFV, to further increase the commonality.
Building up on the RUSI structure, here are my suggestions for a structure for an all-wheel strike brigade. Instead of using AJAX in an armoured cavalry regiment within the brigade and in the cavalry squadrons, the GTK CRV of the Australian Land 400 program should be procured for the strike brigades and used in squadrons organic withhin the infantry bataillons.
As the article suggests i would also put the AJAX into seperate regiments outside the strike brigades which then would become all-wheeled units, based on the GTK. And the AJAX Based tracked armoured cavalry regiments would then become complete seperate units.
Also no especial ATGM Units would be necessary, as the GTK CRV is armed with anti-tank missiles (Spike LR2) and the regular GTK APC / IFV could be also armed with the same ATGM, so no specialised ATGM-unit is necessary here within the brigade. For that reason i would quit the complete cavalry regiment within the brigade and would instead use four symetrical build on infantry bataillons, completly based on GTK.
And for the nlos-firepower i would procure much more 120 mm mortars instead of organic 155mm howitzers and explore the ACERM Mortar technology for long range mortar fire. This would simplify the supply, would harmonise the structure and would increase the available nlos and at the same time also the los firepower because systems like AMOS could be also used in direct fire.
So here is my proposal:
1 Brigade HQ
1 Signals Squadron
1 Electronic Warfare Company
4 Infantry Bataillons including 1 Cavalry Squadron (GTK CRV) as organic part of the bataillon
to each attached
1 Mortar Battery (GTK with AMOS)
1 GBAD Battery (GTK with Sky-Ranger – which would also double as an excellent system against ground targets)
2 HIMARS Batteries (double use as Air-Defence)
2 UAS Batteries (including armed uas / loitering ammunitions)
1 Logistics Regiment
1 REME Bataillon
1 Engineer Bataillon (including the engineer bridging company)
1 Medical Regiment
Ulrich, I like your ideas very much. Only thing I’d change is to have Boxer CRV in a separate cavalry regiment. This would provide a squadron of direct fire support vehicles to each battalion. This allows each battalion to maximise infantry mass.
A seperate cavalry regiment would be an additional unit in the brigade and would therefore complicate the structure unnecessary. Such an unit would be also misused as an own combat unit (like the RSTA Units in the US Brigades were often misuse as the third combat bataillon) and would then rob the infantry bataillons their RSTA assets, their anti-tank capacity and their direct fire support. Also an organic element is imo always better than an attached element, as beeing an organic unit of the bataillon increases the fighting power through several factors. So i would always prefer an organic solution.
The question of cause remains, how to put enough infantry into the bataillons, if one squadron in each bataillon is an RSTA / Tank Hunter Squadron with GTK CRV, as the normal GTK could not transport much infantry (8 per vehicle). The solution is simple: Not all Companies of the bataillon would be equipped with the GTK, but some with wheeled (perhaps lightly armoured) Trucks which could transport more infantry men per vehicle. This would allow to maximise infantry mass within the bataillon and keep the GTK CRV also organic within the bataillon. The infantry companies within the bataillon would therefore be uneven in strength, as the truck based infantry companies would be stronger in numbers.
This would also enable to provide the said 4 bataillons per brigade at all because with 4 bataillons per Brigade and many other units based on the GTK instead of AJAX, the number of proccured GTK would not be sufficient enough to equip all infantry companies with the GTK as an APC (IFV). So this solution, using light armoured trucks for some of the companies would at the same time solve the problem, that the overall number of provided GTK is not big enough to equip so many infantry bataillons.
The same truck type could then also be used for the logistic units within the brigade to increase the standardisation further. For example: the Mercedes Benz Zetros 2733 as an extreme offroad capacity, can transport 10 tons and is available at the spot with an armoured cabin and could transport even up to 24 men. Each suc h truck could therefore replace 3 GTK in the question of the transport of the infantry. Also this would spare drivers and the logistical footprint of the brigade further. The armoured cab could also be easily replaced by an standard cab in peacetime to spare fuel.
To look at the detail within an supposed infantry company: instead of the 6 GTK APC in the 3 platoons of the GTK based infantry companies, only 2 such trucks could deliver the same transport capacity and still the company would have 6 GTK IFV. One can now claim, that all infantry must have the protection of the GTK, but this is not the case as not all units must maneuvre so near to the enemy that such an high protection is necessary. The (lightly armoured) truck based units would simply leave their vehicles earlier / or in an greater distance to the enemy. Also although the GTK has an high protection level, it could also not go near to serious enemy armoured units. And against third world forces the overall around protection of the trucks through the GTK IFV, the GTK CRV and the GTK Skyranger would be more than suffficient to keep the enemy at distance because of the overmatch of the weapons on the GTK.
If I might suggest, if the money were available for a cavalry regiment it would be better spent putting ajax turrets and MMP on the rest of your Boxers. As it currently stands we are buying a high end and well protected vehicle that has virtually no use once it has dropped off its soldiers. If a captain were to be responsible for the dismounted infantry you could have a cavalry trained major responsible for the overall company battle group but specifically for its vehicles which he could use offensively as cavalry, or in support of your infantry as required. It might also influence the way strike moves in theatre, elan I believe it’s called.
I suggested in another article dissolving the support companies and integrating support sections into your rifle platoons, so the size of such a squadron need not be insignificant.
With ranges out to 4 or 5km CTAS/MMP would also form interlocking fields of fire if you were fighting dispersed.
As it currently stands we’re not maximising MIV’s utility, we have an expensive networked vehicle with protection levels approaching STANAG 6 that will largely sit idle while the infantry does the fighting.
Thanks for putting your head above the parapet Jed your articles always raise a few questions.
I agree in theory with your concept for the artillery but I believe that 155mm will prove to be a logistics hog for a formation that needs to disperse for survival. Denel nearly had an improved range 105mm SPG in production for the US Army Stryker brigades but did’nt quite get it across the line.
Click to access 04_Vickory_105mm_Indirect_Fire.pdf
Maybe look into this and spend a little money here with the addition of seeing if its feasable to get Leonardo to make a 105mm Vulcano round as they have managed to get some impressive performance from the 76mm version.
Long range and precision in a 105mm package plus we can use current ammo for the shorter ranges and forego the 120mm mortar altogether.
I hate to say it but in the UK military i see alot of resistance to standardisation… why?
Some standardisation across NATO sure, but its largely ammo. CVRT series was a GREAT idea of using the same chassis. heck to cover some of the budget requirements learn from the russians and have slightly older vehicles kept in reserve just incase. and use phased change over of weaponry.
I still think that a standard caliber between (90-105mm) should be built, QF ammo. Is most definately a worth while investment. Think, ships and land using same calibre (HUGE cost saving)
The AS90 problem, seeing as russia still has the 2s7(pion) 203mm gun, what plans if any are there.
If any to change to a larger calibre gun. say…170mm? Hilariously for tooling and manufacture we tend to keep our rocket tubes the same size as our artillery guns, see russian and american RPG’s, which btw are running out of… explosive force for their diameter/ slow speed. (some more of the tid bits in the background that people don’t think about when talking about weapons.
And can we learn from the PZ2000’s firing mechanism? but with a larger calibre?
Are people seeing these posts?
its just that i thought i was bringing up points that could be discussed in a, awful roundabout way. also ive posted on other things here and no reply also,,, so i just wanted to know if the commenting was working
James, this blog is going to evolve into something bigger and more meaningful. It just needs a bit more time to establish itself. Your contribution is noticed and much appreciated even if no one actually comments!
god damn it.. thats probably not what i meant… i meant that i can’t congegate a sentence. the site is cool,it was never meant as an insult. but why only one layer of replys? surely it makes sense to keep going? saves making a new comment layer/ stem? everytime.
This problem that the GTK is not very useful after the infantry dismounts is also very present in the german army. Of cause there is the possibility to put some turret on it, but then the manpower in the vehicles would go down further (for example only 6 infantry instead of 8). Your suggestion to use the vehicles independent of the infantry in an own ad hoc combat unit for seperate missions or for support of the infantry is the said Bronegruppa concept i mentioned earlier in this blog and which i would highly recommend. It is also discussed in the german army, but with no practical results. To make this happen one could first use such turrets and increase the number of infantry using other means of transport additonaly (trucks), i also mentioned such an solution. But also it could be an solution to use a reomte controlled weapon station with an machine cannon of higher caliber 35mm – the technical solution to realy use such an caliber in a small RWS is the RMK 35 (a variant of the RMK 30 which is theoretically available sind 1996) , a recoilless autocannon, which would function in an small and lightweight RWS. This would change the possibilities for the GKT completly, without sacrificing transport capacity.
To dissolve and cannibalise the AJAX would then not be necessary and all-tracks AJAX bases armoured cavarly regiments would be a very useful kind of skirmisher for german and eastern european armoured heavy brigades / divisions. The AJAX needs before anything else imo an long range state of the art ATGM. With such an armament it could be an superb Recce / Cavalry / Tank-Hunter. The combination of an tracked medium weight Recce / Tank Hunter Capacity would be very valuable especially in an eastern europe theatre.
