The Anatomy of Strike

By Nicholas Drummond

This is an updated version of an article published on the Wavell Room blog in January 2020.  (Header image: UK Ministry of Defence)

01. Introduction
02. The problem of deployability
03. Origins of the Medium Weight force
04. Britain’s long journey to acquire a Strike capability
05. Emerging Strike concept
06. Force structure and composition
07. Can Strike brigades prevail against peer adversaries?
08. Conclusion

ARTEC Boxer ICV variant

01. Introduction

The aim of this discussion is to provide a clear and unambiguous description of what Strike is, how it works and why it is important. So far, there has been only limited UK communication that articulates the British Army’s intended approach. This is because the concept is still a work-in-progress, but also because much of the doctrine and its tactical application need to remain confidential.

Before attempting to describe what Strike is, it may be helpful to say what it is not, to avoid confusion and correct misconceptions. Strike certainly encompasses a medium weight capability, but is not defined by its vehicles, personnel, and equipment. At its core, Strike is not a formation type. It is a way of fighting.

What makes Strike credible is not the weapons mounted on infantry and cavalry vehicles, but the responsiveness of brigades as a whole, thanks to enablers such as C4I systems, ISTAR sensors, engineers, logistics, REME and medical assets. Even so, Strike will not be a toothless animal. Brigades will have potent organic fire support, including a large number of ATGM launchers. They will also deploy with substantial divisional artillery assets including deep fires and ground-based air defence systems.

Criticism of Strike is based on two objections. One is that infantry lack organic firepower, because Boxer will only be fitted with a 12.7 mm HMG in a remote weapon station. The other is that mixing wheels and tracks is sub-optimal. There is a high risk of Ajax not being able to keep pace with Boxer on long road deployments, which means it not achieve its fundamental purpose: to provide organic fire support. These concerns are valid, but do not invalidate the Strike concept. In time, a turreted Boxer reconnaissance variant with a 30 or 40 mm cannon will almost certainly be added to the mix. A wheeled mobile gun system with a 105 or 120 mm gun could also be included. As far as Ajax is concerned, the UK’s fleet of 90+ Heavy Equipment Transporters (HETs) will be sufficient to move reconnaissance regiments wherever needed. The Army is also evaluating composite rubber track solutions. Banded tracks, which have a service life of 8,000+ kilometres, are transforming tracked vehicle performance through increased road speed, fuel economy, and reliability, while reducing reduce noise, vibration, and crew fatigue. Any perceived concerns about Strike capabilities reflect a short-term lack of resource, Long-term, the brigades will have everything they need to be fully credible. But from the start, when an initial operating capability (IOC) is declared in 2023, Strike Brigades will enable the Army to do things it has never been able to do before.

Boxer IFV with Puma turret
ARTEC Boxer with a 30 mm Puma turret. In time, the British Army will acquire a turreted version of its Mechanised Infantry Vehicle. This could be an IFV version used by Mechanised Battalions or a dedicated reconnaissance variant issued to Cavalry Regiments in place of Ajax. (Image: Krauss Maffei Wegmann)

Ultimately, Strike is a response to evolving threats and a more complex future operating environment. Strike is the means through which the Army will remain flexible and competitive across a wide range of scenarios, including against peer adversaries. Strike is how the Army moves beyond the enhanced forward presence model that has guided its doctrine, structure and equipment since 1945.


02. The problem of deployability

Have you noticed how straightforward it is to deploy a Navy frigate or Air Force jet? During the 2019 stand-off in the Strait of Hormuz British warships were hurriedly dispatched to deter Iranian aggression. As soon as the operation was sanctioned, crews were mustered, ships were provisioned, and away they went. HMS Montrose and HMS Duncan ensured the safe passage of UK merchant vessels. When the crisis died down, they sailed home. It was a case of job done. Similarly in 2018, when the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria, the RAF sent Tornado jets to destroy weapon storage facilities. Within hours the mission was planned, executed and completed. Again, job done.

If only deploying the British Army was as easy. When Britain sends ground forces to a trouble spot, it’s like assembling an orchestra. Regardless of the mission, they need to be sustained by an extensive array of combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) elements making land operations complex and expensive. Just look at the recent UK deployment to Afghanistan. Camp Bastion in Helmand Province covered 32 km2, an area larger than Reading, while air operations made it the UK’s fifth busiest airport. Counter insurgency operations are not a quick fix either. British Troops were officially deployed from June 2002 until December 2014, but, at the time of writing, a small contingent still remains in theatre.

The significant human and economic cost of ground forces deployments means the underlying strategic objectives need to be extremely worthwhile and achievable. It’s why governments have become reluctant to fight “discretionary wars,” where we choose to get involved instead of only fighting wars that are vital for national security. When a response becomes necessary, we increasingly utilise smaller groups of Special Forces or Specialised Infantry battalions to perform surgical strikes or mentor local forces from behind the scenes, rather than sending extensive brigade-size forces. But what happens when we need to think big, not necessarily to fight, but simply to deter aggression? If the effort required to project power is too great, we may postpone action until it is too late, at which point a much more significant and costly intervention will be required.

Some people would argue that if using boots on the ground is so problematic, why not rely on the Navy and Air Force instead? But we forget at our peril that all conflict is ultimately resolved on the ground, so while ships and aircraft can degrade an enemy’s capability to wage war, they cannot seize and hold vital territory. While the results achieved in Iraq and Afghanistan are difficult to quantify, two previous deployments stand-out as text book interventions: the Balkans in 1999 and Sierra Leone 2000. With a civil war taking place in both regions, the British Army’s contribution to internal security helped to restore power to democratically-elected governments, disarmed insurgent forces and restored peace and stability to these regions. The success of these limited interventions reminds us that land force operations can be a relevant and effective tool of Government foreign policy.

While recent deployments have mostly involved low-intensity peace support operations, or medium intensity counter-insurgency campaigns against terrorist organisations, the threats we face have evolved. Islamic extremist terrorism remains a problem at home and abroad, but Russia’s annexation of Ukraine territory and its build-up of forces adjacent to the Baltic States have reignited former Cold War tensions. China is expanding its armed forces well beyond any territorial defence needs. Iran continues to sponsor terrorism, as well as posing a direct threat to its Middle East neighbours. Consequently, there is an increased risk of Britain needing to fight a major high-intensity conflict against a peer adversary and at a time when we have not invested significantly in high-end land warfare capabilities since 1998, when Challenger 2 first entered service.

The problem with heavy forces is that they cannot move quickly. The problem with light forces is that they lack the lethality and resilience to take-on peer adversaries. For this reason, during the Cold War, the UK pre-positioned heavy armour and artillery units in forward bases in Germany to counter a potential Soviet attack. Notwithstanding its deterrent effect, a Corps-sized UK force that remained largely unused for the best part of 65 years was not an efficient use of limited resources. Ironically, having decided to bring the Rhine Army home, it became necessary to provide an enhanced forward presence in the Baltic States. The effort required to deploy troops 1,500 kilometres meant we were only able to generate a single armoured infantry battle group rather than an entire brigade.

As things stand, if the UK wants to deploy ground forces it has two choices:

  • Send a heavy armour force that is lethal and resilient in combat, but takes time and effort to deploy
  • Send a light infantry force that deploys quickly, but has less in the way of lethality and staying power

If only we could rapidly deploy a more substantial mobile force.

03. Origins of the Medium Weight Capability

Faced with the same dilemma in 1999, the US Army was unable to deploy an armoured task force fast enough to make a meaningful contribution to the situation in Kosovo before it was resolved.1 The US Army’s Chief of Staff at the time, General Eric Shinseki, described the US Army as being either “too fat to fly or too light to fight.” Referring to its mix of heavy armour and unprotected HMMWV (Humvees), he believed that there had to be something in between these two extremes. Thus, a new concept was born, the “Medium Weight” force, which offered increased mobility, but without sacrificing protection or firepower.

The blueprint for Shinseki’s vision was found in the United States Marine Corps’ reconnaissance battalions. These used the LAV-25, a 13-tonne 8×8 wheeled armoured vehicle, which had been acquired in the early 1980s. Chosen in preference to the UK’s CVR(T) family, it was intended to give the USMC an expeditionary capability. LAV-25s first saw action in Panama in 1989 where they proved invaluable in supporting dismounted units before M2 Bradley IFVs arrived in theatre. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, a single USMC LAV-25 battalion was able to hold-off an entire Iraqi armoured division equipped with BMPs and T-72s.2 Shinseki’s new “Objective Force” was built around a revised LAV platform, the LAV III or Stryker. This offered improved protection and an increased carrying capacity. Growing in weight to 17-18 tonnes, the M1126 Stryker became the basis of a new class of armoured vehicle and a new type of formation called a “Stryker Brigade.” Infantry carrier vehicles were supported by a range of additional variants including reconnaissance, anti-tank, mortar and artillery platforms to create a capable yet adaptable mobile force.

Origin of Species: The LAV-25  was co-developed by MOWAG & GD Land Systems to create an amphibious 8×8 for the US Marine Corps in the early 1980s. Mounting the same 25 mm chain gun as the M2 Bradley IFV, the LAV-25 has been one of the USMC’s most successful vehicles, giving it an expeditionary capability long before other nations recognised a similar need. (Image: USMC)

The first operational use of a Stryker Brigade was in Iraq between 2003 and 2004. A complete brigade sailed directly from the USA to Kuwait. Upon arrival, it deployed as a single unit moving 900 kilometres in a single bound with everything needed to support operations for 72 hours. What was notably absent from the column was the usual logistics tail that accompanied armoured formations. En route to its initial area of responsibility, the Brigade was re-tasked to a trouble spot, Samarra. The unexpected arrival of such a large armoured force wrong-footed insurgent forces and meant that the situation was stabilised with surprising speed and efficiency. The Brigade then proceeded to relieve the US 101st Airborne Division in Mosul, its original task. Upon arrival, it found that a force a third of the size of a light infantry division could dominate the same area of ground with less effort. Over a 12-month period, Stryker vehicles covered an average of 32,000 kilometres each with units achieving readiness levels of 96%. Post-operational analysis suggested that the Stryker Brigade concept was nothing short of revolutionary in the impact it achieved.[3]


Stryker M1126
The US Army’s M1126 Stryker ICV is a development of the same Piranha chassis used by the LAV-25. Larger with an increased carrying capacity, this vehicle has become the basis for an extensive range of wheeled combat vehicles used by US Army Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCTs). (Image: US Army)

The performance of the US Stryker Brigade in Iraq inspired other NATO armies to acquire a similar capability. Polish forces deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 used the Patria AMV. This was a better protected vehicle than the LAV III and mounted a 30 mm cannon, giving it significantly greater firepower. By this time, addressing the threat posed by mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had become paramount. A further evolution in vehicle design resulted in higher levels of blast and kinetic protection. The German-Dutch Boxer and French VBCI raised the performance bar higher. With GVW increased above 32 tonnes, both platforms are directly comparable to tracked IFVs. Germany’s employment of Boxer in Afghanistan in 2011 was an unqualified success. No Bundeswehr soldier riding in one was killed or injured. The French Army’s deployment to Mali in 2013 was another textbook intervention in Africa. A VBCI formation travelled 2,400 kilometres in 3 days, survived 450 RPG and 11 major IED attacks without casualties or unrepairable damage, and vehicles remained mobile even with three flat tyres. These advantages enabled French troops to stabilise a potentially explosive situation in a matter of weeks.[4]


04. Britain’s long journey to acquire a Strike capability

Around the same time that the US Army was developing its Stryker concept, the British Army was a planning its own Medium Weight capability via the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV) programme and later the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV) programme, which ultimately produced Boxer. After misguidedly exiting MRAV, a third initiative, the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) was proposed. All three projects were mired by indecision and a lack of resources, especially after the global financial crisis of 2008, but at their core they sought to make the Army more deployable in a post-Cold War world. With Britain heavily involved with fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the urgent need to procure MRAP vehicles sucked-up much of the budget allocated for the purchase of future combat vehicles. Despite the cancellation of both MRAV and FRES, the Army still recognised the need for a fundamental transformation, but it was not until 2016 that modernisation once again became a priority. The delay worked in our favour as many of the UK’s previous medium weight beliefs had now been refined by the experience of other armies.

As the British Army starts to become expeditionary by design, the ubiquity of wheeled combat vehicles is seen as being increasingly relevant to the way we will need to fight in future, including operations in denied and dangerous environments. Potential adversaries have established multiple layers of stand-off that seek to prevent us from closing with and destroying them. These Anti-Access/ Area Denial (A2/AD) strategies have made getting to the fight as challenging as the fight itself.

