Wednesday, 19 June 2019

How to have your Strike and eat it too

Sometimes the solution to a problem is so obvious it's painful. Afterwards you're left with that mixed reaction; elation from having solved the problem (you think) combined with a sense of frustration and a feeling of immense stupidity that you didn't think of the solution earlier. That's the space I'm occupying right now as I sit and type, coupled with the sense of wonderment that someone at Google thought it would be a good idea to reset the default text size for editing to something so ridiculously small.

The problem I've been thinking about for a while is the question of the UK's Strike Brigade concept and how do we square the circle of maintaining heavy hitting armoured power while at he same time devoting resources to this new idea? So far the established (and establishment) solution has been to simply run down some of the armoured force in the shape of armoured brigades in order to free up money and personnel for Strike. The dilemma has been seen only in terms of either/or. You have to give up some of one in order to have some of the other.

But what if we could have both? What if we could not just have armoured brigades and Strike brigades at the same time, but have three of each, as opposed to the current plan of cutting back one armoured brigade to leave two, while creating space for two Strike brigades? So, how does one (for one is in posh mode) both have their Strike and eat it too? Or is it, have their armoured brigade and eat it too? Whatever.

The answer is as simple as it obvious; combine the two together. I know, I made that noise as well when I realised it.

Currently armoured brigades in UK service are designed with a number of elements in cooperation, one of which is mechanised infantry, aka troops in wheeled Mastiff protected vehicles (which some might complain are more motorised infantry, but lets not get into that debate now). They don't have to keep up with the tanks at what we might call "combat speed", that's for the armoured infantry units in their tracked Warrior vehicles. The job of the mechanised infantry is more that of a close follow on force. 

Historically such units have been used inside armoured brigades/divisions to carry out ancillary tasks that are inappropriate for the tanks and armoured infantry. On the defensive they can be used as a front line force that is more static in nature, meeting the enemy attack and shaping it ready for a counter attack by the more mobile armoured forces waiting behind them. On the offensive they can be used for example to divert away from the main armoured thrust and deal with side objectives such as clearing a town along the brigades/divisions approximate line of advance, thus protecting and/or expanding its lines of communication. Basically any job you need infantry for but don't necessarily need armoured infantry for.

Sooooo, why not kill two birds with one stone here? The army needs mechanised forces for its armoured brigades but it also wants a capability of fast wheeled vehicles that can self deploy to meet an emerging crisis, with more firepower and protection than that offered by vehicles like Mastiff. Personally I think the sudden obsession with 8x8s is misguided, but the army wants them and it's going to have them one way or another, so I might as well be pragmatic about the situation and offer up a solution that pleases all.

By mixing the 8x8s into the armoured brigades (you can still call them Strike brigades if you really want) it would allow the UK to preserve its current number of armoured formations at three instead of having to lose one to make space, while simultaneously enhancing the armoured brigades firepower and mobility (virtually every troop carrying vehicle in the brigade would now have a turreted cannon in excess of 30mm calibre). It also lets the UK develop its rapid response concept centred around the new 8x8 vehicle, but now with a much bigger punch available in the follow on train. Instead of relying on a tracked recce vehicle to act as a "light tank", the Strike brigade would have access to legitimate full blooded armour support as part of its follow on force. 

Just as importantly, all these elements would be designed, trained and prepared to work together seamlessly from the start, each element complimenting the others strengths and filling in their weaknesses, which was precisely the rationale behind the original design of modern armoured formations stretching back to the 1920s.

I'm actually annoyed at how obvious this is. It's taken me literally years to view the problem through this lens and I cannot begin to describe my frustration at only realising it now. Bugger. 

Now we just need to figure out wheeled recce, some kind of tank destroyer and some mobile anti-air and we'll finally have caught up with the best practice of the 1940s, 79 years behind schedule, but getting there at least.


  1. So what exactly are you suggesting ? Replacing the existing Armoured Infantry Brigades currently Mastiff borne "mechanized" Infantry with a Boxer unit? Is that it? That is not Strike as envisaged in any way, so what exactly are you suggesting ref this combined orbat ?

  2. Strike at this stage is basically just "we'll put some infantry in Boxers and send Ajax with them as their heavy back up". Any notion that Strike is somehow a much more advanced and encompassing concept than this is in my opinion nothing but PR and wishful thinking. Rolling the Boxer units into the armoured brigades instead of Mastiff borne infantry not only enhances the capability of the armoured units in their traditional role (by enhancing the firepower and mobility of their back up) but it gives the "Strike" element a more diverse range of support options to call upon, units which they'll have worked with before hand instead of just being bodged together at the last minute.

    Under the proposed arrangement Boxer now gives armoured brigade HQs an infantry force capable of fast deployment, around which they can tailor a BG of heavier elements and support if it's needed. It gives commanders more practical options and makes the brigade more fluid in its potential taskings, able to cover a much wider range of potential operations without the next for whole brand new, one trick pony brigades.

    1. Oh, looks like Blogger ate my comment - so trying again !

      Thanks for expanding on your concept. This is fine, I have no problem with it, but why not just say this is your common sense idea to kill strike, as there is no element of fast moving theatre strategic mobility to simply adding better wheeled vehicles to a tracked armoured formation. So strike this is not, which is fine. Three beefed up Armoured Infantry Brigades with a move back to an Ajax based Recce regiments, a Chally 3 regiment, plus armoured infantry on upgraded Warrior, and Mechanized Infantry on Boxer is great, as long as the "on call" part of the cycle involves the brigade being based in Poland, close to where it might be used, or at least in Germany.

      Not the way I would go, but well thought out and probably quite easily doable if you could get Army HQ to drop pretensions of "Strike" brigades.