Hello Ulrich, thank you for the post.
I was treating reduced dismounts as a given, I joined one of Nicholas’ discussions on battalion manning/platoon size, I raised the problem of modern tracked APC only carrying six dismounts and suggested that sections be reduced to six men so a platoon would have 4 x 6 man fire sections and 2 x 6 man support sections one of which would have your LT and one your Sergeant.
I accept six men in MIV if it adds a turret and because I think would 6×6 works across all planned platforms for the army as a whole.
I then paid for putting six vehicles in a platoon and increasing platoon size by stealing them from the support company (I like to pay for my hypothesis as I go) and reason that just having a lean HQ company directing three company battle groups will make the whole enterprise more agile and survivable on a modern battlefield.
I call my strike ‘Gestalt Gruppen’ because it makes it sound well thought out, lol.
Very good article, congratulations. ARCHER or CAESAR (8×8) would be more than a very good alternative to RCH 155. My preference would go for the latter because of the ammunition load (36 for DK version vs 21 for Archer) and for the difference in price. Dismount time of CAESAR is not as good as RCH or Archer but is it worth paying twice the price (3x?). It takes a handful of seconds to leave the position, and remember the enemy artillery has to spot you accurately, with CB radars, which are themselves vulnerable. Sound ranging has limited precision, responsiveness and range. Enemy munitions’ time of flight is to be considered, their guns have to move to their fire position…..are their ISTAR assets able to communicate with their artillery (NATO has jammers too). We need more guns indeed, OSLO agreements have ruled out submunitions, if we need to mass fires (and we will particularly when we will be jammed) we will need many guns. We won’t be able to afford many guns if they are 3 times as expansive. We need more guns because Russians have BONUS like munitions, and these munitions make big guns even more vulnerable than small ones. Why have a 50 t gun which won’t be protected against such munitions and which can’t use all itineraries despite being tracked ? We also need munitions, 52 Cal is more expansive than 52 Cal, we need many in case we are jammed. We also need some guided and many BONUS like. We will need extended range and all these are expansive. We won’t be able to buy these munitions if we have wasted our money on big fancy and not so useful guns. Crew is also important, but with automated guns with 2 crew, artillery units will have to replace gunners with REME. It may also imply a change of level of responsibilities, a WO2 on the gun ?
Lastly although it has been said, with range tracks become indeed less necessary for guns, not necessarily for Infantry vehicles.
Archer is sold as a system so you get a resupply vehicle for your money too. It still shows as £4m per unit, not much more than the new Caesar which I seem to recall is about £3m, I guess we’d pay to put it on MAN, though that might average out with a large order.
With less people on the gun you potentially replace your existing guns for a gun and a logistics capability within your battery for equivalent manpower.
I prefer Archer on balance, 30 seconds to stop, three rounds in 15 seconds and another 30 seconds to start and it does its loading when and where it likes.
Caesar would take exactly twice as long to do that and the crew would still be stood outside when Archer is half a mile away.
RCH 155 just looks silly and I can’t get past that, lol.
I do agree, a gun has to look good, especially for the RA as it is the colours of the Regiment ! However, the time out of a fire position of the CAESAR is not long, 20 seconds maybe…But to me the biggest issue with Archer is the ammunition resupply time, which is 10 mn…for 21 rounds, against 3 mn for 36 rounds of a CAESAR 8×8. We can say that the CAESAR is several miles away after it has resupplied and a Archer is still on its resupply point, and a Archer has to resupply more often. Plus each Archer needs a resupply vehicle, which shows on the Archer battery organisation, whereas CAESAR or equivalents can reload with one resupply vehicle for 2 guns. Therefore there are as many people in a CAESAR battery as there are in a Archer battery. CAESAR or likes can resupply from a pallet on the ground, whereas you do need the ressupply vehicle next to the Archer to resupply it. 21 rounds are spent quickly, we can’t afford to have a gun out of action for 10 mn after it has fired 2 missions, I think. When there is no CB threat you can even just drop the ammo and fire without resupply operations. And I still think that you need people to do maintenance operations on the gun, if only to clean the barrel. What you don’t have on the gun, you need it elsewhere, REME, LOG, other…
I have time into action for the 8×8 Caesar at one minute and another minute after, I wonder if you have the figures for the original model.
Good points, I’m tempted to agree with you.
I’d like to see some reliability figures for Archer which might risk putting Caesar even further ahead on sustained fire, but for me Archer only needs a manual backup for the win, I’m falling heavily on its side for crew survivability, that is to say, being fast and not being outside where you’re firing.
I personally see dedicated logistics as a plus, I’d be tempted to have two, one with the gun while one looks for the RLC… actually there a cost there too, loading the specialised supply vehicle, damn this thing’s getting harder to love.
Thank you all for your comments ! Glad to see we got some conversation going here !
I would like to address one issue that is questioned above by a couple of people – 105mm artillery.
So as I noted, am ex-Sig’s and have never fired an artillery piece in my life 🙂 However my understanding is that against armoured our dug in targets 105mm is not enough “bang” compared with 155mm guns or 120mm mortars. Years ago I read a paper from US Armour school that had photos showing the penetration of vehicles like M113’s and early version BMP’s by fragments from 155mm HE air-bursting rounds. NATO Stanag standards state at what distance a vehicle would be “safe” from an 155mm rounds. So the ability for mass 155 fires to damage armoured vehicles should not be overlooked – this includes wrecking optics, antennas, ADS components etc, potentially achieving mobility casualty or mission kill if not vehicle kill. From what I have read 105mm rounds don’t have the same capability.
What 105mm rounds do have over 120mm mortars is of course range, in both direct and in-direct fire modes. However if you 155’s and MLRS, do you need that range out of the 105?
I have no clear answer on this, I guess just a preference based on reading and research for the 120mm mortar / 155mm gun / precision attack missiles combination, for flexibility of employment options and effects.
Future proofing too, all the investment is going into 155 and we really need to have industry developing those smart off the shelf options for us; for instance I see Norwegian company NAMMO has a ramjet 155 concept for ranges out to 100km testing this year.
My presumption would be that heavier mortars would take some of the HE work from the Royal Artillery leaving them to spend more of their time on precision fires.
With extended range 155, based on 39 to 52 cal, ramjet shells or even 58 cal, the target area increases hugely. The range of assets needs to encrease (UAVs, CB radars…), all this is expansive, so it makes sense to retain 105 or go for 120 mm mortars. As a very good article pointed out in Corporal Frisk blog, to do suppressive fires against infantry, you don’t need big shells, 105 or 120 will do it, an cheaper. I mean, 155 is essential, but 155 shells to reach 40 km or more are going to be more expansive, it increases the need to have cheaper calibers for direct support. Yes, extanded range 155 could take on missions so far dedicated to GMLRS, in a cheaper way but only marginaly cheaper because ramjet shells or guided 155 are not cheap. 120 mm against 105…120 mm shells contain more explosive and can accommodate guidance kits more easilly than 105. Indeed 105 has a better range….105 has a flatter trajectory which makes it harder to spot by CB radars, but they would have to be mounted to be less vulnerable in a pear to pear scenario. Or still towed in counter insurgency….
Which STANAG are you referring to? The numbers found from the STANAG which number I can’t remember that lays out the protection for different levels are totally absurd. 80m for Stanag level 3 was it?
I like Jed’s idea, it’s nothing really revolutionary, more fo a common sense than anything. If it makes sense, looks sense, smells sense, quacks sense it probably is common sense.
I always look forward to your articles/comments because you have an original/inventive approach, often taking an unconventional but thought-provoking line.
This article is first-rate in so many respects but you can probably guess where e I am going to differ from you. Like UK Land Power, I take exception to the removal of heavy armour (Challenger 2 and Warrior) from our line-up. As he says, MBTs have a resilience, an ability to absorb punishment, as well as real clout in terms of firepower. That combination makes them, in my opinion, indispensible.
However, that was not what I wanted to write in about. I would just like some information on the subject of mortars. There has been much discussion on the subject of whether 120mm mortars should be introduced into our planned Strike Brigades and I know little or nothing on the subject of mortars. I do know that lighter mortars are man portable, muzzle-loaded weapons for close fire support and do know that mortar carriers (like the FV432) cannot be fired while on the move. Furthermore, I think that mortars, on the whole, have shorter barrels than guns and are much more lightly built.
What you are talking about, however, is not the infantry, muzzle-loaded type but breech-loaded mortars, ones usually mounted on armoured vehicles and capable of direct fire. From what I have read, they have a shorter range compared than modern “gun” howitzers and less anti-tank capability compared with modern ATGWs. However, do they have a role in, for example, providing both anti-personnel and anti-armour capability in light mobile formations e.g. Strike Brigades.
Could someone please enlighten me: either yourself, Jed, or UK Land Power or any other contributor? Do 120mm vehicle-borne mortars have a very effective role to play in mobile “Strike”-type brigades? Have they found their niche?
