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. Just had a very quick read through as its middle of the working day in my time zone, however I will say its an excellent article.

    On the conclusion:
    “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.”

    Very good, my only problem with the 2 Strike Brigade, 2 Armoured Brigade concept is that we apparently cannot afford to equip both to the level required, and 2 of anything is not great for training and readiness cycles. However there is nothing to say the Division in question could not be multi-national, or that of an ally, in which case the Strike capability remains valuable.

    With respect to:
    “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”

    Is this a bit of an over-simplification and a bit disingenuous ? Most of the criticism of mixed wheels and tracks is based on commentary from senior army officers on theater-strategic mobility and the ability to undertaken 1000km road marches to position the Brigade where it is needed. Your comment above ref operations in Germany in the 70’s and 80’s is not appropriate, they were basically taking place in the theater of operations at a tactical level. Yes the French mix VBCI and Leclerc, and there are no Leclerc deployed with their force in Africa, the one that made the famously long march to contact.

    Anyway, lots of other good points – thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @Jed

      Of all the commentators that have written stuff on Strike you were the closest.

      Strike is pretty much what you proposed to do with Ajax and form recce battlegroups that we can use to slot onto our allies heavy formations.

      I’m pleased for you but dissapointed for the Army.

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  2. Old Gabriele Molinelli can put that in this windpipe and smoke it! Lol excellent piece which is clear, concise and to the point. Excellent work.

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      1. That’s interesting as I think the exact opposite. To me Gabrielle’s critique remains on point, and this article does nothing to change that.

        So after having re-read the article a number of times, the conclusion I come to is that Strike is a badly thought out Divisional / Corps “Cavalry” Brigade – the author mentions screening for a Division or a Corps. Well we can barely field a division, which would include this screening brigade, and if we are screening for a NATO multi-national Corps, then why not let other nations provide the heavy armour so that the strike brigade itself could be better equipped to do the job.

        IF Her Majesties Government has 4 fighting brigades at its disposal from which to form a single division for high end war fighting , OR more likely some expeditionary deployment to, lets say Africa to fight non-state actors who in certain capacities are getting to near peer capabilities, whither the Strike Brigade then?

        The article states that wheels and tracks are ok to be mixed, based on the authors observations nearly 50 years ago! German formations from the height of the cold war are probably not a very good exemplar to use. Yes, the French mix wheeled VBCI IFV’s with Leclerc MBT’s , so it can certainly be done. However the French have not deployed any Leclerc in current operations in Africa where the theatre-strategic mobility of the VBCI has been displayed. Meanwhile UK never deployed Challenger to Afghanistan due to logistical challenges.

        However lets say General Carter was just being little off his trolley with his desire to undertake 1,000 to 2,000km road marches to combat, with a tight logistical trail. So we can ditch that requirement and as the author seems to be alluding to Strike Brigades are Armoured Rece Brigades destined to work with 2 Armoured Infantry Brigades. Then why do we need Boxer ? If the author and the Army think we can deploy 3 brigades, mostly tracked, with the HET’s and magically sourced civilian low loaders and/or trains (on non interdicted railways) why didn’t we just buy an APC version of the Ajax family? In fact why not go for massive standardization and through life cost savings, and replace Warrior with an IFV version of Ajax?

        I presume the author’s experiences from the 70’s to the 80’s in BAOR have weighed heavily on his “don’t debate the kit” attitude, when you are in a defensive posture, based along the axis of advance of your enemy the tactical mix of wheels and tracks is no doubt a moot point. As would be the allocation of fires in support of the brigade, because “back in the day” we (relatively) had shit tons of artillery. Which we don’t have now.

        I can understand why the author refer’s to some of us as kit junkies, and he is right to point out the training, the “strike ethos” etc are massively important – but on the other hand awesome training for infantry carried in Boxers with no uplift beyond existing Javelin firing posts, and 81mm mortars man handled out of the back of their ride is not really going to cut the mustard, in someways it would suggest the mobility and protection of the Boxer would be colossal waste of money. Similarly, what good is the strike ethos going to be when the dispersed company sized groups are cut off, defeated in detail because they lack organic firepower, oh and because we have no money to invest in fires.

        In the end, the author has confirmed my worst fears. Strike will be a classic British “fudge”!

        Two “screening” cavalry brigades, to support two armoured infantry brigades which if we are lucky and get the money will consist of upgraded Challenger 2’s and upgraded Warrior’s. The four brigades will have little in the way or supporting tube or rocket artillery, and no organic firepower beyond existing 81mm mortars and Javelin firing posts; but that is OK because we have loads of BAOR era formation commanders who will feel quite at home maneuvering Ajax armoured recce vehicles, and infantry carrying Boxers in support of them. Lets hope when HMG inevitably deploys said brigade in a “non-screening” role, it has the logistics capability to send at least some Ajax in support of the Boxers. Actually, don’t worry about it, stressing about kit is just for us amateur arm chair generals, the Army will win through based on awesome training and the “Strike ethos” 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’d prefer to go with jedpc , below.

        I’m only a distant on looker I know, but the army are are in a total strategic mess.
        2 diametrically opposed concepts and who or where we are supposed to be fighting for or against.

        We can never make a significant contribution to major land warfare in mainland Europe and should not structure our armed services accordingly.
        We defend Europe and our other interests in other ways. I see no benefit in large heavy armoured formations which are no more an a pinprick.
        Elite boots on the ground in Norway and Baltic seems viable with strong stealth air power.
        Wheeled armour and real artillery (!) with it would be an adjunct to that and also be valuable in any none European theatre.
        If really needed in Europe… Surely the point of Strike Brigades is to be sent in good time (regular exetcise ) as a deterrent in places like Ukraine, where it can actually drive there itself.

        The boots we really need are special forces, other elite , and light infantry,
        with proper associated equipment.

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  3. Excellent post. A solid and convincing argument that has really made me reconsider my thoughts on ‘Strike’. But how does Strike fit in with a future force structure? Do you see the army expanding the concept to have, for example, 3 x armoured Infantry Brigades and 3 x Strike Brigades?
    This ‘rule of 3’ would be better for force regeneration and increasing options for commanders. A real possibility or a pipe dream?

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  4. I am in no way a military expert or have any real hands on experience and almost feel the article prohibits me to have an opinion. But I have an avid interest and always probably will. For what it is worth the description of strike above and how it is to operate is how I envision it in a peer to peer conflict. The concept is for me solid.

    One thing I think what a lot of people struggle with is strike vs the medium weight capability and I guess what I mean by that is the Mali mission, Afghanistan etc. These are the main types of conflicts we have been embroiled in over the last 2 decades or so. This I think is where the tracks & wheels mix gets criticised for me. Deploying a traditional tracked vehicle to Mali would be a huge challenge is my understanding. If there were a number of T55s there (getting more likely in Africa with Chinese investment etc.) without Ajax & just a 0.5 hmg Boxer would potentially be hugely problematic in fact a recoilless rifle or RPG armed pickup may cause issues. Yes I know that you could spot them with a UAV & dismount an ATGW team etc. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Even in Afghan warrior was required & scimitar to increase the available firepower.
    In terms of deploying Ajax I think composite rubber tracks could be a solution to negate this & limited numbers could maybe deploy by air. If these are viable then strike as a medium capability seems to work for me.

    In the peer to peer operations yes I agree a lot is about tactics and out maneuvering, out thinking the enemy and generally not being traditional in approach. But as we evolve so does the enemy, electronic warfare, weapons, tactics, long ranged SAMs etc. Due to long gestation period of the Army getting the capability and allies already having it, and the basic idea being publicly available. I can pretty much assume counter strike technology and tactics have been and are being developed by potential adversaries.
    I guess therefore the concern is at the end of the day if the fight isn’t on our terms with strike you don’t have that big heavy MBT with the simple highly dependable big gun to fall back on. Missiles can be jammed, so can communications, sensors can be fooled – look at the Adaptiv armour for instance an MBT can appear as a car in the IR spectrum.
    That 30mm, 40mm or 120mm can if it needs to operate with the mk1 eyeball and the rounds can’t be jammed etc. Alternative simple communication methods e.g. the RN still use flashing lights & flags to communicate and lynx ah7 used to use alphabetize cards. So although the high tech communication and sensors are important I am not sure they are always the be all and end all? But then I am an amateur ☺
    I guess the point is of all goes well, fantastic , but if it doesn’t you’re stuck in enemy territory potentially surrounded by MBTs in dispersed & isolated small groups of medium armour with a 40mm & 0.5inch HMG and personal weapons.
    OK this is the exaggerated worse case scenario, but for all fancy tactics, communications etc. Sometimes those with the biggest, longest pikes win.

    Therefore irrelevant of cost strike I still feel strike needs teeth & as well as ATGMS some dependable teeth i.e. 30str 40mm, 105mm /120mm MGS, 120mm mortars and 155mm artillery support. Also if fighting dispersed surely engagements need to be short, sharp & decisive if you have equal weaponry don’t you risk being bogged down? And in highly cluttered EW/ECM environment (that potential adversaries have a significant strength in) you may find your suddenly surprised by MBTs & heavily armed AFVs that you weren’t expecting

    As I say I am no expert, but if we ever and hopefully we don’t, have to fight our peer enemies, l am unsure it is going to anything like the British Army has fought in since WW2. In almost every conflict since air superiority has been guaranteed and we have virtually fought on our terms. I think a concern is these factors have led to an arrogance or a false sense of security/superiority. Add to WW2 a potential significant EW element plus the obvious overmatch in long range fires & artillery.
    I’m not sure from what I can see with public information that the Army is ready and to be honest that isn’t strike’s fault or the army, but unfortunately political masters who pretend to keep the percentage GDP at 2% which is really 1.8% and should really be at peacetime 3.4%. Unfortunately, these are the same political masters despite running exercises in 2016 didn’t prepare us for COVID 19, they don’t do insurance policies they do quick wins that keep themselves in power another 4 years.
    Unless the upcoming review changes that, I struggle to see the standard armoured infantry brigades being effective never mind something that is a completely new capability needing new and continually evolving equipment.
    Unfortunately, at the moment the Army tries it’s best but can it under these circumstances really be the best? The other services are suffering in the same way – look at the RN could you imagine a CH2 fitted for but not with a coaxial machine gun?

    So its not the concept or the fact the army are not inventing the best tactics which will probably give the best outcome possible. But you can’t ignore the ‘kit’.

    That’s just my humble opinion & I don’t mean to be negative, but that political understanding, support needs to be there and if the Army keeps making the best of what it has with ever increasing challenges, I’m not sure it will change. But I hope it does.

    Like

  5. Very interesting. I wonder about “what comes after the armoured infantry brigade” Is it possible to have a copy of Rusi’s “war without tank” (without paying the minimum 85£) ?

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  6. Thank you for taking the time to prepare this article, it’s up there with the best “pro-Strike” ones I’ve seen. I do have a couple of questions though:
    -This has been brought up already, but you dismiss the issue of mobility by only commenting on tactical mobility, without commenting on what I believe is called theatre or strategic mobility- getting to the area of operation. The other pro-Strike article on this site (the other good one I’ve come across), says that we have enough HETs for the Ajax so no problem. But that ignores the need for those HETs to be used for bringing up the following armoured formations that you reference here. That also somewhat waters down the concept of Strike being able to deploy somewhat independently /organically, which I understood to be a big thing. Especially with the UK’s whole expeditionary posture (per the most recent SDSRs). Maybe I’m wrong on that last point, but it seems to me that the British Army’s justification for Strike’s mix of wheels and tracks is based upon them being pre-positioned in the area of the enemy’s advance- i.e. primarily for operation in the Baltics. Seems a little narrow-focussed to me.
    -The argument / point about organic indirect fires being uneccessary because they’ve necer previously been organic doesn’t fit with the message that Strike is the “new way” of fighting for the future British Army. As you rightly say about choosing your internal battles wisely, but surely it should be considered?
    -On the note of indirect fires, it’s a bit of a moot point about how they’re organised if we don’t have them. My understanding is that we’re quite light on these, and those we have aren’t all particularly mobile. Towed artillery, and tracked AS90s in particular don’t seem to be too helpful- unless again you’re mainly considering a pre-deployed force in a relatively small battle space. Relying solely on ATGMs for dismounts for the main indirect/direct heavy firepower doesn’t strike me as a full substitute. I know you mention vehicle mounted ATGMs too, which I wasn’t aware of and am glad for.
    All told, I am pro-Strike as a concept, and even more so after reading your article. But I’m concerned that the current arrangement doesn’t fulfil the brief. Absolutely, everything takes time and you need to start somewhere, so I hope that things refine and improve over time.
    Thanks again

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Madness, madness, madness…. wheels and tracks, madness. No strike bridge will ever be able to defeat a Russian shock army on it’s own. Madness, madness. I’ve got absolutely no military experience and even I know that. Madness. Those with decades of relevant experience in British army clearly no nothing. They aren’t even journalists. Madness.

