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Offline MarkOttawa

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What is the British Army really for today?
« on: August 06, 2017, 14:05:20 »
Sir Humphrey's Thin Pinstriped Line blog is back (could we deploy even a brigade?)--excerpts:

Quote
How Do You Solve a Problem Like a Deployable Division?
...
 What this quick canter through history shows us is two key issues -firstly the UK has sustained an Army of a size to combat external threats, and deployed them primarily overseas. As the threats have receded, so has the size of the Army. The second issue is that the Army remains determined to see the deployment of a division globally as the benchmark against which its performance is measured.
The manpower issue is the first challenge – the Army has not responded well to attempts to reduce its size, and has fought a strong rear-guard action to prevent further headcount reductions. The 2015 election was fought on a clear promise to not cut the size of the Regular Armed Forces, and to keep the Army at a strength of 82,000 people.

The problem for the planners is twofold. Firstly, there is no clear sense of what these 82,000 people are needed for. Secondly, there isn’t enough money to equip all of them to the right standard to be uniformly deployable...

 The commitment in 2015 to not cutting the Army ahead of the SDSR led to the outcome where the Army was forced to keep soldiers it couldn’t afford to equip, and perhaps more importantly couldn’t easily identify a role for, in its structure for primarily political reasons. Speak candidly to most Army officers and many of them recognised that an Army of 82,000 makes sense if you have a clear role for it, and can afford to give everyone the same level of equipment.

Instead the outcome was a fudge, whereby the two-tier Army was formalised as a small high readiness force, with a much larger regeneration force with lower readiness and equipment held behind to do defence engagement roles. The various restructuring seemed aimed at trying to maximise some form of warfighting capability, while recognising that politically it would be impossible to carry out deep reform of the Army by scrapping ‘capbadges’ – nothing riles the Conservative backbenches more than knowing their local Battalion of ‘Loamshires’ is at risk.

How do we solve a problem like a Division?

 The 2015 SDSR also committed the Army to be able to deploy a Division globally at 6 months’ notice as a ‘best effort’ commitment. This felt like a sop to the Generals and backbenchers who felt that this was the ‘great power’ standard to which the Army should be judged [Canadian reserve regiments?]...

This...leaves the Army in a bit of a quandary. It has focused on delivery of a global division as its benchmark at a time when the Politicians simply do not want to do this. It has focused on keeping 82,000 troops when it can’t afford to keep them all equipped, and to meet the political priority of protecting certain Regimental capbadges, it has been forced to sacrifice its far more valuable logistics, communications and other enablers that keep it as a genuinely effective force...

The Army today faces a structural and existential crisis. Too large to be properly funded, and politically barred from restructuring itself (although the recent 2017 manifesto pledge is merely to preserve the headline strength of the forces, not the individual services, so there is still hope). Denied a credible enemy that it can prepare to fight against, it has no clear rationale for why it needs to operate at a large scale when the political decision makers are increasingly set against boots on the ground for long term commitment...
https://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.ca/2017/08/how-do-you-solve-problem-like.html

And note Canadian politicians' increasing reliance on our special forces.

Mark
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Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2017, 14:34:40 »
Sir Humphrey's Thin Pinstriped Line blog is back (could we deploy even a brigade?)--excerpts:

And note Canadian politicians' increasing reliance on our special forces.

Mark
Ottawa

This is a good problem: no threat to national/ global survival on the scale of the Cold War. However, the challenge for all of us remains... how to be ready without costing too much....
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline Chris Pook

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2017, 20:17:05 »
There is no need for an army.

Is there a need to be able to destroy an army?

And what is the most efficient, fastest, cheapest means of doing that?
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Offline MarkOttawa

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2017, 21:56:24 »
Friend of mine commented:

Quote
The issue can be re-thought by asking whether a modern army should think of deployable divisions or brigade combat teams.  The US went heavily towards brigade building blocks but seems now to think that possible confrontations in Korea, "elsewhere in Asia" or NATO area Europe will require divisions.  However, service and national cultures weigh heavily and Sir Humphrey describes these pressures very well.

