Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme



The December issue of SOLDIER, magazine of the British Army, contains a brief article which reports the beginning of field trials with the prototypes of the upgraded Warrior family. This is an important and much awaited milestone, reached after a stormy programme review sparked by the difficulties encountered by Lockheed Martin UK in providing the modern turret with 40mm CTA gun. The programme accumulated a 12 months delay and an unspecified cost growth caused by the decision to fit the vehicle with a whole new turret instead of remanufactured ones.

The delay resulted in a 22% in-year saving in 2016/2017 as some activities could simply not progress and shifted to the right. The expected in-year expenditure of 87 million shrunk to 68. There is no indication yet of the extent of the long-term cost increase, however.



The first upgraded Warrior vehicles entered Factory Acceptance Tests earlier this year. In September it was reported that qualification trials were to begin in Bovington by the end of the year, and the schedule seems to have been more or less respected since then.
Lockheed Martin UK manufactures the new turret and also puts together the upgrade “kits” that turn the old Warrior into the new one.
Lockheed leads a team which includes: Ultra Electronics; the Defence Support Group; SCISYS (Electronic architecture); Rheinmetall Defence; Curtiss Wright (they supply the turret-drive servo system for the Ajax Scout turret. Their role with Warrior is the same); Thales UK (optics and Battlegroup Thermal Imaging system); Moog; Meggitt; CTA International (supplying the 40 mm CTA gun); Westwire; TKE; MTL and Caterpillar UK (support to the powerpack).
Rheinmetall is the supplier of the Ajax Scout turret structure, a derivative of their LANCE product, and for WCSP they were meant to rework the existing Warrior turret and adapt it to the new requirements. This is no longer the case, and a whole new turret is produced instead.
The difficulties encountered by the LM team vindicated BAE’s original warning and underline the validity of their offer, which was turned down: BAE had offered a whole new turret along.


DSEI 2017 

As well as manufacturing the new turret for WCSP, LMUK is also responsible for putting together the upgrade ‘kits’ that will refresh the vehicle’s protection as well as the platform’s electronic architecture.
The new turret and main gun are only the most visible of a series of modifications and upgrades. The CSP is the sum of multiple development programmes:

-          WFLIP (Warrior Fightability Lethality Improvement Programme) to improve turrets and sensors, and add firepower by changing the turret and gun;  
-          WMPS (Warrior Modular Protection System) to add a modular frame that takes note of the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan TES armor fittings and prepares the vehicle, PUMA-like, for easy and rapid installation of existing and future add-on armour packages when needed;
-          WEEA (Warrior Enhanced Electronic Architecture) to add a fully integrated set of modern, expandable electronics and communications gear;

For years, the CSP also included the Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle, a family of “turret-less” variants of the Warrior that should have been developed to finally replace the FV432 within armoured formations.


Warrior numbers  

The original production run of Warrior delivered:

- 489 FV510 Infantry Section Vehicle (105 of which are platforms for the mobility of ATGW teams, once with Milan, now with Javelin)
- 84 FV511 Infantry Command Vehicles
- 105 FV512 Mechanized Combat Repair Vehicles
- 39 FV513 Mechanized Recovery Vehicle (Repair)
- 52 FV514 Mechanized Artillery Observation Vehicles for the RA
- 19 FV515 Battery Command Vehicles for the RA

In the 90s, A standard armoured infantry battalion of the British Army was expected to use some 63 Warriors:

- 47 FV510 Infantry Section Vehicles (including those kitted for ATGW transport role)
- 9 Infantry Command Vehicles (these are turreted and armed but have a completely different arrangement in the back)
- 4 FV513
- 3 FV512

A number of Warrior recovery and repair are found within MBT regiments, REME battalions and AS90 artillery formations. The Battery Command Vehicles are no longer in use and some were hastily converted into ambulances in Afghanistan for the armoured company group.

In its early years, WCSP was meant to upgrade 643 of the original vehicles with WEEA electronics and WMPS modular armoring upgrades. Within that group, 449 vehicles were to get WFIP program’s new turret and weapon system as well.

The SDSR 2010, however, drastically reduced the number of armoured infantry battalions, from 9 to 6, and that number has then been further slashed to just 4 for Army 2020 Refine.

In 2014 the NAO reported that the “affordable fleet” was down to 565 Warrior vehicles, 445 of which would be picked for getting upgrades under WCSP. 65 of those 445 vehicles would have been converted in APCs and Ambulances under ABSV, while the remaining 380 would consist of around 250 Section vehicles with turret and 40mm gun, with the balance made up by Recovery and Repair and Artillery Observation vehicles.

