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British Military Current Events

reveng

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So here's a thought. Put the better part of a heavy brigade's equipment into Europe. Keep a good portion in Canada as training equipment. Organize a manning ratio of enough Reg F to provide all key leadership, technical, planning etc roles into capable hands but man the largest bulk of the force with reservists. Do flyover Milcons. Betcha your recruiting and retention and volunteers for exercises would spike.

There are literally dozens of things that you can do if only you're prepared to pull the thumb out of your butt and try something better. But noooo ... we'll keep on muddling along the way we always have, fine tuning stuff the way that has failed over and over again in the past, until the NDP get elected and shut everything down (or the Libs figure out they could simply shut down a brigade and a fighter squadron and five ships, save a five billion a year to spend on child care or a needle exchange or whatever, and no one would miss it).

:D
It's an option. I'd be more inclined to have the Europeans put up the heavy forces for their own defence, and have countries like the UK and Canada find other useful ways to contribute. That's just me though.

You are correct that there are literally dozens of things we could do, and also I believe you to be correct that we will keeping fumbling along status quo. At least it makes for interesting discussion.
 

reveng

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Since there's a lot of interest in Armd/Mech forces:

1. What about establishing a properly manned & equipped tank regiment in Europe with the purpose of having it act as an aggressor force against other NATO units? Or as part of a UK force, since they are going to be shorter on tanks? With the ability to deploy up to a Sqn at a time to another operation somewhere if we need to?

2. Armd get rid of TAPV. Focus on LAV LRSS (is that still happening?) as well as work towards future technologies. Aim to provide the most capable & survivable Armd Recce units in NATO. These could tie into LRPF capabilities that also need to be built.

3. Maybe look at Light Cav? Would that be a good role for the PRes Armd? (Or for whoever doesn't get the LAV/equiv veh) The UK have deployed Light Cav to Poland, and they are currently in Mali...

Once again, I realize none of these will happen. Just some ideas.
 

daftandbarmy

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Since there's a lot of interest in Armd/Mech forces:

1. What about establishing a properly manned & equipped tank regiment in Europe with the purpose of having it act as an aggressor force against other NATO units? Or as part of a UK force, since they are going to be shorter on tanks? With the ability to deploy up to a Sqn at a time to another operation somewhere if we need to?

2. Armd get rid of TAPV.
Focus on LAV LRSS (is that still happening?) as well as work towards future technologies. Aim to provide the most capable & survivable Armd Recce units in NATO. These could tie into LRPF capabilities that also need to be built.

3. Maybe look at Light Cav? Would that be a good role for the PRes Armd? (Or for whoever doesn't get the LAV/equiv veh) The UK have deployed Light Cav to Poland, and they are currently in Mali...

Once again, I realize none of these will happen. Just some ideas.

You're assuming that this would all be in service of a clear foreign policy strategy, of course.

And 'get rid of TAPV'? What's that all about? I mean, how else can the Reg F unload (and therefore justify) its expensive and embarrassing mistakes if it wasn't for the Reserves :)
 

Kirkhill

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Delivering “Global Britain”—A Naval Perspective​


By Commander René Balletta, Royal Navy
April 2021

Proceedings

Vol. 147/4/1,418


Key Elements

Forward Presence
Carrier Strike
Future Commando Force

Forward Presence - Floating Embassies

Forward presence initially will see the forward deployment of the Batch 2 offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) into regions where they will remain indefinitely, conducting crew rotations at a set periodicity as well as all maintenance periods.

OPV HMS Medway - Caribbean
OPV HMS Trent - Mediterranean/West Africa
OPV HMS Clyde - South Atlantic
OPVs HMS Spey and HMS Tamar - Indo-Pacific
FFG HMS Montrose - Persian/Arabian Gulf

While Clyde and Trent will have existing British military bases that sit in the middle of their operating areas (Falklands and Gibraltar), the remaining OPVs will operate without any permanent base in their operational theatre. This will allow them the freedom of manoeuvre to operate across the whole of their vast regions without a need to return to a single support hub. In the Caribbean, HMS Medway will utilise a mixture of allied military and civilian facilities, such as Fort de France in Martinique, the continental United States, the Dutch Antilles, and British Overseas Territories. In the Indo-Pacific, the two units will be able to utilise host-nation support in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Japan, and Australia, as well as Diego Garcia, India, and Oman in the Indian Ocean.