While the future is not that predictable, can anyone see a requirement for Canada to deploy a combat division anywhere?  We might need a divisional HQ [i.e. fausse division--regional command not a true formation] in the event of natural disaster but before our two-thirds brigade in Afghanistan, the last real combat role in Korea was a brigade in a composite division.

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Offline George Wallace

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2017, 22:02:54 »

And what is the most efficient, fastest, cheapest means of doing that?

A civilian bureaucracy overseeing purchases and training.
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Offline Tango2Bravo

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2017, 10:52:13 »
While history does not repeat itself it does rhyme. The British have deployed divisions abroad on combat operations in each of the last three decades (Falklands, Gulf War, Iraq War 2003). It would be a mistake to think of war in terms of only brigades.  It seems that larger NATO formations with a conventional high-intensity focus may be back in business.

I understand that their are all sorts of organizational pressures within the UK military, but I think it makes sense for the UK to maintain the capability to deploy a Division. You can't just stand that capability up overnight, but you might just need it quickly.
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Offline pbi

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2018, 09:29:40 »
There is no need for an army.

Is there a need to be able to destroy an army?

And what is the most efficient, fastest, cheapest means of doing that?

OK: I'll bite. :D

And how many times have  we heard that statement, and how many ill advised force restructure programs or "economies" have been inflicted on (Western) militaries, only to have to be reversed or undone when reality rears Its ugly head.

I would offer two examples:. The first of these was the belief in the 1930s that airpower in general, and the multi-engined bomber in particular, had rendered ground combat at least "secondary" and possibly obsolete. It took WW2 and the massive destruction of cities and military targets to prove this belief misguided. Armies survived and became even more lethal.

Later, in the 1950s, when the threat of atomic war began to evolve into a real strategic consideration, similar arguments arose again. Ground combat and armies were once again suspect: why keep big ground forces around when you can just drop a few nukes? As usual, the Air Force was only too happy to step up and do it all.

And, while we certainly can't dismiss the political and thus strategic value of nukes, war since those days has relied to the greatest extent on ground forces of various sorts.

I don't think there is a really "efficient and effective" way to destroy an army simply because of all the services it is the most resilient, the most flexible and the most capable of absorbing large amounts of damage but continuing to fight.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 09:40:31 by pbi »
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Offline pbi

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2018, 09:37:46 »
While history does not repeat itself it does rhyme. The British have deployed divisions abroad on combat operations in each of the last three decades (Falklands, Gulf War, Iraq War 2003). It would be a mistake to think of war in terms of only brigades.  It seems that larger NATO formations with a conventional high-intensity focus may be back in business.

I understand that their are all sorts of organizational pressures within the UK military, but I think it makes sense for the UK to maintain the capability to deploy a Division. You can't just stand that capability up overnight, but you might just need it quickly.
:goodpost:

Both the UK and Canada would do well to remember this. If you read about the Canadian Army in 1939 to 1942 as it built up and prepared to go into major combat operations, the biggest problem was not the courage and skill of the troops, nor the ability of the leaders at unit and below.  As Montgomery observed when he had the CA in Southeastern Command, it was their poor formation C2, weak or nonexistent higher staff skills, and bad formation command. Not too surprising from an Army that had not even had a "real" Div HQ since 1919.
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. ...

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Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2018, 10:17:45 »
OK: I'll bite. :D

And how many times have  we heard that statement, and how many ill advised force restructure programs or "economies" have been inflicted on (Western) militaries, only to have to be reversed or undone when reality rears Its ugly head.

I would offer two examples:. The first of these was the belief in the 1930s that airpower in general, and the multi-engined bomber in particular, had rendered ground combat at least "secondary" and possibly obsolete. It took WW2 and the massive destruction of cities and military targets to prove this belief misguided. Armies survived and became even more lethal.