ABSV was ultimately split from WCSP, initially to “become its own Category A (400+ million pounds in value) programme” under the main budget heading “Armoured Infantry 2026”. This happened in the 2014/15 financial year.
The latest Major Project spreadsheet published by the MOD, however, which was released in July this year but is, as customary, current to 30 September of the previous year, shows that the “Armoured Infantry 2026” budget has reduced to 1612,72 million from 2176,45 million in the previous report. A note in the sheet says that ABSV was “removed” in the Annual Budget Cycle 2016, giving no other indication about the future of this vital requirement.

As result of all these passages, WCSP has been almost halved in scope, with 380 vehicles now expected to be upgraded, with 245 of these being in the turreted IFV configuration.


“Warrior 2” and ABSV

Once upgraded, the vehicles change denomination:

FV510 becomes FV520
FV511 becomes FV521

And so along. The Army has also assigned:

FV525 to the Warrior Ambulance variant
FV526 to the Warrior APC variant

Prototypes of such turretless variants have been seen already back in the 90s, when Alvis was still active. In more recent times BAE Systems has showcased a Mortar Carrier sub-variant of the Warrior APC, and an Engineering variant, able to serve as breaching and bridging vehicle has also been developed and trialed.



The ABSV requirement is ancient and its history is one of constant deaths and resurrections and uncertainty and delays. In 1995, the UK MoD had formalized its requirement for a new vehicle called the Multi Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV) which was meant to replace the FV432 family; Saxon (4 × 4) armoured personnel carriers and those elements of the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) family which would have not been supplanted by the then Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement (TRACER). TRACER eventually died, supplanted by FRES, then FRES SV, now Ajax. MRAV is most commonly remembered because in 1999 the MOD joined the Boxer 8x8 programme and then cancelled it.

The original turretless Warrior, when Alvis Vickers was still a thing. 

Today's BAE Systems ABSV Mortar Carrier 

The Engineer Warrior, which could also fullfil the requirement for a medium weight assault engineering capability which used to be part of FRES SV but did not make it into Ajax 

MRAV, however, was not meant to result in a single vehicle family, but in two: M1P1 was tracked and also known as ABSV; M2P2 was the wheeled element, which became Boxer, then FRES UV and now is attempting to come back under the name MIV.
More than 20 years completely wasted, and the solution to the problem is still not in sight. ABSV, following the unclear ABC2016 decision, is in a particularly worrisome position while MIV might end up being Boxer all over again.

For the development trials, LM must deliver seven FV520s (section vehicle); two FV521s (infantry command vehicles); one FV522 (repair); one FV523 (recovery); and one FV524 (artillery observation vehicle).

The first company group equipped with the upgraded Warrior was expected to achieve IOC during 2020, but this might now have slipped to the right by as much as a further year.


Clear as mud

British Armed forces management is clear as mud. It is not a new discovery, but the sheer complexity and intricacy of the story of every programme never fails to amaze. It would take ages to follow all the name-changes and chair-shifting that have happened over the decades, and this is not the aim of this article.

It is however instructive to try and track the evolution of the budget allocation for the main armoured vehicles programmes in just the last few years to see how dishonest and murky the whole process is. Since the MOD refuses to reveal numbers or even detail exactly what requirements are included in the Equipment Programme, it is pretty much impossible to ensure any form of true accountability. I’ll go back just four years in this brief travel through the dishonesty of a government which wants to murk the waters so that cuts can not only be ordered, but hidden away in the countless folds of the programme.

In 2014 the Army had a massive overarching programme known as “Mounted Close Combat” which covered everything from Challenger 2 to Warrior and from Ajax to Mechanized Infantry Vehicle. That monster programme had a budget of 17.251 billion, spread out to the project end date of 31/12/2033.

Obviously, as a single programme its scope was way too vast and so it was split into four separate components going into 2015.

“Armoured Cavalry 2025” chiefly covers the acquisition and entry into service of the Ajax family of vehicles, to culminate by 30/04/2025 in a completely renewed Armoured Cavalry capability.

“Armoured Infantry 2026” includes chiefly the Warrior CSP, but not only that. There is the enduring problem of replacing FV432 as well, with the ancient vehicle having a notional OSD of 2026.

“Armour MBT 2025” covers the delivery of life-extended MBT capability to be fully operational by 2025.

“Mechanized Infantry 2029” covers the renewal of this other area, with FOC in 2029 and with the main focus being MIV.