The evolved nature of modern warfare means that traditional heavy armour risks not deploying fast enough to contribute a decisive effect. This does not mean that tanks, tracked artillery and infantry fighting vehicles are redundant; their resilience and firepower still have an important role to play. But 70-tonne main battle tanks are impractical. The reality is that all armour, tracked or wheeled, will need to weigh less, not only to get where needed, but to move around the battlespace.

Boxer Repair & Recovery variant. (Image: FFG)

05. Emerging Strike concept

So, what is the emerging UK Strike concept? The requirement is to field a medium weight capability that combines the mobility of light forces with the lethality and survivability of heavy forces, but it now encompasses full spectrum utility across low, medium and high intensity scenarios. There are four core characteristics of Strike:

  • Rapid Reaction
  • Operating Dispersed
  • Integrated Effect
  • Reduced logistical footprint

Rapid Reaction is the ability of Strike Brigade to deliver a decisive effect at distances of up to 2,000 kilometres. It is about getting there first and fast. The ability to react quickly is defined by three elements: Agility, Autonomy and Reach. Agility is a unit’s speed of movement across all terrain types, including operational mobility (moving from the theatre entry point to the area of combat operations / moving out-of-contact), and tactical mobility (moving around the area of combat operations / moving in-contact). It’s about on road speed and off-road performance. Autonomy is the capacity of a formation to self-deploy and operate as an independent force. Reach is the ability to penetrate deep within denied and dangerous environments to achieve the desired operational goals.

Rapid Reaction incorporates the concept of “preemptive manoeuvre.” This is the land warfare equivalent of an ice hockey player skating to where puck is going to be, not where it is. This is an entire formation responding in unison to an evolving tactical picture, moving in a coordinated fashion, with every unit connected to what is happening in real time. This kind of joined-up operating model relies on good C4I capabilities, but with them it can achieve a “force multiplier effect” that out-thinks, outflanks and over-matches a larger enemy force. It’s like moving a knight in chess to cover the squares around a king. Just occupying a certain position acts as a deterrent because it offers multiple attack options.

The second key characteristic is Operating Dispersed. This encompasses the separation and re-concentration of Strike units to aid manoeuvre and to avoid being targeted by the enemy. When Strike formations operate well forward, e.g. to conduct search and destroy missions, they will infiltrate in small de-centralised packets. Size will depend on the task at hand, but will seldom be larger than company or squadron groups. This is because larger formations tend to become a focus for artillery and air attack. Groups of 14-16 vehicles will manoeuvre into a position that allows accompanying assets, such as missile and rocket artillery, to neutralise enemy assets. Operating dispersed is essential for resilience, but also to prevent congestion, especially in built-up areas. A fully digitised and networked Strike force can easily and quickly be concentrated or re-focused to achieve a “Schwerpunct” effect. Overall, Strike brigades can be expected to cover a frontage of 100 kilometres and a depth of 100 km.

The third characteristic is Integrated Effect. This is how joint force capabilities such as air assets, joint fires and other multi-domain resources are combined with Strike to achieve a concentrated effect. It means that Strike Brigades will not be solely reliant on their own organic fire support capabilities. They will be supported by divisional fires, e.g. 155 mm artillery, MLRS, deep strike missiles, long-range precision effects, GBAD systems; by air assets, e.g. Apache AH-64 and F-35B combat aircraft; and even by naval assets, e.g. aircraft carriers and submarine-launched land attack missiles. Strike brigades can also call upon cyber and EW units or task special forces.

By acting as a forward screen, Strike units will provide enhanced security for the main force, delivering information and intelligence. Working in conjunction with Armoured Infantry, mechanised infantry Strike units will enable divisional manoeuvre. Even when Strike Brigades are operating independently from other UK formations, they will seldom be alone. They will usually be part of a larger coalition. When deploying with allies, we will rely on neighbouring units to provide support and they in-turn will rely on us.

Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 16.28.18
Key Strike Brigade enablers. Funding constraints mean that many of these capabilities will not be available initially, but are expected to be acquired in due course.  

The fourth characteristic is a Reduced Logistical Footprint. For Strike Brigades to be effective, reducing the effort required to sustain them in the field is essential. In this respect, wheeled vehicles are more efficient, more reliable and less expensive to operate than tracked ones. They consume less fuel and can travel longer distances faster. Using a common modular platform like Boxer will reduce maintenance requirements and consume fewer spare parts. In particular, units will travel with sufficient ammunition, fuel, rations, batteries and water, so that they can operate for up to 7 days between resupply.

Another aspect of a reduced logistical footprint will be streamlined support processes. This may include autonomous convoys for last-mile delivery, resupply by air, and the clever packaging of materiel to speed-up collection and distribution. Real-time automated data collection that monitors fuel consumption, ammunition usage and so on, will allow needs to be predicted aiding logistical planning.

The essence of contemporary US Stryker and UK Strike doctrine can be found in American Civil War history. Confederate General, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, attributed his ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by consistently “arriving first with largest number of troops.” When dispersed units can travel long distances independently, manoeuvre into a position of advantage, and then quickly regroup to assault an objective, it delivers a critical mass of force at the right moment that denies the enemy any opportunity to respond until it is too late.

What is new about Strike is that the combination of benefits it brings allows commanders to shape the battlespace proactively. One example of Strike Brigade utility is countering A2/AD barriers. Ground-based air defence bubbles, e.g. Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system, are designed to prevent NATO forces from gaining air superiority. In response, Strike units might conduct surprise infiltrations deep into enemy territory to find and neutralise them. Another example is using Strike Brigades to seize and hold vital ground in coup de main operations. Airborne or Air Assault forces can be used in conjunction with Strike Brigades. A parachute drop to gain control of bridges, airfields, or supply dumps can be rapidly reinforced by wheeled units moving along ground routes to link-up. It’s what we tried to do at Arnhem, but couldn’t because tracked formations couldn’t move fast enough. We can also use Strike Brigades as a deterrent. Instead of using an Armoured Infantry Brigade to maintain an enhanced forward presence, when tensions ramp-up or preparatory movement is spotted, a Strike Brigade will deploy. The aspiration is for an entire formation to travel from the United Kingdom to, for example, the Baltic States within 2-3 days. In case this sounds unrealistic, US Stryker Brigade have already proven that this is entirely possible, through operational missions and exercises.

Strike Brigades will be inherently flexible. They are designed to execute multiple mission types with vehicles that require minimal reconfiguration. Charles Krulak, a USMC general, developed the concept of the three block war.[5] This posited that ground forces should expect to perform a variety of roles wherever deployed. One moment they might be required to distribute aid, the next to perform low-level counter-insurgency roles, and, thirdly, to conduct high intensity operations against a peer enemy, all within a three-block radius. It places an emphasis on low-level leadership and adaptable force structures. With units operating dispersed inside enemy-held territory, junior NCOs will be required to take command decisions that directly influence the success of the mission. But it is the key characteristics of Strike that will most enable multi-role operations.

Chinese ZBL-08 8×8 IFV. China is investing in a significant expeditionary capability.

As armies across NATO build their Medium Weight capabilities, potential adversaries are doing the same. China has been particularly active developing a range of 8×8 vehicles, including the ZBL-09 Snow Leopard IFV and ZTL-09 105 mm Fire Support Vehicle, which it intends to produce in large quantities. Russia is supplementing its BTR-70 and BTR-80 mechanised fleets with the new VPK-7829 Boomerang 8×8 family. The sheer ubiquity of 8×8 platforms convinces some analysts that medium weight armour will eventually render traditional heavy tracked armour obsolete. For the moment, the sheer number of MBTs that remain in service – the IISSS Military Balance 2019 estimates that there are 70,000 MBTs globally – means we need to maintain existing tank numbers to counter them. In the long-term, however, it seems likely that medium weight wheeled forces will offer more options across more scenarios than legacy heavy tracked platforms.


06. Force structure and composition

Strike Brigades are expected to be comprised of two mechanised infantry battalions equipped with Boxer plus a reconnaissance regiment equipped with Ajax. Each brigade will be supported by an artillery regiment providing indirect fires. They should also have an air defence battery attached, plus ISTAR elements, including UAVs, and counter-battery radars. An Engineer regiment will provide obstacle clearance and gap crossing support. Strike brigades will have dedicated Logistics, REME and Medical regiments. Mechanised Infantry battalions will each have about 150 vehicles, including 100 Boxer MIVs. In total, strike brigades are expected to have close to 900 vehicles and 5,000 personnel.

For Strike to work, it will be dependent on four key enablers:

  1. C4I systems which offer increased range, security and fidelity of communication, allowing information to be shared via voice and data up, down and across the chain of command
  2.  ISTAR sensors, including optics, radar, laser range finders, acoustic direction finders and other modern technology that allows the enemy to be located
  3. Wheeled combat vehicles, including 4×4, 6×6 and 8×8 platforms, which combine on-road and off-road mobility
  4.  Long-range missiles and artillery systems, including rockets, missiles and smart artillery munitions, non-line of sight ATGMs and ground-based air defence systems.

The above enablers will make Strike a “system of systems.” While many people attach importance to wheeled combat vehicles, perhaps the most crucial element is network-enabled C4I systems. Highly connected units on the ground relying on multiple advanced sensor types will be able to share information across the Brigade. Commanders will be able to make better informed decisions and implement them more quickly. The Battle of France in 1940 is analogous to the advantages provided by modern C4I systems. The German Army’s light Panzer units were equipped with radios whereas French Army Char B1 tank units, which were more heavily armed and better protected, relied on flag signallers and carrier pigeons. Faster, more reliable communications enabled the Wehrmacht to rapidly bypass the French defensive line and penetrate deep into their rear area. This cut-off their supply routes and forced a withdrawal. Network-enabled contemporary Strike units will have a better ability to communicate and share information allowing them to respond rapidly and in-concert, making the underlying tactical doctrine as transformational as “Blitzkrieg” tactics were during WW2.

The LEtacSys / Morpheus C4I system that will replace Bowman will from the outset be designed for high fidelity and low latency. It will be easier to integrate into the digital electronic architecture of new vehicles. It will provide combat net radios with a longer range, increased security, reduced power consumption and a smaller physical footprint. Integrated mobile data networks and satellite communication systems will give the Army more reliable voice communication and data-sharing capabilities. An integrated battlefield management system (BMS) will enable the positions of each sub-unit within a brigade to be shared in real-time. This will enhance command and control as well as providing an evolving view of the battlespace. LEtacCIS / Morpheus is a funded programme on-track to deliver from 2023.

UAVs like Protector and Watchkeeper working closely with Strike Brigade signals units will ensure that information is fed to all units on a continual basis. Smaller quadcopter drones with longer loiter times and high fidelity sensors will augment the battle picture. Radar systems, laser range finders, fire control systems and other optics will be enhanced by AI. This will ensure enemy threats are identified more reliably and faster than human operators can do alone.

At the heart of UK Strike Brigades will be the 8×8 platform we tried to acquired 20 years ago, the ARTEC Boxer. This third-generation vehicle rebalances the iron triangle in favour of mobility, but without sacrificing protection. Its unique mission module design allows the vehicle to be re-roled within 60 minutes. It can mount a wide variety of weapons. Above all, it acts as the “mother ship” for a full infantry section of 8-10 soldiers. When fielded, the British Army will never have had more a flexible or better protected infantry carrier.

Boxer IFV Puma interior
Interior view of ARTEC Boxer IFV variant. 

The Ajax reconnaissance vehicle is a worthy replacement for the obsolete CVR(T) family. While Ajax might be better employed in the Armoured Infantry Brigades, operating alongside Challenger 2 and Warrior, its 40 mm cased-telescoped ammunition cannon will provide significant direct fire support. No other cannon in service can neutralise the BMP-3+ at 1,000 metres. While Ajax will rely on Heavy Equipment Transporters (HET) for long road deployments, once in theatre mobility will not be an issue. In any event, using Boxer and Ajax together will not the uneasy compromise that many perceive it to be.

Strike Brigade units will also get the Multi-Role Vehicle Protected (MRVP). This will be a family of vehicles including the Oshkosh JLTV, as a Command & Liaison Vehicle (CLV) and Tactical Support Vehicle (TSV); and, either the Thales Bushmaster or GDELS Eagle, as a Battlefield Ambulance (BFA) and Troop Carrying Vehicle (TCV). These platforms will ensure that infantry will have a much higher degree of protected mobility. Logistically, units on the ground will be supported by the Army’s fleet of MAN trucks. Available in 4×4, 6×6 and 8×8 configurations, these offer exceptional utility and have proved to be the logistical backbone of the Army.