The intent is to replace the Batch 2 OPVs with the Type 31 multirole frigates in regions that require a more robust capabilities suite, such as in the Indo-Pacific, and this will commence in 2027. While the OPVs are equipped to undertake humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR), counterterrorism, maritime security (including counterpiracy), and defence engagement, the Type 31 will provide that extra level of self-defence and offensive capabilities necessary for enhancing peace and security where the risks from major power competition may be on the rise.

There is concern that two OPVs stationed so far from home are likely to get into more trouble than they can get themselves out of. With good diplomacy and the right political messaging, this is unlikely to be the case, and a British presence will be seen as a stabilising force for good, despite China’s rhetoric that “Global Britain” is a return to colonialism. The United Kingdom has increasing economic interests as well as historic partnerships in the Indo-Pacific and, therefore, will want to preserve international peace and security to sustain the stability of the international rules-based system. Conflict and war do little for prosperity and will want to be avoided by all concerned.


Carrier Strike

Operating out of UK - Primary commitment to NATO but available to support Foreign Missions

In support of all five globally deployed OPVs and HMS Montrose in the Gulf, the First Sea Lord’s plan is to operate at least one carrier strike group (CSG) out of the United Kingdom. This will surge as required to deliver the higher-level capabilities that may be needed anywhere in the world, but basing in the United Kingdom underlines its commitment to NATO and the Atlantic. The first deployment will see HMS Queen Elizabeth deploying to the Far East later this year, with U.S. Navy escorts and U.S. Marine Corps aircraft to provide reassurance to the region and possibly ahead of the forward deployment of the two OPVs. This will also coincide with the 50th anniversary of the FPDA.


Future Commando Force

Littoral Response Groups

LRG UK (Northern Flank and Europe)
LRG Oman (Indo-Pacific and Gulf)

In addition to the carrier strike group, future commando force will deliver a littoral strike capability. This is likely to be delivered through two littoral response groups (LRGs). The first will be based out of the United Kingdom to support the Northern Flank and European interests, and a second is envisaged to be based out of Duqm in Oman, where the United Kingdom has established a logistics hub to support its global “force for good” ambitions. Decisions have yet to be made on the composition of the LRG, but the Royal Navy has two landing platform docking (LPDs) vessels and three landing ships docking auxiliary (LSDAs) at its disposal. The Royal Marines will go back to their roots as a truly expeditionary littoral force that can operate in any climate, from the frozen wastes of the Arctic to the jungles of Brunei and Belize. These strike groups will be able to surge into any littoral area throughout the world to support the forward-deployed units.



Discussion of the Moral Equivalency of China's Nine Dash Line vs the UK/US position on The Chagos Islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory and the lease of Diego Garcia to the US and the need to resolve the matter. The UK's current position is "needs must" and it will be open to discussions when it no longer holds military value.



Finally

Realized advantages of leaving ships on station and swapping crews

The changes in operating methods brought about by forward presence already have resulted in a number of significant advantages to the Royal Navy. There has been an increase in the number of days on operations, as fewer days are spent in transit to and from the United Kingdom. This has, in turn, reduced fuel costs. With the same crews rotating through a single unit, regional situational awareness also has seen a marked increase, as patterns of life become second nature. However, an additional advantage seen on board Montrose was the impact of such a routine on manpower. Societal changes have been slowly eroding recruitment and retention, as sailors want to be able to plan their lives and not be dictated to by operational circumstance, usually at very short notice. The move to crew rotations has provided some of the stability they sought, and the rigid crew cycles have allowed them to plan their lives accordingly, up to three years in advance.
 

daftandbarmy

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Key Elements

Forward Presence
Carrier Strike
Future Commando Force

Forward Presence - Floating Embassies



OPV HMS Medway - Caribbean
OPV HMS Trent - Mediterranean/West Africa
OPV HMS Clyde - South Atlantic
OPVs HMS Spey and HMS Tamar - Indo-Pacific
FFG HMS Montrose - Persian/Arabian Gulf








Carrier Strike

Operating out of UK - Primary commitment to NATO but available to support Foreign Missions




Future Commando Force

Littoral Response Groups

LRG UK (Northern Flank and Europe)
LRG Oman (Indo-Pacific and Gulf)





Discussion of the Moral Equivalency of China's Nine Dash Line vs the UK/US position on The Chagos Islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory and the lease of Diego Garcia to the US and the need to resolve the matter. The UK's current position is "needs must" and it will be open to discussions when it no longer holds military value.



