British Army Strike: An Inside View

By “Strike Prophet”

This article is written by an ex-British Army friend and colleague. He is someone who fully understands the Strike concept. The author has unmatched credibility in writing this piece. I am extremely grateful for his input and have no hesitation in recommending this as a definitive discussion of how the British Army might fight in future.

 

Genie oefening
Boxer Mechanised Infantry Vehicles. (Image: WFEL Ltd.)

What is this Strike thing?

Despite the wealth of information made public by the British Army, and others, there continues to be much confusion about the Strike Brigade in terms of what it does and how it operates. Where possible, this article will use the information already provided by the British Army to clarify these issues. Time and space are limited, so what could easily be a book will have to be boiled down.

Explicitly one of the raisons d’être of the Strike Brigade was, at its inception, to “redefine how the British Army fights.[1]” Thus, the Brigade spans both an operational requirement and a force development concept predicated on that requirement. The applications start point for this journey was “enabling better divisional-level manoeuvre.

What does this mean? In the simplest possible terms, it means giving a UK Division and/or Allied Corps a Screening and Exploitation Force.[2] This has been publicly stated by the Army.  If you know what a screening and exploitation force does, then this will be well-trodden ground. For those of us who grew up in 1 BR Corps, the conduct of the “screening force battle” was something we all lived and died by – at least potentially. In its most basic form, the Corps Covering force was 2 x Formation Recce Regiments, but with Corps assets like Fires and Aviation attached. Note, these were attached and not organic.

How to Fight

Clearly the exam question for the Strike Brigade was how to fight and operate. Initial tactical doctrine had been written by October 2017, but the concept had been looked at in the context of Divisional CPXs from over a year previously. To aid its development, the Army formed the Strike Experimentation Group, commanded by a Colonel with Formation Reconnaissance background, which provided the essential function of aligning concepts with testing and experimentation.

When people pontificate that “strike cannot survive against a peer competitor,” they seem to do so from a standpoint which does not reflect an understanding of Formation-, Division- or Corps-level warfighting. So some people clearly think Strike is an alternative to an armoured infantry brigade, which given the announcement made in December 2016[3], that the Field Army would reorganise as two Strike Brigades and two Armoured Infantry Brigades is hard to understand, as the intended role of the Strike Brigades, if not immediately articulated, was obviously both different from and complimentary to, the Armoured Infantry Brigades. Even the most casual observer should have concluded that a Strike Brigade does not fight or operate like an Armoured Infantry Brigade and has a totally different mission. If 50% of the formation is reconnaissance vehicles, then logic would strongly suggest the role it currently has is far from being as “vague and unclear” as some suggest.

The Strike mission requires highly dispersed operations enabled by low signature, highly redundant C2 which can concentrate effects in both time and space in ways far more detrimental to the enemy’s scheme of manoeuvre than might otherwise be the case if conventional methods were used.

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Strike Brigades will be used in addition to Armoured Infantry Brigades, not instead of them.While Boxer and Ajax are new vehicles, the Warrior IFV and Challenger 2 MBT will be upgraded to ensure they remain competitive. (Image: UK Ministry of Defence)

Strike is looking to add as much friction and uncertainty to the enemy formation as possible by enabling Fires, Aviation, Air and a whole range of joint effects to destroy, defeat, and inflict attrition on enemy formations within a Division’s or Corps’ battlespace. Ultimately, this allows Armoured Infantry Brigades and/or coalition armoured formations to conduct counterattacks and counter strokes under considerably better conditions than if Strike Brigades were not present.

Strike doesn’t aim to “win.” It helps others win at less cost.

All that said, the Strike Brigade concept is not problem-free. Strike as an idea started with just one platform, which was Ajax. This concept then allowed the British Army to buy Boxer. So, no Strike, no Boxer. Force development is an incremental and evidence-based process (or should be!). This process is constantly retarded and challenged by inter-service rivalry, cap badge politics and a lack of money, which then exacerbates the inter-service rivalry and the cap badge politics. What this means is that Strike, as an idea, is always going to be hostage to competing interests. What it also means is that lots of the equipment-based criticism and commentary on Strike are simply nugatory and ill-informed. For example, Strike doesn’t have to have organic fires to use fires, so arguing about which wheeled gun the Strike Brigade needs misses the point. It might or it might not. It doesn’t matter, and the best answers lie above that of the Strike concept in the wider evolution of Land and Joint Fires.