In terms of fire support, it needs to be emphasised that Strike units will have a significant number of ATGMs at their disposal. NLAW and Javelin will be carried at platoon-level. All Boxer section vehicles will have the capability to mount and fire Javelin from under armour. Javelin’s top attack capability is extremely difficult to counter, even with the latest APS systems. Additionally, Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) missiles will be available to support forward-deployed brigades. The Army already has Exactor (Spike NLOS) and is evaluating ground-launched Brimstone.

The Army intends to acquire a new mobile fires platform with a 155 mm L/52 calibre howitzer firing new ammunition types. This will offer a 70-kilometre range. Additionally, systems like the Lockheed Martin HIMARS with G/MLRS rockets and, potentially, the new Deep Strike missile, with a 499 km range, will augment existing capabilities in this area. The mix of offensive firepower at a Strike brigade’s disposal will enable it to destroy a large number of point targets simultaneously or to delete entire grid squares.

Boxer variants
The Army hopes to acquire a large number of Boxer variants for its Strike Brigades. As of March 2020, four variants have been ordered, but a further eight are being investigated. 

With most of the above equipment types already on the Army’s shopping list, UK Strike Brigades are well on the way to achieving General Sir Nick Carter’s Strike 2016 vision. There are three missing pieces of the jigsaw:

  • Organic Direct Fire. Introducing with a turreted Boxer reconnaissance vehicle or infantry fighting vehicle would immediately augment the lethality of Strike brigades. Mounting a 30 or 40 mm cannon plus ATGM would enable such a platform to engage multiple target types, including MBTs and IFVs. Additionally, mounting the 30×113 mm M230LF chain gun in place of the 12.7 mm HMG would combine the range and accuracy of the HMG with the explosive effect of a 40×53 mm grenade launcher. Fitting this to the Kongsberg Protector RWS with Javelin integration would not be significantly more expensive, but would do much to support infantry when advancing on foot to seize an objective, especially as new ammunition types enter service.
  • Organic indirect fire. Infantry battalions need 120 mm mortars mounted on a dedicated Boxer variant, because dismounted 81 mm mortars will be out-distanced by fast moving rifle company vehicles as they advance. Something like the Patria NEMO turreted 120 mm mortar system would be ideal. NEMO has an indirect range of 10-12 kilometres. It also has a direct-fire capability which is ideal for bunker-busting.

  • Ground-based air defence systems (GBAD). The drone threat is such that the Army needs to rethink ground-based air defence. The new Sky Sabre system is superb. This combines the Land Ceptor / CAMM missile with Giraffe AMB radar. The problem is we have too few launchers. Similarly the Starstreak HVM is a great short range system, but can we afford to shoot down €1,000 drones with €100,000 missiles? Instead, we need a cannon-based 35-40 mm anti-aircraft system, again mounted on Boxer. The Thales RapidFire system with a 40 mm CT cannon would give us commonality with Ajax 40 mm CT cannons. Alternatively, Rheinmetall / Oerlikon’s 35 mm Revolver air defence cannon with AHEAD ammunition has an unrivalled airburst capability.

07. Can Strike brigades prevail against peer adversaries?

As Ajax and Boxer start to re-equip the British Army, the burning question is how effective will Strike Brigades be versus a peer enemy, especially one equipped with T-90 MBTs and BMP-3 IFVs? Modern 8×8 vehicles are well protected, but don’t offer the same level of protection as an MBT. The 40 mm CT cannon will defeat IFVs and older MBTs, but not the frontal armour of T-72 or T-90. This means we will rely on ATGMs like Javelin. There may be case to acquire a 105 mm or 120 mm mobile gun system. These are essentially wheeled MBTs, except that they lack protection. If a Centauro 2 mobile gun system engages a Russian T-90 MBT, it had better destroy it with a first-round kill, because if it doesn’t, it will almost certainly be obliterated when the tank returns fire.

If 8x8s cannot survive against MBTs, how can they possible make them redundant? Part of the answer lies in the belief that 8×8 units should never be directly set against tank forces. Ensuring that wheeled units are not surprised is about effective ISTAR – obtaining prior knowledge of enemy dispositions that gives you an information advantage, allowing you to choose when and where you will fight. Behind this lies a reliance on new technology and the idea that future battlefield encounters will be decided by sensors as much as weapons. An increased focus on fielding third generation sensors, e.g. FLIR gun sights, will allow friendly forces to locate, engage and defeat enemy forces before they can do likewise. In case this view seems naive, it is exactly what the German Wehrmacht did in WW2 with the Sturmgeshütz III assault gun. Originally designed to support dismounted infantry, it proved adept at tank destruction in defence. This is because its optics were superior to those of the Panzer III and Russian T-34, allowing StuG III crews to engage the enemy before they themselves were located. For the moment, it may be a stretch to suggest that the tank is obsolete. An Australian Army general recently said: “Tanks are like dinner jackets, you don’t need them very often, but when you do, nothing else will do.”6 For example, when defending a crossroads or other key position that offers generous fields of fire, an MBT can be extremely hard to dislodge.

Across many anticipated scenarios, Strike Brigade Joint Fire Controllers (JFCs) will reconnoitre enemy positions using drones and satellites and then feed enemy coordinates to artillery located well back. A variety of missile and tube artillery systems will then be used to neutralise enemy forces prior to the attacking Strike force closing on its objective. This reflects another doctrinal concept: “defeating at distance,” which is analogous to the RAF using Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) or long-range cruise missiles. We should expect Strike Brigades to use Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) missiles. Whatever the system, the goal is destroy the enemy beyond the distance they are able to return fire.

In defence, drone reconnaissance or forward OPs will enable a phased response to an attacking enemy. At 100 km, Long-Range Precision Strike Missiles will be used to deplete concentrations enemy armour. At 50-70 km, MLRS and 155 mm artillery will be used. At 30-40 km, BLOS ATGMs comes into play. At 8-10 km, organic 120 mm mortars and LR ATGM will open fire. Then, at 3-5 km ATGM like Javelin / MMP will pick-off the remnants. Ideally, an enemy should seldom close to within 1-2 km of a Medium Weight force’s defensive position. If they do, dug-in dismounted infantry will use hand-held ATGMs, like NLAW, plus vehicle cannons and small arms to defeat whatever is left.

Independently of armoured vehicle developments, we’re seeing an evolution in the technical capabilities of artillery systems. These are gaining increased range, improved accuracy and greater lethality. Feedback from Ukrainian forces engaged by Russian artillery should leave us in no doubt about the ability of modern artillery to degrade heavy armour. Even if it doesn’t achieve an outright kill, it will often achieve a mobility kill or neutralise a tank’s main armament by knocking-out its optics.

If an enemy bunches its forces, they will immediately become a target. And vice-versa. With potential adversaries investing in quantity as well as quality of artillery, the ability to move quickly around the battlespace is fundamental to the survival of all combatants. Effective fire and manoeuvre remains a core tactical skill. What Strike changes is that instead of this being a low-level unit activity, it will increasingly be executed at brigade- and divisional-level.

08. Conclusion

To summarise, UK Strike Brigades will allow the Army to deploy agile, lethal and connected ground forces with relative ease. This is transformational. They will be self-contained, responsive and have reduced logistical support needs. Strike units will be interoperable with our NATO allies, but also with our own heavy armour and light role infantry units. Strike Brigades will ensure that infantry mass is delivered wherever needed, and we should remember that dismounted infantry are the decisive element in the close battle. Strike changes the risk calculus for operational deployments. It means we will be able to do things we couldn’t do before, like deploying troops in protected vehicles where previously we were only able to deploy them in unprotected Land-Rovers and trucks. Potential adversaries will no longer be able to defeat them using small arms, RPGs and basic IEDs.

The Strike concept is a future direction of travel, not only for the British Army, but for NATO. The French L’Armée de Terre’s Scorpion programme reveals similar modernisation efforts. Tracked IFVs have been replaced by the 8×8 VBCI. Mechanised formations will get three new wheeled vehicles, the 6×6 Griffon VBMR infantry carrier, the 6×6 Jaguar EBRC reconnaissance vehicle, and the 4×4 Serval VBMR-L. The only remaining tracked platform will be the Leclerc MBT.

As much as wheeled vehicles provide new deployment options, tracked vehicles will still be needed to fight across the most extreme terrains, such as Northern Europe in winter, where snow, ice, and soft soil create challenging off-road conditions. So it is not a question of wheels versus tracks, but an enduring need for both.

In the final analysis, Strike represents the most radical modernisation of the British Army since 1945. It is a new approach to fighting and leverages new doctrinal approaches, new technologies and new organisational structures. At a time where absolute numbers of troops remain limited, Strike will allow us to do more with less. Above all, it will make the Army more deployable and thus more usable. The thinking behind Strike is still a work in progress, but given the baptism of fire it has received via the US Army and French Army operations in Iraq and Africa, we can be confident that it will mature into winning formula.



1. Source: Operation Joint Guardian – The US Army in Kosovo, Jeffrey Clarke, Chief of Military History, US Army
2. Source: LAV-25, The US Marine Corps Light Armoured Vehicle, James D’Angina, Osprey Publishing, 2011
3. Source: From Transformation to Combat, The First Stryker Brigade at War, Mark Reardon and Jeffrey Charlston, US Army publication, 2007
4. Sources: French Army briefing Shivenham Close Combat Symposium, July 2016; Lessons from France’s Operation Serval in Mali, Major-General Olivier Tramond; France’s War in Mali: Lessons for an Expeditionary Force, by the RAND Corporation, Michael Shirkin)
5. Charles C. Krulak, “The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War.” Marines Magazine, January 1999
6. Major General Katherine Toohey, Head of Land Capability for the Australian Army, speaking at the RUSI Land Warfare Conference, June 2019


  1. Wow! Ajax really is that bad!!! Up till now, Strike Brigades have been described as 1 Ajax recce regiment and 1 Ajax “medium tank” regiment with 2 MIV battalions. You only have the recce regiment. The 1 regiment can be deployed, as you say, by 90 HET’s although 2 regiments could not have been. Ajax is not yet in service but you are writing about a Boxer IFV as a replacement. Is the Army trying the cut the Ajax order, perhaps based on the many rumours you have heard of cracked hulls and broken suspension?


    1. I noticed the same – is this a slight error in your copy Nick, or has the army changed from a Square to a Triangular Brigade?

      If we continue to procure Ajax, I think the best use is to replace our NATO forward deployed Infantry Battlegroup in the Baltics, with an increased presence in the Polish NATO battlegroup in the Sulwaki gap. Replace the Jackal based recce squadron with an Ajax regiment on rotation. If necessary forward deploy a squadron of that Regiment to the Baltics, and let someone with a bigger army provide the Infantry.


      1. Brigades are typically two infantry battalions plus one Tank or Reconnaissance regiment. I’d like to see three infantry battalions and one cavalry regiment for all brigades.


  2. In terms of importance, somewhere alongside the 120mm mortars I’d add replacing Javelin with the Spike family as potentially transformative, not just as it would allow dispersed units mutual NLOS support, but also for its ISTAR capabilities; every sight can be networked so you’re constantly feeding information back into the chain and every shot you take is basically a short lived drone.
    120mm mortars and the Spike family (LR2 through to NLOS) on the infantry side would allow the artillery regiments greater freedom to concentrate on the big picture.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d go for MMP, simply because there is a turret in production (for Jaguar EBRC) with 40 mm CT and a retractable launcher. MMP has monitoring during flight, intervention, and lock on after launch. If the British Army has abandoned the Ajax medium tank regiment to protect Boxer, then a turret is needed PDQ. The MIV with a full infantry section could be kept and a TIV(? Turretted Infantry Vehicle) could carry a smaller platoon HQ.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If they’re going to cancel Warrior they’d better be quick as it would affect the module buy.
        What I’d really like to know is if we can cancel Ajax for the cracked armour or whether GD’s lawyers have us, it feels a little jinxed to me at this point.