Sorry, Jed, I have just seen your last post and you might have answered a part, if not all, of my question.
The advantage of 120mm mortars for me would be one of ownership, if the infantry can lay claim to them they basically get in-house artillery and don’t have to compete for artillery assets. The artillery in turn gets some of the pressure off and can pay attention to the long range fires which the US has at the top of its to do list at the moment.
I don’t see 120mm as a panacea, if you could push them through on the understanding that they’re replacements for the 81mm I’d still like to see the infantry quietly stuffing some light mortars in the back of the MIV’s.
There is a guided 120mm round called the Strix, but its advantages over modern ATGW’s is debatable and take up has been low.
We would be late to the heavy mortar party but they seem well regarded by our allies, turreted versions just offer a few advantages, as you observe they can be used on a flat trajectory as a demolition gun (but I think Nemo for example that would only be out to about 1.5km iirc), you can set for MRSI and you’re inside in a place where everything is trying to kill you.
One caveat though, if we were to modernize our mortars and artillery at the same time and both with unproven automated systems we possibly set ourselves up for a catastrophic fail, so any buy should be seen in that context and one or the other should possibly remain old school.
Thanks for the informative reply, Captain Nemo. You certainly have a point about ownership of the 120mm mortars (Infantry or Artillery). “If the infantry can lay claim to them they basically get in-house artillery and don’t have to compete for artillery assets. The artillery in turn gets some of the pressure off and can pay attention to the long range fires which the US has at the top of its to do list at the moment.” I also very much agree with the point about the infantry still needing light mortars. Why on earth have we got rid of the 60mms? By the way, I did not know the Strix was still around.
The competition for heavy mortars between the Infantry and the Artillery in many armies has gone on for quite some time. Thanks once again – very useful.
There is a strong case to re-acquire the old 51mm Mortar the Army used for two decades. It was a brilliant bit of kit. We only retired it because we could no longer get the ammunition. It was light and accurate. Attach a modern sight linked to a ballistic computer and you could deliver accurate fire at 700-800 metres. Having said that a 30mm MK44 and even an M230LF cannon could do the same job.
You’re welcome, but my knowledge is far from exhaustive.
There’s possibly a tendency for such an old army to disregard US trends or to treat them as a by-product of an imperial spending ability, but they’re not fools, they see a problem (no air dominance) and they’re emphasising it, we’d be wise to jump in.
Production of Strix seems suspended as of 2018, it seems odd that guided mortar hasn’t really taken off (no pun intended), but I guess there are so many options now in the nought to 5km range.
UKLand I don’t know why there’s not a smorgasbord of kit stored at battalion.
I was over overthinking how to precisely equip and therefor justify the existence of support sections in platoons and then I remembered a documentary on how 2 Para had raided stores for GMPG’s and the difference it had made at Goose Green and I realised the answer was simply to have stuff and give them whatever the hell they need.
Usefully random too.
As evident from anywhere outside Commonwealth heavy mortars play a key role in all type of formations, from lightest of infantry to heaviest of armor. Mortars of all types have less range than artillery and it’s both good and a bad thing. First of all because of the smaller initial velocities there’s less stress on the bomb when it leaves the barrel. This can lead into few things:
– the electronics in the bomb don’t need to be as hardened as in shells leaving the barrel almost 1 km/s
– the bomb itself doesn’t need to be as structurally sound meaning it can have more payload in relation to body.
Range is just one function to consider. Mortar bombs for instance take less space and weigh less than any artillery shell and charge of any caliber. They have higher RoF, better fragment pattern thanks to high elevation.
Just a quick note in regards to the archer loading times. I like the system but agree it takes a while to load but when I viewed the YouTube video I was aghast at the loading procedure, for instance charges were in neat little racks then emptied out to be put down a chute and then organised to be put in to the system in holes that were in uniform positions! Why when they ordered the charge racks they didn’t look to make them correspond with the holes I don’t know! They then could have simply then put the racks down a rail and then put all charges in in one go! Similarly the actual loading of the rounds looked very cumbersome I know you have to careful but sure a conveyor belt could have been used with manual loading at the end. Hopefully as automated artillery systems someone will look at automated loading… Get Amazon involved! Caesar 8×8 looks cumbersome but listening to the person explaining and seeing the YouTube videos I think that there may to be more work going on to improve it – if I am wrong I wouldn’t bother with it the 6×6 looked more efficient with a well drilled crew. I like idea of boxer it doesn’t look great but that doesn’t bother me again I would have thought load could be more efficient
It troubled me and I threw some numbers around and concluded that even with a relatively low rate of sustained fire for the Archer (at 75 rounds per hour, across eighteen guns that’s 1350 rounds per hour over a notional ten days of self sufficiency) our logistics would break first with either gun.
With a ten minute reload and one and a half minutes to shoot and scoot six rounds, a battery could comfortably shoot 36 rounds every six minutes so your regiment could shoot 36 MRSI every two minutes across a 1200km grid.
Shrapnel’s points were superb though, my actual worry now would be how much room you would have to give over in an Archer magazine to have ‘special’ rounds to hand and how the magazine would deal in the future if developed rounds proved to be non standard in size.
I think maybe it needs a hole in the back.
Captain Nemo, thanks ! This is why I think we need more guns. In a modern war our guns may have to remain hidden from UAVs flying overhead at times, so the mission would have to be given to guns further afield. (Ok we can destroy some UAVs and even maybe satellites, but not all of them). More guns means cheaper ones, not towed but truck mounted, certanly not heavy turreted guns. Ultimately , acvording to me, we want to avoid big fancy guns which n fact would not be better protected and would leave us with no money to buy ammunition and ISTAR assets, not to name the C-UAS and C-RAM assets to protect the land forces. Plus, do we seriously believe that a war agains Russia is the most probable scenario ? We need the best balance between a big war and counter-insurgency. Big automated systems haven’t fared too well in Afghanistan.
Mike W et al
There are muzzle loading 120mm mortars, both manual and automatically loaded, which can fire through the open top hatches of an AFV. There are manually loaded turret mounted breach loaders like BAe’s AMS and automated breach loaders like Patria’s NEMO turret. So there are plenty of options. Ammo types are wide ranging which gives the system it’s great utility. They have the capacity to provide devastating close support fires, and the mortars ballistic trajectory is useful in urban situations and for targets blocked from line of site systems by terrain.
I would return the 60mm systems we purchased, not so much for HE, but for their great utility in providing smoke, white light or IR illumination. The Israelis have long used simple breach loading 60mm tubes on M113’s and the turrets of their Merkava MBT’s.
@ UK Land Power
“There is a strong case to re-acquire the old 51mm Mortar the Army used for two decades. It was a brilliant bit of kit .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Having said that a 30mm MK44 and even an M230LF cannon could do the same job.” Ah, but could they sort out reverse slopes as effectively as mortars?
@ Captain Nemo
“then I remembered a documentary on how 2 Para had raided stores for GMPG’s and the difference it had made at Goose Green and I realised the answer was simply to have stuff and give them whatever the hell they need.”
Am convinced that you are right. Infantry kit would not be that difficult to keep in storage, would it? Rifles, mortars, machine guns etc. are not bulky like tanks or IFVs. If that’s what you meant.
Exactly that, I realise that as regards high technology, vehicles etc there’s a high associated cost these days in terms of support contracts and you can see why we tend to rationalise and get rid, but for small arms surely the cost would be negligible, even if it’s less than negligible I don’t care that much if it’s a force multiplier at such a basic level.
As an example what if your ATGM team had the option of instead taking Carl Gustav so you could use them for FIBUA?
I believe there was a QM’s window in Afghan somewhere, probably Bastion at a guess, where nothing that was needed could be found; the troops called it ‘The Window of No’! lol, worthy of Blackadder that one.
For the question of 120mm Mortars vs 105mm Howitzer: the ACERM technology could imo solve the range problem for the 120mm Mortars and as you need such mortars imo anyway this would elimenate an complete type of ammunition out of the supply chain as no regular 105mm or 155mm round is further needed withhin the strike brigade, as the organic 120mm mortars could then deliver the same effect with a smaller logistical footprint.
Moreover as the mortar systems are cheaper and lighter and only mortars and no additional other systems this would harmonise and streamline the brigade and would deliver the chance to have more such NLOS Systems overall. In a brigade with an combination of 120mm mortars and 155mm howitzer, you need different kind of ammo, different systems and the brigade would have fewer NLOS systems in numbers overall. As 120mm mortars could be also used for direct fire (LOS) you could increase the overall firepower of the brigade in both parts (LOS and NLOS) very much if you use only mortars and no howitzers.
As even a 81mm ACERM has reached 20 km with an precision of around 1 m an 120mm ACERM should have sufficient reach for the strike concept and everything above this would fall prey to rocket artillery.
Therefore my conclusion is, that the brigade should have only 120mm mortars and rocket artillery and then overall more such nlos systems, especially because of price and weight much more such mortars.
