Author Topic: What is the British Army really for today?  (Read 7231 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Oldgateboatdriver

  • Army.ca Veteran
  • *****
  • 132,645
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 3,487
Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #25 on: February 03, 2018, 18:29:18 »
The Navy doesn't usually "ignore" such order. They give it its due consideration ... and conclude it's an irrelevant order and proceed to do the right thing and to do what is required for the security needs of the Realm.

Usually, as the money draws down, they put most of the fleet at anchor, release most of the men and put the officers ashore on half-pay.  ;D

Offline GR66

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • 53,780
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 606
Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #26 on: February 04, 2018, 12:39:48 »
In my opinion there are a couple of factors that have significant impacts on the fundamental nature of major power warfare and as a result impact the way that military forces are (and should be) structured. 

The first factor is the changing nature of the global economy and the much greater economic interdependence between nations.  Prior to WWII agriculture was the leading sector of employment and accounted for a significant proportion of national GDPs.  International trade accounted for less than 10% of global economic output in 1900 and was largely concentrated within colonial trade networks.  As a result, control of physical land had an important impact on a nation's economy.  Control more productive land and your economy grows.

That dynamic simply isn't the case now.  For example, by 2011 Agriculture in the US accounted for only 1% of employment and 1.6% of GDP.  Controlling more land area simply isn't as important economically as it once was.  The opposite is true with international trade.  Previously trade didn't make up a significant portion of most nation's GDP but now most countries are highly dependent on trade for their economic well being.  War between the major powers puts that trade and therefore the economies of these nations at great risk.

The second factor that has changed is the cost of modern warfare.  Military forces are getting more expensive by the year which is why armed forces worldwide are getting smaller.  No nation can afford a modern military on the scale that they existed in the past.  This means that a full-scale military conflict between the great nations would be incredibly costly.  Perhaps more costly than any potential economic gain that could be made by going to war in the first place.

The other problem with smaller, more expensive armies is that they make occupying territory more difficult.  One need only look at the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to see how difficult it is to occupy an unwilling nation...even if there is a nominally friendly government in place to assist you.  Even for example if Russia could manage to seize Poland, would they be able to hold it and at what cost?

None of this is to suggest that there is no possibility of military conflict between the great powers. I just think that the nature of such conflict is likely much different than in past conflicts.  The above factors and the existence of a nuclear deterrent suggest to me that general war between Russia/China and the West with large forces driving into the territory of the opposing bloc is unlikely.  The cost/risks would far outweigh any potential gain. 

I believe we're much more likely to see the kind of proxy wars between allied states that we've seen since the Cold War plus the possible seizure of key strategic bits and pieces along the borders between the alliances.  More like Crimea and the Donbass, possibly Latvia/Estonia with their significant Russian populations, the islands of the South China Sea, etc. rather than "invasions" of enemy territories.  I'd wager that countries like Poland, Japan, Australia and Norway are safe.  I'd also suggest that strong deterrence seeking to prevent a quick campaign seeking to capture limited objectives would be more effective (and politically safer) than having to try and re-take any seized territory.

In these cases rapidly deployable forces with the capability to position themselves in a way to deter such attacks before they begin, or to be on hand to make an attack too costly may be more effective than heavier forces which might only be able to deploy in response to a rapid attack which has already achieved its limited objectives.  This might include recce and ELINT forces to detect signs of military build-up in advance of an attack (and provide time for political and military deterrents to be put in place), or air forces and rapidly deployable artillery and anti-armour forces to slow an attack, AA units to eliminate enemy air seeking to gain localized air superiority, etc.  Of course political will to deploy/employ these forces would be necessary to make this type of response effective.  If you delay in deploying a rapid response force quickly enough then of course you're left with weaker forces facing an entrenched, heavier enemy.

Regional powers with large militaries of their own (Iran, North Korea) are clearly exceptions and are places where peer/near-peer equipped armies could face each other.  These are certainly situations where the West will require the ability to field expeditionary forces with the weight and capability of defeating these potential enemies.  I think Canada has a moral responsibility to maintain the capability to participate in such collective military action by the West.

That's more or less how I see it anyway. 