        One idea that has been batting around my brain would to merge AI and strike to get three fully resourced brigades right off the bat and this would be my attempt at a realistic budgeted (ish) solution, rather than a fantasy fleet.
        Cancel Warrior and buy two more Boxer battalions.
        Go ahead with Challenger LEP
        You get three brigades of two turreted boxer infantry, one Ajax recce, one challenger tank.
        Treated as modular then Strike (as is) is still alive and well within the brigades and can deploy independently, or the whole brigade can deploy as armour on the French model.
        The army can then sit and play with this, if they like the wheels they can push Ajax out with Boxer recce as funds become available, or if it doesn’t work out, push boxer out to independent wheeled brigades and restore tracks somewhere down the line.

        I’m wondering, if we get stuck with Ajax (and just in general) whether we should be kicking tracks back to the reserves, the overwhelming need will be for wheels, tracks maybe once every twenty years, the work up time for tracks is measured in months as is mobilisation time for reserves and if we’re looking at a tank war we’re probably looking at some sort of mobilisation anyway.


      2. Jed, just to confirm, you GIVE articles away? why not sell them? its nice little earner on the side, its not huge money but it pays for my expensive Chablis habit and it stops me from having to interact with my children. You would be surprised what some of these 3rd party agencies ask for a one pager on.

        I am completely on side with the destruction through fires and “more manoeuvre less slaughter” principle, very network centric with a hint of deep battle, what’s not to like?

        A Recce Boxer would be at the top of my list but not with a Warrior turret, its heavy and is having major problems right now. I believe WSCP is a low hanging fruit for Mr Wallace to prune, don’t be surprised if few WSCP turreted ever get manufactured. I would go for the Lance turret that the Australians procured, they seem to be impressed with it, we are already manufacturing 30mm (a minor difference in size) so logistically it makes sense.

        120mm Mortars are a must even if its drop fired from a mortar hatch to keep it within budget, we seem to be the only NATO country not deploying that calibre of mortar. You ant argue with its effectiveness, having worked with the USMC in Afghan and seeing them employed along side 81mm mortars, the difference is massive.

        In regards t air defence, if you ever get in the back of a Stormer you will see how compact it all is, it wouldn’t be hard to transplant all of the white boxes into a Boxer module, the launcher doesn’t have top weight issues with a CVRT so should be fine, its TI is also fairly new.

        I read a great article on multi axis advance of small company groups, but unlike today where a BG may detach an Inf Coy and a few Challenger 2s, it talks about making a mini BG, all the usual support assets just in smaller numbers. This gives the desired dispersed effect we have been talking about with the obvious benefits.

        “In short, to me Strike should really be about ISTAR and fires”

        Unfortunately both of these roles are carried out by the Royal Artillery with hangover from Afghan swaying them more towards ISTAR and less towards fires to a point where we barley have fires at all.


        Liked by 1 person

      3. jedpc, ICV is usually understood to carry an Infantry section. If the army had wanted an IFV then it could have been included in the order. BV covers this thoroughly below. In this context your suggestion of Boxer IFV looks to me like too many steps for the Army. I invented the name Turretted Infantry Vehicle, TIV as a derivative of MIV. Basically TIV is an ICV except I am not suggesting the wholesale replacement of the recently ordered MIV APC. The TIV would be the platoon HQ vehicle and maybe the AT platoon vehicle. This is just a small step, a small course adjustment not a U turn, that the Army & MoD might consider. I would like more.


      4. Captain Nemo, I also have thought about reforming AI & Strike into 3 brigades using Boxer. I call these Strike Brigades. As I’ve put in other posts, I would not try to cancel Boxer APC and replace with IFV. I would add turreted Boxers. This is not an ideal solution but goes generally with the current Army flow.

        The Army is reducing to 2 MBT Armoured Regiments. So be it. I would put these in an Armoured Brigade with 2 AI companies, 2 Artillery Batteries, and support. The Brigade would be tasked with forming 2 Armoured Battle Groups and planning to get them where needed. A Battle Group would normally fight attached to a Strike Brigade. In my reasoning, this should be quicker than deploying an AI Brigade. This is my take on the catch phrase of Strike enabling Divisional manoeuvre.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Paul Sergeant, problem being, if you put one turreted vehicle in a platoon you’re telling the enemy that it is the one to worry about and that they should shoot it.
      If you put the boss in it then your platoon is going to be instantly decapitated.

      I’d given it some thought and concluded that there was survivability in uniformity, as it stands Boxer MIV, Command, Specialist and Logistic all look pretty identical, with a 30mm RWS on everything you’re going to lose them in a pretty random arrangement.
      Conversely, but by example, didn’t the Swedes put a fake turret on their command vehicles so that they wouldn’t get picked on when the others were all turreted?
      So, if we could afford one turret per platoon, I’d argue that it’s maybe not advantageous to do so. Possibly it would be wiser to put them in the support company, so you’d have a cavalry troop per rifle company.
      Not a criticism, I’d reached the same conclusion and then thought oh no wait, everyone is going to kill that first.

      I think it’s probably fair to say the army wanted all IFV, they just couldn’t afford it.


      1. Yes, one turreted vehicle in a platoon is going to be a target and if that is the HQ, as I propose, then I accept this will be a significant loss.

        I see this platoon as getting to the safest position to debus for an attack. The vehicles should not be making the assault. The turreted vehicle will move to a position to provide fire support and will be less prominent.

        In defence, the turreted vehicle will be part of the overall position. Going way back to an infantry platoon supported by an MMG, the MMG may have been a key target but the hardest for attacking infantry to take on.

        In the advance, the turreted vehicle will be prominent but the platoon will be more vulnerable without that vehicle. In Strike, I would 2 Ajax to the platoon giving 3 turreted vehicles with the 3 MIV APC.

        Putting the turreted infantry vehicles in the support company could work well but is not a replacement for an existing element (except the smaller AT platoon). So extra vehicles, extra personnel, extra cost. In Strike those extra Cavalry Troops are available using Cavalry Troops with Ajax.


  3. This turned into a long one.

    Another interesting article, I like the way you linked in previous operations going all the way back to the civil war. It is incredibly optimistic, if only everyone was as pro strike as this article we might get a little more commitment from higher up.

    From my point of view (a crusty embittered cynic) the Army has really sugar coated the principle of strike, almost as if they need to sell the concept. It is true, strike is the future of warfare but what will be rolling out the gates in a few years time will most certainly not be strike.

    I think I have a slightly skewed idea of the strike concept, I spend most of my time surrounded by armoured minded people who see it as just a phase the world is going through and it will pass. Here are a few of my points, they are not at all a criticism of the article which was very well written but a criticism of the British Army take on strike.

    I think the biggest issue is, the article covers what strike in the British Army could be and not what it is or will be, this is understandable as nearly all of the meeting I have been to or the articles I have read seem to blend the 2 together and not leave a clear line to be able to distinguish them.

    In your introduction you stated;

    “Even so, Strike will not be a toothless animal. Brigades will have potent organic fire support, including a large number of ATGM launchers. They will also deploy with substantial divisional artillery assets including deep fires and ground-based air defence systems”

    As of 2023 this will just not be the case, the army has yet to sign off on any other modules other than just the basic APC and some support vehicles. There are options out there such as a 155mm or an air defence variant but as it stands these are just options that have not been selected or budgeted for. AS90 and MLRS are not strike capable so wouldn’t be able to keep up, add to that the fact our fire support regiments are in rag order as most of the royal artillery is geared up for ISTAR and not fire support. That may all change in the future but we won’t be receiving the 1000+ vehicles we will need do strike properly, I fear the strike brigades are fitted for but not will the ability to fight.

    A strike brigade deploying in 2023 will have very little to offer in the way of kinetic effects. The ATGMs pose another problem, Javelin is getting on a bit, it is not the tank killer it used to be and has to be fired by dismounted troops, this is far from ideal in an advance. There is the option to fire Jav from the RWS, its not a great solution but its better than nothing.

    The biggest advantage that strike brings is, as you have stated, to get to the place where the enemy will be. This is all about force ratios. A battle group on the defence can be reasonably expected to hold off a brigade sized force, so 3:1. If you move that battlegroup into a city it can hold off a divisional sized force so a ratio of 10:1. This concept enables a strike brigade to hold off a much larger force, being able to pick and choose where to fight is a game changer.

    “Key Strike Brigade enablers. Funding constraints mean that many of these capabilities will not be available initially, but are expected to be acquired in due course.”

    This picture shows 9 weapon platforms, 7 of which are not in service and won’t be for many years to come (if ever), these systems enable strike, without them you just have a bunch of boxers with dismounts. Saying we have a strike capable brigade in 2023 is just Plain wrong.

    In reference to the force structure, that may be true in 20 years’ time but it is not how it will look in 3 years. Two inf battalions is the bare minimum to be called a brigade, it limits how you can battlegroup and its purely driven by cost. The arty will be provided by an anaemic 105mm regiment that has a short range and is vulnerable to counter battery fire, the engineer regiment would be limited to basic obstacle crossings and digging as all 3 main engineer platform are not strike capable.

    “No other cannon in service can neutralise the BMP-3+ at 1,000 metres” That old one!

    This is purely marketing hype, I have heard it from CTAI for years and it is just plain spin to sell guns. What does it mean? BMP-3 is not a well protected vehicle by any stretch of the imagination, we didn’t always know this, the front of the vehicle has a large fuel tank that the experts thought may be armour, this turned out to not be the case. 30mm is more than capable of dealing with BMP-3, hence the universal adoption of that calibre, what It can’t deal with is BMP-3+ which is referring to an up-armoured variant that is not in service in any great numbers.

    40mm CTA was a mistake, it is massively expensive and can kill the same target set as any other medium calibre cannon (with exceptions).

    Exactor is in service in incredibly small numbers and would require a massive up lift to fill the precision BLOS AT role, this again has not been budgeted for.

    So what are the facts? Buying a slack handful of 8X8s and throwing them into a formation does not make a strike brigade, no matter what promises are made about future “potential” procurement. If I get an armoured brigade, remove the tanks, arty, AD, and engineers it stops becoming an armoured brigade, why does this not apply to a strike brigade?


    Strike is the future, but the MOD has done it on the cheap, spent just enough cash to say it has a capability but if you scratch the surface you will see its all smoke and mirrors.

    I told you I was a bitter old man, I love the idea of strike but hate the way we have executed it.
    Again, this is not a dig at the article, I enjoy your writing and you can only report on what is out there.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you.
      I think the hopes in this article are pie in the sky.
      The whole concept is flawed in its execution… and many of the comments that say how good it is and then — go on to say ‘ah yes but I would have this not that and what about the other…’ In short, they are as confused as anyone.

      Within NATO we can have specific roles, and there is no need to include fighting in Poland or Ukraine with boots on the ground. Where then…? Norway, Baltics. And naval and air power. But our other land multiplier is Special Forces.

      If we are to have “Strike, then we should have it done properly (artillery for one!) and commit to it properly. But frankly all I see is the Army making it up as they go along.

      It was Nathal Bedford Forest who said “get there firstest with the mostest”, not Stonewall Jackson. BTW, the ACW gives lots of examples of failures of concentration of force (ie lack of timing)


      1. If you can provide me with an authoritative source for the correct quote: “Who gets there first, with most troops wins,” then I will happily change it.


      2. Regarding the quote for Nathan Forrest… It’s widely repeated. Jack Hurst (2011) had a biography which repeats it. It seems to likely have actually been a real quote. Certainly not Jackson I would suggest.
        Forrest was an untutored master tactician and strategist. And very controversial…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Agree wholeheartedly with this comment. Nick is nothing if not optimistic, I am much less so. As ThinkDefence was fond of saying, this is yet another case of “all fur coat and no knickers” !

    Nick is going to publish an article I have sent him on use of artillery with Strike. My own view is that we in a maneouverist approach which is beyond taking or holding ground (obviously not always, but in many scenarios) but we are maneouvering in multiple domains to gain an advantageous position from which to remove the combat effectiveness of enemy units / formations (note – not necessarily “annihilate” them!). With a modest uplift of Recce Boxers with Warrior WSCP turrets (provided by cancelling that project), plus 120mm mortars and air defence building on US projects (Leonardo DRS / Moog turret with HVM / LMM) a Strike brigade split into battle groups based on an Infantry Company would have a battery of 4 x 155mm self propelled guns. The battle group is there to protect the guns and maneouvre into position where they can be brought to bare on important A2AD or C2 or logistics targets. At the same time as kinetically striking targets out to 40km or so, the BG must protect its communications / connectivity while jamming and degrading the enemies, it must protect itself from enemy ISTAR while providing our own kill chains with targeting data for longer range fires.