The-AJAX-reconnaissance-vehicle-will-soon-enter-service-with-the-British-e1581077487156
The Strike concept was originally built around Ajax. This vehicle will replace the CVR(T) family originally acquired in the mid-1970s. It was always anticipated that Ajax would perform a formation recce role. Strike is essentially a modern adaptation of this role, but adds an infantry component with Boxer. (Image: General Dynamics UK)

Risk

Strike is also hostage to a watering down of the concept, mainly because risk aversion is a real thing in modern life. Strike methods of operation require a certain level of boldness, skill and innovation. Redefining how the British Army fights is not for the faint-hearted and needs to be sold to the Army as a whole, and not just some part of it. The problems arise when the faint-hearted find excuses for something being too hard as opposed to too difficult. While Strike is, in theory, a very pretty baby, it could easily evolve into a very damaged adult because it is either abused or lacks good parents and, to stretch the analogy further, this is about educating the parents, and not about putting make-up on the baby!

This brings us to a key point about Strike, which again some seem not understand. Strike is not a platform-centric idea. Yes, Strike may have started with Ajax, but that was pure logic, based on the fact that covering forces were in the formation recce business, as in CVR(T) regiments. Ajax is the CVR(T) replacement. This means that criticism of Strike is based on shallow technical analysis of Ajax and Boxer. The most simplistic observations seem to focus on direct fire weapons and mobility.

High lethality is required, and any vehicle can increase its capacity to offend by adding a weapon, but that comes with large cost implications attached, and so the often heard comment that “Boxer needs a 30mm cannon” assumes the absolute need for such a weapon, or else Strike will be a “hollow force.” For Strike, what gives the 30mm weapon its real value is the sighting and detection system inherent to it. Thus, lots of people talk about the 40mm cannon on Ajax. Almost no one talks about the Thermal Imager, which is actually the key capability. The strike concept of operation clearly puts primacy on sensors and communications. To paraphrase Wavell: “Amateurs talk 30mm cannons. Professionals talk communications and sensors”.

As previously stated, lethality is clearly both important and required, but as the current Strike Brigade Commander has pointed out, what experience has shown is that for Strike to succeed it merely needs to be competitive with the enemy, as opposed to superior to the enemy. You just need to win the fight rather than the whole battle. Consequently, the plan has always been to  resource Strike units with both mounted and dismounted ATGM and anti-armour weapons, which are obviously high pay-off in terms of cost versus effect/ flexibility.

Swingfire ferret
Ferret Mk V Scout Car with Swingfire ATGM. This type of vehicle was first envisaged in the 1960s and delivers a high pay-off in terms of cost versus effect and flexibility. Fitting modern anti-tank missiles to Boxer MIVs is analogous. 

The other odd claim is that “wheels and tracks don’t mix,” which is clearly a reference to Ajax being tracked, and Boxer being wheeled. Again, this can only be a lack of experience and/or understanding. For example, from the 1970s and 80’s the Bundeswehr had Divisional Reconnaissance Battalions which mixed Luchs wheeled recce vehicles with Leopard 1 tanks at the sub-unit level.  Clearly, you can mix tracks and wheels, and people do. The French Army routinely mixes tracks and wheels at the unit level with Leclerc, VBCI and VBL. There are many more examples including Soviet divisional-level anti-tank battalions and combat reconnaissance patrols which routinely mixed tanks, tracked IFVs and armoured cars. Soviet wheeled BTR Regiments had organic tank battalions. Tracks versus wheels is largely a false dilemma which is supposedly about mobility, but is actually more about cost and sustainment.

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The French Army envisages mixing wheels with tracks with Leclerc MBTs operating in conjunction with VBCI, VBL and other wheeled combat vehicles. 

Given its remit to “redefine how the British Army fights,” is Strike the future of the British Army? The answer is “yes,” not “it depends” or “too early to tell.” It simply is.

Why?

Firstly, because there aren’t any other options, and secondly, thirdly and fourthly, money! The force structure descended from Cold War armoured divisions or even the short live multi-role brigades, and now armoured infantry brigades might no longer be competitive for the cost.

In the eyes of some of the kit-junkies, an ideal UK Armoured Infantry brigade would have Leopard-2 MBTs, CV-90 MkIV and some wheeled 155mm. In essence, all you would have is a more expensive version of what was causing the problem in the first place and avoids asking the hard questions about how to evolve or transform. The question that will eventually have to be asked is what comes after the Armoured Infantry Brigades? How can they transform in line with cost and effect.[4]

Anyone saying “we need to get rid of Strike” is quite literally saying the British Army needs to get rid of the one coherent path to transformation that exists. As was spelt out early in the process, Strike experimentation outputs are good for the whole Field Army.