Offline MarkOttawa

  • Army.ca Fixture
  • *****
  • 65,495
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 6,202
  • Two birthdays
    • The 3Ds Blog
Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #27 on: February 04, 2018, 12:54:56 »
GR66: There's also the big worry of India vs Pakistan, both with big armies and nukes:

Quote
Pakistan’s Tac Nukes and India’s “Cold Start” Attack
https://cgai3ds.wordpress.com/2015/10/20/mark-collins-pakistans-tac-nukes-and-indias-cold-start-attack/

Lots more on their fraught relationship:
https://cgai3ds.wordpress.com/?s=india+pakistan

Mark
Ottawa
Ça explique, mais ça n'excuse pas.

Offline pbi

  • Army.ca Subscriber
  • Army.ca Veteran
  • *
  • 52,725
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 3,961
Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #28 on: February 05, 2018, 13:16:27 »
In my opinion there are a couple of factors that have significant impacts on the fundamental nature of major power warfare and as a result impact the way that military forces are (and should be) structured...   ...I think Canada has a moral responsibility to maintain the capability to participate in such collective military action by the West.

That's more or less how I see it anyway.

You and I arrive at the same basic conclusion, but by different routes. Some of the arguments you bring forward have been advanced before as "truths" of the day, but found wanting because human behaviour is not always what we think of as rational or predictable (although it makes perfect sense to the actors...)\

The belief that increased international commerce, and the interdependence of nations, would act as a brake on major war was around before WW1: it didn't seem to stop trading partners from going to war with each other.  I'm not sure about your claims concerning agriculture being the leading sector of employment prior to WW2: I think that would depend very much on the country. While it might have been true of the USSR, or Poland, or possibly even still the USA, I would doubt very much that it was true of Germany, or of the UK. IIRC, British military medical authorities at the start of WW2 were very concerned about the generally poor health and physique of a high number of recruits, because most of them came from cities and large manufacturing towns with unhealthy diets and bad conditions.

Quote
Previously trade didn't make up a significant portion of most nation's GDP but now most countries are highly dependent on trade for their economic well being.

Great Britain and Germany would definitely give you arguments on this one, at any point in the 20th century.

Quote
Control more productive land and your economy grows.

I'm not sure that has always been applicable. Look at Switzerland, Holland and the Scandinavian countries: generally quite successful economies with very limited land resources. Conversely look at Poland and Russia: large land holdings but generally under-performing economies (at least until recently, anyway)

Quote
Military forces are getting more expensive by the year which is why armed forces worldwide are getting smaller.

 I would argue that by the standards of each era, armies are always expensive. Whose armed forces are getting smaller?   For example, Sweden has recently reestablished conscription, thereby increasing the size of manpower pool readily available to the military. To me, that means "bigger".

As well, we might ask "smaller relative to whom or to what"? Even a reduced Russian, Chinese, Iranian, Pakistani or Indian Army is still a pretty good size and in some cases much more formidable than most in the West. And, doubtless, able to absorb casualty rates which would bring down most governments elsewhere.

Quote
This means that a full-scale military conflict between the great nations would be incredibly costly.  Perhaps more costly than any potential economic gain that could be made by going to war in the first place.

Again, almost always true. But this logical calculation usually gets lost in the fear, toxic nationalism, jingoism, religious fervour, greed, hubris, misunderstanding, politicized intelligence processes  and inept risk estimation all of which have normally characterized decisions to go to war to some degree or another. Look at Germany's  inability to grasp the basics of geopolitics and strategy (as opposed to operations and tactics), not once but twice, catastrophically both times.

Quote
One need only look at the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to see how difficult it is to occupy an unwilling nation...even if there is a nominally friendly government in place to assist you.  Even for example if Russia could manage to seize Poland, would they be able to hold it and at what cost?

The British held India (and a big chunk of the rest of the planet) for centuries with a relatively small force. They understood how to exploit human nature. And, I think Russia did seize Poland in 1944, and held it for several decades. Again, they exploited human nature: from the unwillingness of the Western Allies to confront them in 1944-45, to the willingness of the Polish leadership to be co-opted, to just plain fear and indifference. 

 Nukes add a note of caution, but only for a regime that cares about the risk, or calculates that they might not be able to strike first. People fight wars for pretty much the same reasons they always have, and they deploy the same sorts of reasons for why "it can never happen again"

Which brings us back to what we both agree on.  :D
« Last Edit: February 06, 2018, 06:37:21 by pbi »
The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. ...

The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out...