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Range problem yes but they would be very expensive. Strike will not fight in a void. There will be allied logistics assets. The narrative at the moment seems to be pushing Strike to fight in a void without any help from allies. Logistics will be important but not impossible to overcome.
‘There will be allied logistics assets’
If we are going to rely on other people for the logistics then just cancel the idea and form a multinational brigade and stop pretending.
Just thought I’d say thank you to all those people who have replied to my original question about 120mm mortars. I feel much clearer on the subject now. I don’t know whether they were replying directly to me or part of the general discussion but two of the most fascinating replies came from Ulrich Reinhardt and bearhandler, who both did kind of summative pieces and to have a large area of agreement between them on the desirability of heavy mortars in the brigades.
Must say, though, that my thinking at the moment is very similar to that of DaveyB in a comment on the previous post by Nicholas Drummond (“Is British Army Acquisition on the right track?”). He (DaveyB) seems astounded at the lack of long- term thinking or planning by the British Army with particular regard to Strike Brigades. In a brilliant post he comments thus on the state of planning for such brigades:
“Our Strike Brigade is a hodgepodge of wishful thinking, sounds great on paper, but has no teeth.”
He observes that the Americans Striker brigade concept works but that in order to make it successful, the brigade is properly funded so as to be almost completely self-contained. He states that in Boxer we have the ideal multi-role vehicle that could fulfil most of the required roles for Strike Brigades but how, in order to be a “true highly mobile strike force, it must be funded and kitted with the correct type of vehicles.”
We seem to be a far way away from this at the moment and I fear the whole thing might go off at half cock.
Mike, just to be clear I don’t agree with Ulrich about Strike having only 120mm mortars. I just don’t see how that would work. It would be a poor option to more layered approach and IMO 120-155 is the baseline for success, less than that would be systemic risk. Could 120mm be 105mm, yes, could there be both, yes. I think it pays the trouble to seek answer to question of do we rather have tad more range or better RoF. Turreted mortars have slightly lower RoF than barrel loaded ones and howitzer have even worse RoF. The attribute that makes mortar as deadly as they are is the plunging fire combined with insanely high RoF. 81mm mortars excell at it and 120mm aren’t any worse.
For the whole system of systems that is indirect fire having only one firing weapon would seem like a lackluster. They can accommodate much better capabilities but would be confined by what mortars can do. ISTAR could find targets way beoynd mortar range but can’t fire due to range. Find the bottleneck and expand it. Judging by the discussion revolving around British artillery it seems to be one big bottleneck.
My idea about that is, that targets beyond the standard mortar range which are found by ISTAR are destroyed with ACERM Mortar ammo and of cause especially with rocket artillery. That said, the rocket artillery must be much stronger in an strike brigade. Such rocket artillery could also be very easy developed to be an ground-based air defence system and doubles therefore additionally for air-defence, a role in which 155mm could not be used. Test for using HIMARS for such an role has even been succesful years ago.
MikeW – I did respond to your question ref mortars, but I am suprised to come back today and find that my comment did not upload for some reason.
Yes, having re-read your comments, I see now that I have misinterpreted your views and that there is not the degree of commonality between your and Ulrich’s ideas as I’d imagined. You obviously do not agree with him about Strike having only 120mm mortars. Please accept my apologies. I had read such a welter of views that presumably my concentration levels had dropped! Some very interesting and well-informed views from so many of you, though!
“MikeW – I did respond to your question ref mortars, but I am surprised to come back today and find that my comment did not upload for some reason.”
Please don’t worry your head about it, Jed. By the way, congratulations on stimulating so many responses! Brilliant.
Perhaps off topic but I have a question, why do you not see more 12.7mm coaxial machine guns? In the case of Ajax for instance there must be a range of targets that 7.62 is useless against but which a 50 calibre would chew up (such as light APC’s, buildings etc) and that you might otherwise waste 40mm on.
In addition 7.62 is pretty ubiquitous so you’d think that the infantry in particular would be grateful to see more HMG’s roaming the countryside because it’s probably not something they’d particularly like to carry around themselves.
I find it curious because virtually nobody does it, so the numbers must have been run and rejected.
iot resuscitate this very interesting debate about 155 artillery systems, the size of the crew is an important topic. I think 3 should be the minimum. To me, it is not realistic to have 2 only, because :(1) combat stress: these guns can operate and should operate isolated in a CB context, and only 2 personnel onboard must be a source of stress.
(2) first aid. In case 1 personnel is injured or has a serious health problem, the first aid revolves to the other, would he be able, and, being on his own all the stress (again) would be on him.
(3) maintenance, like gun cleaning etc takes Manpower, and should be done regularly, two is definitly not enough.
(4) qualifications. What rank would be the gun commander ? Bombardier? Sergent?…guns operating in relative isolation require people able to have some initiative and perhaps of a higher rank than usual on a gun. This could be a rank structure difficult to organise in any artillery.
Further up i had made a rough proposal for the structure of such an all-wheeled Strike Brigade: after some further thought here is my final proposal with some more details:
1 Brigade HQ
1 Signal-/EW Bataillon (which includes 1 Bat HQ, 4 Signal-/EW Companies and 1 UAS Company + Logistics)
(reasons: for the dispersed fight you need much more signal and ew units than only one company as suggested in the rusi study. The signal companies also double for ew and as the uas rely heavily on working signals and can secondly also be used as an relais one uas company should be organic part of this bataillon instead of beeing an independent company)
1 Medical-/NBC Regiment (doubles as NBC protection troops – and therefore the medical personal is trained and equipped also for NBC defence)
1 Logistics Regiment (includes REME Companies)
1 Engineer Regiment (includes the Bridge Engineers)
(reasons: engineers as an organic part of the combat batailons could slow them down and would increase the size of the bataillon unnecessary and therefore hinders its mobility. Moreover in this way the peacetime operations become much easier and the engineers also better usable for disaster response etc)
1 Rocket Artillery-Bataillon (which includes 1 Bat HQ, 1 Radar-Battery (Air-Defence) and 4 HIMARS Batteries + Logistics)
(reasons: only one rocket artillery battery as shown in the rusi study is simply not enough long range firepower for a strike brigade and its intended fighting modus – moreover the himars can be used also for air defence- therefore the radar battery and could then deliver an air defence umbrella for the brigade or can concentrate much firepower in short time and moreover as rocket artilley they are more useful for counter artillery which would be an important task for an strike brigade)
4 Combat-Bataillons (each 1 Bat HQ (which includes 1 Micro UCAS Platoon), 2 Armoured Cavalry Companies, 1 Infantry Company, 1 Mortar Battery and 1 GBAD Battery)
(reasons: you need imo four such bataillons to fight in the dispersed order and moreover four units are an advantage for fighting in hybrid wars and guerilla wars. The armoured cavalry includes armoured reconaissance vehicles and infantry, the infantry company uses trucks and deliver the necessary mass of infantry for the bataillon. It would also double for logistics if the need arises and then it has its own security element and need no other units giving security for it. For this reason it has more trucks as needed for the transport of the infantry). The systems of the mortar and gbad batterys can be attached to the combat companies to form company combat teams or be concentrated to increase firepower at one spot.
Also the Bat HQ includes one small independent cavalry HQ which can take over the vehicles of the infantry together with the armoured recce vehicles and form then an armoured cavalry bronegruppa which can then act seperate from the infantry.)
Armoured Cavalry Company
1 Company HQ Platoon (GTK with RWS with an 40mm GMW which can also be used for VSHORAD (especially against mini and micro uas) – also the company hq should be bigger than usual and can then include some infantry for its own
2 Armoured Cavalry Platoons (GTK CRV)
1 Armoured Infantry Platoon (GTK with RWS with 40mm GMW and with ATGM of the Spike LR2 type)
+ optional attachments from the mortar battery, GBAD battery of the infantry company as the need arises
1 Company HQ Platoon (GTK with RWS with an 40mm GMW which can also be used for VSHORAD (especially against mini and micro uas) – also the company hq should be bigger than usual and can then include some infantry for its own
2 Infantry Platoons (at the upper limit of strength for an platoon – with Mercedes Benz Zetros 2733 for transport of the infanty and for logistics
1 Armoured Infantry Platoon (GTK with RWS with 40mm GMW and with ATGM of the Spike LR2 type)
+ optional attachments from the mortar battery, GBAD battery of the infantry company as the need arises
GTK with 120mm AMOS System – Conventional and ACERM Mortar Rounds
GTK Skyranger (same caliber as the gkt crv) and perhaps moreover some attached Multi Mission Launcher which can double for air defence and for an anti-tank / tank hunter role
So far my suggestions for such an brigade.