    Wibble

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  8. The author’s references to the 1980s and the BAOR might be regrettably appropriate. It could be that the Soviets would have chewed up the lightly armed screening forces and the rest of 1 Corps (BR), just like the current Russians might chew up the eventual four deployable British brigades, especially the two lightly armed Strike brigades. Just make do and hope that a war with Russia doesn’t come.

    I also suspect the lightly armed US Army Stryker brigades would fare poorly against modern Russian ground forces, with their high concentration of tanks and artillery. Going back to the 1980s, I know the Fulda Gap US Armored Cavalry Regiments didn’t have a long life expectancy, despite having more vehicular firepower.

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    1. Not mentioned is air power, when in context of Soviet power.

      But surely what about non Soviet power, when ever we have to go elsewhere?

      But really, are we really onto the realm of toe toe Russia tank armies? Russia is corrupt and crumbling. It pushes itself by sneaky stealthy hegemony. We face at by early action. Say in Poland. And we act on wheels not tracks… and of course by bringing forward qualitystrike aircraft.
      No way can we move sensibly on tracks. If we want tanks on tracks to defend Poland they need to be based there in advance and not training in Canada.

      This article is disappointing. We cannot justify tanks. We have not enough of them to be worth while and have no prospect of us moving them anywhere useful. The Army has made a total bollocks about buying billions on tracked APCs and now we cannot afford the wider concept of Strike.
      The likelyhood of UK boots going on the ground is with light infantry and special forces… and with air power in support.

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      1. To Trev: I disagree that Russia is crumbling. Its ground forces seem highly optimized to fight a high intensity land war against NATO.

        I do agree that the UK should opt out of participating a great deal in such a land war in Eastern Europe, even if that means giving up some plum officer jobs in NATO. Or maybe a massive upgrade in long range artillery could let the UK participate in a different way in a high intensity war.

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  9. There was concurrently a wealth of information which though obvious was not immediately articulated and which offers an ongoing coherent path to transformation? There was and is no right answer but you’re confident in giving everyone an F on absolute terms.
    You can’t really criticise for handing out a blank piece of paper with ‘strike’ scrawled at the top and have everyone draw a mechanised brigade while the army is passed out face down in a tepee on some sort of tribal vision quest.

    I think even the most casual observer concluded that the formation consisted of 50% reconnaissance vehicles because we were replacing CVR, because (as you concede) the army struggles with change and so because we bought too many.
    We enabled strike by re-rolling an infantry brigade and an AI brigade and presented it as an uplift in capability and not on some esoteric doctrinal level. Is it not fairer to say we envisioned UK striker brigades but then those ambitions met with cold reality?
    The vast majority of the criticism around mixing wheels and tracks stems from the claim that strike could self deploy over thousands of kilometres and how that would be hampered by our dearth of logistics, not on their ability to co-exist in theatre.
    On self protection, the best platform for infantry is there is to help others fight in a war that in all reality we’ll probably never have, that’s completely inflexible and a luxury we can’t afford.

    There are questions and conclusions that don’t necessarily go away because you’ve defined strike, it represents a very large portion of our investment in land and that cost will be reflected in the rest of the force structure you say it will define.

    Thank you for taking the time to write, a lot of frustration evident in that piece, hope you worked it all out.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is truly excellent article clearly written by a professional that clears up many misconceptions.

    It essentially describes the design driver of Strike brigades as being divisional manoeuvre. I’ve certainly no.problem with that but it would definitely be good to also have a follow-up article on how one would use Strike in a sub-divisional scenario where the only UK formation deployed is a Strike brigade, and what demand that would make on the rest of the army; artillery, logistics, etc.?

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  11. This article should leave us in no doubt that Strike is a viable concept.

    It’s not a wheels versus tracks debate.

    It’s not an equipment discussion.

    It’s a way of fighting and operating.

    It shows that Strike is relevant to high-end peer-adversary warfare as well as low-intensity counter-insurgency operations.

    Having said that, the issue of deployability is relevant to this discussion. To those who think we don’t have enough HETs to deploy Ajax, Warrior and Challenger 2 simultaneously, there is live programme to address this issue.

    However, in some situations we may prefer all-wheeled formations able to deploy independently over long distances by road, e.g. Africa. For other scenarios, we might prefer all-tracked formations able to negotiate extreme terrain in winter, e.g. Baltic States. In other words, if all-wheeled strike brigades make sense, so do all tracked ones. Ultimately, the choice between wheeled combat vehicles versus tracked ones is more about cost and sustainment than it is about mobility.

    Long-term, we will obviously try to achieve greater focus. Acquiring a turreted Boxer in addition to Ajax may be desirable, but we will need to understand the cost implication of doing so and whether this adds as much utility to the Strike Brigades as acquiring more artillery systems.

    A new tracked APC/ IFV would also be good to have, but in the short-term, we cannot renew everything at once. The process requires us to carefully sequence the allocation of limited resources intelligently across all three services. When you look at the overall strength of UK military capabilities, whether it is combat aircraft, aircraft carriers, destroyers, or infantry battalions, perhaps we are doing more right than we doing are wrong, even if our programme management isn’t always perfect?

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    1. Well said.

      I’ve also just read in BAR about Conceptual Force Land 2035 and its posited Future Combat Teams. While the structure looks different, certainly more compact, and is situated a good decade after the Strike brigades’ formation it does strike me that there is a real read across between Strike and Conceptual Force.

      PS 1) as an avowed military equipment Top Trumps spotter I did notice the mention of planned under armour anti armour guided weapon (one assumes for Ajax and/or Boxer). Does anyone know what that will be, Javelin or something different?

      2) It would also be good to bottom out this Strike and 2000km march / A2D2 malarkey that seems to be causing such histrionics in some quarters.

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      1. I got most points of the article and won’t debate about the equipment, I just want to formulate one sorrow I have from a historian’s perspective:

        It’s one thing for what a unit was created, and a whole other thing for what it will be used. Just one example from British history: the battlecruisers were created as cruiser-hunters (stronger then a cruiser, faster then a battleship), however, due to their big cannons they were used as ship of the line with very catastrophic results.

        I could imagine something like this with the strike brigades, too. The heavy footprint of the armored brigades and the promise of the Ajax-strike-brigades could lead to the use of strike brigades abroads, only without the armored backup and the lacking organic artillery support. This may work in a low lethal conflict… but it surely could backfire vs a more formidable opponent.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Now there’s a thought, having one Strike Brigade based entirely on Ajax family and another based entirely on the Boxer family, each optimised for different climes and places.

      Like

    3. “It’s not an equipment discussion.

      It’s a way of fighting and operating. ”

      This should not be an alternative – these two aspects are closely connected and one influences the other.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A good article once again

    I agree that Strike is a concept and is platform agnostic and that the change will almost certainly be across the whole land force, but I do think the following are all key considerations wHen defining the future force.

    1. Any force should seek to gain the maximum advantage possible when confronting an enemy, overmatch is critical to that aim, therefor having superior firepower is critical to an armies success. What and how that firepower is brought to bare should be via the most effective and efficient method available.

    2. A much smaller army, constrained by the budget limitations we have, does need to rationalise its platforms and and organisation to provide maximum lethality from the lower volume of people at its disposal, therefore an unmanned turret across the whole force should be mandated out of necessity and not because an individual is wanting Gucci kit specified.

    3. Wheeled platforms are easier to maintain and have longer legs v their required logistics tail. This again needs to be a consideration in selection.

    4. Great consideration should be given to our intent to use, as it seems that despite military requests to have challenger deployed in Afghanistan, this was not provided due to cost considerations. If we do not intend to use or our allies have a niche capability that our terrain does not support (tanks), this should be a consideration in our future force structure.

    5. A smaller force necessitates smarter use of that force, my view is that the army should have 4 or 5 divisions that are identical in the resources allocated (people and equipment)to them as this aids in training, force structure, equipment management and cost. This should cover as wide a spectrum of capabilities as possible, as it does today.

    6. This force structure allows for healthy competition between the divisions and Brigades that is measurable. It also means that each brigade has the tools it needs to do all required tasking, from special forces, to logistics. It should be seen as beneficial if done correctly.

    My opinion is the land force should be split into 2 combat elements, Strike and Commando, which should have its own command and logistics force . This allows us to field a division at any given point and for that division to be rotated through on a regular basis.

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  13. It’s basically FRES without actually saying it.

    And without the money to completely fulfill it.

    Still needs an answer on where the fires are coming from to take advantage of the comms and ISTAR. How are we going to channel and delay forces over such a large front without the investment in weapons and equipment to allow us?

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  14. First of all, I would like to thank you for this really excellent article which had cleared several questions for me as an non-english speaker. The very clear and precise language and efficiency of the explanations is outstanding.

    An interesting comparison might be the comparison of a strike brigade and the so-called German-French brigade. The latter is also a mixture of Recce vehicles and infantry, which could be used as a (light) strike brigade in the end in terms of structure and concept.

    In my opinion, such units are also particularly suitable for de facto colonial skirmishes / expededitionary warfare – the fact that they can also serve as a skirmisher for other mechanized associations is above all an addition. In my opinion, however, it makes more sense to position yourself as flexibly and generalistically as possible, so that very different war scenarios can be worked on with the (almost) the same doctrine, structure and equipment. The more flexible and redundant the structure, the better, the sooner it will work in the as yet unknown image of war in the future.

    So what I like best about the Strike concept is its flexibility and the very wide range of uses of such an force.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Giving a UK Division and/or Allied Corps a Screening and Exploitation Force is clearly something valuable, but it somehow harks back to what German motorcycle bns did in the early years of the war – with great success. But then started taking casualties at a scale that saw them put inside tanks and the forerunners of todays 6×6/ 8×8 vehicles.

    For it to be possible to enable 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’ battle space one is brought to wonder why the number of vehicles for Joint-fires control is so small in the overall ‘Ajax’ order?

    I will plaud anyone who sets out a force structure within which armoured infantry brigades, as a component, can stay competitive for the cost. It would be too much to ask (upfront) for how long this could/ will hold (get the AFV upgrade prgrms rolling first; ask the question (again) next ❗ ).

    All in all, moving away from being too kit-centred in thinking can only be a good thing. A transformation that then can only be realised through a new (but not necessarily all-new) force mix is not really that different from transitioning a business: https://ceopedia.org/images/thumb/d/d0/McKinsey_matrix.png/300px-McKinsey_matrix.png

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  16. Congratulations on the article. It is certainly written in a lucid, succinct and incisive manner. It is also revelatory and much of it comes as “news to me”. I would therefore not agree with your assertion that the British Army has made public a “wealth” of information concerning Strike and I read quite a few military publications. I think rather that they have been extremely sparing with their revelations.

    I can accept that the rationale behind the Strike concept is/was “enabling better divisional-level manoeuvre.” And that, “in the simplest possible terms, it means giving a UK Division and/or Allied Corps a Screening and Exploitation Force.” Yes, but to me it has seemed that, before revealing such a clear and unambiguous rationale, the Army has proved to be more than somewhat slippery about the revelation of such an aim, seeming at times, indeed, to have others (aims, that is), one of them being speed in reaching trouble spots. In fact it was only a few years ago that I attended a British Army roadshow and asked a direct question about the aim behind Strike. I was given an answer that the Army wished to reach emergency trouble spots more quickly.