In 2015 the MOD included only Armoured Cavalry and Armoured Infantry in the list of the major active programmes, so no detail at all was available about the other components. The Cavalry component had a budget of 6831,53 million; the armoured infantry a budget of 2176,45 million. Thanks to the NAO’s own report, the last one of its kind, unfortunately, we learn that Warrior CSP aimed for 445 vehicles in total, including 65 “Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicles”, aka converted, turret-less hulls to replace FV432 with. The report, however, noted that the ABSV requirement is larger than 65 vehicles and the army envisaged a greater procurement effort, including more variants. A delay of two years to the ABSV element was anticipated, and once implemented it was decided that ABSV will be its own Category A (aka, worth over 400 million) project, separated from WCSP proper.

The report published this year, and which actually details the year 2016, has the Armoured Cavalry pricetag reduced to 6248 million thanks to vaguely described “cost saving measures” including an extended Initial In-Service Support Contract for Ajax. Good news, in theory. In practice, we don’t know what elements of capability were traded out to make it happen.
Armoured Infantry also drops, all the way down to 1612,72 million, to be expended out to 31/12/2026. In this case, the budget has shrunk because ABSV was “removed as a direct cost-saving measure in the Annual Budget Cycle (ABC) 2016”. There is no way to tell whether the removal is permanent or not, and if, when and how we can expect ABSV to reappear. Is the 2015 plan of making it its own programme later on still on the cards? The FV432 still definitely needs replacement, but we are given no clue of what’s happening.

Together, these two changes amount to almost 1150 million which have shifted around / vanished. With no fanfare, no real way to assess how bad the damage is.

Armour MBT 2025 gets finally reported, with a budget line of 744,79 million to be expended between 04/12/2014, start date, and 01/06/2026, current end date.

Mechanized Infantry 2029 remains unreported as it is still in very early stages, with little to no money allocated to it yet. A Written Answer to Parliament has since disclosed that MIV is now in the assessment phase, with a budget of 9 million, for “confirming the optimum fleet mix and delivery sequence”.
I’m tempted to offer a comment about the need for 9 million to determine what should be, really, the very basis of the requirement, but it wouldn’t be kindly worded.

There is still a lot of money left to get to the over 17 billion originally attached to the MCC, but tracking all movements is difficult if not impossible. It is not even possible to determine whether the Multi Role Vehicle – Protected budget is included within this macro budget area or whether it sits under another heading. We might get some information about it, but probably not before July 2018, when a new spreadsheet will make it possible to track the changes enacted during the year that is now ending.


Active Protection Systems

APS technologies can include ‘soft-kill’ defences that jam or decoy the seeker of incoming missiles; and ‘hard-kill’ solutions that intercept an incoming projective with an effector fired from the vehicle itself.
The Army has two ongoing programmes that aim to have pan-fleet applicability: one is MEDUSA, and is looking at how Soft Kill defences could be adopted on british armoured vehicles. The other is ICARUS, which is examining Hard Kill defences.
The studies will run out to 2019, and include equipment trials, some of them already ongoing on Challenger 2. ICARUS should eventually lead to a UK sovereign Modular, Integrated Protection System (MIPS) electronic architecture (EA) that will enable the installation of sensors and effectors (both soft and hard) as required.

MEDUSA trials have already seen Rheinmetall’s ROSY rapid obscurant system tested on a Challenger 2, while a wider test campaign revolves around the integration of the soft-kill Multifunction Self-Protection System (MUSS), manufactured by Hensoldt and already installed on the german PUMA IFVs.

In November this year the Israeli IMI company revealed that a Challenger 2 has also been fitted with the Iron Fist Heavy: this APS is a hard-kill system that destroys incoming missiles before they can hit the tank. It uses "mini-missiles" that are fired against the incoming threat and that should be safer for accompanying allied infantry than the well know Trophy, which uses blasts of pellets. 

Obviously, both programmes could have a major impact on the future of Warrior’s survivability.


The new armoured infantry capability

As of August 2016 the Army was still expecting to get an ABSV to support the “new” Warrior. The importance of this supporting vehicle cannot be overstated. In particular, the Army hopes that ABSV will finally remedy to a capability gap which is rarely mentioned yet is particularly damaging: the complete absence at present of a mobile, fire-under-armour anti-tank missile capability. An ATGW sub-variant of the ABSV APC is a desire the Army has had for years. The last time it dared mentioning it in public was in 2014 when, with remarkable and sadly misplaced optimism, the colonel in charge for armoured vehicles procurement envisaged a 2019/20 entry in service for ABSV. This now seems very unrealistic, and we don’t even know whether ABSV is still alive at all.