Ulrich, for me a brigade without 155s is a NO GO because there can be times when the frontline troops will need massed protective fires, if only when radios are jammed, as a precaution. Then you won’t be able to rely entirely on heavy mortars because they are close the the front ant their logistics can be easily clogged, they may find it difficult to be at range, and even less so reinforce by fire neighbouring infantry regiments. 155 is compulsory to do just that, at Bde level. I think their range will make it more difficult to block all their itineraries and so there is more chance that some will be available to support frontline units than 120 mm which can’t sustain prolonged fire missions because of their ammo logistics more vulnerable , and their limited ammo onboard. I think 155s should be both at Bde and Div level, and that rocket launchers should be at Div level, if only because their range is going to increase and is already beyond ISTAR capabilities of the brigades. It may not sound innovative but safer for teeth arms.
I agree, that such an brigade need long range nlos firepower. Especially for this reason i have included an complete regiment of rocket artillery which would deliver exact that. And moreover: according to the doctrine of dispersed fighting even a 155mm can be out of range with conventional ammunition, but rocket artillery still ist. Also especially rocket artillery delivers massed fired far better than tube artillery and in an shorter time and is better suited for counter-artillery. And further on modern systems for rocket artillery can also double for air-defence (there were for example succesful tests with HIMARS for that).
For this reasons my structure of the brigade has an high ammount of rocket launchers and rocket launchers should be at the Brigade level. To have both: many rocket launchers and 155mm tube would be of cause better in some circumstances, but it would increase the logistical footprint (two calibers and two complete different systems) and moreover you would then have fewer rocket launchers overall in the brigade (i think for that reason your conclusion is to have only 155mm at the brigade level). And for the same logic, to have as many systems of one type as possible my conclusion is to have only rocket artillery.
You now said that their range is beyond the istar capabilites of the brigade but this depends heavily on the ammunition used and there is no need to use very long ranged missiles within the brigade and leave such fire missions for the divisional rocket artillery.
Also according to the doctrine of the strike brigades to fight in a highly dispersed manner with units acting far away from each other, especially the higher range of the rocket artillery is of tremendous importance because it can deliver the necessary firepower over this ranges with conventional rockets instead of special ammunition that would be necessary for the 155mm to achieve only the same range.
The existing GMLRS have a shelf life of 12-15 years, a cost of more than 160.000 £. For that reason i think it is not economicay viable to dedicate these rockets for direct support. Plus 155 time of flight will be shorter if deployed at 30 k ish instead of 60 k or more for rockets.
Plus the future GMLRS-ER will have a much greater range and probably cost. As you suggest shorter range rockets, it is a good idea and as was said by bearhandler it is a shame that European industry has not invested more in rockets. However, 155 is the caliber generaly regarded as the caliber of choice, and i beleive for good reasons. With new C-RAM assets rockets are much more vulnerable than shells.
Plus brigades can always be reinforced with GMLRS.
I don’t think we really need to overthink it, all we had to do was copy and paste a Stryker Brigade but with equivalent modern systems. They obviously wanted a ‘Stryker Brigade’ when they concocted ‘Strike Brigades’ so they could play striking with the Americans, but in typical fashion seem to have somehow overspent and underspent on it simultaneously.
The most obvious issue continues to be Ajax, not so much the fly in our soup as the onion in our trifle, we all know why there’s an onion in the trifle, because they bought too many onions, but we’re expected to maintain the illusion that it was some sort of epiphany.
“Waiter there’s an onion in my trifle?”
‘Sssh, they’ll all want one’
I fully sympathise with the fact that they’re trying to resurrect nearly every capability they have and that there’s nothing else of quality they can currently add other than people, but they should take longer if needs be and do it right, make a Stryker Brigade in MIV and then make another one (and then make another one), UK PLC could and should mechanise the line infantry on a rolling basis.
Here’s a thought on MLR system for use by a Strike Brigade: as the original 227mm MLRS rockets can now reach out to 70km with GPS guidance and unitary HE warheads, and the US is working on an enhanced fragmentation warhead – what if we could apply that warhead tech to a different rocket to get back the “grid square remover” type massed fire power ?
A HIMARS type launcher can deliver 6 x 227mm rockets with 91kg warheads = 546kg. From a similar 6 x 6 truck an IMI Lynx modular MLR can deliver 26 x LAR160 160mm rockets with 45kg warheads = 1170kg. So that is twice the weight of fire but compared to: M31 GMLRS rockets range of 70km plus, the unguided LAR160 reaches out to only 45km.
However given a high intensity war fighting scenario where GPS is jammed, the frontage to be covered by an independent Brigade relying on its own ISR assets etc, would it be better for battery of 6 HIMARS = 36 rockets, or 6 IMI Lynx = 156 rockets ?
I am thinking the latter personally. The M31 capability should be there for Afghanistan type ops, where we have used the “70km sniper” to great effect.
With a Regiment of 155mm 52 cal Gun-On-A-Truck systems such as CEASR the Brigade could use Vulcano Guided Long Range rounds to reach to 80km with the accuracy of its IMU in a GPS denied environment. A Camcopter S100 or Skeldar V200 UAS has the range to “sparkle” a target for the Semi-Active Laser homing version of Vulcano for precision attack in the more permissive scenarios too.
So, more, smaller, shorter range rockets to bring back the “steel rain” grid-square removal capability that would give a Strike Brigade some capability worthy of the name ???
That would be a no-brainer. There are also guidance kits for 122mm and 160mm rockets, also Israeli systems can accept several types of rockets so the range exceeds that of 100km with some rocket types. USA is dominating western rocket RD which is bad because their interests might not go together with other’s interests. Sure, in a global world you have other vendors but US dominates the western realm. I’m a die hard LAR-160 fan boy. What I really want to see is rocket launched sensor fused munitions, ie. Bonus/Smart on a rocket.
That would be a no-brainer. At the moment USA dominates the rocket R&D in the west and this leads to certain solutions coming into the market. Sure, in the global market there are other vendors. Needless to say I’m a die hard LAR-160 fanboy and also would love to see rocket launched sensor fused munitions, ie. Bonus/Smart on a rocket.
Or make Sky Sabre do it?
The trend is for less, we’ll probably end up with a regiment of Sky Sabre and a regiment of HIMARS to produce some sort of tailored response, ‘tailored’ of course being representative of our ready cash and sophisticated approach to all things. We have eighteen RA regiments to deliver this level of tailoring sir, eighteen!
On the subject of fancy tailoring, I’d say it’s time for artillery to have SHORAD taken off it, the proliferation of drones means it should really be much more readily available, ideally something cheap and cheerful could be developed that could leverage the large number of CTA40 we would hopefully have about and an off the shelf short range missile mix. I see the Russians are looking at drone swarms, you could foresee a future in which a swarm could be delivered skeet like by rocket and then loiter for hours.
It’s better to have the pods isn’t it? Then we can just buy whatever the Americans develop and we have ready access to NATO stockpiles, that and buying Israeli just isn’t done for whatever reason and when it is done it’s done very quietly.
Must admit HIMARS baffles me, three guys driving six rockets or three guys driving twelve rockets, not a tricky one for me.
Eighteen guns could fire 108 Bonus rounds in a minute, that’s 216 submunitions over a grid at 35km.
I would add, that no more money is coming, the Tory hopefuls are just targeting the older Telegraph reading party members who represent almost the entirety of the voting block. We need to cut our coat according to our cloth (that pun was totally unintentional) as regards the total number of systems.
Sky Sabre 2 for the win.
Maybe have AA and artillery as entirely separate branches because anti-air artillery is no more a thing as it was 80 years ago? Finland used to have them as one because the guns were obviously very similar but as AA got more sophisticated they were separated.
With Bonus/Smart alone you’re not engaging any trucks or infantry, mix and mash them with HE.
We have just one regiment with short range missiles and no guns, I’d like to see the attitude to SHORAD change introducing an effective ability to take on drones across the board, not something that is in the hands of just one corps and which has to be pulled down from division.
It was just an example of how we could kind of break a lot of equipment over a given area in a short space of time, but the GMLRS Alternative warhead should be a good example of how it would be more efficient for us to stick with the American system as it seems to be the gift that keeps on giving.
As we are playing fantasy fleets now somewhat, and I don’t feel bad about this because in my world, these 3 strike brigades would get all the investment, this is what I would do with Counter – UAS capabilities and SHORAD.
I don’t see a need to take SHORAD away from the RA. I would upgrade the Starstreak launchers we used have fitted to Stormers and fit them to Boxers. 8 x Starstreak on the launcher, and maybe the ability to add directed energy C-UAS kit.
For distributed SHORAD (anti-Helo) / C-UAS my MIV Boxers would have Leonardo / Moog Reconfigurable Weapons installation Platform (RWiP), which means its very easy to fit different weapons. All would have 30mm M230LF, which now has air-bursting rounds, so there is a basic C-UAS capability. Some could mount the cheaper Starstreak based alternative aka the Lightweight Multi-Role Missile (LMM), maybe 2 or 4 rounds. This laser guided missile, slower but cheaper than Starstreak is capable of taking down bigger drones and helicopters. So some infantry vehicles crews are going to have to be trained in counter UAS ops, an extra training burden for sure, but one which is necessary. LMM is still supersonic and so also presents a threat to slower close support aircraft like the Frogfoot I guess.