The model of 4-5 identical brigades comprising a traditional force arrangement of MBT, IFV and SPG, doesn’t offer policymakers the options they need and Army commanders what they need for warfighting. Worse, it draws any UK Division into fighting parallel battles of a predictable format, which in turn does not create the best conditions to employ divisional or corps-level enablers. Anyone familiar with this level of operations will know there is noticeable, albeit discrete body of literature dealing with this very subject going all the way back to before WW1.

Now all this can be basis for a really good discussion or even argument, but notice we are talking about methods of fighting and operation. We are not arguing about the kit and 30mm cannons. Agnostic of equipment we need to understand that two Strike Brigade and two or three “other brigades” do give a Divisional commander more options than 4 identical brigades. What those “other Brigades” may look like needs to be addressed.

Thus, the only test Strike Brigades have to pass is that of giving Divisional, Corps Commanders and policymakers more options than if they were not Strike Brigades, or rather not trained and resourced to operate as Strike Brigades. Strike places a real emphasis on high-quality training. Operating dispersed is not a pick-up game. For all the espoused value of the manoeuvrist approach to operations and mission command, the “Last safe moment” mindset is hard-gained, and it is absolutely no surprise that the current Strike Brigade has sought to nurture what they call “The Strike Ethos.” It is no surprise that Brigade “tag line” is: “The boldest measures are the safest.”

Not New

Now it is easy to overstate the novelty of what is proposed. As has been shown, the idea of a Strike Brigade is not new, but how it works is different today than how it did during the Cold War, and what it is being asked to do is actually far more demanding, barring the existential nature of the Cold War. The really obvious issue here is that of dispersion and understanding that dispersion is the thing from which all else flows. This isn’t something driven by fashion. Most NATO armies are a lot smaller than they were even 40 years ago, but the world is still the same size. This means that some of the old assumptions about warfighting at scale are less safe than previously supposed. This doesn’t mean anything seen in somewhere like Ukraine is showing us anything new. It is not. It is old lessons relearned in a different context, but fundamentals still apply.

What fundamentals? Fundamentals as in much about Strike is recognisable and comprehensible to former Brigade Commanders and senior officers who served in BAOR. Indeed, it is somewhat strange that unqualified people contest the validity of the Strike concept when officers who have actually commanded Brigades do not have any major issue with the idea it, even though some professional differences of opinions exist. This is the nature of experience. To give it more context than mere assertion, ask any former Formation or even Unit Commander from the 1980s if he could have fought 2 x CVR-T Regiments and 2 x FV-432 Regiments with an uplift of Milan ATGW as a Corps screening force? What about 2 x Saladin Regiments and 2 x Saracen Battalions? If you want to play tunes on that mix, then make it 2 x CVR-T Regiments and 2 x Saracen Battalions. It doesn’t really matter, and you can almost guarantee none of the officers concerned would be debating equipment. They’d be chewing on C2, groupings, battlespace, and logistics, not 30mm cannons, and wheels or tracks.

Screenshot 2020-05-06 at 17.42.20
In many ways, Strike is the modern equivalent of  two Cold War CVR(T) regiments operating in conjunction with two armoured infantry battalions in FV432 APCs. The CVR(T) Spartan was the APC equivalent of the CVR(T) Scimitar and could have been used instead, but could not carry the same number of dismounts as the FV432.

Conclusion

Nothing about what has been written here should imply or suggest that it is not both useful and legitimate to criticise the Strike concept, but you have to do so from a position of understanding the Strike mission and how Strike intends to operate.

The Strike Concept, like any concept, is an idea. It’s not about a set of equipment. Ideas are unconstrained, but equipment costs money, and you will never get all that you want or even all that you need. You cannot separate the skill and knowledge to fight the force structure from an understanding of the kit you have to fight with or the training you need to get it all to work.

Strike isn’t about the Strike Brigade. Strike is about the whole Field Army because Strike only works if there is a capable Division to enable. Nor is Strike set in stone. It will develop over time and evolve in line with ideas and more importantly money, manpower and resources. Chances are, some of the best ideas might come from quite junior ranks within the Brigade, because it is  they who are living with the practical expressions of high-level concepts.  To finish back at the beginning, ‘Strike is about redefining how the British Army fights’, so there is lots of work to be done.