Capability-wise, WCSP will deliver a vehicle which is far more lethal and far more aware of its surroundings.
A new Main Engine Generator will provide 1200 amps for the various on-board systems and all variants will be fitted with Auxiliary Power Units to enable silent running. A new battery management system is meant to prevent increased demand from draining batteries dry while a Health and Usage monitoring System (HUMS) should make maintenance easier.

Renewed environmental control makes the vehicle more suited to extreme climates, and the adoption of mine-blast resistant seats improves survivability for the occupants.

Local situational awareness will be provided by six Local Situational Awareness Cameras (LSAS) distributed around the vehicle.
The driver will receive improved vision hatches, forward day & Thermal Imaging camera (SELEX ES Driver’s Night Vision System 4 (DNVS4)) and rear day & low light feed to aid manoeuvre.
An Elbit Instro CRONUS Thermal Imager Gunner Sight is provided for the gunner, with an automatic “cue to slew” function for improved target acquisition. The commander has a Thales Catherine BGTI REO/IR system. The new turret for the Warrior is now LM UK’s baseline Export Turret which is being offered for export. Inside it is more spacious and rationally organized and it offers greater survivability thanks to the under-armour storage of ammunition of the CTA gun.
Local Situational Awareness information, from navigation to imagery feed from the CRONUS and LSAS cameras, will be accessible to both the crew and dismounts in the back thanks to new displays.

Lethality sees the most dramatic uplift of all, as the Warrior goes from the non-stabilized RARDEN 30mm to the new 40mm CTA gun in a fully stabilized installation capable of accurate fire on the move.
The existing L94 chain gun remains as coaxial weapon. The cannon fires two ammunition natures; Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) and a dual function General Purpose Round (GPR), with Air Burst (AB) and Point Detonation (PD) settings. The APFSDS round provides penetration of well armoured targets: the most optimist say that the CTA can take out anything less protected than a T-72. The RHA penetration value is given at 140 – 150 mm at 1500 meters.
GPR-AB will provide suppression and neutralisation out to 2000m.
For training purpose there is a Target Practice Tracer Round (TP-T) that does not have terminal explosive effect and associated hazards.

2012 images by LM. They should still be representative of the design, but probably not up to date

There are 70 rounds ready to fire in the ammunition handling system.
Made by Meggitt, it is composed by a translator, which holds 15 rds, and the magazine holding 55. At least 30 more rounds can be loaded internally through the turret, and the AHS identifies the type of round using colour bands on the case. It can cycle up to 400 rounds per minute, so selection of effects is not an issue. The AHS sits outside of the manned spaces of the turret, along the right side, so the crew is protected by a layer of armor and spall liner.



The power train remains the same with an option to upgrade, and this is the one weakness of an otherwise ambitious programme. The upgraded Warrior, at nearly 28 tons in combat order, once fitted with the roughly 10 tons of the WRAP 2 add-on armour package will max out its existing powerpack and will rapidly begin to grow limited in speed and agility.

The armoured infantry section is going down from 10 to 9 men, which actually means from 7 to 6 dismounts, since the others are the Warrior IFV’s crew. The Warrior loses a dismount seat in the upgrade, as new blast-protected seating and situational awareness troop compartment screen take away precious space.


FV524

Another enduring mystery is what exactly will happen with the Artillery Observation Post variant (FV514, to become FV524). The WCSP does not include mission-specific upgrades for this variant, which is by now obsolescent and which has to literally be transformed from an old school vehicle for the observation of the fall of artillery shots into a Joint Fires Control platform capable to direct precision air strikes as well as artillery and mortar fire. The FV514 has a turret, but the 30 mm gun is a dummy. It is not clear if under WCSP it will get the new turret, but without gun, or at least a "make up" to make its existing turret indistinguishable from that of upgraded Warriors IFVs. It is obvious that if it keeps the dummy Rarden gun and the current turret shape, it will stick out like a sore thumb among the upgraded and much different Warriors amongst which it is supposed to hide from enemy attention.

The Royal Artillery is responsible for developing and funding a new, up to date mission package of sensors and communications that will enable the direction of artillery fire and air support from under armour.
The RA has been experimenting possible solutions since 2010 / 11 if not from earlier, but it is not at all clear if it has the money to fund the upgrade.


