17 Mar 21. Army-technology.com reported today in a now-deleted page addressing the Integrated Review, the British Army revealed that it will be reorganised around ‘Brigade Combat Teams’ that will be ‘self-sufficient tactical units.’
The deleted page, first reported by UK Defence Journal, also include information about a new first of its kind Army Industrial Strategy and a to-be-released ‘Future Land Combat System’ document that will outline how the Army will fight going forward.
The Future Land Combat System is designed as having ‘six priority areas’ including an ability to work and fight across all domains, anticipate crises, prevent war by ‘acting as a deterrent’ and operating in ‘below the threshold’ operation – commonly called the ‘grey zone’, creating smaller units that can operate more self-sufficiently.
Other priorities are reducing risk ‘associated with mass troops’ by physically dispersing and using electronic deception to ‘hide’ its electronic footprint, and to be well trained for urban operations ‘which are set to become more of a focus in the future.’
Describing a move to Brigade Combat Teams (BCTS), the page said: “In order to be able to operate and fight in the way described in the Future Land Combat System document, the Army will be organised differently.
“Brigade Combat teams will be self-sufficient tactical units with the ability to work across the Army, partners across government, allies and industry.”
The page also outlined how the British Army ‘must be more lethal and more agile’ than it has been in the past to win battles and reduce risks to frontline personnel.
It describes how combat forces will consist of ‘armoured troops – using modern armoured vehicles’. Mechanised and Infantry soldiers, it says, are to be tasked with ‘seizing and holding complex or urban terrain.’
Close combat forces are set to be supported by a mix of lethal and non-lethal capabilities including artillery, attack helicopters and uncrewed aerial systems or UAS.
The page also described how ‘increasingly automated logistics’ would support troops and “counter-UAS, counter-missile and chemical biological radioactive and nuclear (CBRN) capabilities will provide a protective system which can identify and react to different kinds of attacks: from conventional, cyber or chemical weapons.”
The page also says the Army will increase its global presence to ‘anticipate and prevent war’.
In a section headed ‘How we fight’, the now-deleted page reads: “The nature of war does not change, and we will always need the ability to move quickly to a war footing, with a credible warfighting capability.”
The page describes how the army expects a ‘blended approach’ will be needed to win future battles where drones, infantry and air defences work together.
It adds that ‘growing emphasis’ will be placed on long-range precision weapons – including ‘the upgraded Multi Launch Rocket System’, as well as uncrewed vehicles and cyber capabilities.
Describing how it will fight future conflicts, the army reiterated previous statements about a move to ‘persistent engagement’ which will see it constantly ‘working to keep the country safe’.
BATTLESPACE Comment: This move mirrors the US Army’s reorganisation announced several years ago into Integrated Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) . However, is the British Army’s move following a changing pattern of how to wage war? In 2020 Warontherocks.com reported that the infantry community has a problem. The centerpiece of the Army’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the infantry brigade combat team, is in danger of becoming obsolete in the face of near-peer opponents. This formation of three infantry battalions, an engineer battalion, an artillery battalion, a cavalry squadron, and a support battalion needs to be restructured to maximize an infantry brigade’s chances of success in an era of fast-paced and rapidly evolving multidomain operations. For the first time in 50 years, the infantry brigade can expect to have its artillery outgunned and be under electronic and aerial attack. Army leaders often note that multidomain operations will not only have an impact on Army organizations and operations but will drive Army modernization efforts as well. I suggest that the Army needs to shift away from three infantry battalions in an infantry brigade to two. This will allow the brigade to bring in sorely needed electronic warfare and air defense capabilities that currently do not exist in the unit and increase other existing capabilities that will prove essential in a future fight.
The current infantry brigade combat team consists of approximately 4,413 soldiers assigned to seven subordinate battalions. The three infantry battalions form the core of the brigade’s combat power. This structure is the result of decisions made when the Army was downsized from four brigade combat teams in a division to three. Simultaneous with downsizing were the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and recently concluded operations in Iraq.
While the current structure is suitable for activity in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is anachronistic and ill-suited to perform well in the complex and fast-paced operating environment that current Army leadership expects in the future. Why? This is due in part to a lack of assets internal to the brigade that can deny opponents the use of airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, but also to the 2015 downsizing and a general overreliance on airpower.
The current structure assumes that there will be time for a deliberate train-up and for “enablers,” like additional soldiers for electronic warfare and explosive ordnance disposal, to integrate with the brigade before being thrust into a combat environment. The current infantry brigade is well-suited for wide area security missions and stability operations in places like Iraq, where it is possible to have deliberate preparation and where the operating environment is mature — with supporting elements already in theater such as civil affairs, additional route clearance, additional intelligence, and more. But in a rapidly evolving fight where an infantry brigade could deploy as part of an immediate response force, commanders will not have the luxury of time to meet their external supporting units and go through a deliberate training progression with them. If the brigade is to remain the primary fighting formation in the U.S. Army, then it needs to be outfitted to succeed unilaterally.