Finally

Realized advantages of leaving ships on station and swapping crews

The post-Brexit UK military will begin to look alot like the Pre-WW1 UK military... with WiFi of course :)
 

Kirkhill

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Just checking on those OPVs

Crew of 58

50x Marines

1x 30mm
2x Miniguns
2x GPMG

I reckon they are well set up to repel boarders if they have to sail up the Yangtze.

Charlton Heston? 100 55 days at Peking? Or Steve McQueen? Sand Pebbles? :unsure: :)
 

Ostrozac

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Just checking on those OPVs

Crew of 58

50x Marines

1x 30mm
2x Miniguns
2x GPMG

I reckon they are well set up to repel boarders if they have to sail up the Yangtze.

Charlton Heston? 100 55 days at Peking? Or Steve McQueen? Sand Pebbles? :unsure: :)
They will be just the ticket against smugglers or pirates, but as you point out they would get quickly chewed up in a confrontation with the Russians or the Chinese. Horses for courses, right? Of course, there is risk involved, someone might look at the OPV, see it’s a warship painted grey, and put it into a fight outside of its weight class. But the alternative is overcompensating the other way, and you end up doing your fishery patrols with $4 billion dollar cutting edge platforms decked out with Tomahawks and ASW gear.
 

daftandbarmy

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I recall an exercise in Norway when Yankee Coy 45 CDO snuck ourselves in to dispatch a US Marine bridge demolition guard, on this gigantic Norwegian bridge connecting an island to the mainland, at oh-dark-hundred.

While we were patting ourselves on the back because 'Commandoes' one of their Officers came up and cheerfully said something like "Hey, great job you guys, but we had a squadron of F-18s blow you up a couple of hours ago." They were nice enough not to tell us about it so we wouldn't be disappointed, I guess :)


Strike squad of just 100 Brit Marines smashed 1,500 US troops in war games drill​

A STRIKE squad of just 100 Marines smashed 1,500 US troops in a war games drill.

The shock victory has revolutionised military thinking.

The £400million drill in California had to be cut short because the British victory was so swift and unexpected
Our Future Commando Force attacked in the urban warfare exercise. Conventional tactics suggest they would need to heavily outnumber the defending Americans.

But working in eight teams of 12, they outmanoeuvred their rivals and used helicopter drones linked to screens on their chests to pinpoint weak spots.

The £400million drill in California had to be cut short because the British victory was so swift and unexpected.

Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, told The Sun yesterday: “This has overturned the principles of war. Mass is no longer the asset it once was — it is all about effect. If you concentrate your force, you are vulnerable.

“On the modern battlefield you want maximum dispersion to give your opponent maximum doubt.

“Then apply disposable technology that you don’t mind losing.”

Brigadier Dan Cheeseman, head of the Royal Navy’s hi-tech weapons wing, added: “This has turned around traditional thinking.”
Yesterday, the Future Commando Force and the new “tier two” special forces’ Rangers Regiment — similar to the US’s Green Berets — unveiled hi-tech weapons at the MoD’s Bovington Camp in Dorset.

Troops are experimenting with flying grenades, remote-controlled mortar bombs and “throwbots” which can be lobbed into buildings before soldiers conduct dangerous room-clearance operations.

Dave Young, regimental sergeant-major of 3 Commando Brigade, said: “If we’d had this kit in Afghanistan, there is no doubt it would have saved lives.”

The Navy is planning an exercise this year to see if Marines in jet suits can board a ship.

The Rangers Regiment will fight alongside rebels and freedom fighters in other countries’ wars.