The Royal Artillery has been working to define the mission equipment for the FV524, but the status of this particular upgrade remains uncertain 

If the upgrade can’t be embodied into the WCSP production phase, it will have to follow it, and this means, at best, that it would happen in the 2020s, and it would come into service near 2030, way too late.
Worse, if the RA package of upgrades can’t be funded at all, the FV514 risks being close to useless.
Moreover, since one of the Ajax sub-variants is equipped for Joint Fires Control (we don’t yet know exactly how, however), the opportunity of pushing on with the FV524 is questionable. Maybe purchasing more Ajax Joint Fires would provide an easier, more straightforward solution to the problem.


Battlefield implications

Armoured Infantry units are contemplating the possibility of more frequently operating without MBT support. Fire on the move capability, greater range and increased armour penetration coupled with better sensors will enable Warrior to hide less and fight more.
This could become more feasible if ABSV progressed and delivered that much-desired ATGW under-armour variant that would enable Warriors to take a much more aggressive approach in the field.  
The enhanced thermal imaging capability of the vehicle, in addition to local situational awareness and to the infantry’s own improved Night Vision capability (through visors and FIST weapon sights), is likely to also increase the focus on night manoeuvres.
The Warrior coming out of CSP will be a “real” fighting vehicle and can expect an increase in tempo and pace of operations. It will be asked to contribute more.

WCSP modular mounting frame for WRAP 2 side elements is tested 

The full WRAP 2 and Theatre Entry package 

A lot depends on FV524 and on ABSV. The ability to call in and accurately direct supporting Fires from under-armour is obviously of utmost relevance, while the availability of supporting vehicles, from ambulances to mortar carrier and ATGW, will determine the true capabilities of the AI formations.


Training implications

The CTA 40mm gun hits harder and further away. This will complicate training and require upgrades to the current AFV ranges. The new gun has a shorter shelf life, and that is true for ammunition as well. The latter is also considerably more expensive.
When added to the greater complexity of scenarios for which Warrior crews will need to prepare (see “battlefield implications”) means that training will have to change and adapt. The use of simulation will increase even further, both to save money and to give the crews the chance to face complex battle scenarios.


Wild proposals and “MIV for everything”

A proposal that sometimes surfaces in discussions about the future of the British Army is that of using Ajax as an IFV, binning WCSP. This is a rather wild idea, that does not seem to have any root in official thinking, and for good reasons: it is pretty much impossible to convert the existing Ajax into an IFV. The space in the back is more or less nonexistent. Obviously it would be possible to develop an IFV variant with logistical commonality to the Ajax, but that would not save anything. The easiest way to do it would be to adopt an unmanned, remotely operated, non-hull penetrating turret, which would free up all the space needed. That is what the germans did with their PUMA, or the Americans did with the new 30mm gun turret for Stryker.
It is not impossible per se, but would require a new contract, a new development phase, and new vehicles, or at least a complex renegotiation of the contracts for both the hulls and the turrets.




Another proposal revolves around MIV. What if ABSV was cancelled in favor of more MIVs? This one is a far more realistic proposal, and in theory it could well happen. In general I would not recommend mixing wheels and tracks: the Army itself reaffirmed this basic truth in its Agile Warrior studies. On the other hand, though, it seems pacific that modern 8x8 retain excellent off road mobility and it can be assumed that MIV-based variants could support Warrior well enough. It would be a compromise, obviously, but everything tend to be. The closest thing worldwide to a MIV-Warrior combination is seen in the Netherlands, where Boxer was procured specifically (and only) to replace supporting vehicles, including the tracked M577. The Netherlands never acquired the Boxer as APC for their infantry.
The advantage would be that the various sub-variants would only need to be developed once.
Obviously, a Warrior-based ABSV would share the exact same logistic tail and the exact same mobility as Warrior. It is also hard to imagine that converted Warrior hulls, which will be available in the hundreds, could ever cost the same as, or more than, new MIVs. In theory, converting “surplus” Warrior hulls remains the logical and cheap approach.

There is also another option, which is “MIV for everything”, with the Warrior CSP cancelled and MIV used as replacement, with the turrets ordered for Warrior being installed on MIV hulls instead.
 The examples of wheeled IFVs employed within armoured brigades alongside tracked MBTs are much more numerous: Russia and France spring to mind.
It would be embarrassing to end the WCSP now, after spending more than 200 millions and entering deals with multiple companies, but until the Manufacture contract isn’t agreed there is, in theory at least, the chance to go with this radical approach.
Can the existing contracts be renegotiated without huge negative impacts on the budget and on timelines?
Does the money suffice to purchase enough MIVs, and in all the sub-variants that are required?
If the answer to both questions was to be “yes”, the idea would not be insane. As always it would be a compromise, but not a bad one.