Later, in the 1950s, when the threat of atomic war began to evolve into a real strategic consideration, similar arguments arose again. Ground combat and armies were once again suspect: why keep big ground forces around when you can just drop a few nukes? As usual, the Air Force was only too happy to step up and do it all.

And, while we certainly can't dismiss the political and thus strategic value of nukes, war since those days has relied to the greatest extent on ground forces of various sorts.

I don't think there is a really "efficient and effective" way to destroy an army simply because of all the services it is the most resilient, the most flexible and the most capable of absorbing large amounts of damage but continuing to fight.

Humans live on land and while they must be able to fight in the air and on the sea, the ability to take and hold ground is ultimately what determines the outcome of wars.

This being said, Canada is far from our adversaries.  We have time to build an Army, we don't necessarily have time to build an Air Force or Navy which is why I think these services should take primacy over any Army.  Offence wins games, Defence wins championships. 
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 10:26:53 by Humphrey Bogart »

Offline Infanteer

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2018, 10:40:00 »
Offence wins games, Defence wins championships.

Old dead Carl and I both disagree.  Go the Book 6, Chap 1.  Clausewitz states defence is the stronger form, but the negative form.  Offence is the positive form, because it is the decisive form.  All good defences must ultimately go to the offence.

Defence wins games, Offence wins championships.

Case in point 1:  1941-45.  Defending Britain from air attack in the Battle of Britain won the "game" (preserving the UK), but attacking into Central Germany won the "championship" (ending the war).

Case in point 2:  1973.  Holding the Sinai from the Egyptians won the "game" (giving Israel mobilization time), but attacking across the Suez and encircling a field Army won the "championship" (ended the war).

Case in point 3:  1965-1975.  Defending Vietnam from North Vietnamese guerrilla (NVA) and main force (NVA) infiltration may have won "games" (repeated operations in South Vietnam preserved it), but the failure of the US to affect the behaviour of North Vietnam through offensive action led it to lose the "championship" by leaving the field (North Vietnam ended the war on its terms)

Case in point 4:  1982.  Trying to defend the Falklands with a small Marine force and relying on diplomacy lost the Brits the "game," but the Task Force sailed and conducted an amphibious assault on the Falklands to win the "championship" (causing an Argentine surrender).
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2018, 11:05:05 »
Britain's great existential crisis, one they've been experiencing since WW2, is the transition from an independent world power with its own colonies to, like Canada, a political and military sidekick of the USA.

A colonial power requires an 'Expeditionary Army' army, like they had prior to WW1. These are, essentially, conflict tourists who drift in and out as the political situation demands. Regardless, the size of their Empire, and relative thriftiness because the Navy was always the main effort in the global empire business, meant that they needed an approach to recruit and maintain a large Army cheaply through an extended network of relationships (the people supply chain) which, of course, led the to a regimental system based on local armouries and highly identifiable regiments connected (politically and tenaciously) with specific geographical areas of the country (sound familiar?).

Since WW2, they've been an army to defend the withdrawal from empire while ramping up to defeat Soviet invasion of Western Europe. This gave them delusions of American like grandeur as they filled up BAOR with thousands of troops, tank, guns, planes and the like. When The Wall came down, they essentially reverted to pre-WW1 imperatives.... without the massive empire. Then, when Northern Ireland went quiet in the early 2000s (and they had 16 + battalions of Infantry plus other arms and services there at any one time for over 30 years), they had even less reason to keep the 'fish and chip mobs' in full pay.

The Falklands War may have, in fact, been an impediment to modernization as it's frequently invoked as a reason to maintain a global strike force that is not too dissimilar to the US Marine Corps. Various bumps up to cover Afghanistan and Iraq haven't helped either, as they've essentially been impediments to longer term strategic rationalization.