    The trouble with the speed to deploy argument is that often you do arrive “the firstest” but not with the “mostest”. I think that Simon Mugford comes closest to the real question when he says, “I guess the point is of all goes well, fantastic , but if it doesn’t you’re stuck in enemy territory potentially surrounded by MBTs in dispersed & isolated small groups of medium armour with a 40mm & 0.5inch HMG and personal weapons.”

    And it has happened. In the First Gulf War, the USA deployed units of an airborne division (I think the 82nd Airborne). Their armour consisted only of light Sheridan tanks and they spent what must have been quite a few nerve-racking days fearing an attack by Iraqi tanks, until the Abrams heavy tanks reached them. The real question to be answered is what do you do about the interval between Strike arriving and heavy armour arriving because in that period of time, the enemy’s heavy forces could decimate your lighter ones.

    jedpc, one of the best informed commentators on here, puts it well when he says, “what good is the strike ethos going to be when the dispersed company sized groups are cut off, defeated in detail because they lack organic firepower, oh and because we have no money to invest in fires.” Jed, by the way, also thinks that the dismissal of Gabriele’s criticisms is mistaken and I would certainly add my support to that. I have been reading Gabriele’s articles for years and to me, his criticisms of Strike are penetrating, searching and what’s more, remain highly relevant, even after reading the article by Strike Prophet. I hope that jed’s prediction of Strike becoming a classic British “fudge” does not prove t be correct but I fear the worst. The Army seems to have refined some problems almost out of existence

    Those who claim that “you cannot ignore kit” to me seem absolutely right. It is not just Artillery where the shortages lie, although we are woefully weak in that. Take, for instance, this notion that the Strike elements will act as a screening force. Doesn’t screening imply in certain contexts protection of the flanks, and doesn’t that sometimes have to bring in the whole question of laying minefields. Where are the Army’s minelayers now? Or am I using “screening” in a whole different sense?

    Interesting debate, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Jed, one of the v few occations where you contradict yourself:

    “the conclusion I come to is that Strike is a badly thought out Divisional / Corps “Cavalry” Brigade – the author mentions screening for a Division or a Corps. Well we can barely field a division, which would include this screening brigade, and if we are screening for a NATO multi-national Corps, then why not let other nations provide the heavy armour so that the strike brigade itself could be better equipped to do the job.”

    Well we can barely field a division [YES], which would include this screening brigade [but we can field this bde to be part of a MND mainly already in-situ; so their staying power and our speed of deploying will combine], and if we are screening for a NATO multi-national Corps, then why not let other nations provide the heavy armour so that [yeah, why not. And if we can get ONE of our two heav-ier, AI, bdes there in time… it can only help]

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  18. Thanks Accattd

    I am happy to be critiqued, but I am not actually sure where I contradicted myself based on your quotes.

    Let me put it this way, I am happy to see well resourced and equipped brigades used a screening force for an MND either in a Euro NATO Article 5 context, or a expeditionary coalition operation.

    However I don’t think we can actually afford to upgrade two armoured infantry brigades with quality kit, and equip two Strike brigades accordingly. So I doubt we could field a small division of two armoured brigades , with a Strike brigade acting as a Divisional Recce / Cavalry (“screening”) formation in way that could out manoeuvre or apply high volumes of fires in order to defeat a peer adversary, all while operating dispersed to avoid providing a juicy target for the enemies superior fires capabilities.

    I hope that helps, but in summary:
    1. Drop “Strike” and concentrate on hard as nails armoured infantry brigades
    Or
    2. Concentrate on new ways of doing things based on Strike that includes considerable fires capabilities: leave heavy tracked armour to allies.

    Because I think we are in fantasy land if we think we can finance both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the problem is we can kind of afford it because we’re getting two AI brigades for a couple of billion via upgrade, but having four ‘heavies’ will be unsustainable in the future, they should maybe have leapfrogged straight to a future structure and banked the difference.
      Ajax has skewed the whole thing imho because it has gravity, saying that, they could (as you have said) have focused Ajax to create some big recce regiments freeing Boxer to run around hitting things.
      If they could cancel Ajax and get the three and a half billion back in its entirety, then sitting down at a table would they buy Ajax again do you think? Or would they be rolling out a division of Boxers and calling it a revolution?

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  19. An interesting and thought-provoking article.

    I’m not going to beat about the bush, I don’t agree with much of this article. I think the author should take into account that most of the contributors on this site have zero military experience, using words like kit junkies is not helpful, especially when most of the articles published on said site are about “Kit” and that is what brings the punters in.

    As mentioned before, an article written to clear up “what this strike thing is” does a good job in confusing things as seems to omit massive aspects of the principle of strike such as the idea of strategically mobile forces. Stating that a strike brigade is the same as a Corps covering force and will be used to screen the rest of 3 Div is an oversimplification to say the least. It also contradicts the idea of Strike being a new system, a new way of fighting and not just a re-hash of an old concept.

    “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”

    I’m not sure what this is implying or why it didn’t answer the question? “strike cannot survive against a peer competitor,” is the cornerstone of many naysayers’ arguments’ and demands an answer, yet nothing, no answer what so ever, just a condescending statement. What magic will a strike brigade be using that an armoured Inf brigade can’t?

    “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.”

    50% of the brigade is NOT in fact reconnaissance vehicles. The 2 regiments of Ajax have very different roles, one being brigade reccy the other being to support the dismounts as a tank would traditionally do in an Inf brigade, different tactics, training and missions. Is the author implying that the strike brigades are purely reconnaissance formations?

    “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”

    This I 100% agree with and makes complete sense.

    “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”

    This is somewhat misleading, Tracer, FRES, Scout, Ajax are not really linked to the Strike brigade concept. The requirement for this platform was penned decades before strike existed, yes there are similarities with FRES, rapidly deployable formations ect but that’s it.
    What is true, is that when the principle of strike was developed, the army chose an in-service platform that could best be used to enable it, hence Strike being platform agnostic. Ajax was chosen because it ticked quite a few of the required boxes, indeed not long after the idea of using Ajax for strike was made public, marketing material concerning Ajax had conveniently added data about how it is strike capable. This shouldn’t disguise the fact that Ajax is first and foremost a reconnaissance platform. (see below)

    “Ajax procurement pre-dates the Strike concept and its inclusion in Strike is an optional element to be employed as and when required, so it is important but not essential to the overall idea “ – RUSI

    “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”

    Any formation doesn’t need to have organic fires to use fires? What a pointless statement! The point still stands, organic or otherwise, fires are needed and none are available. Where are these none organic fires coming from and why can’t an armoured infantry brigade access them? Again, a half answer, what will be used to have a lethal effect on the enemy? a simple enough question.

    “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”

    The cornerstones of the strike principle, mobility and lethality! In the next paragraph it even states “High lethality is required” Unless there is some magical unit of measurement I’m missing about lethality, its still about getting rounds on target, its almost as if the subject is being dodged.

    “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”.”

    Let me say this with some conviction, we NEED a cannon-based weapon on Boxer!!! If there is no need for a cannon then why are we “escorting” boxers with Ajax? The need is there, the money is not, stop regurgitating marketing lines that cover up glaring holes in our capabilities.
    Strike is based on ISTAR and coms, agreed, but once you have found a target and reported it up, an effect then needs to happen, usually a kinetic one.

    “To paraphrase Wavell: “Amateurs talk 30mm cannons. Professionals talk communications and sensors”.”

    Every, and I mean EVERY modern nation with an 8X8 capability have mounted autocannons on their platforms, in the case of America to great expense. Every other country in the world are armatures, but no, not us, we are different. Look through old TV reports and defence articles from a few years ago, you will see why we don’t have autocannons.

    Early tag line, we don’t need cannons as Boxer is a replacement for Mastiff and not Warrior.

    2nd tag line. Strike is all about infantry density, that’s how we will operate in cities and towns, our firepower comes from the dismounts and if we mount a turret we loose 4 bods per Boxer.

    3rd Tag line, there is a new boxer module with a 30mm remote turret that allows for the same infantry density. That’s not how strike works, amateurs talk 30mm cannons.

    “For Strike to succeed it merely needs to be competitive with the enemy, as opposed to superior to the enemy”

    What enemy are we looking to be competitive with? Even our least threatening potential enemys operate autocannons.

    “wheels and tracks don’t mix,”

    Already covered, but no mention of strategic mobility, odd for an article on strike.

    “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.”

    An interesting statement that need to be looked into carefully.

    Firstly, this formation is a simple screening force and won’t be asked to do the things that a strike brigade will be asked to do.

    Secondly, this force is supported by Div and Corps fires, huge formations that we can only dream of having in modern times, even if we did the strike brigade could be operating way out of range of div fires.

    Thirdly, this force is screening a massive armoured formation, if it all goes wrong, they can withdraw behind a wall of steel, not the case for a strike brigade.

    Lastly, the most important one and probably the most telling. The formation you have described has a massive kinetic capability, especially for the time. 2 CVR(T) regiments armed to the teeth with 30mm cannons and long-range anti-tank missiles, Saladin armed with a punchy 76mm gun that can kill most things on the battlefield, a strike brigade can only hope for such firepower.
    If I took the hypothetical unit commanders, red trousers and all, and tell them “I’m taking away your cannons, your missiles, Div fires and I want you to do the same job, but don’t worry, your sights are really really good!” The first thing they will talk about will be 30mm cannons (like amateurs).

    This has turned into an essay in its self.

    To summarise, I now know less about Strike than I did an hour ago and I think this is an awful lot of words when a simple “we just can’t afford it right now” would have suffice.

    BV

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nail, this is hammer, over……

      B.V. your comment turned essay is spot on. Thank you.

      I had just returned to read the article again and write a long comment much like yours, however I would never have done it so well.

      It really does boil down to – “Strike was an awesome concept (which we mostly kept to ourselves) but we cannot afford it as originally envisioned” , but we don’t seem to want an honest dialogue but what it is or isn’t, what the Army of the future looks like based on what can be afforded.

      Unlike the rest of the kit junkies, I have 16 years in two arms of the UK services, I have been deployed with less than optimal kit, and yes some times our awesome training and fortitude paid off. Other people were less lucky.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Last para of last comment had typos which makes it seem untoward – there maybe many who comment here with more pertinent experience than me. What I meant to say was not all the kit junkies are completely naive !

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    2. Very good BV! A well reasoned critique. I’m no squaddie but I would think from a soldiers point of view I’d want as much armour and firepower around me as humanly possible.

      As someone who believes in a strong conventional deterrent I think the army is in a depressing condition and it should really be national priority to rectify this. Unfortunately, politically it is on nobody’s agenda…

      There are times when I wonder is the “army fit for purpose?” or perhaps the question should be “what purpose is the army fit for?”

      We are where we are because of decades of poor leadership, decision making and programme management in the MOD… It’s an oxymoron to be having a Strategic Defence Review every five or six years.

      As with much else in the public sector there is simply an aversion within our political establishment to spending enough to do things properly.

      I think the meds are kicking in now

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ” We are where we are because of decades of poor leadership, decision making and programme management in the MOD… It’s an oxymoron to be having a Strategic Defence Review every five or six years.”

        Well MoD has many thousands of highly qualified people in DE&S, DSTL (& their predecessor organisations) as well as in its military capabilities branches. It could be that uniquely incompetent (but nevertheless strangely highly qualified) people gravitate to MoD civil service and the armed services and that every single government since at least WW2 has been powerless to prevent this happening, or perhaps it might be something else.

        In terms of strategic reviews every five or six years I seem to recall that the last labour government was heavily criticised for not holding a Strategic Defence Review for over a decade after the 1998 one (note that the US holds its rough equivalent every 4 years). Whatever the frequency of reviews should be the combination of Brexit, Coronavirus and Russian behaviour are good reasons for holding one now.

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    3. I do agree with you. I found the article confusing and contradictory and frankly worrying that the author was give. such a hagiographic build up.
      The Army needs to put its money where it’s mouth is and not put its foot in there.

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  20. Hmm… the article fails to address strategic mobility. Simply saying ” wheels and tracks are and have been regularly mixed together in theatre with established logistics” isn’t enough to address the glaring gaps in publicly available doctrine and, yes, equipment to cover this aspect of Strike.