Saracen and Ferret in Aden
The ancestors of Strike: Saracen and Ferret in Aden, 1967. Though these vehicles could have performed a Strike-type role against peer adversaries, they were flexible enough to be used in other roles, e.g. counter-insurgency. Today, Strike Brigades will offer equal adaptability, but with platforms that provide greater lethality and survivability. 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Notes:

[1] Brigadier Zac Stenning. Army Interview 23rd May 2018, during Joint Warfighter Assessment.

[2] Brigadier James Martin. RUSI Land Warfare Conference 4th June 2019

[3] Secretary of State for Defence 15th December 2016.

[4] https://rusi.org/publication/rusi-newsbrief/war-without-tanks

 

164 comments

  1. I’ve now had chance to read this article for a third time, as well the rebuttal at https://ukarmedforcescommentary.blogspot.com/2020/05/the-many-weaknesses-of-strike.html?m=1#comment-form . My personal view is that I find Strike Prophet’s thesis compelling, and further that the criticisms made at UK Armed Forces Commentary blogspot have had the (presumably) unintended consequence of reinforcing Strike Prophet’s analysis, I acknowledge that others will vehemently disagree on this. Underlying Strike Prophet’s argument is an acknowledgement that the army must transform itself (rather than just modernise its equipment) to ensure relevance.

    The reality seems to be that the army has made a conscious decision to go down the strike route in 2015 and that both doctrinal development and experimentation over the past half decade have reinforced, rather than weakened, their collective view. Others may not have come to the same conclusion had they faced the same set of capability and resource challenges as the army and devoted the same time and horsepower into developing their own ideas. Again however the reality appears to be, like it or not, that strike is not just going to happen but is happening.

    To me the central question now is how will strike (which is broader that just strike brigades) develop over the next few years? A subsidiary question is how would strike be used in a deployment/ operation below divisional level? Both of these would make for really interesting articles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘A subsidiary question is how would strike be used in a deployment/ operation below divisional level?’

      It will be used in the same way our heavy formations have been used over the last 20 odd years. Sqn or Coy sized attatchments to lighter formations. The infantry may be more likely to be deployed at Btn level with a smaller contingent of Ajax tagging along.

      The HQ may operate differantly but as Morpheous is as much about tactical comms at lower level and as such will be used by all parts of the army (or should be) what does strike bring as a formation in lower level ops?

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  2. So what is Strike? What is the ethos and way of fighting? We can dress it up as an innovative and gamechanging concept. Isn’t though just a belated realisation that the British Army is no longer combat effective in hybrid or modern battle conditions?

    Strike Prophet is right to say that it is not about kit, up to point. But Gaby is right to say that unless the equipment plan reflects the Army’s realisation that new tactics are required then, frankly, the realisation, which non-professionals seem to have arrived at quicker than the professionals, is worthless.

    Critiquing the Army’s ideas and and efforts to realise those ideas is like telling a teenage girl going through her emo phase that it’s not all about eye shadow.

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    1. Actually, on further thought, all this Strike stuff is obscuring the central point that Britain has no formation or unit that has any survivability on the modern peer or overmatch battlefield. None. So in that sense it truly is not about wheels vs tracks.

      We lack the ability to create a ‘protected node’ of any kind or size. We will need this ability more than we need updated vehicles. New vehicles will be destroyed just as quickly as old ones without it. There is no resupply or fires base without it.

      Is it the British Army’s intention to rely on allies to protect our nodes and dispersed penny packets?

      No wonder we ordered so many expensive Boxer ambulances.

      The more I think about Strike the angrier I get.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. @Nicholas Drummond

    Nicholas , I am addressing this comment/question to the more recent article “British Army Strike : An Inside View”, as you might not look at some of the older ones that often. Apologies to “Strike Prophet” and yourself if this is straying from the understood procedure but I can think of no other way of contacting you about the subject concerned.

    In the older article by yourself: “The Anatomy of Strike”, one of your correspondents, Paul Sergeant, mentions the reference to “the many rumours you have heard of cracked hulls and broken suspension” when you were referring to the Ajax vehicle. I think it happens when extra weight of armour is added.

    I have recently been reading an article from “European Security and Defence” concerning the early deliveries of AJAX vehicles with the flow coming from the GDELS Santa Barbara Sistemas (SBS) production facility in Seville, Spain, with the actual steel hulls coming from Trubia, in Northern Spain. The article also mentioned how, beginning at approximately the 100th vehicle, progressive integration of the AJAX will be undertaken at the GDLS facility in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, but with hulls coming from Spain.

    What I wanted to know was do you know whether there are any plans to strengthen the steel concerned before the hulls go into general production. It would not look very good if the rumours you mentioned turned out to have real substance.