    In short, to me Strike should really be about ISTAR and fires, and Boxer based units should b able to maneuvre in the contested zone and protect the artillery while seeking out targets for them. That puts the onus now on selecting the new self propelled gun.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jed, I like both this idea ” With a modest uplift of Recce Boxers with Warrior WSCP turrets (provided by cancelling that project” as well as the broader one, exc. that for it to be realistic the manoeuvring element should have several companies… nearing a bn.
      – for close fires, yes , the 120 mm mortars embedded
      – but for the broader purpose to be fulfilled you will need two batteries of 4 SPGs, may be of 3 each if the US project of improving the breach (by 2023) comes to fruition and the rate of fire after the first minute burst can be maintained at [the alleged] 6-10


  5. Sounds like a shit load of wishful thinking, and totally unlikely ever to be realised given the endless incompetence of the MOD.


    1. Agreed. But given where the MoD is heading with equipment orders and a Land Operating Concept still in development, there are some sensible adjustments that could be made. Or it could be just an interesting theoretical discussion and the MoD continues to go its own way.


  6. 2nd Attempt to post, must be all the porn I have playing in the background.

    Jed, just to confirm, you GIVE articles away? why not sell them? its nice little earner on the side, its not huge money but it pays for my expensive Chablis habit and it stops me from having to interact with my children. You would be surprised what some of these 3rd party agencies ask for a one pager on.

    I am completely on side with the destruction through fires and “more manoeuvre less slaughter” principle, very network centric with a hint of deep battle, what’s not to like?

    A Recce Boxer would be at the top of my list but not with a Warrior turret, its heavy and is having major problems right now. I believe WSCP is a low hanging fruit for Mr Wallace to prune, don’t be surprised if few WSCP turreted ever get manufactured. I would go for the Lance turret that the Australians procured, they seem to be impressed with it, we are already manufacturing 30mm (a minor difference in size) so logistically it makes sense.

    120mm Mortars are a must even if its drop fired from a mortar hatch to keep it within budget, we seem to be the only NATO country not deploying that calibre of mortar. You ant argue with its effectiveness, having worked with the USMC in Afghan and seeing them employed along side 81mm mortars, the difference is massive.

    In regards t air defence, if you ever get in the back of a Stormer you will see how compact it all is, it wouldn’t be hard to transplant all of the white boxes into a Boxer module, the launcher doesn’t have top weight issues with a CVRT so should be fine, its TI is also fairly new.

    I read a great article on multi axis advance of small company groups, but unlike today where a BG may detach an Inf Coy and a few Challenger 2s, it talks about making a mini BG, all the usual support assets just in smaller numbers. This gives the desired dispersed effect we have been talking about with the obvious benefits.

    “In short, to me Strike should really be about ISTAR and fires”

    Unfortunately both of these roles are carried out by the Royal Artillery with hangover from Afghan swaying them more towards ISTAR and less towards fires to a point where we barley have fires at all.



    1. Hi BV

      I do actually get paid for writing in the context of my current professional role as an Information Governance guy. As an ex-Matelot and an ex-TA JNCO, I don’t think anyone is going to pay me for military stuff…. but if you look around this site, and you will find a fair few of my musings.

      By the way, I too have been having some issues with posting comments, it seems to accept my twitter handle, but then forces me back to add email and name – a tad confusing.

      On the Warrior – Lockheed turret, I hear you, but rather than Lance I would go with Nexter – the manned one from their Jaguar recce vehicle for Cavalry Boxers, and the unmmaned T40 for Infantry Carrier Boxers.

      120mm mortars I have been banging on about for years, someone on the comments at ThinkDefence once asked me if I was getting kick backs from manufacturers. Yes agreed even a hand laid pop up through the hatch would be better than nothing – but there are many variations to pick from. I would like to see something a bit more automated, but I also think we need 12 per battalion, so yes, cheap and cheerful would suffice!

      For Air Defence – if we have enough Stormer HVM sets left floating about they would be awesome. They would IMHO still need to be supplemented with with a Leonardo / Moog type kit selected for the US Army Interim-Maneuver Air Defence system, as its 30x113mm MV cannon, with the proximity air bursting fuze under development is a much cheaper solution for shooting at UAV’s. They can also mount Raytheon Coyote Counter-UAV UAV’s – so they would supplement the Stormer HVM system – Starstreak HVM being a costly way of downing a cheap ISTAR drone.

      On fires, my paper that Nick is going to publish here is pretty much a response to the RUSI fires paper, so we will wait and see what you think !




  7. One thing I’ve noticed is that the level of criticism aimed at the Strike concept often seems inversely proportional to the military experience of those making the criticism.

    To me everything I’ve seen suggests that Strike is a fundamentally sound concept, albeit one that is not immune from criticism and whose implementation could be improved upon, but only with increased resources. I surmise that the current plan represents the best that can be achieved with the money, materiel and manpower available. What is more interesting is whether Strike represents the final realisation of what used to be known as Network Centric Warfare, flexible command and control of a fast moving formation which can be rapidly concentrated, dispersed, re-concentrated and cohered; with the Strike brigade being better being regarded as more of a command & control node than a fixed formation.


    1. J.T.

      I am not sure I agree. I am huge supporter of the “concept” and an enormous critic of what little we know of who the army intends to implement the concept. So does that make me a supporter or a critic? Either way I have never run an Infantry Platoon, let alone a Brigade!

      So is my criticism inversely proportional to my time in the Royal Corps of Signals as a Psyops specialist (yes, not even Infantry!) ???

      I admit I enjoy writing and often playing arm chair general. In my articles on this site, and when writing over at TD’s place, I always tried to avoid fantasy fleets. I would go all in Boxer and Strike, and I would cut Warrior, Challenger updates, and even Ajax if I needed to do fund this. That is not popular with those who think we absolutely must have tracked IFV’s and MBT’s to be a top tier player. Personally I think the status quo based on ever small amounts of lots of different capabilities is the road to ruin.

      Bottom line – I agree with you on the concept to the point that I believe it should in fact form the “hard core” of highly deployable, and lethal force. Unfortunately I believe it will be a fudge at best, a farce at worst, and as the say in Yorkshire – “neither nowt, nor summat” 😦


      1. Jed the Yorkshire signaller- “Ey up, Charla Charla wun this is Whippet zero Alfa” Nobody likes a signaller, with your iron sights, comfortable living and future civilian career prospects.

        I regards to writing, you need to pick a niche area, there’s no point writing on tactics or strategy, there are way too many retired generals and brigadiers for that, I go for more in depth technical reports that senior ruperts have less exposure to. This does however leave you open to writing some pretty tedious stuff, I specialize in lethality so I have written on “American dependence on depleted uranium” or the eye wateringly boring “Russian long rod sabot design”. I have had some better stuff in the past, APS V ATGM or the use of AI on the future battlefield. I recommend leveraging you signals knowledge and pushing down that route.

        In response o your last post, I am feeling you on the Nexter turret, bite the bullet on 40mm expense and go for commonality across the fleet and our French partners.

        Do you have he same reasons as me for having 12 X 120mm mortars per Battalion?
        Traditionally and armoured battlegroup would not have a fire support company assigned to it, so no mortars, MG or snipers. This was slightly offset by the fact that that the armoured BG would have an extra 2 tanks and not to mention more panache (except for the tankies) . This was however not a hard and fast rule as you never battlegroup on the tank park but this is what usually happened. By having 3 platoon of 4 mortars (or 3 making 9 in total) you can move one mortar platoon from each of the Inf BGs to the armoured BG to create uniformity across the brigade.

        Staying with brigade structure, I hear the words square brigade being used a lot, this can be slightly confusing and even deliberately used to mislead people into thinking we are normal jogging. So back in the day (smoking my pipe by an open fire) a square brigade referred to a brigade with 4 combat battalions or regiments, this however did not include the reconnaissance regiment as that was usually a divisional asset. An Armoured brigade had 2 tank regiments and 2 armoured infantry battalions, where as a mech brigade had 1 tank regiment and 3 infantry battalions. You can still see this method used in American formations where cost is less of a problem. This allowed for the creation of 4 battlegroups per brigade with on Inf company left over to be used as a BOC (brigade ops company). By moving the recon regiment to brigade level it allowed the deletion of a much larger infantry battalion but was still referred to as a square brigade. The reconnaissance regiment is not a combat formation and has different functions to the rest of the brigades units (FIND/EXPLOIT compared to FIX/STRIKE). A brigade with just 3 battlegroups can only ever advance 2 up keeping one in reserve, where as a proper square brigade can advance 3 up with one in reserve and thus have a much larger frontage.

        Moving on to air defence. Using the 30 X 113mm round for air defence is a no go, its muzzle velocity is incredibly low as it was designed to be fired from an air platform (and not a Striker like the Americans) so the rounds always had a free energy advantage due to height. I would recommend the 30 X 170mm as it has twice the muzzle velocity and it is cheap as chips. I am in two minds about a cannon-based air defence, HVM was chosen over a cannon bases system for its better range and armour piercing capability (Mi-24) but studies have shown that plenty of tracer going up causes many pilots to abort or miss its target and its great against UAVs. Its secondary purpose is to push attack aircraft to a higher altitude making it easy pray for more longer ranged systems.

        What is everyone’s solution to the strike brigades engineering problem, no bridge layers or mine clearance vehicles?



  8. 2 interesting articles, 1 on Strike and 1 on armour.

    Whilst I agree that a full spectrum capability is the ideal, for the UK I believe we should forgo heavy armour and move to a Strike + concept.

    As noted in both articles Heavy Armour takes a long time to activate and position and the UK should be asking itself where it would use such heavy armour and if we should be responsible for providing heavy armour in those instances it would be required.

    Secondly, given the time to generate the capability perhaps Heavy Armour should be the remit of the Army reserve who can keep skills and knowledge going, embrace simulators and have training camps in Batus each year – I suspect this would be popular and perhaps be an easy sell for those thinking of joining.

    The future for the Army should be all wheeled across the main force. You have already written an excellent article on standardising unit size and for me 20 x 900 strong mechanised battalions (4 Brigades) with a comprehensive supply chain of 36 battalions that are fully integrated and aligned would be a real game changer.

    As you have stated Strike needs to be layered with the appropriate suppressing fires, C4, AAD etc and I would also add that at the Brigade level it needs 16 Apache’s that move with the brigade. These assets have proven invaluable to those who have them and can operate from austere environments and currently costing very little for the utility gained. Strike needs to bring a whole range of fires and options at the battalion level

    I also like your article on the replacement for Viking and believe tracks do have a role going forward but in specialist roles.

    We didn’t use tanks in the Falklands as the ground was unsuitable and we wouldn’t use them in Afghanistan due to cost, so we need to ask ourselves, is it worth investing so much of our precious budget on such a niche capability.

    I am not anti heavy armour, but the reality is we have no where to put it in the UK, don’t seem to want to use it and could with a bit of innovative thinking mitigate not having it.

    A boxer with a 40mm CTA and Javelin with 4 quad copters on its roof that automatically charge and provide overwatch backed up by boxers with a whole range of suppressing fires etc is a potent animal, backed up in the correct manner it will take some stopping.

    So I say lets go for full strike and get on with it. Cancel Warrior, Cancel Ajax moving the turrets to boxer and order 6k boxers, 6k MRAP’s, 1k Broncos (or similar) ,2k JLTV (or similar) and 10k Polaris for our elite forces who will remain light in nature. have a smaller force that is so lethal our enemies will think twice about taking us on.

    I would literally have every option possible on a boxer platform including all those proposed in this article, the key here is getting the mix of capabilities right for a standard battalion and then being able to alter for task.

    It would be interesting to war-game this out, as I think strike in this format with apache and F35 support etc would win out over a tracked force with tanks. ATGW’s will clearly be important as will the MLRS and HIMARS elements – it really needs to be integrated to work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The forecast cost to completion for Ajax is given in Defence Equipment Plan 2019 as 5382 M£. The project is in manufacture so design and development costs have been spent, tooling (including a new factory) have been bought. I’ll say that’s 20% of project costs, a wild arsed guess. A squadron set was due to be delivered for initial operation in Jan this year. It’s late, but there could be 2 squadrons value in the supply chain, say 2/14 of the remaining 80%. So cancelling Ajax means writing off about 1700 million. I’m no great supporter of Ajax but I want to get something back for all that money.


  9. Hi everyone, thanks for the superb standard of commentary on this and other recent articles. Just a quick point about posting comments. In order to avoid spam, which is an occupational hazard when you run a blog, I vet every comment posted. I always try to do this as quickly as possible, but sometimes there will be gap between the time you post a comment and it appearing on the blog. Overall, I find WordPress not bad. Thanks again and Happy Easter to all.