I would have some Saab Giraffe 1x light weight radars on Boxers, as these have both traditional short range air defence capability, low and slow C-UAS capability, and “sense and warn” against incoming artillery fires even though they cannot track back to make them a weapon locating sensor (more Saab Arthur needed for that).
My direction of travel was that the RA take care of the big air picture but that pretty much everyone else is going to need something in the back of the van to deal with drones as I think they going to be a pervasive problem. It won’t just be a matter of shooting down a squadron of military drones and then going about your day, they’re going to be absolutely everywhere from plane sized to bee sized and they’re not necessarily all going to be part of a set doctrine. The enemy squaddie who stuck one in his backpack before he set off to war is watching you with one, as are the two kids in the farmhouse you just passed, as are that Spetsnaz patrol, but they’re about to drop theirs on your ammunition so at least that’s one less to worry about. What do we do about them in swarms, what do we do about micro drones, what do we do when drones aren’t stupid anymore? What do we do with a swarm of micro drones that aren’t stupid?
The army needs to ask itself who gets to shoot stuff down and I think it needs to find that the answer is everyone.
I wanted to pick-up on a few of the above comments to summarise the direction I think we are headed-in:
UK Strike Brigades definitely need 120 mm mortars. The increased range and lethality versus 81 mm mortars makes them much more able to keep pace with Boxer and support such vehicles during fast-paced encounters. But the primary role of mortars is to provide organic fire support for each infantry battalion, aiding rifle companies as they seize and hold ground. I’d like to infantry mortar platoons have 12 mortars, but realistically they unlikely to have more than 8 or 9.
155 mm HOWTIZERS
Notwithstanding the increased utility of 120 mm mortars, something larger, more powerful, with a significantly greater range and increased flexibility versus MLRS platforms is needed to give Strike Brigades the kind of teeth Jed believes they should have. So whatever other artillery assets Strike has, I believe it must have 155mm guns. Having spoken to the officer responsible for building the Strike Brigades’ artillery capabilities, he shares the view that 155 mm is indispensable
Personally, I do not like Caesar or Archer. Neither is a true SPG. They have longer in- and out-of-action times. They also have other disadvantages including crew safety and survivability issues. Conceptually, the Boxer RCH155 is much better proposition, but the presentRCH155 implementation is sub-optimal. The KMW gun turret needs to be re-designed with the following revisions:
Crew of at least 3, but ideally 4
A minimum of 40 ready rounds
Lower height so it fits under bridges and inside an A400M
Reversionary capability in case automatic loading system becomes unserviceable
If a revised concept provides the utility the Army wants then, then this is what we should buy. Not only could such a vehicle work in the Strike Brigades, but also for the Armoured Infantry Brigades. Assuming four Brigades each with a 155mm regiment of 32 guns, you need 128 guns total.
You would also want each SPG to have its own dedicated logistics and ammunition carrier (LAC) vehicle to support it. With palletised ammunition, it would have a crane designed to insert boxes of shells and charges straight into the SPG turret. I’d want a minimum of 40 ready rounds in the turret, plus a further 120 in the LAC.
I would expect an 8×8 SPG to cost €10 million per platform, because I want it to have the best possible mobility, protection and fire control.
With 120mm mortars at battalion level and155mm howitzers at brigade level, I’d want an MLRS regiment with the HIMARS system at divisional level. Not only would this have MLRS rockets but also the ATACMS or DeepStrike missile that has a 499 km range.
The second divisional asset would be a Long-Range Precision Fires missile. Something like the ground-launched version of Brimstone currently being developed by MBDA with a 45+ km range would be ideal. The combination of 155 mm, MLRS and LRPF would be able to inflict severe damage on enemy formations.
I totally agree that we need to invest in Ground-Based Air Defence. Starstreak HVM-equipped Stormers would barely be adequate. Without hesitation, I would acquire the Oerlikon 35 mm Skyranger system mounted on Boxer. This would not only deal with aircraft and helicopters but also drones. You can’t waste €150,000 missiles taking-out €600 UAV. You might have a dual system capable of mounting both a 35 mm cannon and Starstreak HVM.
The other equally important GBAD system is SkySabre / CAMM. The UK has already made the decision to invest in this. We just need to buy more than 24 launch units. I would increase it to 96 in three regiments, because if we’re serious about penetrating A2/ AD bubbles, this is what it will take.
To manage both SkyKeeper and Sky Sabre, I’d want more STA assets, such as the SAAB Arthur or Giraffe 4a, to help track and priorities aerial targets and counter-battery missions.
The final artillery component, which would be a Corps asset, is UAV coverage. Larger unmanned aircraft like Watchkeeper would be pretty useless in a denied air environment. You might allocate RAF Protectors to be the eyes and ears of a brigade where the risk to their safety was minimal, but you’d want a small catapult-launched UAV with a 100 km radius of action and a smaller quadcopter for local area STA.
The British Army is unlikely to ever have platoon sizes larger than 36. This allows for four equal squads of 9 soldiers or 3 squads of 10 plus a platoon HQ of 6. In reality, it will probably be three squads of 8 plus a platoon HQ of 6 or 30 in total. Assuming that Boxer has a driver and gunner who stay with the vehicle at all times, you are unlikely to have dismounted sections larger than 6 or 7. Serving in the infantry in FV432 in Germany during the height of the Cold War, when the Army numbered 160,000 soldiers, even back then headcount numbers were tight and 10-soldier sections were rarely larger than 8 (Driver + Vehicle commander / Gunner + 6 dismounts).
If the Army wants to deliver infantry mass, then it is going to need to re-think platoon, company and battalion organisation. I would go for a universal platoon size of 36 soldiers.
BOXER DIRECT FIRE
We all agree that a 12.7 mm HMG on Boxer is insufficient firepower. While we would all like to see a 30 mm Bushmaster II turret on every UK MIV, this is unaffordable. We should try to root ourselves in some kind of realism.
What is affordable is a RWS with something like the M230LF chain gun. As I’ve said elsewhere, this combines the velocity, range and penetration of 12.7 mm with the explosive payload of a 40 mm AGL. So a RWS with this light cannon, plus twin Javelin / MMP ATGM and a coaxial 7.62 mm MG, would be a big step-up.
I’m not sure if Northrop Grumman (who bought ATK / Bushmaster) is developing an airburst variant of 30×113 mm cannon ammunition, but if they did this could potentially add an anti-air capability to each MIV as well as an anti-tank capability via an ATGM mount.
As good as M230LF might be, I’d still want a larger cannon. So I would like each Strike Brigade to have a reconnaissance regiment equipped with a turreted Boxer mounting a 40 mm or 50 mm cannon plus ATGM. I’d allocate one squadron per battalion, which would add significantly to total firepower. I’d also want reconnaissance platoons to have the same vehicle. This would give you something like 24 turreted cannon variants per battalion.
Longer-term, I think we need to invest in a vehicle like Centauro 2 with a 120 mm tank gun. I know that Leonardo could easily put the same 6-tonne HitFact turret on a Boxer module, but I would prefer to develop a new lowered hull Boxer variant, which could also mount a 155mm turret and GBAD systems.
In summary, UK Strike Brigades ideally need to be equipped with the following weapon systems. Those already in-service or planned are shown with (*) after them.:
30×113 mm M230LF chain gun
12.7×99 mm HMG (for non-infantry MIV variants) (*)
40×255 mm CT cannon (*)
Javelin / MMP ATGM (*)
120 mm mortar
155 mm howitzer
HIMARS MLRS + Deep Strike
Ground-launched Brimstone LRPF
35×228 mm SkyKeeper GBAD
Starstreak HVM GBAD (*)
SkySabre / CAMM GBAD (*)
STA elements (UAS, Counter battery radar) (*)
The 30×113 mm M230LF is now under consideration, as are 120 mm mortars. HIMARs looks like a possibility too. Many of these systems need to be adapted to wheeled Boxer variants, i.e. through the development of new Boxer mission modules.
Nicholas, do you see having UAVs down at battalion or even company level? Orbiter and such would seem like a fitting system for that. Also about mortars, while 120mm ones have the range we shouldn’t systematically rule out 81mm ones. They make splendid company level fire support and Finland uses them even in highly mobile panzerjäger companies equipped with CV90s which are supported by battalion level Amos company. Light mortars are nimble enough to support armoured units on the move and they take some pressure away from the mortar company. Having as many firing units as humanely possibly is a desirable outcome. One big and light mortar platoon per 9 infantry platoons or 3 light platoons and one heavy mortar company per 9 infantry platoons, a huge difference in ability to support combat.
You would definitely want UAVs at battalion level. Some form of robust quadcopter drone with a range of 5 km and a 60-minute endurance would be achievable. But it has to be a durable, affordable and soldier-proof system that’s easy to operate.