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    1. Unfortunately, I am not up to speed on the real issues behind the Ajax delays. I’ve heard rumours of cracking hulls and suspension components breaking, but don’t know the extent of the problem. What I can say is that if the problems are as serious as some suggest, then GF will be working overtime to develop a fix.

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      1. @UK Land Power

        Many thanks anyway for your reply. I thought , after I’d sent the question, that the whole business is the kind of thing that might be “under wraps” anyway and that I might be venturing into territory that was surrounded by security.

        Can I just say that I enjoy the exchanges and comments on this website tremendously. Keep up your outstanding work.

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    2. UK to reassess Ajax programme

      ‘UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) procurement chiefs are reassessing the GBP5.3 billion (USD6.7 billion) Ajax programme after the first batch of production standard armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) was found not to be ready for delivery.

      Details of the exercise are still being worked out and the MoD’s chief civilian administrator, Stephen Lovegrove, is preparing to issue a formal notification to the UK parliament’s Public Accounts Committee about the reassessment. These notifications are only made when major cost overruns, technical glitches or programme delays are involved.’

      https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/29cf9003-fcc5-4c72-af61-e7a41a7aa603

      This could be a silver lining and an good opportunity, but I’m leaning towards the normal routine of more money being thrown at the programme and less hull numbers acquired, and funding to other background projects affected.

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      1. Hello David

        Thanks very much for posting the information about the UK re-assessing the AJAX programme.

        It would seem to me that there must be major costs involved here. Surely such a re-assessment would not be launched for minor glitches. Am intrigued to know what your silver lining would be. Complete cancellation and replacement by another vehicle perhaps?

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    3. Hi Mike

      In my opinion the silver lining would be a rescoping of the programme and a cancellation of the the Ajax hulls.

      From what is available from open sources it seems the hulls are the problem, so cancel the hulls and use the money to buy Boxers as a replacement base vehicle. This should allow the turrets and systems from Ajax to be fitted to them whilst retaining integration work at Merfyr Tydfill and getting a return on the development money we spent on Ajax etc.

      Boxer is still a large recce vehicle so maybe the recce regts using boxer might want to tweek their ways of working and have a smattering of smaller vehicles mixed within the regt. They have experimented with a mast sight etc on Jackal so maybe use this system on a Panther or Husky platform to compliment Boxer in a recce by stealf capability.

      Why not Jackal I hear you ask? Simply its open topped and has no all round protection which when considering that Strike is to aid div maneuver it does not fit with the capability in my opinion.

      The knock on effect of buying more Boxers is hopefully the unit cost will drop and we may have some money to buy some more to replace the Bulldogs in the Armoured units and some MRVP for the rest of the army.

      I don’t see this happening though going by past programmes.

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      1. Hmm… I don’t think it will be that easy to cancel outright. Clearly GD Santa Barbara needs its arse kicking, if that is indeed where the issues are coming from.

        If the issue is bad workmanship than that can be dealt with, if the issue is that the design is faulty then that’s a whole other level of problem.

        I’d like to see variant changes though – ie. a two vehicle C-UAS, VSHORAD, C-RAM team based on, for example, a Giraffe 1X radar on one vehicle and one another vehicle with a 25-30mm gun and some LMM in a box, say. These could be networked with Sky Sabre, if that is feasible.

        Also an EW vehicle, assuming this function can’t be squeezed into the radar vehicle. Also a recce variant with drones and loitering munitions e.g. Shrike 2 + Switchblade and/or FLIR’s VRS Black Hornet systems or their Sky Ranger.

        These gucci vehicles need to be doing the most gucci and dangerous jobs, that is what their expensive sensors and GVA is all about.

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      2. Hi David

        Rather like your idea of having a “smattering of smaller vehicles mixed within the recce regiments.” Something based on Jackal would certainly bring an element of agility that larger recce vehicles would lack.

        Don’t quite so much go along with the idea of Boxer being fitted with Ajax turrets and systems. We would then be back into the whole Tracks versus Wheels thing and I still have serious doubts about the ability of wheeled vehicles to negotiate, as ably as tracked ones, the mud and sludge of many off-road conditions. And I do concede the fact that Boxer is good.