Strike squad of just 100 Brit Marines smashed 1,500 US troops in war games drill
 

FJAG

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I absolutely love this article. It fits Canada to a Tee.

Culture: addressing Apathy and Dishonesty within the British Army.​

by James BurtonApril 13, 2021

Last year I wrote a Wavell Room article titled ‘A Culture of apathy and dishonesty within the British Army’.1 It was met with mixed reviews, whilst it generated significant debate about our ‘language of change’ others dismissed the entire piece as yet another ‘rage-post’. It was great to see that the key points resonated with so many however, the debate about what can be done to address these issues was less clear nor as energetic as I had hoped.

Last year’s article made three key points. Firstly, our language is not clear enough. Often people in Defence use words incorrectly, we link buzzwords as though it’s a skill set, or we are so ambiguous with our use of prose that they are meaningless to those trying to act on them. Secondly, we fail to both take the time to appreciate the problem thoroughly and rank activity above an ability to clearly articulate what the problem is. Even Handforth Parish Council would be impressed by the British Army’s ability to miss the point, although our ability to set up another Working Group or Sub-committee is probably on a par! And, finally, we have a ‘say-do-gap’. The combination of issue one and two means that we neither really know what we are trying to do or understand how we might best go about it. We cannot on one hand espouse that something is important and then neither hold people to account for not delivering on it, or at least question why we’ve been unable to deliver on something that we readily say is a priority. It is within this context that I think the Army has a cultural problem. It struggles to be both clear on what it wants, fails to deliver on these often obscure – arguably deliberately so – ambitions and then repeats this process on a 5- or 10-year cycle depending on the Government of the day.

This piece focuses on the ‘say-do-gap’ – what it means, why it’s an issue and what we can do about it. It will be a challenging and uncomfortable read for many. It covers how the lack of accountability and purpose of our senior leadership cultivates this ‘Say-do-gap’, but ultimately concludes that it is a problem that all of us contribute to in one way or another.

The ‘say-do-gap’ – Accountability.

In 2007 a US Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling, wrote the infamous article A failure in Generalship. Yingling made the pointed remark, ‘As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war’. 2 He went on to make it clear that failure in Iraq was ‘not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America’s general officer corps.’ 3 This, in many ways, is what I was referring to when stating that the British Army has a cultural problem which is unintentionally encouraged and propagated by our General Staff.

The General Staff of the British Army are more likely to beheld accountable for inappropriate relationships, dishonourable conduct, or the dubious interpretation of education allowances, than they are for failure in their actual jobs – that of leading the British Army at home and abroad today and preparing for ‘tomorrow’. The British Army now echoes the position the US Army found itself in prior to the Vietnam war, were promotion to the General Staff was ‘akin to winning a tenured professorship, liable to be removed not for professional failure but only for embarrassing one’s institution with moral lapses’.4

We must be brutally honest with ourselves that the mess we find ourselves in now is due, in part, to some staggeringly poor and short sighted decisions over the past 3 decades. Failure on some operations, failure to recruit, and failure to equip our Army is but the tip of a long list of issues. Has anyone been held accountable? You could suggest that some of these haven’t promoted further…but many have, and the ability to hold ourselves accountable is a key issue.

Accountability is not about blame and punishment. It is, and always should be, about acceptance and learning
. ...

See rest of article here.

And just for D&B there's this part:

Why is the Guards division full of single Battalion regiments when most of the infantry has been forced to amalgamate?

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daftandbarmy

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I absolutely love this article. It fits Canada to a Tee.



See rest of article here.

And just for D&B there's this part:



🍻

Meanwhile, at Guards Division HQ :)

kirsten dunst cake GIF
 

FJAG

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And then there's this one:

THE LIGHT ARMY / HEAVY ARMY CYCLE

April 5, 2021 UK Land Power Uncategorized 7 comments
By Bruce Newsome
History shows that Western states regularly regress to light forces, then regret it.
...
You’ll never hear a soldier complain, “My army is just too survivable and lethal.”

By contrast, armies repeatedly realise they’re just too light
. History shows that armies cycle from one over-compensation to the other. In wartime, armies want more armour and bigger guns. But more armour and bigger guns make armies heavier, slower to deploy, more burdensome to sustain, more expensive to equip and to operate.

