Having watched the debate twice, I am far from optimistic regarding the future of the Army. The Army has grabbed the "Sunset/Sunrise", idea with both hands and run off into the distance. Rather than try to find a way to modernise its existing Armoured Infantry Brigades, it seems to have decided it couldn't afford to do so and has there for decided to take the "Hail Mary" approach and pray nothing happen over the next ten to fifteen years. It has given not just on being able to field a warfighting Division but to be able to deploy any warfighting formation above battalion strength and even that is being generous. If the Army withdraws its FV432 Mortar Carriers for example, at present its successor with be a mortar team in the back of a Boxer APC who will have to dismount and set up the Mortar before they can carry out any fore mission. The Army now only has one ATGW for the Infantry and again this has to be used by dismounted Infantry. This is the Javelin and it is already at least one generation behind the ATGWs being fielded by other NATO members. The list of gaped capabilities goes on and on. The final area that causes me great concern is that all infantry battalions are going to be reduce to 450 personnel! A current Armoured Infantry Battalion should have around 730 personnel of all ranks, how are these new Battalions going to be structured?
The one area for a small amount of optimism is the fact that the Army is working on a new doctrine and it appears will be revisiting the orders for both Ajax and Boxer to see if they have the right mix of variants. But they are only revisiting, no decision has been made, even after numerous trials to change the make up of the orders yet, and the clock is ticking. Even if they decide that they need new variants will there be the money to purchase these, especially when the Army is looking to accelerate the production and delivery of both platforms.
The issue of why it was decided to update 148 Challenger 2s is also bizarre! Ensuring the UK retains the skill set to drive an Tank and to manufacture a new one in the future is giving the idea of supporting UK industry far too much weight. Even if we are allowed to join the European (read Franco/German) next generation Tank programme will it be economically viable to set up a production line in the UK for the limited number we will need, especially as both France and Germany will want the majority of any workshare agreement, if one is actually drawn up. Most likely both those countries will produce their platforms entirely in house as both will have unique items they will wish to include as well as their own policy for exports. Would we produce the whole platform or import German Engines and French electronics. Would we in reality be building parts kits that require a far lower skill set that complete manufacture. The Boxer production lines will provide many of those skills anyway so we would be duplicating things.
I suppose the Ranger Regiment could also be a bright spot and a real winner in the Global Britain flag waving project. But as mentioned elsewhere it is going to need a lot of new specialised equipment, plus an intensive training schedule to bring it up to speed. If they are to be force multipliers then the range of capabilities they must incorporate will be quite substantial even before assets from 7th Division are allocated if needed. I can also see why the Royal Marines might think the Rangers maybe treading on their toes especially as they are losing personnel. Maybe we should have increase the size of the Royal Marines, actually adding another Commando?
16 Air Assault was mentioned, but this formation also requires a major overhaul to make it far more flexible and nimble, and able to operate in the role it is supposed to. I have seen no mention of how this will be achieved, just the aspiration to do so.
Then we have other major programmes like MRV(P). What has become of this programme that was supposed to deliver thousands of protected Multi-role Vehicles to the Army any time now? A new Medium Range Air Defence system is supposed to be on the way but when will, if ever, this be delivered and will it be in sufficient numbers? The new Artillery systems are to be a key component of the Army's future doctrine but these are not due to appear until the mid to late 2030s. Until then we will have systems that are either outclassed or in insufficient number or both.
The gamble the Army is taking goes far beyond the familiar "Jam tomorrow" approach. In reality we are taking ourselves out of the Peer on Peer warfighting game for the next decade at the very least, and if forced to do so by some unforeseen event, are likely to see our Army subjected to losses in lives and equipment that will see it rendered totally non effective in a fairly short manner. SO many capabilities are being gapped or removed all together, that whilst the individual Service man or woman will still be some of the best in the world, their equipment will be a far cry from it.
Here endith todays rant, go in peace my children!