And then add the independent nuclear deterrent, and Brexit, and the lowest recruiting levels in decades, to all that and you have a great career for military bureaucrats who are required to figure it all out for them :) 

"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline pbi

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2018, 11:29:31 »
This being said, Canada is far from our adversaries.  We have time to build an Army, we don't necessarily have time to build an Air Force or Navy which is why I think these services should take primacy over any Army.  Offence wins games, Defence wins championships.

As far as the Defence of Canada goes, I agree 100% that it is primarily the job of the RCF and RCN. If the CA is doing it, it's too late.

But, since the actual defence of Canada has really occupied so little of our military history in terms of combat operations, we can't abandon the other major consideration: the need to live up to our obligations and committments (and to be ready for gthe Unexpected) by having a solid and credible land expeditionary capability.  I think the UK retains a similar expeditionary requirement.

It is a good question how much time we (or, in the case of this discussion, the UK) might have to build up an army of any credibility (much less mount, deploy and sustain it) should Mr Putin and Gang decide to act up. Or North Korea. Or wherever.

"Events, dear boy, events"
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Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2018, 11:44:31 »
Old dead Carl and I both disagree.  Go the Book 6, Chap 1.  Clausewitz states defence is the stronger form, but the negative form.  Offence is the positive form, because it is the decisive form.  All good defences must ultimately go to the offence.

Defence wins games, Offence wins championships.

Case in point 1:  1941-45.  Defending Britain from air attack in the Battle of Britain won the "game" (preserving the UK), but attacking into Central Germany won the "championship" (ending the war).

Case in point 2:  1973.  Holding the Sinai from the Egyptians won the "game" (giving Israel mobilization time), but attacking across the Suez and encircling a field Army won the "championship" (ended the war).

Case in point 3:  1965-1975.  Defending Vietnam from North Vietnamese guerrilla (NVA) and main force (NVA) infiltration may have won "games" (repeated operations in South Vietnam preserved it), but the failure of the US to affect the behaviour of North Vietnam through offensive action led it to lose the "championship" by leaving the field (North Vietnam ended the war on its terms)

Case in point 4:  1982.  Trying to defend the Falklands with a small Marine force and relying on diplomacy lost the Brits the "game," but the Task Force sailed and conducted an amphibious assault on the Falklands to win the "championship" (causing an Argentine surrender).

I like "Old Dead Carl" going to use that one ;)

Ultimately, all of the examples you cited were won or lost through attrition, either physical or moral. 

Having a strong Defence buys time to allow sufficient combat power to be massed to defeat an adversary. 

Nazi Germany was on the Offensive for the first three years of WWII; however, strong Defence and Geography hemmed them in and they were unable to break out.  They were never able to secure key terrain or vital ground necessary to achieve actual victory.

Offence and defence are complimentary; however, strong Defence affords protection of key terrain and vital ground which is what will ultimately allow a nation to win a war. 

I believe Western militaries overly concern themselves with the Offence because of our false belief in "decisive battle" and the idea that we can deliver a quick blow to defeat an adversary.  An idea that is all the more ridiculous given the possession of nuclear weapons by basically anyone with any sort of real military power.

As far as the Defence of Canada goes, I agree 100% that it is primarily the job of the RCF and RCN. If the CA is doing it, it's too late.

But, since the actual defence of Canada has really occupied so little of our military history in terms of combat operations, we can't abandon the other major consideration: the need to live up to our obligations and committments (and to be ready for gthe Unexpected) by having a solid and credible land expeditionary capability.  I think the UK retains a similar expeditionary requirement.

It is a good question how much time we (or, in the case of this discussion, the UK) might have to build up an army of any credibility (much less mount, deploy and sustain it) should Mr Putin and Gang decide to act up. Or North Korea. Or wherever.

"Events, dear boy, events"

The one thing about land powers that nobody really ever admits is that all roads have an end.  I can sail a boat or fly a plane around the world, a road will only take me so far.  Putin can drive his tanks all the way to Charbourg, from a Canadian perspective, big deal.