In peacetime, the decision-makers over-compensate. They emphasize agility, rapid reaction, deployability, transportability, efficiency. They buttress their argument with platitudes that are never wrong: we must change with the times, we must adapt, we mustn’t prepare for the last war, we can do more with less. Then war comes around and we find out we’re just not survivable or lethal enough. Then we rush to improve survivability and lethality – at more expense than if we had prepared in peacetime.

The latest British defence review is in a rush towards a smaller, more deployable army, with fewer tanks, more wheels, and more exotic fires. Is this yet another cycle back to lightness at the expense of hard edge capabilities? Before we examine the latest defence review in particular, compare the many times this commitment has been made before. After all, the light / heavy army cycle is particularly Western, democratic, and British.
...
Yes, I agree: light, small, cheap, and deployable are virtues. Yes: we should recognize that survivability and lethality come with costs and trade-offs. However, history shows that the Western bias is to light over heavy, to deployability over survivability and lethality – until war comes around.

There’s no point making British ground forces nimbler unless they are more lethal and survivable. Britain has made that mistake too many times before.

See full article here.

Once again it's just marvelous to see that there are other people out there who agree with me. :giggle:

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Kirkhill

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And then there's this one:



See full article here.

Once again it's just marvelous to see that there are other people out there who agree with me. :giggle:

🍻
Even when you are wrong? Or especially so? :D



Then we rush to improve survivability and lethality – at more expense than if we had prepared in peacetime

I have to contest that one. I don't know that we can constantly maintain the most expensive "what if" solution. There is something to be said for being able to absorb the first punch and counter and then rapidly build the right mass in a timely fashion.

The longer we keep mass in the window the more ways the opposition will find to defeat them or bypass them.
 

FJAG

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Even when you are wrong? Or especially so? :D





I have to contest that one. I don't know that we can constantly maintain the most expensive "what if" solution. There is something to be said for being able to absorb the first punch and counter and then rapidly build the right mass in a timely fashion.

The longer we keep mass in the window the more ways the opposition will find to defeat them or bypass them.

I know I'm just repeating myself when I say:

The gold standard of deterrence and assurance is a defensive posture that confronts the adversary with the prospect of operational failure as the likely consequence of aggression.

[ Ochmanek, David et al. “U.S. Military Capabilities and Forces for a Dangerous World” RAND Corp 2017 p. 45 Rethinking the U.S. Approach to Force Planning]

If you don't have credible, trained and equipped forces-in-being, whether full-time or reserve, and a method and a plan to put them into service, then you do not offer any deterrence. At that point your opponent has all the initiative and the freedom to act in whatever way and whenever it is most advantageous to him.

Canada is not in a position where it is "able to absorb the first punch and counter and then rapidly build the right mass in a timely fashion." For that you would first need a plan and we haven't even bothered putting one together.

... Another way of putting this is that no planning is being done for a major war.

This is shortsighted in the extreme. A military that thinks in terms of turning itself into a great host in a crisis is very different from one that is small, thinks small, and plans for very little.

The Canadian Forces needs a plan.[1]



[1] J.L. Granatstein and LGen (retd) Charles Belzile, The Special Commission on Restructuring the Reserves, 1995: Ten Years Later Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, Calgary, 2005 p. 12
https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.n...cturing_The_Reserves_-_English.pdf?1413661138

If the Covid pandemic should have taught us anything it's that when we aren't prepared, when we don't have the resources available when an emergency strikes, then we're scuppered. A year later we're still depending on others to provide us with the resources that we need. We don't have the capability to domestically ramp up vaccine development or production. Similarly, there is no magic wand to wave to make a modern army grow out of a toadstool. It took five years to build one that could match its foe on the battlefield in WW2. Resource wise, Canada's GDP is larger than Russia's yet that country is once again rattling it's sabres at the Ukraine's doors because it has a large and well equipped military. How will we counter when the next build up happens across the border from Latvia and we're obligated to defend a NATO ally?