    The article fails to convince me that Strike – which I think has the potential to be an effective concept – will be properly resourced or realistically conceptualised for an over-match or peer scenario.

    If I am completely honest I regard the current direction of travel as generating the defeated-in-detail penny-packet forces that the British Army likes to sacrifice in the name of flexibility before it is forced to get serious in terms of doctrine, tactics and training.

    Fervently hope I am talking out of my arse.

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  21. I may have been overly critical but the opening statement “The author has unmatched credibility in writing this piece” got my hopes up.

    I think the problem we have is understanding the differences between the principles (theory) of strike and the application (practicalities) of strike.

    Just for a bit of fun.

    The same applies to everything that is theory, your theory driving test for example is vehicle agnostic, its not about how big the vehicle is are or how many gears you have, it is just theory. Now move onto your practical driving test, although the theory is the overarching framework, you now need to look at if the car is an automatic or manual, where is the wiper switch ect, this is not vehicle agnostic and when you find your self turning right at a roundabout in heavy traffic, the conversation is 100% about where the hell is the indicator switch. It wont help if your instructor looks at you and in a condescending tone and says “Driving is all about principle, an ethos, only amateurs talk about indicators”.

    The simple truth is, in order to stop the Army becoming obsolete we need a strike capability, the bare minimum being 2 brigades with the bare minimum of two battalions in each. The fact is we just cant afford four battalions of turreted boxer, it was RWS or nothing, we need to start somewhere and 4 simple battalions is a good first base. From here we can develop more complex and expensive capabilities until we have two highly capable strike brigades. As stated in the article, this is a journey and we have only just stepped out the front door.

    You cant go from passing your driving test one day to becoming a formula one driver in the other, it takes time and investment.

    (Formula one cars don’t have indicators by the way)

    BV

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘I may have been overly critical’

      You were correct with your critique and it was clear the article was written with dripping disdain for the ‘Arm Chair Generals’ but the fact remains it has not answered the questions properly because it was written from this view point to begin with and actually opens up more questions.

      Ajax is an all singing and dancing, digitised vehicle but is Boxer? Do the Infantry recieve the info from Ajax in the same manner, If I kill Ajax do I blind the Infantry?

      Strategic mobility has still not been answered and at the tactical level over the distances envisioned some problems will arise.

      Ajax will not be able to fully take advantage of it’s tracks over rough terrain as it will need to stay with the Infantry who will cover the terrain at a slower pace in a wheeled vehicle, and when you want to cover a greater distance Boxer will not be able to take advantage of it’s road speed with Ajax trailing.

      CVRT is a great little vehicle which has good all round performance and speed on and off roads Ajax does not. Over a smaller frontage that is not a problem but we are talking much larger distances here.

      Non of the logs were answered when many commentators are interested and asking how this will work in regard to distributed ops.

      Fires were glossed over (Personally I think it’s a case of our allies will supply but we dont want to admit that out loud, ‘We will never fight alone you know!’)

      Mobility and counter mobility were not even mentioned considering the large frontage and the need for screening the brigade will be tasked with.

      This Strike brigade is a fudge and it’s a fudge because we spaffed a ton of money on Ajax. How anyone came to the conclusion that Ajax was the priority base vehicle needed when they looked at the Army’s vehicle fleet and future requirements in I have no idea.

      How many vehicles could we have replaced if we spent the money on MIV and MRVP.

      The author themselves state that the sight is more important so you cannot tell me that either Boxer or MRVP could not have been used to cover the Ajax role.

      Like I said we have come full circle to FRES ways of thinking. FRES however was a more coherant programme with a family of vehicles in a multitude of variants to cover all the aspects of a combined arms manouver force coupled with improved ISTAR etc this is faux FRES.

      Alarm bells should have been ringing when the Bde’s were named Strike.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Well if the MOD is so full of geniuses then how come their programme management and actual delivery of ANY and EVERY major defence procurement contract is so poor? Always late, always over budget, full of compromises, and it only works half the time. Nimrod, Zircon, Chevaline, Watchkeeper? We have destroyers with power plants that don’t work in hot weather, and have no ASMs, floating coffins, sorry aircraft carriers, with no Sam’s – I mean I could go on…

    An SDR is essentially a cover for front line cuts. Given the appalling effectiveness of the MOD and the attached Ruperts (and we have dozens more than foreign forces of comparable size, funny that) then changing your defence priorities every few years is just a recipe for further delays and confusion. Thought that would be obvious.

    The people involved and responsible may indeed by very bright and brilliant, on the other hand they may not actually be any good at doing something useful and practical like delivering an intended outcome on time, and to budget… But what do I know?!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Facts all the way. Or tell me where I’m wrong. Challenger SLEP, Warrior SLEP, Foxhunter radar, Nimrod AEW, SA80, FRES, FFLV…those lovely submarines that threatened to flood when the torpedo tubes were used…

        Liked by 1 person

  23. Orlok.

    Your not wrong, we are terrible at procuring expensive equipment, but this is the same across most countries. It is a tad unfair to blame the “ruperts” in charge, the problem is more complex and multifaceted than that. The way the budget is allocated with no l flex, the people who write up the specification taking too long, the officers that run the projects changing way too often, the defence companies deliberately adding legal clauses, the insane competition law to name a few.

    Foxhunter radar? talk about holding a grudge, let it go.

    Can we name any large projects that were delivered on time and cost?

    BV

    Like

    1. BV Thank you for making my point exactly!

      Sea Eagle Missile, what happened to that? Did it ever work? Alarm ARM, retired for why? Merlin MMR mortar round, the Astute Class reactor debacle, carrier CATS and TRAPS…delays, indecisions, revisions, reverse ferrets. The MOD housing PFI contract, Army recruitment, Pilot Training, the ridiculous privatisation of the RAF Tanker fleet (!)

      Does anyone seriously think the Tempest will ever fly? Or enter service?

      The fact that other countries are also rubbish at something doesn’t mean we could and can’t do better. We don’t have to set the standard for stupidity and incompetence.

      I’m not singling out the top brass for criticism (I believe the they are referred to as Hugos rather than Rupert these days) there is plenty of blame to go across the whole sector. But why is nobody ever held accountable? When was anybody ever fired? Why do we get so little for our 36bn defence budget?

      And that is why we end up with an army, as I suggested before, isn’t fit for purpose.

      Nice shiny aircraft carrier though! I mean no SAMs, no actual airwing, and not enough sailors… Details dear boy…

      I am a confirmed cynic, no denying! But neither am I short of evidence to support my position.

      To the relief of all I’ll shut up now 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You didn’t even mention the airtanker – orlok
        or the sale of an LSD for virtually peanuts or the reduction of A400m from 24 to 22 & planning to junk the whole C130 fleet including J models meanwhile troops are being deployed all over the world. Yes these were financially led , but the 1SL has come in saying he has too many high level officers- How come we sacrificed real needed capability yet we still have too many high ranking officers in all services?How much in savings did the sacrificing of these capabilities actually deliver? How many of the decisions link to strategic thinking?

        Like

  24. Interestingly our army, the US army has also realized that it needs more divisional and corps level reconnaissance. The US Army I think is right to want a corps or divisional cavalry force, especially after the great success of the 2nd and 3rd ACR’s in 1991 and 1/7 Cav in 2003.

    My first question is if the British Army has the capability to not only move forward the strike brigades but also the following armoured brigades. Does it have enough HET’s, fuel trucks, and enough trucks for all the artillery ammunition to move a division fast enough to eastern Europe to make an impact?

    Looking at what is being proposed with the strike brigade as a corps screening force I have to ask why 2 strike brigades? With such limited resources, a single strike brigade could screen a corps including a UK division with the conventional 3 brigades with 3 battalions. Other NATO members could contribute a division or 2 and corps level resources such as artillery, signals, logistics could come from several different nations including the UK of course.

    Looking at strike from a more UK only point of view the next question I have is about organic firepower, fires, and organization. First, because of doctrine and/or budget reasons the strike brigades lack organic firepower. This is fine since the brigades are meant as cavalry force and these brigades are simply doing reconnaissance by stealth not reconnaissance by force. I prefer recon by force but that is my opinion. But as others have pointed out then the rest of the division supporting the strike brigade should have lots of firepower. So this leads me to ask a few questions.
    1) Why is the British army reducing its remaining tank numbers further? Even with only 2 armoured brigades, the current number of 227 operational tanks should still be the goal. Looking at 1st Armoured in 1991 it had 180 front line tanks or so which is what the current 227 tanks would allow for. There is no reason, except a budgetary reason, to reduce tank numbers.
    2) Again in 1991, the UK 1st armoured had 4 RA regiments at divisional level to call on. Could the army find enough personal to raise an additional MLRS regiment to give it more divisional level firepower?
    3. Lastly but most importantly does the UK have enough other assets to help exploit what the strike brigades find? This is intelligence, AWACS aircraft, recon aircraft, and fighters to act on the information gained by the strike brigade.

    I’ll stop here since my post is already long enough. Overall, the article was great and it allowed me to better understand the purpose of the strike brigades as more of a reconnaissance force.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Defense with an “S”

      “My first question is if the British Army has the capability to not only move forward the strike brigades but also the following armoured brigades. Does it have enough HET’s, fuel trucks, and enough trucks for all the artillery ammunition to move a division fast enough to eastern Europe to make an impact?”

      Simple answer, no for the HETs but yes for the rest, the MANN truck program was delivered before many of the defence cuts so we have plenty in service, this doesn’t necessarily mean we have the regiments to operate them.

      “Looking at what is being proposed with the strike brigade as a corps screening force I have to ask why 2 strike brigades? With such limited resources, a single strike brigade could screen a corps including a UK division with the conventional 3 brigades with 3 battalions. Other NATO members could contribute a division or 2 and corps level resources such as artillery, signals, logistics could come from several different nations including the UK of course.”

      The issue with that is we need to deploy an independent UK division, relying on other countries for support undermines our standing in NATO and reduces our deterrent effect. Also, take into account that said countries forces will be fighting for their lives, I doubt other countries will remove their combat power to help us out.

      “This is fine since the brigades are meant as cavalry force and these brigades are simply doing reconnaissance by stealth not reconnaissance by force.”

      Don’t read too much into strike brigades being a recon force, they are not, this article is somewhat misleading an is some parts just plain wrong. I think the author of the article is transposing his previous knowledge and experiences into what he understands what strike is. Strike is not a recon force, yes it has a recon function but that is just one tool in a huge tool box.

      When carrying out a form of recon the strike brigade will be using recon through force, that is what Ajax is for, recon through stealth is dead, technology has killed it, we just cant hide anymore.

      I think all three questions you have asked can be answered with “COST”, we are broke, out AFV fleet is in turmoil and it will cost a huge amount of time and money to make competitive again.

      BV

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the reply. To clarify what I meant about a corps was a multinational corps with UK division that can be fielded independently and an allied division MND from, for example, the Netherlands and Belgium. So a second echelon force with a screening provided by strike brigade reporting to the corps commander. I agree with the Army being a mess and doesn’t have enough money to correct its equipment issues

        The author is presenting the strike brigade as a cavalry force so I am assuming he is not misleading everyone.

        Finally, if there are not enough HETs and logistic units to move a British division to eastern Europe as fast as possible then talking about boxer, ajax, and other equipment is useless.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Why should we have tanks?
      Where would we put them?
      How could we get them there?

      Corps?? — are you mad? We have effectively 1 Division! Maybe.

      This is all rubbish.
      The army do not know what they’ve got, not what they want and don’t know where they are going.

      Like

  25. I’ll have a stab at this:
    ” I have to ask why 2 strike brigades? With such limited resources, a single strike brigade could screen a corps including a UK division ”
    1. Readiness cycle; one (only) could only have parts of it in readiness at any given time
    2. Utility (as a medium force) in other scenarios (without the ‘heavies’) or contemporaneously sent to a different front/ theatre

    Much in favour adding a GMLRS rgmnt
    – we can do it with reserves
    – and we need to procure the AW warhead to be able to also deal with spread-out targets at distance

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  26. Never fear! RE
    “An extra MLRS regiment would be good but I only think we have 48 (ish) on our books so a purchase will be necessary.”