I don’t see the Army operating 81mm and 120mm mortars together. The strain on logistics would be too great. I suggested elsewhere that returning to the 51mm light mortar could be an option because its ammunition was compact and manageable. In retrospect, I think adopting Medium Velocity 40mm grenades might be a better option. I’ve fired the Milkior multi-shot System with the Rheinmetall sight and 40 mm MV rounds. You can easily get on target at 600 metres with 2-3 rounds. Have one or two of these per section, plus a GPMG and DMR, and you have some serious firepower at your disposal.
All look good to me, except that wishing for a €8-10 million artillery platform is a waste of the taxpayer’s money. SMART or BONUS type ammo are produced and owned by Russia and China, and could easily destroy such platforms. A cheaper platform allows more guns and thus more chances to survive.
Even with the number of platforms required now, I doubt we will be allowed to have as many guns if the unitary cost is 8-10 million euros instead of 3-4 million euros. Are they better protected ? Not against current Russian artillery ammo. Suppose we buy this kit, will there be anything left to buy 52 Cal ammo, guided 155, BONUS/SMART ? …..unless we sell a couple of F-35 maybe…
I pretty much agree with all of that but for logistics commonality I would think the Thales Rapidfire system (which uses cta 40 mm) mounted on Boxer – would be better than a different 35mm – I think it can also integrate starstreak. Can we wait/afford to wait for a modified boxer turret for the 155mm? What’s wrong with Archer? At one stage there was during FRES there was an 8×8 afv system that utilised the m777 carried on the vehicle and then lowered on a base plate for firing – I wonder what happened to that design?
Regard miv firepower would like to see use of Riwp as it gives max flexibility and would potentially allow for upgrades along the line, so could start 0.5 then 230lf then bushmaster. The training formation could use 0.5 inch and then swap to 30mm when deployed.
In regards to funding I think the case should be made that UOR type funding/short-term project funding should be available to STRIKE as it is a complete brand new capability and due to how quickly it will deploy if will unlikely to be able to use this type of funding.
Hey Nick what about the bastard child of a foxy Italian Centauro and a beefy German Boxer ?
Centauro’s lower silhouette purpose designed hull but with Boxers engine, gearbox and wheels for commonality ? Plus a good active protection system of course, and maybe same optronics as Ajax for further commonality !
Just plonking the Centauro 2’s turret on Boxer might work, but would likely result in a top heavy vehicle with an exceptionally tall profile. I think you have to do what the Italian’s have done and engineer a low profile hull. You do it by turning the vehicle around so the engine is at the back. I estimate that basic vehicle weight including turret would be around 26 tonnes which would allow you to add 14 tonnes of armour across frontal arc and to the turret. That’s enough protection to stop some fairly serious anti-armour weapons.
How long would it take and how expensive? It would be nice but is it a must? I personally think it should be done, but anything that looks like another system may tempt red tape and the treasury to be involved – is it better having something close to what we need or re-engineering things that could shoot up in costs and then get nothing?
@UK Land Power
You say: “In retrospect, I think adopting Medium Velocity 40mm grenades might be a better option. I’ve fired the Milkior multi-shot System with the Rheinmetall sight and 40 mm MV rounds.”
Are you referring to the South African grenade launcher, as used by the U.S. Marines under the designation M32A1? It certainly seems a highly effective weapon, being a multiple-shot and intended to considerably increase a small squad’s firepower when compared to traditional single-shot weapons like the L123 UGL. However, “Have one or two of these per section”? Would the soldiers concerned carry two weapons: their rifle and the grenade launcher and who would responsible for humping the ammunition? Two per section might be excessive but by all means let’s have some (one per section?).
Not very much mention has been made yet of the role the role an air element might play. Would attack and support helicopters be attached to such a Strike formation? I suppose with the likelihood of the Brigade operating in a more dispersed manner, it would be more difficult to provide constant air cover and support for ground units. Ulrich Reinhardt in one of his suggestions for a Strike Brigade mentioned the inclusion of loitering munitions, which seem to be coming back into favour. Would they be one possible solution to providing some protection from the air. I’m not sure whether the demise of Fire Shadow was owing to funding difficulties or manpower shortages but it would have been useful. No?
Oops I made a mistake, the cost of a single Unitary rocket is mire around 60.000 £ than 160.000 £. My appologies to Lockheed Martin.
However, 155 is still much more affordable for direct support.
Not just the grenade launchers, Minimi is out and Gimpy is back and Charlie G is finding fashion too, when will the riflemen be left to their rifles? Statistics suggest that keeping the carry weight below fifty pounds increases survivability by 60% (you can run faster).
Mike W – your right I did not really attempt to cover the air dimension, for a number of reasons.
1. It would have increased the size and complexity of the article even more 🙂
2. In a peer to peer conflict the AH64’s might be survivable, the Wildcat probably not, and the Chinooks’ in certain circumstances I suppose, depending on the mission. Because of that I want the Strike Brigade to be able to survive, manouvre and fight based on it’s own organic fires, and it’s own organic “air power” in the form of unmanned systems of various sizes and capabilities.
3. As a supporter of the Think Defence’s idea of “Light Strike Brigades” replacing 16 Air Assault and 3 CDO – the helo’s would be with them.
4. In a less than “all out” peer to peer use of the Strike Brigades, say against a well equipped and organized non-state actor, in sub-saharan Africa, then the Army Air Corps and Joint Helicopter Command would obviously add considerable value to any operation, and enable both manouvre of the brigade, and provide additional ISR and fire power assets.
I hope that makes sense!
Thanks ever so much for taking the trouble to reply. I have only just seen your post and I was inspired to read your whole article again. And very good it was too, a most enjoyable read. I found the introduction to the whole subject of Strike Brigades and their weaponry most lucid and well-informed.
I found myself not agreeing with everything you suggested: e.g your intended uses of AJAX in what would be a mainly wheeled Army. I think you might very well come across language and communication difficulties if your suggestions for using them to support other allied forces were taken up.
However, that is not what I wanted to talk about. I found your arguments for wanting the Strike Brigade “to be able to survive, manoeuvre and fight based on it’s own organic fires” convincing (at least up to a point) and agreed with your choice of weaponry to achieve that. However, I was not quite so clear about what you meant by “it’s own organic “air power” in the form of unmanned systems of various sizes and capabilities” Do you give any examples of that? Presumbly it is not the following kind of thing because that would be manned:
“The US Army’s Multi-Mission Launcher (MML) was developed quickly and inexpensively, using some HIMARS components and has test fired a Hellfire. If it can fire Hellfire, it should be able to launch Brimstone too. With 15 missile cells on the launcher, this is equivalent to a full Brimstone load-out on a Typhoon, and could provide the Brigade with a very useful autonomous anti-armour over-watch capability in all weathers, when tac-air cannot make it to the party.”
I can understand your saying that tac-air might sometimes not “make it to the party”. I have already mentioned the difficulties of providing air support when operating in a “dispersed” fashion. However, I cannot see why you dismiss so easily the chances of Wildcat and possibly AH64’s and the Chinooks’ being survivable. Surely they were designed to be survivable in high-intensity warfare , in peer-to-peer conflict?
IMHO the Wildcat needs an urgent upgrade to ensure its survivability particularly a roof or mast mounted sight at the moment it has to go above the tree line to find and designate targets – which is actually a downgrade on the AH7! Considering the small number of Apaches I would also like to see spike nlos purchased (already integrated on ROK Wildcat) if possible roof mounted osprey radar panels may allow more rapid discovery of targets possibly give some ESM capability if 4 panels fitted potentially so rear situational awareness. Hopefully LMM is already on the way.
I would like to see it crewed like a recce vehicle with jtac, UAV and enhanced observation capability. The other important thing is to get h145m (preferably with some h-force kits) to replace the ageing Gazelle and provide the proper BLUH with Wildcat providing the proper BRH as was originally envisaged before cost cutting.
Mike W and Simon
Mike you quite rightly note that I have a bit of a “downer” on the wonderful platforms and people of the Army Air Corps and RAF, with respect to survivability of said platforms when facing a fully integrated air defence complex, that includes a lot short range tactical systems as well as S300’s etc.
That does not mean I don’t think they have a role to play, just potentially a not very big one with Strike. Conversely the firepower of the Strike brigade could be focused on degrading the A2AD capabilities of a peer enemy (ok lets not be coy, Russia…..) to give them space in which to operate.
If you read TD’s article (linked in the main body of our article above) on the development of light infantry battalions into ‘Light Strike’ brigades, enhanced by attachment of Para and RM’s, deployed by air or seas as first responders, or attached to a Strike Brigade as a screening force, then I think they get the focus of Apache and Chinook ops. Wildcat needs a sensor and weapons upgrade, ideally mounting the same radar as RN’s, or as an airborne controller for UAV’s, but anything smaller to replace Gazelle is just not survivable IMHO.