        David, you assert that “From what is available from open sources it seems the hulls are the problem,” I would probably go along with that, in that we’ve heard the rumours of cracking hulls and suspension components breaking. However, there have been other reports that the faults lie with the integration of the turrets. Corin tries to break it down further in statement that “If the issue is bad workmanship than that can be dealt with, if the issue is that the design is faulty then that’s a whole other level of problem.” Depends what you mean by “design”, Corin. If the problem lies with the materials used in the construction of the vehicle (e.g. the steel used in the hulls), then that is one problem. If it lies with the actual structure of the hulls e.g shape and configuration of the hulls), the that is yet another. Until we know, I suppose the idea of outright cancellation will have to wait.

        If such an eventuality did come about, then I suppose one candidate to succeed the cancelled one might be the CV90. Admittedly, it is no longer in the first flush of youth but it is a very good vehicle nevertheless. The Norwegian government has announced that it will accelerate investments in upgrade programmes, including improvements to part of the CV90 fleet. It is a vehicle in which the British Army took a great interest only a few years ago and it has a wide range of variants, including, if memory serves me correctly, a 120mm main gun version.

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  4. I presume for Strike to work both as a deployed medium force or as a divisional maneuver force, you need two elements: 1 would be very, very superb C4I and ISTAR components, 2. Would be some means of delivering concentrated firepower from dispersed units (long range fires)

    So in the first instance, I don’t get why we started with Ajax and Boxer, would it not have made more sense to start with what ISTAR and C4I systems you needed, and what type of long range fires you needed, then work your way back through the best platforms required to enable those functions? We seem to have begun with the platforms and tried go work towards the concept backwards.

    In the second instance, I just don’t get Ajax. There is nothing particularly useful about it in terms of Strike as a platform in of itself. I get that it may have top of class sensors and comms, which is vital to both Strike and it’s original stated function of recce for the old armoured and current armoured infantry brigades, but if you were starting from a blank piece of paper, you’d never think about it for a function that presumably requires a great deal of strategic mobility. The systems it carries could surely have deployed on Boxer?

    I get that realism requires making do with what is available, but was there never an option to cap the number of Ajax at a lower level to carry out its role for the armoured infantry and start again with Strike, once you had a firm grip on what the long range fires looked like for the Strike concept, and how much infantry force Strike required?

    Would it not ultimately have made more sense to stick with the original Army2020 blueprint, and develop Strike from a long range fires and C4I/ISTAR approach up to 2020, before figuring out how and what to bug to make it work?

    Part of me still suspects that far from concepts of strike and recce, Ajax is as much about a heavily protected fire base for infantry in a Herrick type situation. I.e. not required to provide mobility in a long range sense, but tactically.

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    1. Yes, quite. They’ve thrown in contracted platforms and bought new ones in entirely the wrong variants.

      As you say, they have begun with the platforms and tried to figure out how to make the concept work with them, rather than the other way around.

      They talk as if they are reconceptualising with Strike but they buy as if they are just replacing old vehicles in much the same structure.

      I’ve come around to Think Defence’s idea that we just clean sheet the whole Army and delete the regimental system partly for efficiency and partly as punishment for institutional boneheadedness

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  5. Hi Mike

    Couldn’t reply to your reply, but yeah, in terms of Ajax: cracking hulls sounds like too thin (ie there was a desire to keep weight down to an unrealistic level), suspension issues maybe points the same way, I guess (I have no idea and struggle to change a plug so..)

    In any event we are so far down the track with Ajax that I think we ought to stick with it, shortof total program clusterfuck

    Going now with the rejected CV90 after all this time and money and starting from scratch at the contractual and scoping phase? Seriously unpalatable I think.

    Perhaps one answer would be to slow walk AI and Ajax to get Ajax right (it does look like a very capable platform in the making) and in the mean time get Strike/Boxer more fully realised.

    Cancel Warrior CSP, delete CR2 less 1 BG to send to Estonia and stand Strike ip in a credible way.

    Dunno mate, hard to know which program is more buggered.

    But ajax delays make strike utterly toothless ergo AI must sacrifice Warrior CsP in favour of turreted Boxer recce.

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    1. Hi Corin

      You have made some very interesting points:

      “cracking hulls sounds like too thin (ie there was a desire to keep weight down to an unrealistic level)” Yes, that is one reasonable theory.

      “Going now with the rejected CV90 after all this time and money and starting from scratch at the contractual and scoping phase? Seriously unpalatable I think.” You are probably right.

      Are you suggesting that we use Ajax for recce inside the Armoured Infantry Brigades? I had thought (believing in what several commentators had written) that AJAX would not be included in AI (no enough of them?) but a recent report from Janes suggest that they will be anyway.

      “Cancel Warrior CSP, delete CR2 less 1 BG to send to Estonia” No! no!, we need heavy armour, as much as we can retain.