    We buy the new ones on wheels (HIMARS) and man them with regulars, as the Strike Bde s will the first to “roll”
    – the units on tracks will be manned by reservists as their call up and 30 days warning for the AI Bdes deployment must align somewhere… would it be Saturn or Mars; depends on the year, I guess

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    1. I really can’t see the point of HIMARS I wish everyone would stop banging on like its the next big thing its an MLRS cut in half!
      You can mount an MLRS on a MAN truck how mobile do you really need your rocket artillery? Unless you’re going to break the Geneva convention and stick it in the middle of a small town or take it down a mountainous pass?! If you go from standard rockets to something like deep strike or atacms you get one missile! Look what the South Koreans have done with chunmoo system we could probably buy that for a 3rd of the price of HIMARS – I apologize in advance in just one of my triggers!

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      1. What is the price of HIMARS, does anyone know?

        I will NEVER go to war in something called a “chunmoo”, it sounds like the next Disney hit movie! (I’m thinking a ninja cow)

        BV

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    2. Chunmoo is interesting with its different rockets. If the British Army adopted it then it could be named Rocket Universal Precision Effects Range Traversable – RUPERT.

      Liked by 2 people

  27. Hello BV.

    Sorry for getting a bit ranty… You’re correct in that the problem in defence procurement is a gravy train that is probably beyond reform, and certainly won’t self correct.

    I think it’s a fair point to suggest some changes so I will give it some thought and post tomorrow!

    Like

      1. OK it’s time to get my homework marked. BV asked what I would suggest to improve UKs defence procurement so here are my ideas! I have zero inside knowledge and there are some things which will be the bleedin obvious no doubt.

        Defence procurement and project management has been a mess in HMG for decades and you can make the case that there are similar problems across Whitehall e.g. universal benefit, NHS IT systems. Much of these problems stem from, in my view, a political culture that refuses to acknowledge and own mistakes, and a lack of accountability either within the government or the civil service. Despite the work done by the NAO and Parliamentary select committees the tax payer, and the public sector workers (I include service men and women here) continue to get a poor deal. Mistakes within project procurement or management seem to be endlessly repeated with no lessons learnt. There is self evidently far to many close and cosy relationships between the public sector and their private sector providers. Too many revolving gravy doors if you will. The fact that civil servants and their ministers continually move between departments further dilutes decision-making and ownership. There is a serious lack of accountability and openness. In my view these problems have become so entrenched it is now in nobody’s but the public interest to try and rectify them. Tackling such vested interests is too complex and political for this post and forum, but maybe there are some principles we could employ to improve defence procurement IF the military/political/ industrial complex where flexible enough to allow.

        A difficult problem but let’s have a go…
        In no particular order :

        1) Don’t reinvent the wheel/Buy off the shelf e.g. Boxer. Too often we spend hundreds of millions on a system, only to cancel it after ten years when we could have bought something that worked years previously…
        2) Stop trying to find the perfect weapon. Is it just me or do the Service Chiefs love to get suckered by the defence firms and their tantalising new toys?? E.g. SPEAR 4…if you want a replacement for Storm Shadow just buy a load of JASSMs, don’t get MBDA to build you an all singing alternative which is 10 years late into service. JASSM is good enough for the USAF and USN, so it’s good enough for us. Plus it works.
        3) Let some other schmuck pay for the development costs (see above). This approach works perfectly well for most other countries.
        4) Avoid pointless penny pinching which compromises the systems effectiveness. E.g. Saving money by leaving Warriors cannon without stabilisation/C2 Commander not having an independent night sight.
        5) Ruthless commonality. Drive down life cycle costs by reducing the variety of platforms and increasing commonality between them – e.g. Boxer and Ajax share the same engine, Ajax and C2 SLEP share the same sights. Let’s go further, choose one RWS and use it across as many vehicles as possible, same for turrets, same for armaments and electronic systems, APS etc. There is obviously plenty of scope to rationalise the Army’s vehicle fleet although you may have to spend money to save money (called thinking ahead, something the treasury finds hard to grasp).
        6) Invest in fleet management, maintenance and repair. The best ability is availability. Saves money in the long run. Look after your toys, boys.
        7) Don’t worry about the cutting edge…good enough/what works is what we need. E.g. GOAT is good if it can do the job (and there are loads out there to choose from). Same for lots of other stuff.
        8) HOWEVER, there are certain areas where it pays to keep up with the Putins, e.g. submarines/ASW, air superiority fighters, skimping on these things may be false economies…
        9) Build under licence, ties in with the previous principles. So what if it wasn’t invented here? Can we build it? E.g. Boxer/Ajax.
        10) Once you have decided what you want DON’T change the specification or the requirement. Insist on getting it right first time. Countless examples of how procurement has been derailed by customer confusion…
        11) Be ruthless. Our real enemy ain’t the Ruskis it’s BAe Systems!!! HMG has enormous buying power yet fails to use it effectively too often. If contractors don’t like our terms of business then walk away. E.g. Norway withdrawing from the Archer programme and buying K9 SPGs from Korea! Insist on a voting place on the board as a condition of the contract. Nationalise production if we need to protect jobs and expertise. Get serious. Financial penalties for the provider not the customer. OR
        12) Be prepared to buy abroad. Every other part of the manufacturing sector has been left to dwindle, why are we so precious about defense? Shake up the cosy relationships, e.g. even the French are buying German assault rifles…
        13) For each contract appoint a team from the MOD to manage it from beginning to end with promotion dependant upon completion and cost management.
        14) Each project should be subject to routine simultaneous internal and independent audit with information fed directly to the NAO, OPBR, and the defence select Committee…Highlight waste and inefficiency.
        15) Prioritise delivery, commission and proceed as quickly as possible. Surely this saves money. Eg C2 SLEP, decision to go ahead delayed indefinitely. This will only increase the costs per unit; again, has happened on countless occasions in other projects.
        16) We are not USA don’t worry about not having every capability. Prioritise. We live in Europe and belong to NATO. We need to defend our air, sea, land and cyber space and be able to support our continental allies. Buy and equip ourselves accordingly. Define what we NEED to be able to do.

        About as much as I can manage with my limited brain and typing skills… Feel free to pull it apart, it is just to promote some discussion and necessarily I haven’t gone into great detail. So, yes there are lots of holes!

        Tackling and reforming an entrenched bureaucracy is a formidable task, and I don’t have a sensible plan for that in itself, but maybe the points made above might help said bureaucracy do a better job of delivery.

        What do people think? I certainly believe we should get much more for our annual 40bn defence budget!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Orlok

        Here is an example of project audit for Mechanised Infantry Warrior CSP.

        External audit

        Click to access IPA_AR_MajorProjects2018-19_web.pdf


        Page 35, at the bottom, Delivery Confidence Assessment for the last 4 years: Amber, Amber/Red, Red, Red. Red means basically unachievable.

        Internal audit

        Click to access 20200218_EP19_v1_1-O.PDF


        Page 51: cost increase 227 million, delivery slip 52 months.
        Page 36, RH column, paragraph second from bottom: The Permanent Secretary as Accounting Officer considered that the project should proceed.

        I have my opinions on this but I’ll leave this comment with just the public data.

        Like

      3. Hi BV.

        I see in the paper the Defence select Committee have just given the MOD another hammering over nuclear projects running over budget and late, and complaing that this is recurring problem with same mistakes made over and over again… 🙄. Mad innit?!

        Like

    1. With a limited number of indents and necessary time for moderation, threads can be disjointed. Thanks to Nicholas for his work in keeping things going.

      Like

  28. Procurement – I understand Orlok’s points the reality however is that UK’s defence procurement problems are by no means unique internationally. For example, the continued availability issues with France’s Charles de Gaulle carrier, France’s troubled SSN programme, Australia’s troubled Collins class SSK programme and its just as troubled replacements (interestingly SSK versions of France’s latest SSN), Australia’s supportability problems with most of its major naval vessels, Germany’s failure to procure a Eurohawk surveillance drone that could operate in its airspace after having actually procured it, then scrapping it, then standing up a new technical agency to learn from the failure, then repeating the failure and then abandoning the entire project after well over a decade trying, the ignominious withdrawing from service of German military’s G36 rifle (the one many years ago some were salivating over as a potential SA80 replacement), and the troubled development of the Franco/ German/ Italian NH90 helicopter, with a gestation even longer than Eurofighter. Add to all this Australia’s dissatisfaction with its Tiger attack helicopters, and America’s troubled armoured vehicles programmes (remember Future Combat System?) lasting perhaps even longer than the UK’s and it becomes clear that defence procurement woes are neither restricted to Britain nor is there real evidence that it’s worse than international comparators. I could go on and on with examples but before I shut up check out Spain’s S80 submarine programme for an eyebrow raiser!

    What the UK is really good at however is shining a spotlight on its procurement problems and public spending issues overall, not just in defence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good comments.
      I thought France were replacing their bullpup for a version of the G36.
      What are the Germans replacing their G36 with?

      Like

      1. France ‘s new rifle is the HK416 ultimately based on the M16 rifle / M4 carbine lineage. German G36 replacement competition is still on-going.

        Like

    2. ‘What the UK is really good at however is shining a spotlight on its procurement problems’

      And then changing nothing so the problems persist.

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      1. And my example of the persistent problem of WCSP: Project Performance Summary Table in 2016 forecast an in-service date 20 months later than at approval, 2017 increased to 39 months, 2018 52 months, 2019 still 52 months.

        To me, the fundamental problem here and generally is Attitude.

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      2. I think you’ll find even NAO (with their accountant and auditors’ perspectives) have conceded that MoD procurement is steadily improving. They nevertheless rightly highlight the minority (yes I’ll repeat it the minority) of projects which fall outside their approved performance, cost, time envelope (that’s their job clearly), which funnily enough also tend to be the types of complex and sophisticated projects which UK’s international partners have big problems with (e.g. one might well complain about engines on the Type 45 destroyer, but then take a look at the USN’s Zumwalt class destroyer which is designed around a main armament whose unique ammunition has been cancelled and thus whose guns may now never be able to fire.)

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      3. One of the things that stands out for me about T45 was that when interviewed by the Defence Select Committee BAe Systems engineers admitted they knew the power plant wouldn’t work properly but hadn’t told the MOD. When asked why none of them could account for this error (ie they kept quiet hoping no one would notice).

        Yes those Zumwalt class cruisers are a massive embarrassment, and the LCS a bad idea the USN is looking to decommission… But they got money to burn that we don’t.

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      4. The issue with the AGS on the Zumwalt class is not technical, it’s economic. We were originally supposed to get a class of 32 ships and each ship was supposed to carry something like AGS 1000 rounds which made developing the new rounds for the AGS affordable and cost effective. Then the class size by got reduced by 90% from 32 to 3. Because of that reduction, the development costs of the AGS round that were amortized over 32000+ rounds were now amortized over something like 3000+ rounds (using ship magazine size for illustration purposes to get the concept across). So if at 32000 rounds the amortized dev cost added $500/round, then dropping the buy to 3000 would change that dev cost to around $5300/round, a ten fold increase, which could not be stomached.

        IMO the Zumwalt as a ship is not an embarrassment. What is an embarrassment is how our shortsighted Congress cut the class by 90% which, as a result, effectively castrated the ship’s original design intent and reason for being.

        Hopefully the Zumwalt design will be used as a starting point for our Large Surface Combatant program so we can get a further return on the investment that were made to develop the Zumwalt class.

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      5. I think that Congress saw the writing on the wall there fella…

        The Zumwalt is a 16000 ton, 3 billion dollar turkey, the guns being just one of its problems. Its less combat capable than a regular Arleigh Burke destroyer which is half the size. It’s a cracking example of why you should a) make sure something works before you buy it and b) never believe a defence contractor’s promises. The navy could have bought 2/3 other combatants for the same money.

        I think it’s an evolutionary dead end as a warship and the USN doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with the ugly step child.

        Another balls up is the Ford class carriers – I’m no expert but I can’t help thinking it would be a good idea to make sure those electromagnetic catapults and lifts actually work before you fit them in a 13 billion dollar ship.