  10. Happy Easter to you too Nick !

    @PaulSargeant – yep sunk costs in Ajax are depressing , but I am ok with us NOT using in the Strike Brigades ->

    @PacMan – All in Strike !! Love it, absolutely….. 🙂 But 6,000 Boxers ? What are you drinking sir?

    @BV Buster – well now I am living in Canadia – so I get to put eh at both ends of a sentence 🙂 That sounds like your writing genius level stuff to this dumb Yorkie !!

    I am also old enough to remember old Square Brigades of BAOR. I think when it comes to Strike Brigades, all elements should have an ISTAR capability of different types, infantry in a Boxer can have small UAS, small UGV etc. I think the other roles of Cav then come to the fore, flank security, screening, economy of force, wearing red trousers, etc.

    IF we had enough money found by cancelling Warrior WSCP, Chally upgrade etc I would (fantasy fleets time…) want a “Recce Regiment” on Boxers with manned turrets, and 3 battalions of “armoured infantry” on Boxer with Unmanned turret. So 3 x 3 rifle Coy as basis for 9 battle groups to give that dispersed ops, multi-lines of advance goodness, and I want 4 x 120 mortars with each BG – hence 3 x 12 barrel mortar Platoons in said battalions. You could of course drop that to 2 with each BG and use the others with some flexibility.

    On 30×113 for AD. I have read things suggesting it has enough velocity and a big enough round for downing tactical quadcopter drones, anything beyond that there is the Coyote, or an LMM Martlet, saving HVM Starstreaks for armoured helo and fast jet ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jedpc

      I had forgotten about you RSG. Rereading the article it was only in the comments that I knew I’d read it before. Something didn’t register with me at the time. I now can see sense in much of what you say but some things don’t hang together for me. It’s a bit late for me now, so maybe more tomorrow.

      More Tomorrow. Is that the Strike Brigade slogan?


    2. Your RSG uses the Ajax regiments with some tweaks. You propose adding infantry in an enlarged Ares for a fully tracked formation, paid for by cancelling WCSP & CR2 LEP.

      Above in this thread, you would spend the money on Boxers with turrets (with the aside – fantasy fleet time).

      Assuming some money from cancellation, what is your current prefered buy: tracked APC or wheeled IFV?


      1. Good question!

        Given the current state of play, I would still put all the Ajax together in an armoured Recce brigade. I would have the forward deployed regiment as part of the NATO Forward Presence battle group based in North Eastern Poland. We currently provide a Jackal Sqdn to the US Cav regiment as part of this group. With three such regiments there is a 1 in 3 rotation, for training etc. UK based regiments should mean there is at least a squadron to deploy elsewhere in the world if needed. The brigade would not need infantry, the Poles and / or the US would be providing it.

        Then I would spend the money freed up by removing Warrior, Challenger 2 and Bulldog/FV432 from service on the Strike Brigades. Either more Boxers, Boxers with Warrior WSCP turret, or Boxers with Moog RiWP & Venom 30×113.


    3. Hi Jed pc

      If you look at the actual requirement for Ajax, warrior and also the fact we are still using far older bulldogs plus all the other vehicles accumulated over the years, 6k is not out of this world. Between warrior and Ajax there is over 1k units and I think we still have loads of FV’s in use.

      I want to get platform scale and a manufacturing base, 6k equates to circa 1500 units per brigade of 4500 personnel but covers all roles. It will be cheaper than the Ajax and wcsp and we can replace 155mm etc as well

      Once you start looking at all vehicles and assets that can be replaced by boxer 6k doesn’t seem that bad and the cost per unit should come down as a result

      Method to my madness and I don’t accept being preconditioned by HMG. The land force needs a significant new equipment investment of £2bn pa for the next 25 years.

      Boxer would take the lions share of this and be backed up by supacats or similar.

      For me this is about making our smaller army punch well in excess of its size and the only way to make up the human deficit is through technology.

      One other thing I would say is that i would kit a strike brigade out with each boxer havin 2 crew and 4 dismounts as this builds in the ability to surge to 8 dismounts and for the unit to have an unmanned CTA and javelin setup on every IFV which I know is different but needs to be done.

      Just like the current situation HMG does not fund strategy and pays a massive cost when the shit hits the fan. Same as in Afghan with all of those uor’s.

      So £25bn for 6k boxers spread over 25 years allied to a similar MRAV/P requirement As well as Viking and JLTV replacements Could enable the uk to have a military vehicle factory that is sustainable.

      So whilst I accept its a bit out there, it actually pulls together several of Nicholas’ posts on here and creates a strategy around 5 core vehicle sets

      Mech force

      Boxer, supacat, and JLTV

      Elite force (2x RM, Para, Gurkha)

      Polaris Dagor and Bronco

      By standardising on these combat platforms we get scale, ability to set up automated factories and tooling and most importantly give our people some lethal kit.


      1. I am see your desire, just don’t ever see it happening. 500 Boxers up to 6k, we don’t have 6,000 armoured vehicles in service.

        Numbers from memory as Wikipedia seems to be down

        280 Warrior slated for WSCP
        600 Bulldog / Fv432
        589 Ajax family replacing CVR(T)
        200 Chally 2

        So let’s say you replace first two with Boxer – that’s another 800 to add to the 500 on order – so say 1,,300 that’s a good number if we could get that !

        Then the UK FMS request to US for Oshkosh L-ATV / JLTV was 2,700 for MRV-P ! Now if we get all them, they replace:

        250+ Husky TSV
        280 ish Jackal 2 / 2A
        400 Panther CLV
        ? Pinzgauer’s
        ? LandRover Ambulances
        Plus lots of other things apparently.

        2,700 4×4 “armoured cars” for MultiRole Protected roles and 1,000 Boxers would be magnificent if we can get even these numbers into service !


      2. Jed, that’s 380 Warriors, 789 Bulldogs, 227 Challenger 2s, and 589 Ajax CRVs. The number of Boxers being acquired is enough for a single Strike Brigade. We will almost certainly acquire a second tranche, which gets us to 1,000. If we decide to have a third Strike Brigade this would get us to 1,500. Add 116 RCH155 for the MFP requirement plus 40 ammo resupply vehicles. Add 300 Reconnaissance variants. And you get to around 1,950!! That would be superb and probably enough.


      3. For ‘big armoured motherships’ you’ve forgotten Mastiff, Ridgeback and Wolfhound for another 700 and the 400 Foxhound we’re using for protected infantry. Where MIV and MRV-P come in.
        That aside, the British army comes at this from the perspective of slavishly replacing current vehicles like for like and of loving light infantry.
        Compare to the French, who are using their Boxer equivalents as heavies and buying 1900 Griffon and Jaguar for low unit cost, to use as we’re using strike.
        So Jed, if your Boxer division is your ‘heavy’ I’d say there’s a bit of play left in platform numbers to get the British army out of the 19th Century.
        The MRV-P programme needs reworking to produce some results akin to France but which dovetail with strike.
        Patria 6×6 would offer infantry equivalent protection to Griffon whilst being able to keep pace with boxer formations, a hundred a year (for 25 years) would stand up a brigade every four years for under £200m per year, in defence terms that’s not even a number, it’s a bar tab. Patria looking for partners now, so still a chance to paint a union jack on it.
        A hundred and fifty JLTV, Eagle, Foxhound (2) or SISU GTP a year would be about £100m
        So, I would say that for the sake of argument, a Boxer division, two mech divisions and a light division are doable within budget.
        We just need to be a little more balanced with the spending.
        Oh, we’d need to kick Ajax back to the reserves, nobody ever counts anything in there.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. I don’t think the wheeled/tracked issue will be an issue – eventually, potentially, at all

    1) I think we may have enough HET & likely 2 Ajax per HET
    2) The Stryker brigade sailed so why can’t STRIKE? In fact other than (& possibly in) Europe this is still likely to be the quickest way to deploy a Brigade. Then Ajax should be able to travel a few hundred miles or so on road even in current form.
    3) Both A400m and C17 can also transport Ajax potentially ahead of self deploying Boxers (although may limit the numbers).
    4) in a Mali type op would Ajax be required, especially if Boxer gets 30mm also if it & JLTV adopted something like RiWP they would have access to significant firepower.

    All the above are really sticking plasters, but options in the short term.

    The main reason is rubber tracks are coming. You only have to look at any of the military exhibits almost any tracked vehicle (non MBT) are now being offered with these.
    Warrior has been trialled with these, some CV90s already have them in use.

    The G5 PMMC is equipped with these and successfully completed a 2000km forced road march on trials (yes its lighter) but rubber tracks will soon if not already cover up to the weight of a fully loaded Ajax. They are essentially maintenance free and should make Ajax more easily deployable. They have advantages that are outlined in the article.

    The problem for me then is if this does fix the issue….. then is going all Boxer actually the way to go? (Tin hat on!)

    Obviously for infantry carrier or logistic vehicles wheels will always likely provide the best option, providing comfort, range economy etc.

    But for direct fire 120mm/105mm, recce, maybe even artillery DONAR? ATGM carrier and potentially the existing engineering/recovery variants of Ajax (saves some money developing Boxer) could Ajax actually be the way forward?
    Also could MLRS simply be fitted with rubber tracks?

    The advantage of Ajax is it, is an almost truly go anywhere vehicle, being tracked with low ground pressure (according to the army can access the same terrain as CVRT).
    Meaning better tactical mobility and potentially attacking & carrying out recce accessing terrain not expected by enemy forces.

    I personally see Ajax in Strike as Recce + Strike i.e. find the enemy, observe, then use Brimstone & Exactor, artillery, MLRS, Apache etc. to engage. Boxers would then rapidly move from their dispersed position(s) to catch up with the Ajax element. At this point Javelin/CT40 armed Ajax would link with Boxer to destroy remaining elements and provide fire support etc.

    Ok, maybe the above sounds naive, a bit pie in the sky and there are most likely big holes in it.

    But you have to remember that Ajax:
    1) is committed to & cannot be cut or reduced
    2) the main advantage of Strike is C4i – Ajax already has the power, space & equipment to facilitate this. Of course some of this can be added to Boxer, but it will lower the number of Infantry vehicles and to equip it with the same acoustic, TI equipment, image processing and computing power maybe extremely expensive.
    3) It has an engineering variant, a recovery variant already that most likely will be able to recover Boxer change power pack etc.

    It’s just a probably unpopular thought..

    Another thought was if Eagle 6×6 was chosen would it be best to procure the 4×4 of this for command and liaison duties? It looks a bit bigger than JLTV & just thinking of the issues with the Panther? Or just wait for US to develop JLTV van looking version?


    1. Simon, you make a lot of good points.

      I also don’t think the wheeled/tracked issue will be an issue. I come at that from the Army having ordered both and everybody should work from there.

      I don’t think an HET will take 2 Ajax but I believe we have 89 HET and 77 LET (Light but able to carry a medium Ajax). Together, they could transport 2 Ajax regiments. I don’t know the capacity of the Point class, but sea lift would get some sort of force to a port of disembarkation.

      As you say PMMC G5 is lighter, GVW 26.5 tons, than Ajax. If the band track technology comes on then this is a future Ajax upgrade.

      That’s enough from me for now.


      1. Paul – the army ordered both, so it must be right ?

        The army has failed to provide a coherent armoured vehicle, strategy / programme for decades.

        They want their cake and to eat it too. Ajax, WSCP, Halle get 3 for 2 x armoured brigades AND 500 Boxers for Strike, plus a desperate need for artillery and air defence. We can not afford it all with current budgets.


      2. I’d don’t say the Army is right and the Army doesn’t say they are wrong. I don’t think anything I say will influence the Army but for a small chance I start with where the Army are now. Budgets are part of where the Army are now and I don’t think cancelling or making major changes to contracts is good use of budgets.

        I have to mention WCSP here. In service date at approval Nov 18, current forecast Mar 23, IPA assessment red for 2 years in a row. The Army might admit there is something wrong with that contract.


  12. @BV Buster

    ‘What is everyone’s solution to the strike brigades engineering problem, no bridge layers or mine clearance vehicles?’

    I think they’ll have to make do with REBS for a quasi assault bridge (which is not the most reliable system) and hopefully they’ll see sence and move as many Terriers away from the Armoured Brigades as is needed to give the Strike brigades some breaching and counter mobility capability in one package. Obviously Python will be used as part of the mine clearence system as it is now.