      “Dunno mate, hard to know which program is more buggered.” I suppose until some important reports come out, we shall not know. Let’s hope that things are not as bad as that!

      “But Ajax delays make strike utterly toothless” So would the cancellation of aforesaid vehicle sound the death knell for Strike?

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      1. Hi Mike, thanks for the reply.

        I think the question of what do about Ajax, CR2, Warrior, Boxer and MRVP etc etc basically can only be answered by the success or failure of attempts within the British Army to formulate a real response to the realities of Ukraine or Ukraine+ modern warfare.

        Strike really is simply an attempt (frustratingly slow and cackhanded though it undoubtedly is) to formulate a new way of surviving and fighting in a heavily degraded and contested battlespace where NATO’s airpower advantage cannot be brought to bear and we are outgunned and outranged.

        Whether AI commanders choose to accept it or not, the lessons apply equally to Armoured Infantry as they do to Mechanised Infantry. If we are to have both types of formation – and I agree with you that we should – then both types need to be built around enablers that 1) increase formation and sub-unit survivability in the new battlespace to the level that 2) allows combat effectiveness and ultimately 3) competitiveness where we are overmatched overall.

        We are nowhere near 1) at present and are not building formations around the non-discretionary enablers we do not have. My frustration with this I won’t further rehearse.

        The point of all this is that Strike cannot really be cancelled. We can lose vehicle programs left, right and centre (that is a core British Army competence after all) but ultimately whatever is left, whether wheeled or tracked, will have to adopt Strike TTPs in order to survive, let alone fight.

        I guess that this argument will be decided by a mixture of contractual obligations and the dominating faction in the British Army + CDS.

        If Ajax delays are bad but not fatal then if the Army wishes to continue learning how to fight from a position of under-match then it will need to continue invest in Strike and therefore Boxer (at least until we discover major problems with Boxer in a few years, amirite!)

        Practically speaking, I think this requires the deletion of heavy armour upgrade programs. The truth is that until the British Army can effectively deploy, protect and fight with CR2s and AI then we can afford to run down what we have and/or gap capabilities in this area. Strike is what will allow successful deployment, protection and fighting with AI.

        If Strike cannot deliver the understanding and capabilities to operate in the most dangerous battlespace – either due to underfunding or boneheadness – then there seems little point holding on to AI formations that are limited by their nature to operating in a battlespace they can no longer survive.

        If on the other hand we use scarce funding effectively now to focus on succeeding with Strike, those concepts and methods can be transplanted to AI later and used to rebuild our AI capabilities, beginning with the non-discretionary capabilities and building out from there.

        Sorry this turned into a longer and more philosophical rely than intended!

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  6. Hi Corin

    Well. I am hugely impressed by your philosophical reply. You seem to know one hell of a lot more than I do about both the strategic and tactical principles behind Strike and express them fluently.

    I really would like to reply in detail but my time is short today and likely to be so for a few days. Therefore, I shall probably be ‘hors de combat’ as far as this and other sites are concerned for a short time. Perhaps that is a blessing in disguise, as I disagree with one of your basic premises and would like to argue at more length but am sadly unable to.

    Kind regards,

    Mike

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    1. Thank you for your kind reply, always pleased to have these exchanges of views and I am also putting off stuff I should be doing 😆. Look forward to chatting again when times permit

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      1. Corin

        Came back to this article after seeing your comments on the Assault Gun one. – I think you and I are singing from the same song sheet; what point is there in 170 ridiculously expensive Challenger 3 upgrades when there is no short range air defence, C-UAS or C-RAM to protect them?

        I have sent a new article on what we might do if we were to cut Ajax and Warrior to Nick, so keep your eyes open for that.

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      2. Hi Jed

        Yep, absolutely agree!

        I think we have to face facts about CR2 and gap the bulk of the capability to fund intelligent investment in organic UAS and ground-based ISTAR, C-UAS and SHORAD and EW.

        After that long-range fires, 120mm mortars, ATGM vehicles, ammo-carriers, gap-crossing, bridging, mud-moving, DF variants, whatever.

        Looking forward to your piece!

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  7. Corin

    ‘Hmm… I don’t think it will be that easy to cancel outright’

    I did not advocate cancelling the programme outright, i said cancel the hulls. The hulls are the problem not the turrets and systems which is why I said divert those parts of the programme onto Boxer hulls.