        Still, in the UK, a fuck up that size would probably earn you a Knighthood…

        Take it easy, dude.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Who’s not taking it easy? I was just explaining that the major issue with Zumwalt was not technical in nature but was a result of the intended class buy being cut by 90% which had the result of all development costs being spread out over 3 ships instead of 32 which caused the huge increase in per ship cost.

        I disagree that it’s an evolutionary dead end but that’s a conversation that’s unrelated to the subject of this article.

        Like

      7. Type 45 destroyer, but then take a look at the USN’s Zumwalt class destroyer which is designed around a main armament whose unique ammunition has been cancelled
        -BAE for the ships; BAE for the ammunition
        – one can cross the ocean to find fish… but it isn’t necessary

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      8. NAO stopped Major Project Reports in 2015 and these were replaced by MoD in-house PPST with NAO auditing the processes. The PPST 2019 has 23 projects under DE&S with 2 having ISD not set. Of the other 21, 1 is ahead of schedule, 10 are forecast to be on time and 10 are late. That is poor performance. The example I looked at, WCSP, is the worst performer on schedule and performance has not improved, it’s got worse.

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    3. The G36 is actually a very good weapon. In the early 1990s, at the time it was being developed, the German Army specified that it had to be able to fire an agreed number of rounds within an hour and then after 30 minutes of being allowed to cool, it had to be able to repeat the process. H&K said that the requirement did not reflect how the weapon might actually be used in combat and recommended a higher specification. But it was all about cost, not absolute performance. H&K could have added a metal bracket that would have created a more rigid support for the sight. This was rejected as it would have added cost. Fast forward to Afghanistan, and the intense firefights caused the gun to overheat. In some situations, the sight alignment became skewed due to the polymer receiver expanding. This created a fuss. The German Government tried to sue H&K. H&K counter-sued, showed the document where they showed that their recommendations had been ignored, and won the case. Net result, German Army will get a new rifle and H&K will build it. More than likely this will be the HK416 bought by USMC, Norway, France, KSK and other SF units. In reality, a modified G36 could do the job very well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting about the G36! I think you can trust H&K to get things right! We could do with those 416s rather than re-manufacture the SA80 for the 2nd time. Lordy.

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      2. Yes. The HK416 is superb. They’ve actually gone one better with the HK433 which combines the best features of the G36 and HK416. I think the proven nature of the HK416 makes it a default choice and I agree, I’d love to see the British Army issue this weapon… in 6.5 mm Creedmoor.

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      3. Three models are currently still in the race: the MK556 from Haenel, the HK416 and the HK433 (both logically from hk).

        When the remaining offers are checked for the first time, none of them meet the criteria that the Bundeswehr requested. Now the weapons were checked again, new criteria agreed and allegedly at least one of the weapons now meets the requirements. The decision should be made in the second quarter of 2020, but is now likely to be delayed due to Corona. The HK433 would be the best choice in my opinion and it is rumored that indeed the HK433 will become the new assault rifle.

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  29. @ PaulSergeant

    Actually to me that looks not bad. The reason being that Govt major projects delivery date is based not on an absolute ‘not to exceed’ date but rather uses probabilistic monte-carlo analysis (also known as schedule risk analysis) to work the date on which there is a 50:50 probability it will be delivered on (i.e. if one takes a large random sample one would expect 50 % of such projects to be ‘on time’ and 50% to be ‘late’) and to set this as the data date for delivery. The same goes for delivery cost, it’s required by the treasury to be based on a 50:50 probability. This is also the practice in the private sector for major projects. If you wanted to increase this 50% probability to, say 90%, you of course could. However the date on which one is 90% certain of delivering would be clearly much farther in the future than the 50% certainty date (& indeed the contracted cost would be much higher too). In summary, what your PPST data is saying to me is that across the portfolio of projects analysed, as a portfolio delivery performance was pretty much bang-on what should be expected.

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    1. Major projects have many activities/tasks/work packages whatever terminology. 50% over or under across all the packages should bring the project in on time. 10 out of 21 projects on time is not bang-on, it’s poor. Above project level, 10 projects late and 1 early, is not 50% it’s poor. Having data showing poor performance and doing nothing is… poor is a restrained adjective.

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      1. Have to side with JT here as 50 over and 50 under does not average out, due to critical dependencies (which are not all from finish-to-start in their type, but those are the ones that have most down the line effect).

        However this MC mandated by Treasury seems like an “optical device” – for the same reason. MC simulation itself is a means for dealing with non-normal distributions. However, if you don’t use the path-dependent simulation (where the dependencies can be accounted for, assuming that the major ones have been identified – the machine won’t do t for you) then the results are superficial… and in a major, ie. large and complex project could be dead wrong.

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  30. “50% over or under across all the packages should bring the project in on time”; actually that’s mathematically incorrect. I seem to remember there’s a good article on Wikipedia if you want to brush up on Bayesian maths. It is the entire project that’s planned for 50% probability of achieving its delivery date, which means that 50% of projects should be on time or early and 50% late. I’m sorry but that’s the way the public and private sectors tend to define project delivery dates. Over a large enough sample this should bear out at 50%. 10 out of 21 is actually 48% in a project system that is designed and resourced to achieve 50% of projects being on time. Rather than poor, 48% (out of a small sample) seems pretty close to the 50% of projects that would be mathematically expected to achieve their ‘expected’ date.

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    1. @ accattd

      You’re right that Monte Carlo simulation needs to be handled with great care. It is of course only as good as the input data and assumptions (e.g. should a triangular distribution be used quite so much as it traditionally is?). That all said my experience is that the results of the modelling are often open to misinterpretation. In particular the shape (particularly any skew) of the resulting probability distribution often needs close examination as of course do the underlying assumptions. However the bottom line is that a project delivery date is predicated upon only a 50% probability of achievement, and deliberately so. One shouldn’t be surprised therefore if half of all projects don’t make their delivery date; in fact mathematically one should expect it. Fiendishly complex projects, with concomitantly as complex Monte Carlo simulations, introduce further unquantifiable uncertainties. Project managers often quite justifiably feel that they’re too often being judged against standards which few outside the world of project management understand.

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    2. Aside from maths, the projects run over a long time (typically) and as the risk will inevitably change along the way – down towards the very end, but in an unknown way along the ‘journey’… the project system was actually set up with risk buffers. So that overcushioning in the financial estimates would not be the practice – the ‘extra’ always ends up in the supplier’s pocket – and the portfolio effect (+s and -s) would help to keep the contingency (buffer) down
      – for various reasons the affordability gap grew so large that the buffers were allocated (eaten up) a couple of years ago, so that the picture to the outside would look prettier
      – the result is that some of the workings to that desired end that were set up may still be running, to no end, but rather as an overhead
      – a ‘reset’ is always possible, like coming out of this Integrated Review??

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    3. J.T. please be consistent with your arguments. You said I would find that NAO had conceded that MoD procurement is steadily improving. When I told you NAO stopped producing the MPR in 2015, you said no more on that argument.

      You stressed the minority (yes I’ll repeat it the minority) of projects fall outside their envelope. You then changed your argument to 48% on time is pretty close to the expected 50%. That leaves 52% outside the envelope, close but not a minority.

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      1. Ah no PaulSerheant I didn’t change my argument. I said that 48% of the NAO’s sample of 21 projects were on time or early. I then went on to say that a larger sample size would show a likely better picture, especially if it’s a random sample since audits tend to focus on a few noteworthy projects rather than true randomly sampled ones
        .
        Bear in mind that MoD has an awful lot more than 21 major projects, indeed I believe that DE&S’ project portfolio (of all sizes) is still well over a thousand projects. Looking at the portfolio of MoD projects shows steady progress with significant issues in a minority. Bear in mind that a project delivering in the 50% of those which miss their 50 : 50 expected date doesn’t mean that they’ve necessarily failed, rather the time criterion has been defined in a manner that means you’d expect 50% to always be on or before their expected date and 50% later than this. This detail however is rarely exposed in audit reports.

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      2. J.T. I define major projects those reported by the MoD in the annual Defence Equipment Plan. In 2019 that was 23 under DE&S. certainly there are many more projects but this are not deemed by MoD to be major enough to report. I reduced the number to 21 because there was no approved in-service date (I used the abbreviation ISD) for 2 projects.

        You gave 48% (correctly) for the number on time. You made a small slip in your last post saying this number were on time or early.

        Now to your changing argument. I don’t know the data for the larger pool of projects. I understand you expect 50% are not on time (or is it not early or not on time?). Previously you stated, and repeated for emphasis, that a minority of projects were not on time (outside the envelope you put it). So which is it, around 50% or an emphatic minority?

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  31. I don’t think you can address the problems with procurement from the military side without a few fundamantal changes.

    1. Project management and procurement should be a career stream that officers and SNCO’s can diverge onto at a specific point in their careers.

    2. All trade training for officers and soldiers should be carried out in the same colleges etc as the uk industry leaders ie RollsRoyce, Construction Industry Training Board etc. This will allow the armed forces to keep up with best industry practices and emerging concepts and technologies and have the experience to quickly lock onto tech and practices that can benefit the military quicker and disregard which will not fit.

    3. The lack of institutional memory within the armed forces (the Army especially) needs to be addressed.

    (Strike is still a fudge due to procurement failures and poor leadership)

    Like

    1. Point 3, I think, is the most important. As for professonalisation, one needs to consider the levels of who does what
      1. The project manager is often from the industry (The Prime has all the financial consequensies of deviations to consider and carry)
      2. What in the civvy world would be called the Project Director (normally from within biz, not e.g. IT) would be a military person. Here the rotation is far too fast (considered a ‘learning experience’ but the learning has come to cost many multiples of what it takes to train a fighter pilot!)
      3. The responsible owner: someone who/ whose unit)s) will live with the deliverables: good, bad, or cancelled… can’t go to the beach, though, to wait for the next round to succeed
      – it might be a good idea to give these career folks access to a part-time coach (for the project management aspects that need consideration, esp. the forward looking issues and risks register – if one is held and updated… that would be the first piece of advice)
      4. Top Line Budget Holder… this is where the communication with ministers (and if that bunch is up to scratch; they turn over a lot) is key as the 4 Commands, Strategic Projects, and Nuclear (officially on par with the Commands now) compete for the pool of funds that each Str./ Integrated Review makes available
      – the drip feed, as we have seen over the last couple of years is pitiful, but then again very much down to the overreach in the 2015 Review. No point apportioning blame – just a matter of noting the system failure… and improve on it!

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      1. Parachuting Panther into the command and liaison vehicle programme after the dead line had passed was not a system failing.

        Choosing piranha 5 over Boxer and VBCI when it was a PowerPoint (when we were heavily involved in a large scale op and protected mobility was required quickly) and the other two were in production or about to enter production was not a system failing.

        Prioritising Ajax over MIV and MRVP was not a system failure.

        Decisions that defy logic have been made repeatedly by leadership and now those decisions are coming home to roost we have a fudged Strike concept.

        I’ll make one prediction when it comes to Ajax.

        It will be deployed once on an op at distance (such as Herrick or Grapple) and will be removed from theater shortly after on cost grounds and it’s inability to keep pace with MIV over distance and will be replaced by acquiring an RWS with a cannon for Boxer via UOR.

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      2. Ouch!!! Painfully uncomfortable truth. I’d love to see a turret mounted on Boxer. Two cavalry regiments with a turreted 30 or 40 mm cannon plus ATGM, supported by two infantry battalions with 12.7 mm plus ATGM, would be an awesome capability.

        Like

  32. Why can I not read stuff here, on the tread, that has hit my email 7 hours before I write this?
    – and, yes, I have used the refresh button… many times

    Like

    1. Is it actually depending on some kind of layered moderation, some things going thru faster than others?
      – I just find it difficult (=time consuming) to pick up from where things were left 24 hrs ago, and reading the thread backwards, to be sure that I haven’t missed any (key) piece

      Like

      1. I am sorry about this. Due to the enormous amount of spam comments (3,000+} I need to moderate every comment and response. I get an immediate notification when a comment is posted and usually approve it within seconds of reading it. The only delay is when comments are posted overnight while I’m sleeping. I apologise that this system lacks the immediacy of other forums, but as the sight grows I am looking to move to a different technical solution. Do bear with me and keep the debate going. Thanks.