Offline MarkOttawa

  • Army.ca Fixture
  • *****
  • 65,495
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 6,202
  • Two birthdays
    • The 3Ds Blog
Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #29 on: July 30, 2018, 15:41:59 »
Sir Humphrey's Thin Pinstriped Line on way ahead for British military generally, and difficult choices/decisions that will have to be made (CAF?)--excerpts:

Quote
"You Say It Best When You Say Nothing At All" - Thoughts on the MDP Review Announcement

 The Secretary of State for Defence has provided an update to the House of Commons on progress towards the Modernising Defence Programme review (MDP), setting out its progress to date. To say that this statement has left some commentators underwhelmed is an understatement – the response landed with a resounding ‘is that it?’ on social media.

The MDP is the successor review to the National Security Capability Review (NCSR) that was launched last July, and was intended to function as an update on the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) outside the normal five yearly cycles of defence reviews. Reasons for the review being conducted differ depending on who you listen to – some will claim it was a timely and reasonable update chapter, intended to ensure that UK national security policy was well placed to address the post Brexit referendum security dynamic. Others will suggest it was due to the money running out, and defence procurement writing cheques its ego couldn’t cash.

The challenge with the NCSR was that it seems to have become painfully clear that the appetite by the MOD to deliver effect is not matched up by its financial package, and that major cuts would be needed to keep the Department fiscally solvent. It was last autumn that the first rumours began to emerge of deep cuts to force levels, causing unrest on the back benches. The unexpected resignation of Michael Fallon, and his replacement by Gavin Williamson seems to have led to further concerns as the MOD struggled to pull together a force package that was credible to allies, amenable to the backbenches and affordable to the Treasury.

A further series of leaks over the spring, particularly on the state of the amphibious force led to the conclusion that the MOD work should be spun off into a separate review – to be known as the Modernising Defence Programme – which the MOD explained was about ensuring the British armed forces were fit to meet the current strategic challenges and threats facing the UK...

 The announcement then came as a surprise to many, who had been expecting an insight into the findings of the review at the NATO summit. Instead, after a year of work, the findings were boiled down into a barely 2000-word statement on what the review had concluded to date...

 The clear inference here is that the rules of the game are changing, and that traditional deterrence, both through conventional and nuclear means is no longer sufficient to be certain of preventing malign state activity against the UK. Incidents like cyber attacks and the Skripal poisonings prove that other nations are willing to conduct operations to achieve an effect, and that for the UK, there is a need to both deter, and be able to pick up the pieces afterwards.

This leads to a reasonable conclusion that an already crowded budget will have to find additional room for more spending in cyber defence and CBRN measures, as well as enhancing the role of Space. This is all important, but not necessarily a ‘traditional’ measure of military capability. Choosing how to prioritise funding, and also explain to a cynical public and backbenches that scrapping ships was essential to fund and preserve a hard to define, and probably highly classified cyber capability (for example) will be a hard sell emphasis added] This cuts to the heart of the national security challenge facing the MOD – the sort of the threats it will need to guard against are often difficult to explain or show as they aren’t traditional military hardware...

 One guide is the continued aspiration to be able to conduct warfighting operations under NATO Article 5, a strong statement of the UK’s continued commitment to NATO and its willingness to field forces capable of taking on an external aggressor prepared to attack a NATO member state. It is reasonable to assume this means Russia, which in turn reads across into the UK being prepared to provide capabilities that can be credible against the Russian threat – one would expect this to focus particularly on ISTAR, tackling the cyber and other unconventional threats like ‘little green men’ and also being able to deliver credible ASW and MCMV protection to ensure the ongoing credibility of the Strategic Nuclear Deterrent force.

The other commitment is to ‘wider afield’, not defined in any more detail. This implies an ongoing commitment to providing a force capable of operating beyond the traditional NATO area of responsibility. What is particularly interesting is the subtle way NATO has taken primacy again in these statements, with Article 5 defence coming first, and out of area operations second – after decades of focusing on global operational presence, the UK is once again signalling that its prime operational area of focus and war fighting preparation seems to be NATO [emphasis added]. There is an extremely strong message in that statement, both to NATO members and potential aggressors.

...What is clear is that the MOD appears to be considering a substantial change to its equipment programme, rescoping a number of programmes to bring them into service sooner, and potentially introducing some kind of ‘UOR’ programme to gain ‘significant advantage’.