Anglo-Saxon military prowess is built on control of the sea and now the air, this should remain our strategy for the future.

Offline Infanteer

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2018, 12:50:17 »
Having a strong Defence buys time to allow sufficient combat power to be massed to defeat an adversary.

...by doing what?

Quote
Offence and defence are complimentary; however, strong Defence affords protection of key terrain and vital ground which is what will ultimately allow a nation to win a war.

...by doing what?

Quote
The one thing about land powers that nobody really ever admits is that all roads have an end.  I can sail a boat or fly a plane around the world, a road will only take me so far.  Putin can drive his tanks all the way to Charbourg, from a Canadian perspective, big deal.

Anglo-Saxon military prowess is built on control of the sea and now the air, this should remain our strategy for the future.

Read Mackinder.  Depends on one's perspective of geopolitics.  A few games of Axis and Allies shows the importance of the Heartland.
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2018, 13:52:24 »
...by doing what?

...by doing what?

I see your point, in order to win, you must by necessity be able to generate offence.  I agree with this; however, I guess where my contention with this discussion is the how?  I don't see a need for Canada to possess a large standing Army based on our geographical location.  Likewise, I don't see the need for the UK to maintain a large standing army at the expense of their other services which provide far better guarantees to their security.   

France doesn't even pretend to want or need to fight a large scale conventional land war against a peer enemy.  Their army is for intervention in their overseas possessions or internal security, for the rest, this is what Nuclear deterrence is for.

Quote
Read Mackinder.  Depends on one's perspective of geopolitics.  A few games of Axis and Allies shows the importance of the Heartland.

Played probably about a hundred games of A&A over the years.  Endless amounts of cheap Infantry in Moscow does a pretty good job protecting the heartland while a focus on sea power eventually wins the day for the Allies.  I also have a love hate relationship with that game because it essentially ignores the geographic realities of combat. 

I took a lot of geography courses in University so I'm familiar with Mackinder (thanks Dr. Luciuk).  A good book to read is "The Revenge of Geography" by Kaplan which I think does a very good job in the first part of the book outlining the limits of land based combat power. 

Talking about Mackinder:

Quote
"Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
who rules the World-Island commands the world."
(Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, p. 150)

Napoleon and Hitler both tried and failed.  The Soviets were more successful but even they failed.  Trying to command the Heartland is a fool's errand as there are too many cultural intersections and different groups of people for it to be even possible.  It's why the Stans are all screwed up, the Caucusus is a quagmire, the Chinese are having trouble controlling the Uyghurs. 
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 14:14:34 by Humphrey Bogart »

Offline Chris Pook

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2018, 14:20:49 »
MacKinder's Problem: Population of Eurasia = 4.618 Billion ca 2011.   Population of the Oceans = 0.

MacKinder's Rulers have to secure the consent of 4.618 billion independent actors in order to implement their strategy.

Mahan's Rulers only have to keep other Rulers off the waves.

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2018, 14:29:30 »
Trying to command the Heartland is a fool's errand

Lol.  A few games of classic Risk makes that one apparent.

Can the argument be made that North America is the new Heartland....  Probably not, with the way world economic power is shifting to SE Asia.  :dunno:
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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2018, 14:43:38 »
I don't see a need for Canada to possess a large standing Army based on our geographical location.  Likewise, I don't see the need for the UK to maintain a large standing army at the expense of their other services which provide far better guarantees to their security.

That's one approach.  The leadership of Canada and the UK were saying that in the 1930s, and it didn't help them very much.  One could also argue that there is need for a respectable intervention element and the capability to raise and direct "large standing forces" so we're not forced to relearn things (at the cost of blood and treasure) if we need to mobilize again.
   