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  33. You have both my deepest sympathy and total understanding
    – we all appreciate what you are doing; and it is not an easy job (calling?)

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  34. On the whole, UK Defence procurement has improved dramatically since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and the 2010 SDSR, which together shone a light on expensive MoD acquisition failures. Since then, the way in which the Army acquired the Glock 17 pistol and LMT Sharpshooter rifle, was excellent. Supacat did a great job bringing Jackal, Jackal 2 and Coyote into service. The Boxer programme (with which I am involved so completely biased : -) ) also puts right the many wrongs of FFLAV, MRAV and FRES. I am very happy with the way the Boxer is being procured. The MoD drew extensively on past experience and was able to negotiate an extremely competitive price. I am optimistic that this will deliver a great outcome and an even better capability.

    Of course, the same cannot be sad for Ajax and Warrior. It is easy to say that fault lies with the contractors more than the Army, because GDLS and LMUK have yet to deliver what they promised. However, the Army did change the specification after the contract was agreed. This should never happen. It allowed the contractors to place the blame for the delay squarely on the Army’s shoulders. I don’t know the full details of the contractual arrangements, or what is really going on, but the turrets for both Ajax and Warrior appear to still be experiencing issues.

    As was asked by Francis Tusa this week when questioned by the Parliamentary Elect Committee on Defence: what does a contractor need to do to get fired? I am not sure that we have an answer to this question. We’re getting better at buying kit, but we’re not great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As for
      “The G36 is actually a very good weapon. In the early 1990s, at the time it was being developed, the German Army specified that it had to be able to fire an agreed number of rounds within an hour and then after 30 minutes of being allowed to cool, it had to be able to repeat the process. H&K said that the requirement did not reflect how the weapon might actually be used in combat and recommended a higher specification. But it was all about cost, not absolute performance. H&K could have added a metal bracket that would have created a more rigid support for the sight. This was rejected as it would have added cost. Fast forward to Afghanistan, and the intense firefights caused the gun to overheat. In some situations, the sight alignment became skewed due to the polymer receiver expanding”
      this exactly what happened with the German “perfect” MG in WW2; they put a short-cut model in production; not as good, but ‘good enough’

      The moral of the story?
      They did not have “polymer” then…

      Like

      1. Moral of the story? There are three:
        (1) Listen to industry they almost certainly have a better knowledge of physics and material science
        (2) If you’re going to use polymer for a weapon receiver, it needs to be wrapped around a steel frame
        (3) Don’t use polymer for weapons – even pistols

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      2. As one of the first german soldiers which got an G36 assault rifle i never had any of the later claimed issues with this weapon. The only problem i ever met was with the optics, which under specific weather and temperature conditions steamed up and that the calibre was weak in comparison to what i was used to before. And we shot the G36 quite a lot in short time, never i had such issues. The whole discussion about the G36 is imo more an media phenomen and was misused from politicans to legitimate a new assault rifle, rather than describing a real problem with this weapon.

        Overall an further development of the g36 would have been the best solution, because then the existing g36 could have been cannibalized into the new weapons, the whole operation, training, logistics, etc. would have remained the same and the whole bidding fuss could have been saved. The cost savings would also have been significant. But now I hope for the HK433.

        Liked by 1 person

  35. Again, out of the three, this is it:
    “Moral of the story? There are three:
    (1) Listen to industry they almost certainly have a better knowledge of physics and material science”
    … the other three candidates will appear, a tad later

    That is so very true:
    From ‘functional spec’… get that one right
    – and listen, as to how to reach it (or 80% at half price, or whatever)

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  36. could do with those 416s rather than re-manufacture the SA80 for the 2nd time. Lordy.

    Ehhh… who did we ask to remanufacture SA80 for the first time?
    – and as for adding a bit of froth to the discussion: they (the market) was so low at the time that we COULD HAVE bought the whole company for less

    I will shut up now… for 3 minutes!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It strikes me that the SA80 in its latest guise is a good rifle. Now t he Germans are making a mess of their new procurement, for no good reason, and are getting confused about what calibre it should be.
      The UK should stick with it for now. The Americans are going to 6.8 and NATO commonality is going up in smoke.
      Pitty everyone didn’t go with EM-2 back in 1950.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What I’ve read says it’s a good weapon too- although have zero practical experience of any of the types. I have fired AR-15s in 5.56 mm though. That is very comfortable to shoot, and easy to learn the controls.
        I understand that the SA80-A3 is still relatively heavy, but I don’t think it’s a reason to arbitrarily retire it; we don’t have the budget. Maybe better to wait to see if a new round appears in the next 5-10 years (by which point the SA-80 will be properly long in the teeth) and then buy whatever the Americans pick. We don’t have a domestic military firearms industry to speak of, so no reason not to go foriegn. We’ll get best value for money off the back of an American sale, unless one of our commonwealth partners is looking to purchase something at the same time, then I’d go with them for brownie points.

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  37. @DavidNiven, RE
    “Ajax.

    [It] will be deployed once on an op at distance (such as Herrick or Grapple) and will be removed from theater shortly after on cost grounds and it’s inability to keep pace with MIV over distance and will be replaced by acquiring an RWS with a cannon for Boxer via UOR”

    You are on the money [where is this thumbs up emoticon?]!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. @uklandpower I wonder if your author could be persuaded to comment on this piece over at the War Zone – apologies if linking out is not allowed, please moderate the comment if that’s the case.

    https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/33401/this-is-what-ground-forces-look-like-to-an-electronic-warfare-system-and-why-its-a-big-deal

    I think most people on here understand the need for dispersion as the war in Ukraine has amply demonstrated. I’m not sure that the British Army has fully grasped how deadly it’s job has now become though. Perhaps the evident frustration in the article is a reflection of the author’s agreement with this point.

    With the near total absence of any public discussion of Strike’s ability to locate enemy formations and feed this into a kill chain we are entitled to ask – how will a small unit of light tanks and recce vehicles plus some APCs and dismounted infantry shape the battlefield against wildly superior hybrid warfare and jamming capabilities backed up by extremely powerful armoured and artillery forces.

    It is not clear what efforts within Strike have gone into EMCON, how serious the training in actually fighting dispersed is, what the technological and practical solutions for the requirement to be able to command and control and still move HQs within say eight minutes, nor is it at all evident how Strike will locate enemy forces beyond the reach of Ajax’s thermal imaging sight.

    We know neither how Strike will compete in finding the enemy nor how it will itself avoid location or attrit enemy location capabilities once located and forced to move.

    Does the British Army know?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wanted to publish this article on UK Land Power. When it was submitted, feedback was provided to Gabriele on points that reflected a misunderstanding of Strike and simple errors. The article was also 12,000 words. I requested that he edit it and provide a tighter structure. He did not want to do this and decided to publish it on his own website. His narrative makes one point and one point alone: We cannot rely on doctrine alone to compensate for a lack of investment in the Army. I am sure the Army would agree with him 100%. Unfortunately, funding is where it is, the Army, as always, is doing the best with the money it has. To imply that he knows more about generating a medium weight force than serving officers actually tasked with this challenge stretches his credibility, especially since he is not a UK national, has not served and doesn’t have any connection to the Army. We can all play fantasy fleets, but if we are to have a sensible discussion on this topic, it must be rooted in fact not unsubstantiated aspirations.

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      1. I agree that’s why I sated to make your own mind up. (but then again I believe that in all discussions)

        ‘he is not a UK national, has not served and doesn’t have any connection to the Army’

        Irrelevant surely? I’m pretty sure you have views on the US armed forces and I may be wrong but I’m assuming you are not a US national. RUSI also have questions over strike and not all of it’s members have served in UK armed forces.

        It’s just an opinion from a military blogger who produces some good articles from time to time which are pretty well researched in most cases.

        If it drives discussion and questions what’s the problem?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think Gaby’s point is that it is the British Army that is playing fantasy fleets and because of this all discussion of Strike boils down to unsubstantiated aspiration.

        The mess belongs full square to the British Army. It is down to the British Army to clear it up.

        You have yourself produced model Strike brigades as have RUSI. The problem is not that well-informed commentators like you and Gaby do this but that the Army is unable to coherently and convincingly answer straightforward questions about this new way of fighting and how the equipment plan will enable it.

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      3. I would agree with you that Gabrielle’s article wasn’t as focussed as it could have been. The refusal to do anything about that must be frustrating.
        But you dismiss his entire article because he’s a foreign born civilian, and defend the article written by Strike Prophet because he is a British Army officer, without actually evaluating any of Gabrielle’s arguments at all. While it’s always good to go with expert advice, to dismiss conflicting points of view out of hand is not wise.
        There have been follow on comments laid out within the comments which have clarified some of the questions raised by Gabrielle and others, but some have not.
        One of the most glaring ones to me is that the US “version” of Strike operates with more firepower, more support, and over a smaller area than Strike. I’ve no problem with working what we’ve got, it’s one of the things that the British Army can be proud of doing very well. But our aims should always be achievable, and that seems to be in question, doesn’t it?
        The article also seems to focuss very narrowly on Strike’s ability to perform a very specific mission, while ignoring its suitability for a whole host of other missions that the British Army has stated that Strike would perform. Op Serval-like interventions etc. would not be served well by Strike as far as I can see because of the very large distances that have to be covered by the vehicles involved (can Ajax or Boxer be airlifted by Chinook like a lot of the French vehicles can be?). So dismissing strategic mobility by saying we’re going to be buying more HETs soon doesn’t address that at all, it only covers a war in the Baltics.
        I really like the concept of Strike, but the application of the concept must match our equipment or the soldiers assigned to it will end up in serious danger and the missions we assign it to will not succeed. I’m not sure why you can call it platform agnostic.

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      4. As a UK national, I would never make detailed comments about US Army doctrine or serving US personnel responsible for implementing it through the resourcing and training of combat units. I might make high level observations about equipment choices or certain aspects of unit structure, equipment and tactics; but know full well that I simply do not possess sufficient knowledge to be hyper-critical and disparaging. If I had served in the US Army or USMC or were a US citizen with relatives who had served, I might feel in a stronger position to provide commentary. In any event, I would be respectful of those whose job it was. This is the same for the French, German and Italian armies in Europe. Until you have been part of an army, it is difficult to understand its modus operandi.

        As a former reconnaissance platoon commander who operated in CVR(T) Scimitars in Germany at the height of the Cold War, I am quite familiar with the role of a divisional screening force. Ajax is a massive step-up versus CVR(T) and instead of relying on a single regiment to screen an entire division, we will have two recce regiments plus two infantry battalions. I can tell you from my own experience that four manoeuvre units instead of a previous single one will have no issue covering the area of frontage anticipated. Further, the weapons and sensors fitted to all vehicles are well beyond anything we have had before. The other game changing development is network-enabled battlefield management systems. These allow ground units to build and share a real-time data on the disposition of enemy and friendly forces. The impact on tactical decision making in terms of speed and accuracy is extraordinary. Our C4I systems will be linked to fire support assets capable of providing an immediate and lethal kill chain.

        When it comes to equipment, there is much more going on than meets the eye. However, we cannot expect the Army to lift-up its skirts and reveal everything. Yes, it must operate within in a cash constrained environment, but the equipment plan recognises what the priorities need to be in terms of C4I, fires, and other vital combat support assets. Of course, Strike isn’t perfect, but it is hardly the mess that those who have no real knowledge of its workings like to pretend it is.

        An important thing to bear in mind about future land warfare is that concentrations of armour are likely to be be a juicy target for weapons capable of deleting entire grid squares. Rocket and missile artillery technology has advanced leaps and bounds over the last decade. Any notion of massive Kursk-like tank-on-tank slugfests is pure fantasy. Potential adversaries wishing to counter Strike brigade forces will need to manoeuvre around them not through them.