Proper defence isn't cheap. But it's a lot cheaper to spend money to keep your armed forces properly trained and equipped and credible than to blow 20 plus billion dollars a year on an organization that is utterly incapable of fighting a peer or being a deterrent. It's better to just save your money than to keep pouring it into a headquarters that year after year cuts one capability after another. You sure as hell don't need that much money or that many people in your annual defence budget if your plan is to take the first punch by riding it out across the ocean and then spend big and grow when the crisis hits. Maybe our plan should just be to rent a mercenary army from some third world country in an emergency.

Our current defence strategy reminds me of the scenario that plays out on TV where a character's plan in a gun battle is to run through a hail of fire hoping that the bullets will all miss him. That's what "absorbing the first punch" is: hope that it doesn't kill you; hope that you will be able to "counter and build the right mass in a timely fashion". Last time I looked, "hope" was not a viable course of action. It equates to bending over and taking it in the butt.

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I can't disagree.

One particular point of agreement is that maintaining an effective, and up to date defence, one that constantly adapts to the times, is expensive.

It also requires flexibility on the part of planners.
 

daftandbarmy

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I can't disagree.

One particular point of agreement is that maintaining an effective, and up to date defence, one that constantly adapts to the times, is expensive.

It also requires flexibility on the part of planners.

You could argue that we're not doing a bad job a that right now with, for example, the NATO mission in Eastern Europe and our ongoing operations against ISIS etc.

I think the British might have faced up to the reality of the 'Long Wars' of this age of realpolitik and are investing in building capacity in (more or less) friendly developing countries to handle the threats themselves, on behalf of the UK, to keep the bad guys at bay.

Kind of like a 21st Century, distributed and internationally located, 'Pale Settlement'.

Kirkhill's people might know something about that :)
 

Kirkhill

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The Scots were beyond the Pale. And many of them didn't get there voluntarily. The Pale was only for certified Anglicans. The Scots were transplanted to keep the locals at bay ... as rangers - effectively Active Permanent Militia. The alternative for the Scots, as of 1606, was "doon the pits". By law, if you weren't gainfully employed then the owners of coal mines could grab you off the streets and permanently employ you in his mines, and your children - forever - only being released at his pleasure. Some people might consider that slavery. But that is a digression.

Benjamin Church took up the ranging role in New England almost a century before Rogers. They were also a feature of the Carolinas and in Oglethorpe's defence of Georgia. The idea was that the militia was formed from every able bodied male, practised, if not skilled, at arms. The Rangers were permanently employed militiamen who conducted patrols, put out brushfires and formed the organizing principle around which the militia could form when called out.

Hopefully the modern Rangers are volunteers and adequately compensated.



Back to the topic at hand.

I am not against maintaining "that which works". I like to keep one foot firmly planted on the ground as I advance with my other. But I do like to advance.

This continues to be a discussion between the "Americans" and the "Prussians". Between Howe and Dundas. And the answer has to be ... Both.

The Americans do both - they have the dollars and the numbers to do it reasonably well.
The Brits continue to try to do both with what they have available and have managed reasonably well.
The Aussies and the Kiwis have muddled through reasonably well with a lighter footprint.

Canada? Well, to be fair, we too have muddled through reasonably well. But, IMO, often we end up operating on a much lighter scale than we provide for in our planning.

I happen to believe that, in addition to two feet, we have two hands. One for jabbing and one for punching. Do both hands need to be armoured? Or is armour something that should be put on when the circumstances demand?

The discussion about the Universal Battalion and the number of different forms of battalions the Brits were maintaining - couldn't we start from asserting that the core of a Battalion is three or four companies of "Rifles"?

Beyond that everything else should be organized in such a fashion that they can be brigaded and exercised with the Rifles as needs must?

A Support company could be a Transport Platoon, a Machine Gun Platoon and an Anti-Tank Platoon or it could be a LAV company providing transport, machine gun and anti-tank support.

The Aussies and Kiwis seem to make something similar work for them. For that matter so does the USMC.
 