Quote
France doesn't even pretend to want or need to fight a large scale conventional land war against a peer enemy.  Their army is for intervention in their overseas possessions or internal security, for the rest, this is what Nuclear deterrence is for.


Not quite accurate.  The new reforms (Au Contact) balance the two Divisions with heavy, medium, and light formations.  The 2 x Heavy Brigades (2 and 7) along with the NATO/EU HQs they maintain are very much oriented towards "large scale conventional land war against a peer enemy."
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline Chris Pook

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2018, 15:04:56 »
That's one approach.  The leadership of Canada and the UK were saying that in the 1930s, and it didn't help them very much.  One could also argue that there is need for a respectable intervention element and the capability to raise and direct "large standing forces" so we're not forced to relearn things (at the cost of blood and treasure) if we need to mobilize again.
     

Not quite accurate.  The new reforms (Au Contact) balance the two Divisions with heavy, medium, and light formations.  The 2 x Heavy Brigades (2 and 7) along with the NATO/EU HQs they maintain are very much oriented towards "large scale conventional land war against a peer enemy."

Large scale conventional land war against a peer enemy.....

Quote
The French Army on the eve of the German attack in 1940 was commanded by General Maurice Gamelin with its headquarters in Vincennes, on the outskirts of Paris. It consisted of 117 divisions with 94 committed to the North-Eastern front of operations.

I keep hearing about this "large scale conventional land war against a peer enemy"  but when France goes from 117 Divs to 2 with a total of 2 Heavy Brigades,  when Russia has 33 Motor Rifle Brigades and a couple of Tank Divisions, all mostly equipped the same as they were in Brezhnev's day but with less than a million troops - when both Russia and China have to be concerned about the nonsense on the Korean peninsula - I am not really seeing much of a "large scale" tendency any where.
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Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2018, 15:58:46 »
Large scale conventional land war against a peer enemy.....

I keep hearing about this "large scale conventional land war against a peer enemy"  but when France goes from 117 Divs to 2 with a total of 2 Heavy Brigades,  when Russia has 33 Motor Rifle Brigades and a couple of Tank Divisions, all mostly equipped the same as they were in Brezhnev's day but with less than a million troops - when both Russia and China have to be concerned about the nonsense on the Korean peninsula - I am not really seeing much of a "large scale" tendency any where.

I see it the same way Chris Pook.  We keep talking about this large scale conventional war but all the signs point elsewhere and everyone seems to be downsizing, even the PLA.

That's one approach.  The leadership of Canada and the UK were saying that in the 1930s, and it didn't help them very much.  One could also argue that there is need for a respectable intervention element and the capability to raise and direct "large standing forces" so we're not forced to relearn things (at the cost of blood and treasure) if we need to mobilize again.

Or did it help them?  Operation Sea Lion never happened and the Germans were never even really close and most historians agree that it would have failed.  Stay the heck out of the continent has been the British way long before WWII and the proof is in the outcomes. 

Offline Tango2Bravo

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #20 on: February 03, 2018, 15:59:48 »
I see your point, in order to win, you must by necessity be able to generate offence.  I agree with this; however, I guess where my contention with this discussion is the how?  I don't see a need for Canada to possess a large standing Army based on our geographical location.  Likewise, I don't see the need for the UK to maintain a large standing army at the expense of their other services which provide far better guarantees to their security.   

France doesn't even pretend to want or need to fight a large scale conventional land war against a peer enemy.  Their army is for intervention in their overseas possessions or internal security, for the rest, this is what Nuclear deterrence is for.


Infanteer has already mentioned it, but the French Army has two Armoured Brigades, each with two full Leclerc battalions and three mech infantry battalions in a LAVIII-style vehicle. The French Army has a lot on its plate, to be sure, but they are not just focused on internal security and policing former colonies.