When Warrior was proposed for everything

Note that no one knows for sure how many MIVs the Army expects to procure. Four battalions are expected to be equipped with MIV, exactly the same number of units that will be getting Warrior CSP. Unsurprisingly, one estimate of the number of MIVs to be ordered is around 350.
However, much higher numbers have made the news: when the press reported that the army wanted to fast-track a 3 billion pounds deal for Boxer, for example, the number given was 800. That number is far higher than what is required for 4 battalions. It must be said that the expectation is that MIV will include more sub-variants, which in Warrior’s case are covered by FV432 now and by ABSV, assuming it materializes, in the future. MIV could probably include an ambulance for the medical regiments and a mortar carrier used to be part of the requirement.
It is also true, however, that 800 continues to sound too high a number. In addition, the Army 2020 Refine papers suggest that Mastiff will remain in the longer term as a supporting vehicle to MIV, and the variants of the Multi Role Vehicle – Protected might also help in some areas.

The Army still doesn’t seem able to decide where these closely related programmes meet, where they overlap, and where one could replace the other.
But maybe there is a part of the Army that already thinks that MIV should take the place of Warrior. So long as it didn’t result in further battalions being left mounted in nothing but boots, it could be a solution. It is very much time to take decisions and then stick to them, however. 20 years of expensive doubts and rethinks and U-turns have caused more than enough damage already.  




Sunday, December 17, 2017

Plans and numbers, prior to the "review that is not a review"


A Written Answer provides a couple of interesting numbers about the Royal Navy today and in the future. As of 5 December 2017, the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary have 72 commissioned surface ships. Note the date because it makes all the difference: HMS Queen Elizabeth is not included as she was commissioned on 7 December. RFA Tidespring is included as it was put into service on November 27. The River Batch 2 Forth has not yet been commissioned, while HMS Severn left service back in October.
Finally, as the first taste of cuts coming from the “review that is not a review”, the two Hunt-class HMS Quorn and HMS Atherstone left service on December 14 in a rather secretive decommissioning ceremony in the BAE shed where they had been brought to be refitted and life-extended.
HMS Gleaner, the smallest of the commissioned units, also left service this month.
It must also be noted that, being chartered as part of a PFI and not RFA owned and manned, the 4 Point-class RoRo sealift vessels are not included in these calculations. They do not appear in MOD statistics on the fleet.

Keeping all these notes in mind, we can compose a list of the 72 vessels. The Written Answers does not detail it, but the ships in commission by 5 December are well known:  

6 Type 45;
13 Type 23;
2 River Batch 1 OPV
1 River Batch 1 (Helicopter) OPV [HMS Clyde]
18 patrol vessels (16 P2000s Archer class plus Scimitar and Sabre of the Gibraltar Sqn)
3 Survey vessels (Echo, Enterprise, Scott)
15 MCM vessels (8 Hunt and 7 Sandown)
HMS Ocean
HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark
HMS Protector
2 Wave-class tankers
RFA Tidespring
3 Bay-class LSD(A)
3 Fort-class replenishers (Fort Victoria plus Fort Rosalie and Fort Austin)
RFA Argus

As of today that has further shrunk to 71, with HMS Queen Elizabeth coming into service but with 2 MCM ships leaving. Forth will come into service later on.
As recently as 2016, the surface fleet had counted 76 vessels, but the demise of the last couple of Rover-class tankers and of RFA Diligence cut that down to 73, then 72 with the demise of HMS Severn.
Going back further, the number was significantly higher and suffered a dramatic fall with the cuts mandated by the SDSR 2010. 4 Type 22s, the Leaf-class tankers, Fort George... the list is impressive. 

For the future, the Written Answer announces that by December 2020 the surface fleet will include 77 vessels. That total is also not explained, but can nonetheless be broken down with relative ease:

2 Queen Elizabeth-class;
6 Type 45;
13 Type 23;
5 OPV
18 patrol vessels (16 P2000s Archer class plus Scimitar and Sabre of the Gibraltar Sqn)
4 Survey vessels (Echo, Enterprise, Scott, plus the as yet unnamed Gleaner-replacement due in May 2018)
13 MCM vessels (6 Hunt and 7 Sandown)
HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark
HMS Protector
2 Wave-class tankers
4 Tide-class tankers
3 Bay-class LSD(A)
3 Fort-class replenishers (Fort Victoria plus Fort Rosalie and Fort Austin)
RFA Argus

The SDSR 2015 gave an MCM force of 12 vessels going towards 2025, so at least another MCM ships is expected to vanish in the next future. According to press reports, two more could go as the latest cut of 2 Hunt vessels is an urgent measure on top of the 3 vessels to be lost as part of the SDSR. If this is accurate, the long term MCM fleet would go down to just 10.
The “up to 6” OPVs appear to be definitely 5, although a specific strand of review is supposedly looking at the patrol fleet to see what the requirement Is, considering also Brexit and the increased need to regulate fishing waters after it.

