Whilst DefenceSynergia (DS) has been critical of the RAF, RN and, most particularly, HMG for the parlous and incoherent state of HM Armed Forces the British Army are equally disadvantaged. In some ways, being an organisation that depends on people (boots on the ground) supported by protective vehicles, the situation for the Army is made worse through the paucity of sustainment and logistic enablers mentioned in the earlier DS critique of the RAF and RN.
The UK’s responsibilities are described as “Global” and this implies an ability to respond to operations that stretch from NATO’s Northern to Southern Flank and Out of Area as far as the South China Sea and beyond. Yet for the British Army, being primarily based in UK, its interdependence on logistics enablers is obvious. Or it should be because when ‘critical mass’ is being eroded (as it has been since SDSR 2015) the need for force multipliers becomes ever more critical.
DS continues to challenge the much-hyped operational capability of the British Army pointing to the lacuna in strategic and tactical coherence, especially in indigenous Combat Support (CS) and Combat Service Support (CSS) and the external support of the RAF, RN, RFA and Merchant fleets. Amongst these weaknesses, there is insufficient AT and RFA heavy lift or combat aircraft to defend them along the LOC/SLOC. Until 2023 there will be no indigenous RAF land based AEW and zero Sentinel (ASTOR) to support Army operations and the RAF AT support element will be further reduced by the early retirement of the C130J. The RFA has already been downsized with the original 6 Point Class being reduced to 4 without overt complaint from CGS at the time.
Where this continual drip of reducing capability is most noticeable and has had the most pernicious effect is in the Army’s reduced Readiness position. Senior Army commanders are on record as saying that the deployment of heavy units (armour, AVRE, REME and RLC CS/CSS) will require months of warning – the rapid deployment elements of the British Forces being confined to smaller, more specialist and lightly armed units.
The Army has also suffered from painful procurement; Armoured Vehicles being one of the longest-running acquisitions ‘sores. In the absence of sufficient and appropriate kit the UK Armed Forces have had to contort to manage with what they have whilst at times borrowing from Allies.
Cursory observation suggests that the value of joint teamwork in the MOD is not being fully exploited for the common good and the balance between internal competition and single Service interest does not always produce the best capability for the Defence of the Realm? Therefore, DS argues that a re evaluation of the ORBAT and how operations are to be conducted in future is urgently required. The importance of flexible structure, organisation and plans to address future threats is now clearly needed.
DS recognises that the UK has limited financial resources and that the Exchequer must priorities spending. However, real support for NATO requires Government to prioritise accordingly. British Army ‘Critical Mass’, its manoeuvrability and sustainability must be addressed. In doing so HMG and MOD will rapidly discover what true interdependence in HM Armed Forces means a ‘system of systems’ methodology. It must become clear to all that increases in RAF, RN and RFA (ISTAR and logistic support enablers) as well as Army personnel establishment will add to the UK’s fighting capabilities and the survivability of soldiers even though this may not be directly reflected in CGS’s budget.