    It’s also why I am not an advocate for cancelling the Warrior upgrade in it’s entirerity. It seems the turret is the problem for that programme and you cannot place the Ajax turret onto a Warrior hull due to turret ring size so I would cancel the turret and place the same RWS being used on MIV onto Warrior and use it as a heavy APC.

    The problem with Warrior was that the main armament was not stabilised so you will cure that with an RWS which is stabilised and get a workable compromise. The hull is not obsolete and we have not got the funds to choose an alternative IFV at the moment.

    We still need to replace all the Bulldogs in service.

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    1. Hi David

      I take your point. I agree that the turret sensors and sight (and the gun) are the juicy bits, at least when combined with GVA and the plethora of data and networking tech that Ajax will have.

      We’d be giving up a lot of protection if we transitioned all that to Boxer. I very much hope that the problems with the hulls can be fixed and that there are not other issues. We do not yet know I think how severe the problems are or indeed if they would allow us to walk away from or renegotiate the contract in that way. I hope we do not cancel Ajax as I think the recce variant and C2 variants look really good.

      I think we might have paid for the new Warrior turrets so might be stuck with them, if that is the case then we either continue with WCSP or move the turrets to Boxer and fund 245 IFV variants by cancelling something.

      We could have stuck a 30mm RWS with an ATGM on Warrior and fixed the stabilisation and ammo issues and just limped on with what we had too.

      I fear that ship has sailed though.

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      1. Hi whatnow123

        I agree we will be giving up some protection (although Boxer is not shabby in that department) but we will be gaining strategic mobility and a working system.

        I think if we could negotiate keeping the turret and systems and ditching the hulls to be honest. We are in a good position as I don’t see any other sales of Ajax being made internationally and some business is better than none.

        If we have paid for the Warrior turrets then we are idiots. Why would you confirm an order on a system that is not working? Even if we migrate the turrets we are still getting a sub par (as it stands) system that will cost money we have not got to improve over time.

        I’m personally not too fussed that the RWS on Boxer will not have a cannon as long as the RWS we select can take a cannon if we required at a later date.

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  8. In an idle moment I’ve been reflecting on how heavy (armoured infantry), medium (strike) and light. forces fit in. If you image a graph in which the x axis is speed of strategic/ operational deployment and the y axis represents some measure of frequency of use then you’d expect heavy armour to be towards the bottom left (speed of deployment relatively low, frequency of use low). You would also expect light forces to be towards the top right (speed of deployment high, frequency of use high {they are being used a lot}).

    Now if you introduce medium/ strike then you’ve got a point somewhere inbetween. This being, more quickly deployable (one can debate by how much), with a frequency of use likely to be greater than heavy armour (again debate how much).

    Strikes me that if you can then identify your absolute minimum need for heavy armour you can then divert resources to better fund the forces you’re more likely to use (strike and light forces) and effectively push them further up the y axis (e.g. better funding makes the more quickly deployable forces more capable and thus more likely to be used). Viewed this way wouldn’t you want to explore identifying what’s the absolute minimum heavy force you could get away with, with a view to potentially diverting funds away from heavy to better equip strike and light forces?

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    1. Yes.
      I would put all heavy armour in mothballs and keep a regimental force in being for ‘training or experience.
      The one issue to consider is the need that heavy armour, tanks/ APCs which the Israelis are requiring in built up areas. This is something of a reversal to the traditional idea of ‘blitzkrieg’ use by tanks.

      I’m missing out some options but, I see light troops being in the role of mountain troops and in jungle terrain. Traditionally light infantry are reconnaissance, observing, holding complex terrain, holding up / disrupting heavier advancing units. More recently we have been obsessed with counter insurgency which has moved into the realm of medium armour.

      Medium armour properly supported with correct volume and mobility of artillery (‘fires’ I believe it’s called now?) and air support should be able to defeat everything except a peer enemy. But it needs the correct mix.

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  9. Have seen the sixth road wheel jacking on an Ajax at Bovington this features at very slow speed, this suggests the torsion bars need uprating or a dampers fitted. At faster speeds it is less noticeable but still clanky. I think the Ascod hull was designed to be 25t, now at 38 -42 tons in Ajax form the suspension should have been upgraded. Hydro-gas like the AS90 or Terrier should be used on a “Modern vehicle”. It is likely fatigue will be a problem without dampers being fitted!

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  10. A very interesting piece written by somebody who does not ever get very close to “.incoming”
    Do mod /politicians/charlatan aristos never learn from past mistakes ?.
    Narvick 1 and 2
    Arnhem 1
    If they were included in the first contact group
    It would never happen

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