    Other than that it will be medium wheeled tractors and CAT Deuce (are they still in service?) if your lucky. You could probably modify the deuce to be able to push a mine plough and add an armoured cab to it

    Failing that they could always get the CET’s back from Witham’s and upgrade them with new engines and drive train and add a quick hitch so a mine plough can be fitted.

    They also need to get the Shielder system (or equivilant) back into service if you want the Strike brigades to have the ability to channel and delay any enemy.

    To be honest Strike has a limited capability even in a defensive role in it’s current set up especially considering that the 105mm guns it has cannot fire the anti armour rounds that 155mm can. And it’s earth moving capability is a bit meh, especially in wet weather.

    You could always reduce the Ajax numbers and produce some bridge layers with the slots, but that comes with the problem of only having an MLC 50 so you cannot add any heavy armour to the formations without bridging to tag along.


  13. One division of three brigades each with three infantry battalion one armoured cavalry regiment and one one light recce regimentwith artillery and engineering aseparate armoured brigade of two armoured regiments and armoured infantry regiment one recce regiment.all nine armoured Corp regiment equipped with 120 smooth bore that the division would be all wheeled and the brigade all tracked.the family Ajax could involve an APCversion.


    1. “all nine armoured Corp regiment equipped with 120 smooth bore gun”
      What is the difference between your wheeled armoured cavalry regiment with 120 mm gun and your wheeled light recce regiment with 120 mm gun?


      1. Firepower first and foremost. The recce regiment continues in their role while the armoured cavalry support the infantry.
        Brought together the corp would nearly 500 tanks better than the 200 currently!


      2. The 70-tonne main battle tank may be obsolete, but the 120 mm gun certainly isn’t. It is a question of what is the best vehicle to carry it into battle. I like the idea of a 50-tonne MBT. I also like the idea of a wheeled mobile gun system / assault gun/ tank destroyer. Increasingly, reconnaissance isn’t a vehicle, but a role.


      3. So the difference between armoured cavalry regiment and light recce regiment is role. The vehicles are basically the same, is that it?


  14. @Nicholas Drummond . On one of your recent tweets you asked for some ideas for articles to write. Here are some ideas for your consideration .

    1. Future Commando Force & littoral strike.
    2. CJEF, Lancaster House treaty and UK France cooperation.
    3. Conceptual Land Force 2035.
    4. JEF (and UK defence leadership in Europe)
    5. Army after SDSR 2020 (Expeditionary Vs continental focus)
    6. Future Fires (esp balance of investment between rockets and guns).
    7. European defence after Brexit.
    8. Combined arms battalions for UK (good or bad idea and if so what to look like?)
    9. What might a really radically different RN/RM, Army and RAF look like in the next decade?
    10. Should we have a UK/ Italian CJEF and what might it look like?
    11. What might a land formation comprised primarily of robots look like?

    Hope you’ll find a germ of an idea in some of the above.


    1. A very interesting list. Thank you. That little lot will keep me busy for at least a year! The most immediate next topics are a Jed’s artillery article, the UK regimental system, and the post-COVID-19 Army.


      1. ..and following on from the discourse resulting from a recent article one might add as a potential article:

        ‘ 77 Bde’s role in countering disinformation, and the wider role of 6 Div in information manoeuvre. ‘


  15. A lot of potential Strike organisations have been described. For comparison, I put this together from the Army FOI2017/ 02130.

    Strike Experimentation Group

    Household Cavalry Regiment
    from 1 AI Bde, moving from Windsor to Bulford, changing from CVR(T) to Ajax.
    King’s Royal Hussars
    from 12 AI Bde, staying at Tidworth, changing from CR2 to Ajax, personnel liability decrease of 54.
    1st Battalion Scots Guards
    from 12 AI Bde, moving from Aldershot to Catterick, changing from Mastiff to MIV, liability increase of 36.
    4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland
    from 20 AI Bde, staying at Catterick, changing from Mastiff to MIV, liability increase of 5.
    1 Regiment Royal Logistics Corps
    from 101 Log Bde, moving from Bicester to Catterick, liability decrease of 120.
    1 Close Support Battalion REME
    from 102 Log Bde, staying at Catterick, liability increase of 76.

    1st Strike Brigade

    Royal Dragoon Guards
    from 12 AI Bde, moving from Catterick to Warminster, changing from CVR(T) to Ajax, liability increase of 5.
    Royal Lancers
    from 12 AI Bde, moving from Catterick to Warminster, changing from CVR(T) to Ajax.
    1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment
    from 12 AI Bde, moving from Warminster to Catterick, changing from Mastiff to MIV, liability increase of 16.
    3rd Battalion Rifles
    from 51 Inf Bde, moving from Edinburgh to Catterick, changing from Foxhound/Mastiff to MIV, liability increase of 164.
    27 Regiment Royal Logistics Corps
    allocated to a Strike Bigade not identified, moving from Aldershot to Catterick, liability decrease 230.
    2 Close Support Battalion REME
    allocated to a Strike Brigade not identified, moving from Leuchars to Catterick, liability increase 14.

    Other Units

    3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery & 4th Regiment RA
    changing from Mastiff to Ajax/MIV, not allocated Strike.
    21 & 32 Engineer Regiments
    changing from Mastiff to MIV, not allocated to Strike.
    3 Medical Regiment
    changing from Mastiff to MIV, not allocated to Strike.


    1. Is this going to be the make up of the Strike bde’s?

      If so it’s just a light mech brigade with very limited fires and combined arms manouver.

      This is a defeat waiting to happen against a peer enemy.

      It has been bigged up to the politicians as some mythical transformative capability and any peer enemy that we will currently face can neuter it pretty quickly.

      All they have to do is keep you dispersed or at length where you don’t have any capability to touch them with any mass. Current Russian and Chinese capability can do this.

      Have we mistaken the platform for the capability and ignored the actual enablers?

      Strike is nothing transformative, its just an evolution of a medium mech brigade that leverages new tech to increase connectivity and allow a more dispersed operating procedure.

      Increased weapon range and comms etc would always have happened and will still continue as tech continues to improve year after year, the same goes for automation.

      The same technology we use in Strike will be used in the Armoured brigades to increase lethality and comms/ISTAR (it will need to so we can operate as an army) but we will not say that we are transforming the Tank (second thoughts we probably will).


  16. @UK Land Power

    I hope that I have not come too late to the discussion of this article. It certainly seemed very much alive only a couple of days ago.

    It is a superb piece, written with enthusiasm and substantiated with meticulously researched detail. You have been a passionate supporter of the Strike concept since I started reading your articles and comments and I hesitate , with my limited knowledge, to question your views. However, one or two things do disturb me, which I try to articulate below.

    I recently came across one of your extended tweets on Twitter, dated May 9th 2019, to be precise. In it you mention how you were hearing that the Chief of the General Staff, General
    Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, “was planning to re-focus the Army around high-end war fighting along the lines envisaged by the Army 2010 Plan.” That would mean three Armoured Infantry brigades in a single deployable division and probably an abandonment of the Strike Brigade concept and a return to the idea of multi-role brigades. You go on to say that you expect the new multi-role brigade structure to look something like this: 1 x Challenger 2 Armoured Regt. 1 x Ajax Recce Regt. 1 x Warrior Armoured Infantry Bn. 1 x Boxer Mechanised Infantry Bn.

    Now I know that you greatly respect the views of General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith. He is, as you say “a breath of fresh air. He’s Intelligent and straight-talking, practical and results-focused – someone we can respect and trust” and it does appear to me that he might be on the right lines here. After all, given the rather shaky nature of the economic state of our nation at present, who would not rather put their trust in a blueprint based on three “hard as nails” armoured infantry brigades, rather than into one based on experimental, untried concepts such as Strike? Oh, and I know all the arguments about “fighting the last war”, etc. etc.

    Now I know that you find the Strike concept compelling but even you say about the it: “I am not convinced a multi-role brigade structure is the best option. But I do accept that the current proposed structure of the Strike Brigades, which mixes wheeled and tracks, defeats the purpose of trying to build a rapidly deployable expeditionary capability.”

    So has the idea to revert to the 2010 idea of multi-role brigades suffered a reversal in the internal debates within the Army ? From the confident way in which you talk about the future of Strike, in particular about Force structure, composition and kit, it would seem to me that it has and that the concept will go ahead. Any comments?


    1. Since I wrote the tweet you quoted, I think even General Carleton-Smith has realised that devising the right configuration for the Army is anything but straightforward.

      We certainly need to equip the Army for high-end war fighting against peer adversaries. We also need it to be expeditionary by design so it can independently self-deploy to wherever it is needed . Can these two requirements be balanced by a single formation type?

      A lot of people have suggested that we should go all-in on Strike, I tend to agree with this. But, it still needs to provide utility against peer adversaries. That means Boxer infantry carriers will need something bigger than a 12.7 mm HMG. The need for a reconnaissance variant with a 30 or 40 mm cannon has already been well made. Increasingly, however, I see the need for an assault gun variant, with a 105 mm or 120 mm gun. If you have these, then MBTs are less crucial.

      Everyone knows I am a fan of wheels, not least because of the operational mobility benefits they bring. But in some situations, we will need tracked vehicles to operate across the most extreme terrains.

      What I think we’re seeing is a new paradigm where all AFVs will be become medium weight platforms weighing less than 45 tonnes, regardless of whether they’re wheeled or tracked. These platforms will need to carry infantry and to mount heavy weapons like 30-40 mm cannons, 105-120 mm guns, 81-120 mm mortars and 105-155 mm howitzers.

      What is not clear is what the right mix of brigades is. But what we get is likely to be decided more by what we can afford than what we need. In an ideal world, I would have 3 Strike and 3 AI brigades, but I just don’t think this is affordable.


      1. I had a interesting chat a while back with a Canadian Army chap, he was a commander on an Kodiak (?) the Canadian Lav 3. He had some interesting ideas on “Hybrid Strike”, combining medium and heavy weight formations.

        Basically every regiment/battalion has two deployment order of battles, light or heavy. This means a brigade can deploy as an armoured brigade of strike brigade, best of both worlds.

        I will post a more in depth reply later when I have time, it was interesting stuff.



  17. Been away for a few days and missed all the good chat.

    Jed: Moog RIuP is a good system for light vehicles and would be great for our light inf brigades but it would be a waste of capacity in a striker brigade. The reason why they chose a linked version of the M230 was purely on its weight and not its capability, the gun only weighs 34kg, that’s lighter than the ridiculously light RARDEN cannon, although its bigger and wont fit in a CVR(T) (I measured). This is why the gun is pared with a stinger module to provide anti-aircraft capability relegating the gun to counter UAV. Even in a counter UAV role its not great, its maximum effective range against aerial targets is around 1000m which is a tiny anti-UAV bubble to put around a battlegroup so would require multiple systems. Boxer has much less weight restraints so mounting something like a Mauser Mk30 (160kg) in an antiaircraft mount would pose no problems at all, but increase capability massively with an anti-aircraft range of 3000m, it also has the added bonus of being able to engage fixed wing and rotary. I’m not sure what the weight constrains are but would it be possible to mount an Oerlikon 35mm (6,700kg)? that pushed the range out to 5-6km.

    Just to be more boring than usual, here are some stats (only because I have them on my desktop already), I think everyone on this site knows this already but humor me.

    The most important attribute for medium weight cannons used in the air defense role is its muzzle velocity (Mv), not only does this increase maximum effective range and reduce dispersion, but it also reduces the target lead required to engage fast moving targets. This all feed into the kill probability (Kp) which changes drastically with caliber and Mv.

    M230 – 750 to 800mps – 1000m range

    Mauser Mk 30 – 1100mps – 3000m range

    Orlekan 35 – 1500mps – 5,500 range

    What is the possibility of mounting an anti-UAV transmitter in the launch tube of a Starstreak, running from vehicle power in order to take down cheaper UAVs? Does anyone know anything about EM counter UAV tech?



    1. BV – I bow to your math on the anti-UAV cannon! Yes there is both laser and Microwave EM kit for downing cheap UAV’s too – I believe Army has / is testing both. Getting it into service in large numbers is a different matter of course.