What is clear is that the next phase of the MDP is likely to see significant and major changes to the equipment programme [emphasis added]. This in turn comes at a price, either through reducing funding for capability, total unit buys or outright cancellation of projects. When coupled with the mantra of faster, lighter and able to fight in an Article 5 conflict, there does appear to be major change likely to happen soon to the equipment programme...

Barring a substantial injection of cash in the spending review, the likely outcome would seem to be structural cuts in a manner intended to preserve the headline capabilities of interest and relevance to our allies, and a wide range of efficiency savings and further base closures designed to help close the funding gap.

The MOD does find itself in a bind though, having proven itself unable to predict how the world was likely to change so quickly (raising reasonable questions about the ability of its strategic assessment organisations to predict and assess future trends), it now faces the challenge of trying to reorientate itself to meet the increasingly important NATO commitment, while also maintaining a global focus and supporting the ‘Global Britain’ narrative...
https://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.com/2018/07/you-say-it-best-when-you-say-nothing-at.html

Mark
Ottawa


Ça explique, mais ça n'excuse pas.

Offline MarkOttawa

  • Army.ca Fixture
  • *****
  • 65,495
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 6,202
  • Two birthdays
    • The 3Ds Blog
Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #30 on: July 31, 2018, 12:55:22 »
Start of a very comprehensive analysis that, amongst other things, suggests abolishing the RAF:

Quote
LINDLEY-FRENCH'S BLOG BLAST: SPEAKING TRUTH UNTO POWER
A Regular Commentary on Strategic Affairs from a Leading Commentator and Analyst
RADICALLY RE-THINKING BRITAIN'S SECURITY AND DEFENCE

 In the wake of the failure of the Defence Modernisation Programme in this second of my extended summer food-for-thought essays William Hopkinson and I offer a radical new approach to the design of a credible and affordable UK security and defence policy. William was a former Director of Studies and Deputy Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and Assistant Secretary of State (Policy) in the Ministry of Defence in London. As you will see such a policy would require hard facts to be faced and tough choices to be made, for neither of which the May Government has shown much aptitude. We have, with all due respect, ventured to cast the advice in the form of a submission from the Cabinet Secretary.

Minute from Cabinet Secretary to the Prime Minister, September 2018

Summary: In light of the inability to properly fund the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security and Review and the failure of the Defence Modernisation Programme there is an urgent need for the United Kingdom to re-consider security and defence policy in the round. The UK faces adversaries armed with new technologies and ways of offence that render its current security and defence structures obsolete.  We must meet critical threats, on occasion independently, usually in alliance or coalition, across a broad spectrum, but have a host of legacy structures and systems. We need radical solutions in which security and defence are organised effectively. We must understand the nature of contemporary threats and their interaction, the impact of new technologies and propose to establish a credible level of response and recovery in the event of shock. That will require intelligent but profound choices to be made and will inevitably require a wholesale re-structuring of the Armed Forces driven solely by relevant considerations rather than resources available due to the current policy of imposing profound constraints on the public purse...
http://lindleyfrench.blogspot.com/2018/07/radically-re-thinking-britains-security.html

Mark
Ottawa
Ça explique, mais ça n'excuse pas.

Offline Colin P

  • Army.ca Fixture
  • *****
  • 127,080
  • Rate Post
  • Posts: 8,931
  • Civilian
    • http://www.pacific.ccg-gcc.gc.ca
Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #31 on: August 01, 2018, 11:35:38 »
Speaking of defense and offensive, look at Syria, it was the intervention of Russia that helped the regime hold the line that was crumbling. That gave time for Russia and Syria to put enablers on the ground, train up key officers and develop a few good units (Tiger Forces). Also it gave time to draw in Hezbollah and Iran to support the regime as well. Then they went on the offensive and are winning, small setpiece battles to maximize their firepower and limited manpower.

You are going to need manpower to win, part of the struggle for the regime is the enemies light forces sweep around the regime heavy forces and capture areas held by low quality militias, forcing the heavy forces to go and recapture that terrain again. The Malay campaign used regular forces to hold key areas, while the SAS and Jungle squads did the offensives, again picking areas that stood a high likelihood of victory in the beginning, which change the whole narrative of the fight. In many countries, the winning side can increase their numbers rapidly through picking up local support. So the appearance of winning is an important element in your long term force structure.