Taurus 2009 - apart from the french Dupleix on the left, the whole group was made in the Royal Navy 

Cougar 13 

JEF-M 2016 

JEF-M 2017. This sequence helps visualize the "growing Royal Navy". What will 2018 look like? 

Obviously, if the insane idea of cutting the amphibious capability and decommissioning the LPDs early was to be confirmed, the number of ships would rapidly shrink further.
In terms of number of hulls, the mythical growth of the Royal Navy remains non-existent unless measured on today’s low point. Even so, with further cuts very possibly on the way, any claim of growth looks very puzzling if not downright dishonest.


Exercises in 2018

There has been a cull in the number of training exercises planned for next year in an effort to save money, but even so the programme remains very full. The Royal Navy in particular will not have a Joint Warrior 18-2 but looks set to struggle all the same to generate ships for all the things it is tasked to do. Written Answers suggest that the Royal Navy will send out the Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) next year. This is what was once called Cougar, and earlier still Taurus. This year it did not take place as HMS Albion was regenerating after coming out of mothball while one Bay was in the Caribbean pre-positioned to respond to Hurricane season and HMS Ocean was committed to NATO duties in the Mediterranean.

The Royal Navy will also take part in Saif Sareea 3, the “biggest exercise in 15 years”, which will take place in Oman and will be the first true test of the British Armed Forces’ ability to still generate and deploy a Division-sized force abroad. Details are still scarce about what units will take part and how, but if the exercise has anything to share with the previous two events it will be very large.
Since Saif Sareea is due in the autumn, which is also the normal COUGAR / JEF-M period, I’m guessing that the two things will be closely related. Probably the JEF-M task group will head towards Oman as the maritime side of Saif Sareea. That is, of course, unless the cut to amphibious capability goes ahead and turns the UK JEF element in nothing more than Marines on French amphibious vessels, plus perhaps a lone Bay and an escort. The “Review that is not a review” can very well ensure that the Royal Navy is unable to generate any meaningful task group before 2021 at the earliest, when HMS Queen Elizabeth is scheduled for her first operational deployment.

The Royal Navy will also take part in the big NATO exercise Trident Juncture in Norway. On current planning assumptions, as detailed in a November Written Answer, the UK will send:
from the Naval Service, three destroyers and/or frigates, four mine counter measures vessels, a mine warfare battle staff, and one Royal Marines Company;
from the Army, HQ 4 Infantry Brigade in command with squadrons from 11 Signals Brigade, Light Dragoons, Engineers, combat service support, 1 Royal Irish and a Military Police Platoon;
from the Royal Air Force, four Hawk aircraft from 100 Squadron based at RAF Leeming.
While the precise details are yet to be confirmed, it is expected that in the region of 2,300 Service personnel will deploy on the exercise.

3 frigates / destroyers in the same place at once are not an easy feat for today’s Royal Navy, especially considering that 2 frigates (Argyll and Sutherland) are due to travel to the Pacific and at least another is earmarked to escort HMS Queen Elizabeth to the US east coast for her first F-35B flying trials in October.
The Royal Navy will also provide the flagship for Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) out to June 2018.
In addition to duties in the Gulf and elsewhere, this ensures a full year.

Joint Helicopter Command is particularly badly affected by cuts to training exercises, with much of its overseas activity curtailed. Arctic training also gets a cut although thanks to Trident Juncture a component of Royal Marines will still get in Norway. Initially a single company was earmarked, but a new plan has been crafted that will see two companies employed, as emerges from a December 14 Written Answer to the Commons.


Strike Brigade changes

There has been a significant change in plans for the Strike Brigades, with the Strike Experimentation Group activated in April 2017 within 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade.
Initially the SEG should have been an independent formation which would have transformed in 2019 into one of the two Strike Brigades. This has now changed, and SEG-1st AI Bde will convert to the new role in 2020, while the second brigade remains unidentified.