I have been spending some time across the pond with our NATO allies, and the scene has changed massively since I was with NATO allies in Europe in 2007 helping them prepare for Afghanistan. Folks are rediscovering the Division and Corps as fighting formations and not just stability operations HQs. Along those lines, I was recently on a Corps-level CAX in Europe alongside heavy divisions from the UK and other NATO allies. Now, its not the Germany I saw in 1989 as an 18-year old Flyover either, but the pendulum has indeed swung. A lot has changed between the 2014 Winter Olympics and now.


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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #21 on: February 03, 2018, 16:18:37 »
Western armies seem to go through periodic exercises of trying to improve mission execution times by fiddling with divisional organizations. In the 50s the Americans brought in the pentonic divisions by eliminating the regimental command structure and going for five battle groups. At the same time we eliminated our divisional headquarters and divisional troops to adopt the brigade group as promulgated in CAMT 1-8 The Brigade Group in Battle. Both were designed to cater for the tactical nuclear battlefield, but our brigade group in Germany operated as part of a British division. The British chopped their brigade group organization in the mid-seventies. But I believe it was a short lived cure to financial pressures and it did not last terribly long.

Farther back in history, the British, influenced by the wide open spaces in the desert and some armoured enthusiasts, went mobility crazy and began to "swan about" in brigade groups and "jock columns" with a notable lack of success against the Germans, who did things by the book. It took the advent of the Alexander-Montgomery regime to inject a dose of reality.

More recent fiddling with formation structures seem to me at least, to have come from hopping on the three block war bandwagon.

Our problems with operating above the unit or maybe brigade level 1940-1942 has already been pointed out in this thread. (I lean towards the cause being McNaughton's theory that any competent civilian could be a successful commander in battle, along with the very small and murky talent pool we had to draw from.) Perhaps our attachment of GOs to American formations is part of an attempt to address the shortcomings of a small army in developing generals who can function above brigade. Or maybe I am just reading more into this than it merits.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 17:15:43 by Old Sweat »

Offline Hamish Seggie

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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #22 on: February 03, 2018, 17:02:31 »
So maybe the Army needs to stop experimenting and use what worked well?

I know it’s a radical thought.....
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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2018, 17:25:53 »
What is the British Army for?

Well, historically, it has been used for pacifying tcheuchters, Covenanters, borderers and Cornish smugglers ..... and occasionally Parliament.  In its spare time it has been used to pacify Yankees and other assorted reprobates in foreign lands that were interfering with the Bank of England's ability to make money.

Beyond that we had the Royal Navy to keep the Eurasians at bay - with a few Royal Marines thrown in to protect Her Majesty's Officers from the bolshie rabble in the gundecks.
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Re: What is the British Army really for today?
« Reply #24 on: February 03, 2018, 17:47:21 »
What is the British Army for?

Well, historically, it has been used for pacifying tcheuchters, Covenanters, borderers and Cornish smugglers ..... and occasionally Parliament.  In its spare time it has been used to pacify Yankees and other assorted reprobates in foreign lands that were interfering with the Bank of England's ability to make money.

Beyond that we had the Royal Navy to keep the Eurasians at bay - with a few Royal Marines thrown in to protect Her Majesty's Officers from the bolshie rabble in the gundecks.

I remember Field Marshal Sir John Hackett, the Commander of BAOR, visited HQ 4 CIBG in the field. I was a very junior lieutenant LO at the time and managed uncharacteristically to keep my cake hole shut. Some of you may recall that Sir John commanded a parachute brigade at Arnhem. Anyway, the Brits were going through one of their periodic financial crises and force reviews. The FM opined that the best solution was to disband the British Army as this had been done several times over the centuries and it always rose phoenix-like from the ashes. The other services should be left alone. The RN would get in a huff and just ignore the order, while the RAF was too junior and insecure and probably would have a nervous breakdown. I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.

Offline Oldgateboatdriver

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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

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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. 



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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

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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 »
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Offline MarkOttawa

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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

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Offline MarkOttawa

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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

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Offline Colin P

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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.