    2. @ BV
      Have you actually looked at RiWP? IM SHORAD has 2 Hellfire missiles, m230lf and 4 stingers. The system can be fitted with: javelin, TOW, m242, XM813, Dagor, m134, 7.62, rockets.
      This is a snapshot of what’s been developed so far, with the MOOG company developing it being based in American they have concentrated on US weapons, but a weapons fit could easily consist of 5x LMM, 2 x spike or/mmp/Brimstone, m242, coaxial 7.62. The weapons can be reconfigured for light weapons in minutes & heavier in about 2 hrs.
      You can start out like Kongsberg 1x HMG & if lucky 1xJavelin and time progress integrate more powerful capabilities. The m230LF is not the only option for this system.


      1. I certainly have looked at it, the point I made was to demonstrate why an M230 would be a terrable anti aircraft cannon and not the system as a whole.

        RiWP is designed for light vehicles, why hamstring your self when you have no such weight constraints on a Boxer? Why limit your self with a 30mm low velocity gun when you could use another bigger system to mount effective AAA? Why limit your self to 2 hellfire when a dedicated box launcher can carry 8? It’s not just the weapons, Striker for example has a whole host of other sensors and equipment mounted on the platform to make it effective, thermal sights, IRLS, comms.

        I’m not sure of the tactical viability of mounting stingers, cannons and hellfire on the same platform. It only has one commander, he cant be in a good anti air position to defend ground forces but at the same time be in an anti tanks screen while putting 30mm fire down, 3 separate jobs, 3 different locations on the battlefield but paid for 3 times.

        Are you on the MOOG payroll?



  18. DavidNiven:

    Battlefield engineering is often overlooked, its just not pointy and sexy like the other units in the battlegroup. I read into REBS, it looks to be the only solution, it does however have an appalling performance, 13m gap crossing (half what we have now) and takes 30 mins to deploy. Imagine being that engineer crew sat on a pre-sighted crossing site for half an hour in an un-armoured truck, with only boxers armed with .50 cal for home back security? no thanks!

    In relation to Terroir, If it has to be HETT’d in, why not HETT Trojan and Titan? (with CRARRV)

    CET is by far the worst armoured vehicle I have ever had the misfortune of working with, Its an absolute disgrace of a vehicle and I would pay good money to use it as a hard target on a range.

    Shielder on Boxer wont be hard to implement, it was doe on CVR(T) quickly on a budget, we also need a useful bar mine layer.

    What ever happened to the M3 rigs?

    All this just feeds into what Jed has said, all fur coat and no nickers, Strike brigades wont even have a gap crossing capability, it will be limited to bridges which according to the Ukrainians are a death trap.



    1. BV

      I don’t think it’s just the engineering that is glibly overlooked a towed 105mm is not great either, which is why I wrote in my last comment as it stands Strike is a light mech formation.

      In fact it’s pretty much what we used on op Herrick against insurgents.

      Without the ability to breach or overcome obstacles fast enough it will be channeled and held at arms length and without reach it will be overmatched by a peer adversary.

      And without the ability to do the same to our opposition it will be out maneuvered regardless how connected it is.

      I don’t think using Trojan and Titan fits with the Strike concept on having a smaller logistical footprint. You should get a decent capability with REBS and Terrier with a smaller logistical demand, plus Terrier is A400 compatible.

      REBS could be mounted on Boxer as is (Boxer is just a flat bed 8×8 afterall) or we could invest a small amount so we can carry it on boxer assembled and placed in minutes.

      The CET is a misunderstood piece of engineering brilliance decades ahead of it’s time and a good fit for Strike. It’s light, amphibious and can move a very decent amount of earth plus having a winch etc. It’s achiles heal was the drive train but I’m sure there is a modern compact system out there that would be compatable.

      I think the barmine is either out of service or going out of service so we will need to find an alternative if we are still not squirmish about using mines.

      The M3 rigs are still in service but we do not have the same capacity as the Germans.

      In my mind Strike should be able to maneuver under a bubble of it’s own A2D with the ability to hit the enemy at range with fires and channel them when in a defensive posture etc.

      I don’t know what Strike is at the moment except a shopping list and a bunch of we ‘coulds’.

      The concept is sound but I’m not sure about the implementation.


    2. @ BV re-reading this a lot later, I am not on the MOOG payroll (I wish).

      But I do see the flexibility & commonality benefits of this system and also similarly the Cockerill C3000 series. The reason for RiWP is that being an RWS (which is all we’re getting on Boxer) I am hoping that it will be in a similar price range and it doesn’t limit your weapons but the exact opposite.

      I don’t particularly care for it in AA role (which is not my suggestion), but the yanks seem to? so that is a possibility but if I had the choice Rapid fire or Oerlikon plus star streak would be my choice or something like Rapid Ranger with star streak LMM mix.

      What RiWP also gives is an upgrade path i.e. you can start with your hmg & fingers crossed end up with a mk44 bushmaster when money is found, then add missiles, etc. You could even potentially retain said 0.5hmg as coaxial.
      It also allows a coaxial weapon of GPMG type in 20 mins you actually share the coaxial weapon with say a UGV

      Why limit yourself? Not every Boxer can have 8 boxed launched ATGMS why put all your eggs in one basket? I am not saying a dedicated carrier with Brimstone NLOS isn’t the way to go, (in fact i think it’s essential) but to me Javelin is the weak link and a single launcher with hmg is just not going to cut it.

      The way I see it is Boxer is likely to dismount infantry to take the objective rather than them carrying the heavy Javelin, why not have a RiWP armed Boxer dedicated to them with 2 Spike LR or MMP when they encounter an MBT call in an NLOS missile. If the driver stays with the vehicle perhaps reloads could be managed out of what would have been the original Javelin stock.

      The additional weapons would be for different situations and target sets. Plus today it is simply a flick of a switch.


  19. The planned offensive support for strike is basically none existent, without Artillery the whole system falls down. We could approach the yanks for the spare USMC M777s they are retiring from service, this will at lest give us an 155 option at a relatively affordable price, we may even be able to leverage some diplomatic enabled reduced prices.

    “The CET is a misunderstood piece of engineering brilliance decades ahead of it’s time and a good fit for Strike” – You sit on a throne of lies!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

    Bar mines are a great bit of kit, laid from a bar mine layer they can deny a massive area or ever carried on an engineers back to deploy on routes in and out of a location, they also have the added benefits of being cheap as chips.

    We haven’t really looked at amphibious capability, possible option.



    1. ‘The planned offensive support for strike is basically none existent, without Artillery the whole system falls down’

      It does seem to be a bit lacking considering it’s meant to enable div maneuver.

      I’m not a big fan of the 777 for strike a towed system with an apu would be a better fit in my opinion.

      What happened to all our FH70’s we removed from service rather than give to the reserves?

      ‘The CET is a combat engineering juggernaut’

      I might get some T shirts printed with that quote! 🙂 Nothing else brings all the capabilities it has in a sub 20t package.

      Bar mine layer has gone I believe and I don’t think we have retained a large stock of bar mines either. The British army is pretty much out of the mine laying business in a meaningful way.


  20. @ UK Land Power

    Many thanks for that very clear reply. Just one point, though:

    “Increasingly, however, I see the need for an assault gun variant, with a 105 mm or 120 mm gun. If you have these, then MBTs are less crucial.”

    I seem to remember, UK Land Power, that someone, and it could very well have been you, saying that, in the case of such a weapon system, a first-round hit would be vital? No?


    1. Yes. A lighter, more agile mobile gun system / assault gun / tank destroyer – whatever you want to call it – carries less armour than an MBT. So it needs to fire and hit first. During WW2, the Sturmgeschutz III had better optics than many of the Russian tanks it faced, so even though it had less armour, it triumphed, because it was more capable of a first-round hit. This would apply today.


      1. I don’t understand your argument. The Sturmgeschutz III “triumphed” you say, but the Red Army advanced from Kursk to Berlin and won the war.


      2. The Red Army ultimately had more tanks, artillery and infantry than Wehrmacht. It built more Stug III than any other type of tank. The Stug III accounted for more Allied vehicles knocked-out than any other German vehicle too. In this sense, it certainly triumphed over the Tiger, Panther and other Panzerkamphwagen types.


      3. Thanks UK Land Power, I understand your Stug III comparison. In modern terms I think a major consideration is that mass armour is more armoured infantry than tanks. For example the New Look Russian Army in 2011 had 29 Motor Rifle Brigades and 4 (four) Tank Brigades. I don’t think a modern tank destroyer will be comparable to Stug III. As well as getting in the first shot against a tank, the TD will need to avoid being shot up by the IFV’s.


  21. I would like to see 4 strike Brigades as stated above each made up of 4 combat battalions and a combat support battalion.

    Each Brigade would have the following

    Boxer IFV – CTA +ATGW (2 crew – 4 dismount) 256 vehicles 1536 personnel
    Boxer ISTAR – 120 Xm360 (3 Crew) 256 Vehicles 768 personnel
    Boxer Suppressing Fires (3 Crew) 224 Vehicles – 672 personnel
    Boxer Support (3 Crew) 160 Vehicles – 480 personnel
    JLTV – (2 Crew) – 120 vehicles – 240 personnel
    Supacat MRV-P (2 Crew) 312 vehicles – 624 personnel

    This equates to 4 combat battalions of 900 personnel and a brigade support function of 900 personnel. The 4th combat battalion sits in reserve and protects Brigade HQ.

    I would unarm all boxers, add a load of suppressing fires and have engineering units travelling with as required (the beauty of Boxer a bridge layer is a module).

    941 Boxer (plus say 84 spare) = 1025total), 312 MRV-P and 120 JLTV create a strike brigade and I would have 4 of these in the British Army. You can alter the mix as desired, this is my optimal that retains a platoon at 36 personnel and a company at 180 personnel.

    We can surge the dismounts to 10 if needed, ensuring we have capacity increase built in and by using unmanned turrets can reduce crews to 2 people.

    I believe this gives us bigger punch for what is a relatively small force. Add in 32 Apaches per brigade and this is a lethal killing machine.

    Cost per brigade will be circa $6bn – so £24bn all in or £1bn per annum over the 25 year lifespan of this capability.

    I know this will not happen – but in my opinion our military needs clear direction and I also believe this is a force structure that can sustain itself and provides one hell of an offensive punch.


      1. In truth due to weight and the fact it has been put on Ajax means it should go on boxer

        Any 120 gun that has similar or better weight to power will do

        I know this is a lot of money but if we spread it out over 25 years it represents circa 7% of the annual equipment budget

        I would totally do away with light infantry but would have a joint commando force of 2 x RM, Para and Gurka in addition and place HA and additional strike dismounts in the reserve


  22. Apologies if mentioned earlier, I haven’t read every post yet. BV Buster asked about the engineering options, well how about simply having some conventional equipment like backhoe loaders etc, and just put them on a DROPS pallet on an 8×8? Cheap and cheerful! The Australian army also have a bridging system (made in the UK) on the same platform. No need to use a Boxer chassis when a MAN truck will do – BAE have just put Archer on the same vehicle and the 6x 6 could carry HIMARS, Brimstone etc.


    1. Beggars cant be choosers old chap, I’m putting together a more in-depth strike Orbat based on the new financial circumstances we find our selves in, pallets on a Man truck is about the best we can do.



    2. I agree no problem with using a combination of vehicles to create an effect.

      what I do think is important is that the strike brigade itself has similar levels of mobility and protection as for me these assets travel with they are not sitting 30 miles behind as that is outdated. These brigades and battalions can survive autonomously. I think Supacats and other current assets will also fit in until we can build a larger boxer force, no need to throw away useful kit, just get it working as one integrated unit.

      Its a balancing act and I guess everyone can have a go, as I have read all of the articles on this site, agree with most and have pulled together the strike, MRV-P and unit sizing to go with my own belief that strike actually has to be lethal and should travel with a group of apaches operating from Austere landing zones secured by the 4th inf battalion that my strike brigades have.


  23. Quote: >>>Strike Brigades will ensure that infantry mass is delivered wherever needed, and we should remember that dismounted infantry are the decisive element in the close battle. <<<

    In their actual structure the strike brigades will never ever deliver enough infantry mass for seriouus close battle. To transport infantry under armour protection fast and over great distances, they are good and fine, but the question is: why should i have such an protected armoured transport capacity for all my infantry ? The answer then is: IED, protection against indirect fires etc but this fails the picture of future war, especially in eastern europe.

    IMO its instead making yesterday perfect and create a colonial force for occupation tasks and fighting third class third world country forces. Such a force would be excellent in Mali for example and a better force, structure and equipment i cannot think of their for example for my german army comrades fighting there. But for war in eastern europe or other theaters it is not the best option,

    And especially it lacks infantry because the vehicles and their logistical demands will bind to much manpower.


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