The unit roster of 1st Strike Brigade has also significantly changed, as it is now planned to include:

Household Cavalry Regiment (on Ajax)
Royal Dragoon Guards (on Ajax)
SCOT GDS (on MIV)
3 RIFLES (on MIV)

It is not clear how this impacts plans that included having the King’s Royal Hussars being the first unit to convert to Ajax, at the cost of losing Challenger 2 by 2019. This might now happen a bit later.
Similarly, the conversion of 1 YORKS from Warrior to MIV might also slip to the right.

The two Strike Brigades had earlier been expected to follow this scheme:


SEG on conversion to full brigade in 2019

-          Household Cavalry Regiment
-          King’s Royal Hussars
-          SCOT GDS
-          4 SCOTS

1st Strike Bde

-          Royal Dragoon Guards
-          Royal Lancers
-          1 YORKS
-          3 RIFLES


Obviously, there has been quite a shift in timelines and in the position of several units.



The 6th Typhoon Squadron

The identity of the 6th Typhoon Squadron has been revealed following the purchase by Qatar of 24 Typhoon Tranche 3 which will be assembled in the UK.
12 Sqn, currently a Tornado GR4 unit, will stand up in Coningsby and will be equipped with the latest standard of Typhoon. For a period of time the lenght of which is not yet known it will be a Joint Operational Squadron which will include Qatari elements as aircraft and personnel are worked up towards operational capability. The squadron will also deploy to Qatar to provide security for the Football World Cup.



The sale of Typhoon to Qatar is a very significant win for UK industry and ensures a few more years of activity for the Warton assembly line. Qatar is also expected to firm up a committment to 6 Hawk training jets, and has signed contracts to purchase Paveway IV, Brimstone and Meteor.

Overall, a very welcome boost for the UK defence industry. The JOS arrangement should also ease the costs connected with standing up the new squadron.

At least another Typhoon squadron is expected, but its identity is not yet known. It will stand up beginning next year in Lossiemouth. There was also talk of a third, but that might prove unfeasible.


The Joint New Air to Air Missile goes ahead 

The JNAAM is a development of Meteor that will include, it is believed, an AESA seeker developed by Japan. This evolved missile would then equip aircraft including the F-35s of both UK and Japan. It is currently the most interesting joint programme among those launched with the aim of deepening the bilateral collaboration. At the Ministerial Meeting on 14 December the two coutries agreed to looking forward “to the early embodiment of the joint research project including the research prototyping and the launch testing”. 
The ministers also “welcomed that the first bilateral co-operative research project of Chemical and Biological Protection Technology was successfully completed in July 2017. They welcomed progress made on the Project for the Cooperative Research on Personnel Vulnerability Evaluation, and confirmed the exploration of possible co-operation on projects of interest including the Joint Preliminary Study on Potential Collaborative Opportunities for Future Combat Air System/ Future Fighter, launched in March this year”.



The JNAAM is very interesting on its own, but it becomes even more important as it could help open a path to joint development of that “Future Fighter” that could be the post-Typhoon face of UK airpower and the future of the british aerospace industry.


“The Ministers welcomed the progress of defence co-operation through bilateral and multilateral joint exercises, including UK-Japan bilateral exercise Guardian North on the occasion of UK Typhoons’ visit to Japan in 2016. The Ministers confirmed that in 2018 UK-Japan bilateral ground exercise would take place for the first time in Japan and that both countries would take various opportunities such as deployment of HMS Argyll and HMS Sutherland to the Asia-Pacific region to conduct bilateral exercises. The Ministers also decided to seek to regularise bilateral exercises and others including observer exchanges. The Ministers also welcomed steady progress in unit-to-unit exchanges, which are an important basis of the bilateral relationship”. 



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

US and British Army attempt to Strike


Nicholas Drummond, ex-British Army officer and now consultant and commentator for defence industry, has decided to start a new blog, focused chiefly on the Land environment. I've had the honor of providing one of the posts with which the blog is beginning its journey, which will hopefully be long and rich of satisfactions.

In my post, which might be followed by a wider discussion on here in the coming months, i've decided to compare what the US Army and the British Army are doing to tackle the same problems. Multi Domain Battle and Integrated Action / Joint Land Strike are far closer in concept than some may realize, but the differences in approach and in proposed solutions could hardly be any more diverse.

The Reconnaissance and Security Strike Group and the Strike Brigade are on two parallel courses. They are not entirely different, yet they never seem to touch.
It is worth spending some time reflecting on similitudes and differences, and see what makes sense and what does not.

I recommend you visit the blog and read the article.