        One area that is potentially interesting is what happens if you add more organic direct fire support to Strike brigades through a turreted Boxer IFVs and 120 mm-equipped MGS platforms. This formation could not only perform a Strike role, but equally an armoured infantry role. In which case, you might not need AI brigades with Challenger and Warrior. A multi-role brigade based on Boxer could be interesting, if it were as capable as legacy formations, but especially if it were less expensive to generate and support.

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      5. Nicholas I love that you’re are often glass half full as opposed to my dregs in the bottom of the glass. I am usually a highly pessimistic critic of Army HQ decision making, strategizing and force design, where it comes to Strike just like Gabrielle M. He is paid to be a defence journalist, I am not. So perhaps he is an opinionated professional, whereas I am just an opinionated amateur. Either way we both have a tendency to play “fantasy fleets” but in a hopefully useful and objective fashion, as a way to drive the discourse. Gabrielle focuses on the abysmal budgetary situation and has written many articles pointing out the dire state of my old Regiment, the Royal Corps of Signals, and of other CS and CSS units. I have recently focused on fires and the equally dire statement of the Royal Artillery. What Gabrielle likes to point out is that Strike is pretty toothless given the original official position (which was light on details) of a formation that could penetrate a contested space and operate in a dispersed manner, but being maneuverable and tough enough to deliver schwerpunkt when a weak point is discovered for exploitation.

        So we keep asking what is the point of a Boxer equipped with just an RWS, what is the point of a rebuilt Warrior or a brand new Ajax when they carry no ATGM’s (like just about all our allies and enemy’s equivalent vehicles do), and there is no program for a long range / heavy ATGM vehicle for “over watch”. The response that we should not worry ourselves about it, because Army has it all under control is both fallacious sophistry and at the same time, perhaps honest and hopeful ?

        Where I agree with Gabrielle is that we don’t have the money to do everything we want to do, and Army seems unable to figure out what we absolutely need to do. As noted many times before, I would stop Warrior WSCP, and can any upgrade to Challengers. I would as you suggested in your comment, in effect make Boxer the ride of Armoured Infantry. Simplify, reduce, but make sure what remains is well equipped and has suitable fire power.

        Deliver a grand plan, let the professionals and the amateurs debate it, make sure HMG funds it (so it won’t be “grand” per se…) and then put experimentation and force development efforts into full swing to deliver it as the new equipment gets delivered.

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    2. I’m most of the way through reading it, and he makes some points that haven’t been made so far in the comments section.
      I think he may have been better served to respond in focus to just the article, and then respond to his other detractors separately, but I understand the dilemma.
      That said, I think that he highlights elements which the article does not address, and seemingly needs to be for Strike to be viable. That said, I’m a civilian so what do I know, apparently.

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      1. “As a former reconnaissance platoon commander who operated in CVR(T) Scimitars in Germany at the height of the Cold War, I am quite familiar with the role of a divisional screening force.”

        Done that god awful course, not much has changed, still a lick out!

        BV

        Liked by 1 person

  39. I’ve not read Gabriele’s response yet because I’m tired and it’s gigantic (I’ll get to it), but I’m reminded of the passage in a book on military gaming in which it was observed that the US Navy would not allow its carriers to be sunk when gamed, because they were so fundamental that the idea was simply unthinkable.
    Here the army regards it unthinkable that its thoughts should be sinkable, somewhat ironic given that strike ethos is supposedly a thinking mans game and that it will be spending much of its time out-thinking the enemy, and somewhat worrying given that buoyancy is pretty common knowledge.
    The bizarre contradiction here is the need to refute an opinion which is apparently meaningless, as evidenced by Strike Prophet going for the mic drop yet still having taken the time to write.
    To me, what the bloggers are possibly illustrating is that the army is way past lying to us and quite far advanced into lying to itself.
    I’ll finish with a book too, from Parting Shots, edited by Mathew Parris.

    Sir Rodric Braithwaite, Moscow, May 1992:
    “All those who have dealt with the Russians over the centuries have commented on their indifference to the truth. The lie in Russia has indeed gone far beyond its original purpose and has become an art form; Russians lie when they feel they need to, but they also lie without reason, by some inner compulsion, even when they know that their listener knows they are lying.
    The Russians have a word for it – “vranyo” – which in their usage has acquired almost benign overtones”

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  40. Very much appreciate and value the exchange of views on here and I continue to learn a variety of new things every time I access this site, which is normally daily.

    I would say though that any conflation (if there is any) of nationality or service with knowledge and sheer effort expended in attempts to make sense of what is, I think must be conceded, a somewhat confusing picture, would be misplaced.

    If the detailed questions raised by (demonstrably well-intentioned) critics cannot easily be answered then the problem lies not with the questioner.

    I think we are all fully seized of the need for dispersion, C2 on the move and the integration of multiple sensor points into a distributed kill chain.

    We are not I think all convinced that outside of the Strike fraternity who would doubtless like to ‘increase lethality at all levels’ the British Army as a whole has cottoned on.

    Further I’d argue these lessons and concepts are almost as applicable to Armoured Inf.

    In any case I think it is fair to say the British Army has some way to go in convincing its most engaged and supportive civilian advocates that it is really grasping the nettle.

    Given that information operations particlarly on the home front are a key part of multi domain operations this bodes poorly.

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  41. @UK Land Power

    ‘As a UK national, I would never make detailed comments about US Army doctrine or serving US personnel responsible for implementing it’

    Fine he’s ill mannered, maybe ask him to retract some of the harsher parts of the article you find ill judged? He is however still entitled to his opinion regardless how impolite it is.

    I don’t think anyone is questioning the validity in using strike as a screening force in support of Div maneuver lighter forces have been doing this for hundreds of years as you said yourself it’s nothing new.

    As for networked units etc it’s just the relentless advancement of technology. In 10 years time it will be improved again with some added capability that will allow us to operate differently from how we do today and that goes for the sighting and weapon control systems. even Ajax will get a new comms fit and fire control upgrade during it’s service.

    The question that keeps rearing it’s head is the strategic mobility and from where are the fires coming from to support strike.

    It’s a legitimate question which has not been answered, let alone the other questions ie do we have enough landceptor to cover such a frontage will natural obstacles pose an insurmountable problem?

    Personally I think the units are too small and should be a mini combined arms battlegroup of coy size for this to work at a minimum.

    I’ll make another prediction,

    Once the tanker capacity of the army has been considered along with the driving hours (heaven forbid some poor soul ends up crushing a family in a VW and the authorities find out they have not stuck to civ driving hours restrictions) and fuel required and the amount of trained pers to allow doubling up of crews along with other considerations such as RMP escort, there will be no 2000km marches to a flash point with Ajax in tow.

    I predict even a trip to the Baltics will see an advance party go by road and the rest of the brigade ie the majority will go by rail.

    Its strange that the Army is the smallest it’s been for decades and yet it’s fighting power is probably the least deployable it’s been for decades.

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  42. Must say I think it wrong to say that Gabrielle’s analysis is ill-mannered or even disparaging (of individuals).

    On the contrary I think we ought to acknowledge that an Italian national writing in his second language in great detail about about a subject close to our hearts and clearly to his pays us all a very great compliment indeed.

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  43. Sad I know, but I was thinking about this article during a bout of Covid boredom and have come to the conclusion that the reason the ‘Professionals’ are getting irate with the so called ‘Arm chair generals’ (incidentally when do you transition from a professional to an arm chair general? Obviously Jed has military op experience and UK Landpower has a military background but which is more likely to be seen by the professionals as an arm chair general?) is because the army have failed to fully explain what strike is and have given off mixed signals.

    Strike was never about about a strategically deployable medium weight force capable of the full spectrum of operations from low intesity to div maneuver. It was always about div maneuver, which to be fair is alluded to in the article.

    Problems and friction arrose when the non professional types were expecting a coherant brigade capable of independant combined arms maneuver capable of stepping up to aid div maneuver and step down for the 90% of other ops we will generally be involved at distance.

    Even UK Landpower was expecting such a formation from the number of times he has stated that he would like to see the brigade based on a wheeled chasis with all the enablers required for this to happen, so at some point in time the wires got crossed.

    So it should not have been a shock to the army when everyone expecting a UK Stryker or Freccia brigade started to question the validity of strike.

    Now can a US Stryker or Italian Freccia brigade strategically deploy easier and take the neccessary logs and CS with it to fulfill the range of ops stated earlier? Yes of course they can. Can the same be said for stike? probably not.

    But this was never really the purpose of strike. That ship had sailed the moment we chose to buy Ajax but we failed to read the tea leaves. So in essence when the ‘arm chair generals’ were stating that ‘the emporer has no clothes’ we were missing the point that the emporer was’nt getting new clothes to begin with.

    We have effectively reverted back to an army of the mid 90’s with a heavy and light element but no real real medium capability. After decades of spending a lot of time and money failing to acquire a medium weight capability that was identified as a requirement over 20 years ago (at least) we have an army equiped in the same manner that drove that requirement to begin with.

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    1. OK David – but what are 500+ very expensive Boxers if they are not “medium” ? I mean I know you might based on weight alone consider them to be “heavy” but really its:

      Armoured Infantry (Challenger, Warrior) = Heavy
      Strike (Ajax, Boxer) = Medium
      GS Light Role Infantry = MRV-P if they are lucky…..

      It’s really a lack of realism, what can be done with the budget versus what Army HQ really really wants to do ; and a lack of imagination – we have Ajax, what can we do with it from a force design perspective…..

      We could still do something rather more coherent, and flexible. France and Italy manage it pretty well on similar (slightly smaller?) budgets.

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      1. The Boxers are medium but strike is not.

        Medium is not just about weight it’s also about strategic mobility and firepower. Remember the reasoning behind FRES and why the US created the Stryker brigades?

        Our operations after the first gulf war and onwards during the 90’s and into Telic showed us that we needed a more strategically mobile force that could also take a hit and in reply hit back (within reason).

        ‘Too fat to fly and too light to fight’ was the common phrase used to describe both the US and UK armies at the time.

        What we have with Strike is medium infantry hobbled by heavy cavalry.

        When I describe Ajax as heavy, I mean in the strategic sense. If my cavalry formations require HET’s to move them then they may as well be heavy, and for that matter I may as well put a CR2 on them rather than an Ajax. I know we often hear that Ajax can travel just as far by road but lets take a look at the often quoted road march and do some simple back of the fag packet calcs.

        From the info kicking about, Ajax can cruise at 70kph with a range of 500km.

        Boxer can cruise at 100kmh with a range of 1000km.

        So even the 2000km road move will require Ajax to refuel 3 times to get to the 2000km start point as opposed to Boxers 1.

        Not only will it take more stops but will get there a lot slower and will probably require some track bashing before it carries on.

        And this is just a massive glossing over before we go onto distributed ops and the fact that your fire support and cav require refueling twice as often as your mech infantry.

        Ajax maybe a medium weight vehicle but when it comes to strike its a strategic anchor.

        ‘we have Ajax, what can we do with it from a force design perspective…..’

        Is that not the problem? Should we not have asked what platform fits our requirements? (cough Boxer and MRVP)

        I agree it is a lack of imagination that hobbles us, but then again why try being truly innovative when we can just flick through the Nexter and KMV etc catalogues and spaf over Ceaser etc.

        We could make a pretty decent medium formation without breaking the bank by looking around at what we already have and adapting it rather than relying on defence companies.

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      2. My second to last paragraph in my last reply seemed a bit abrupts and possibly derogatory, which was not my intent.

        What I mean to say is that Ceaser is based on an in service gun mounted on a truck chasis and the Japanese Type 19 is also based on an in service gun mounted on an in service vehicle. I know the British army have had a little trial on Ceaser but surely this is to look at the concept and verify if it fits with our requirements rather than simply buying it as well.

        We should have plenty of spare AS90 systems to allow us to use the guts of the weapon mounted on an in service chasis such as the Japanese have done without buying an entirely new system which will come along with an etirely new logs system to support plus differeing training requirements.

        This is where we are failing in my opinion to create a cohesive formation on a diminishing budget. We seem to no longer have the capability (or courage) to adapt what we have.

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  44. In other words folks, the Army’s ideas are a dogs breakfast and they cannot read whats on the tin. Or how big the tin in.

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