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daftandbarmy

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From 2020, but still a 'hot topic' apparently :)

Who Dares Whines: Furious 'Walter Mitty' spat between former comrades wrecks 40th anniversary of the SAS's stunning Iran embassy rescue​

  • Rusty Firmin and Robin Horsfall among SAS who took part in rescue in London
  • Firmin has suggested fighting was finished when Horsfall entered the embassy
  • He also claimed Horsfall's role was to ‘evacuate hostages’ rather than take on heavily armed terrorists


They joined forces in 1980 as members of the masked, black-clad SAS squad that stormed London’s Iranian Embassy in a jaw-dropping display of British courage.

The nation watched mesmerised as Rusty Firmin and Robin Horsfall, alongside their fearless Special Forces colleagues, set off explosives, burst through windows and shot dead hostage-holding terrorists in a hail of sub-machinegun bullets.

The terrifying operation, seen by a spellbound audience of millions on live television on a May Bank Holiday evening, made the SAS what they remain today – the world’s most celebrated military unit.

Fame, if not fortune, followed. Firmin and Horsfall published memoirs recalling their heroics amid the clouds of CS gas, while celebrated actor Jamie Bell played Firmin in the 2015 feature film Six Days which retold the story of the famous siege.

But now, just weeks before the 40th anniversary of that era-defining mission, a bitter dispute between Firmin and Horsfall has shocked the SAS community.

It is usually considered sacrilege for soldiers to accuse each other of being a Walter Mitty – someone who exaggerates their role to the detriment of others. Yet Firmin has done just that.

In a furious and widely shared online post, Firmin suggested the fighting was finished when Horsfall entered the embassy and that his role was to ‘evacuate hostages’ rather than take on the heavily armed and deadly terrorists.

Firmin said: ‘[Horsfall] was a reserve team member during the siege and came in the rear entrance AFTER the assault. The only Robin that seen [sic] genuine action that day was the one nesting under the balcony of the embassy.

‘I’ve never responded because I pitied him.

‘I found myself crossing paths with [Horsfall] not so long ago so this is why it is all coming to a head, because he needs to be confronted and questions need to be answered.’

For his part, Horsfall has nicknamed Firmin ‘Vermin’ and posted cartoons on Facebook depicting himself in a hammock and peacefully reading a book as Firmin, drawn as a baby sitting in a pram, throws toys, milk bottles and a dummy while shouting obscenities.

According to SAS insiders, the spat between the veterans is spoiling preparations for the 40th anniversary of the embassy siege, due to be marked in the regiment’s home city of Hereford in early May.

As one said last night: ‘This is getting very, very bitter. They’re both easily narked and age hasn’t mellowed them when it comes to their feelings towards each other.’

The acrimonious dispute also centres on the claim by both soldiers to have shot the same Arab terrorist during the siege. In his book, Firmin says that he killed ‘Faisal’, the second-in-command of the six-man terrorist group on the embassy stairs, and that moments later two other SAS men fired into his corpse ‘to make sure’ he was dead.

He wrote: ‘I saw he [Faisal] was holding a grenade. I fired two bursts into his centre of mass at point-blank range. He fell to the bottom of the stairs like a sack of potatoes and lay there as two more members of the team fired into him to make sure.’

But in his book, Horsfall says: ‘A terrorist stumbled around the corner of the stairwell and down the last few steps. It was Faisal and he held a grenade in his right hand. Without hesitation, I fired one short burst of three rounds at his chest. A soldier inches from him also opened fire. Faisal slumped to the floor like a bag of rags and died.’

The terrorists from the Arabistan People’s Political Organisation had taken over the embassy on April 30, demanding the release of political prisoners in Tehran.

Their hostages included embassy staff, policeman Trevor Lock and a BBC sound recordist.

The troops from the SAS’s B Squadron went in after the terrorists dumped the dead body of one hostage outside the embassy.

Firmin, now 70, is known in SAS circles as ‘No Gloves’ as he forgot to wear those issued for the operation. Horsfall, now 62, later became Dodi Fayed’s bodyguard before opening his own martial arts school.

Last night, Mr Firmin said: ‘I was the team leader, I know who was where. The reserve team, including Horsfall, had not been sent in when I shot Faisal.’ But Mr Horsfall said: ‘The forensic reports prove I also shot Faisal. I’m trying to ignore Firmin’s sad drivel about me.’

SAS comrades in 1980 Iranian embassy siege engage in furious spat
 
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