Instead, there is a huge range of MOTS UAV’s out there that we should be procured in large amounts (yes, I know, budgets….. but they are cheaper than helicopters…):
Section level: Black Hornet nano UAV
Platoon level: Quadcopter, 1.5km range e.g. https://instanteyerobotics.com/products/gen3/
Battlegroup level: Desert Hawk III or replacement
Brigade level: VTOL / helo such as Schiebel Camcopter 100 or Saab Skeldar – range out to 100km plus bring back Fireshadow, which also has a range of around 100Km
Special use: Tube launched systems to be fired / launched from Boxer’s RWS etc, – what i like about Leonardo / Moog RWiP system is you can put an armoured box on it, which could have 2 Javelin or MMP, or 3 LMM or a 4 pack of Swtichblade short range UAV / loitering munitions. Anti-armour, anti-air or recce, all looks the same …..
Anyway, I hope that helps clarify my points.
I still feel as though we could have tanks in the role the USMC use them in, in addition to your suggestions.
Maintaining two Tank Regiments could provide a deploying force with a Squadron or even a battalion of active armour to supplement a Strike Brigade. They could also be attached to the Royal Marines in that capacity. Even a Platoon of tanks can be the difference between being able to break through, and not.
Make no mistake though, if this Franco-German joint MBT comes in, we should just buy it. The days of needing our own alternative are definitely over.
As a US reader and former MLRS/HIMAR artillery officer, I can lend some insight to the logistics considerations.
First, HIMARS is much more mobile than MLRS. They don’t do well off road at all, but on road they are faster and they break down much less.
Second, you don’t get a lot of ammunition. A HIMARS carries six rounds. If you fire two round missions you can execute three missions, with 12 more missions in the truck that follows you around.
When you are shooting and scooting this burns up pretty fast. We do this at the CTCs (NTC, JRTC and Graf).
Plus you have different types of ammunition. A launcher that is carrying ATACMS or a long range missile (TBD) will have to drop the pod that it has and pick up a new one in order to service a different target set.
So when half your launchers are set up for short range shots and half for long you basically cut your firepower in half.
Plus launchers are pretty temperamental. It’s not uncommon to have 0/8 working at one time, and have to jump through your ass to get them all up. Hell, the manufacturers send a field rep everywhere with us, including deployments, just to help keep the spare parts flowing.
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Thanks for you perspectives, Seth. Great to have a US reader and contributor who has real world experience of these systems. It adds depth and credibility to the discussion.
I would very much like to see the UK acquire HIMARS. Having 6 rockets instead of 12 is a drawback, but better the system that arrives to do the business than the one that fails to deploy quickly enough. I wonder if it would be possible to redesign the pod to carry 8 rockets instead of 6? We may well consider mounting HIMARS on Boxer or a MAN SX truck.
Sorry, a bit late to the comments, but I tend to read things many times before I get around to it.
A great article and very good reply from UKLandP.
I absolutely agree that we need to urgently upgrade literally every vehicle in the British Army. As quiet pointed out in the main article, we have a Battle Group in Eastern Europe and as much as it has impressive firepower it is comprehensively, as it stands, outgunned and vastly out numbered, it Is still a presence. And in these times we are in that is so very important for the country you are supporting to know you are with them and by deploying ‘serious hardware’ ie Tanks, this shows more commitment to a country whose almost entire defence budget and effort is based on. To that that end this could surely be politically and militarily important to at least sustain this commitment for this very reason and to mix it in that arena, albeit in a small way.
Keeping one armoured brigade would also us to cut away obsolete kit and fully equip with the AJAX platform. These are then equipped in a modern fit for purpose way/role and the other 2. Battalions (battlegroup) are based closer permanently, or at least 1 allowing the other to be carrying out Ops specific training, leave courses etc. Challenger 2 can therefore be properly upgraded in half as many platforms to enable it to be fully equipped for the Armoured infantry Brigade.
This would enable more Medium Platforms in they’re most lethal forms. Boxer was born to be an entire system of systems.
Now this may well result in infantry regiments being cut which has its own set of very complicated capbadge issues. The time has come to grasp the nettle on this one and as small as the army would end It has to be fit for purpose. In the coming years humans will specialise More and more and be needed to do The ‘general’ fighting and more to do the absolute clinical- in all arenas not just the traditional SF ones.
Evolve or die. As a former RM I know exactly how it felt over 26 years seeing the Corps becoming less and less focused on the job it was intended to do as defence evolved/changed. I agree to have a viable brigade it needs to be of 3 fighting units. The Corps and PARA Reg both have 2 well resourced (compared to many other infantry Battalions in the army) battalion sized units. 2 Battalions/units have been removed from the ‘order of Battle’ 1 PARA & 42 Cdo RM. these have both specialised in different but similar roles. FCF is a big change but it is well in line with the Corps ambitions for what what it sees now as it’s role. And that means sacrifice to stay relevant. The PARAs have a similar justification Battle. There is no doubt in my mind (as a RM) that should definitely be a PARA capability. How that looks I’ll leave to the grown ups, but they have to be supported correctly, approximately to their role. This means investment. This also needs to be achieved by sacrificing an infantry line regiment. As sad as it is to lose regiments, we ve been losing famous names for so long now, they won’t ever be forgotten, but they may have to be sacrificed to sustain a very important capability that:
1. That line regiment doesn’t specialise in.
2. It enables a system -PARA TROOPS (who are also extremely well trained and motivated) to evolve with The big army in their unique way/skill set that would otherwise be lost and have to rebuilt.
This is how the army evolves. It takes what it needs at part of history it’s in. The stuff it disgusts will have its own dramas with expanding rapidly, but it’s way easier than getting suitable men/woman into the more specialised roles. Fact!
This is relevant why? It’s how the army has to evoke to remain relevant on a much smaller scale. If you the smaller boxer in the ring against a harder punching opponent, you gotta fight differently to beat him.
The UK is by nature/history an expeditionary force. It’s only in time’s of great danger mass mobilisation occurs. We have our training system well not the best funded, definitely geared around thinking outside the box and having effect way above our weight. Sound familiar? That’s pretty much our countries strapline for everything! Culturally we are like this. So it makes sense to work to our strengths and become fit for role our, our role in the world. A medium power that can kick ass when it needs to. That means greatly enhanced navy. Full stop, not popular with the army but fact! Properly resourced Carrier Strike Group (in essence/worst case scenario, the ships will support the army and the Corps will facilities a landing/sabotage etc/specialised in all environments but specialising in the arctic. And we’re a maritime nation blah blah,.
A very advanced but mainly tactical Air Force with a penchant for air defence and advanced stores to do the other role very well (Typhoon with a few more upgrades) close air support is still very much needed (F35 very good but a major asset, the US Light Strike Aircraft program should/would be very interesting to us for forward deploying to Africa/India with fast jets out to sea. Plus it’s the same aircraft as the current training aircraft in the RAF.
And the army. Needs to support its main role as an expeditionary, counter insurgency, urban combat intervention force armed to the teeth and very well equipped. So let’s specialise. Equip the most we can with the best kit that is role specific to our overall global aims.
Have an armoured brigade to keep our hand in in the evolution of that specific role, Armoured.
Retire Warrior. It’s old, it’s worn out and there are lot better ones out there….in our case by any small amount of economics, upgrading a worn out system is fraught with danger. Reduce down to 1 Armoured Brigade and properly equip it. This includes the upgrade of C2, bug it being the more expensive, (the all singing one from Rhinemettal) that is still going to be significantly cheaper than buying a new model that will take an age to retrain/aquaint etc on that maybe obsolete itself in 10 years or sooner, than doing the top notch upgrade of a proven and still not too bad as it is tank that if it does become obsolete in 10 years or less, the new advanced tank is going to be the one that everyone, in one form or another is going for. Is it not worth keeping a small but very credible/capable asset which ticks political, army, international standing and dare I say public opinion thinking, with the aim to be at the forefront of development but also regain an edge that has been severely dented? This may see the demise of the MBT completely with some new form of weapon. But that time isn’t now, so it’s not time to bin yet.
This will clearly go back to the line infantry regiments and other corps etc that the future thinking deems surplus to requirements. And clearly the wrong decisions are made and then attempted to be rectified. But the simple fact is we have to play to our strengths and achieve more effect than the enemy can muster in a similar sized, but ideally numerically larger force. This means equipping the soldier/marine with equipment that suits h the specialisation and not a carpet of genetic kit. This costs money and if we are to achieve this very suited to us role we need to change and that is inevitably going to invoke shrinking within the army.
Evolve or die…..or unless the Americans have said to us, ‘you’re meant to be our closest ally and you’re only gonna have 1 Armored Brigade???!! Japan, Australia, and South Korea are invested heavily in…!’ And then everyone will be flapping like mad and making huge mistakes in order to accommodate this to save face. And if that is indeed the case then we re in a right pickle! But Strike is big in the US Army so hopefully they get it and agree to our much more suited close relationship of starting shit abroad. They can probably tolerate One heavy element to get stuck in with all the other heavy armour and then be able to deal a hard jab to the short rib that drops the bigger man. Voila the very well equipped, smaller but more agile, heavy as hell hitting strike brigades. Everyone’s happy. Unless of course your in a line regiment.
Difficult but necessary evil!
Hello nice ppost