The following paper outlines some thoughts as to how the British Army could be more readily constructed for the future without the need for any more dramatic changes. 

For context there are some comments about how we appear to have arrived at this place. 

This article was submitted to the UK Defence Journal by Geoffrey Roach.

Geoffrey Roach has a work background in features, publicity management and more recently digital marketing. Geoffrey advises that his interest the armed forces started with his Dad who served with Captain Johnny Walker on HMS Stork and then HMS Starling during the war, mostly in the Atlantic and the Arctic. His own own interests developed into defence and foreign affairs and he took that brief on joining the National Advisory Committee in the eighties. Geoffrey is currently a member of RUSI and SSAFA and in the process of taking up a position as leader of a policy forum advisory group.

The Governments main thrust, post Brexit, is to turn Britain into ‘Global Britain’ with eyes on trade in the Indo-Pacific. So we start with the fact that the Royal Navy will need to be provided with all that it needs to achieve an impressive presence, wherever it is deployed.

The army inevitably faces cuts so how might it respond. A look at a report prepared for the Cameron Government may help.

The report indicated that were twelve threats facing the United Kingdom Ranging from terrorism to nuclear attack. However only four mentioned how the army might be involved in conventional warfare.

They were a full scale conventional attack against the UK mainland; the UK getting drawn in to a war between two foreign states; insurgency or instability affecting a Commonwealth nation and finally an attack on a British protectorate.

The first threat is really more to do with an attack on NATO. The second can be read as another Afghanistan or Iraq. Would we want to go down that road again? The third brings to mind Operation Palliser in Sierra Leone and the forth the Falkland’s War.

Even five years ago the army, perhaps through no fault of its own, seemed confused and blinded by the need to try to do everything. A poor re-equipment schedule and falling recruitment only added to the problem.

So, how do we make the best of the army and give it a real role for the future? We start with the premise that we are an island nation and that we do not need to provide the same armed forces as our continental allies. We do not need to rebuild the army so that we can be seen to follow the United States into the likes of Iraq.

We build for rapid response and specific power projection. The army budget is finite and is likely to remain so once the restructuring has taken place.

The current arguments are ‘Armour first, Strike to the fore’, tracks or wheels, Ajax or Boxer? Chicken or egg. Where are we going? The facts are simple. An Armoured Brigade without a recce screening force is blind. A Strike Brigade without armour risks being destroyed by enemy armour and either brigade without FIRES support risks being overwhelmed.

The answer is simple.

If we want both types of brigade we can have them organised within an all regular 3rd UK Division. Pairing of regular and reserve forces is inefficient and can slow deployment to the extent that regular units may be forced to deploy alone. NO other major western army operates this way.

The starting point of a revised schedule should be the use of the Ajax variants necessary to form one or two traditional ARMOURED BRIGADES each with an armoured cavalry regiment with 32 Ajax; an armoured regiment with 36 Challenger or Leopard depending on cost; two armoured infantry battalions with 90 Warriors and integrated anti-tank units; two artillery batteries each with 12 AS90s and an anti-air battery with 24 Starstreak.

Form a wheeled Strike Brigade made up of Boxer variants.

Alterations to the current contract should not prove difficult at this early stage. The STRIKE BRIGADE to consist of a cavalry regiment with 32 Boxer IFV with remote turret and 30mm/40mm cannon; a regiment with 36 Boxer with 105mm gun and two battalion of infantry with 90 Boxer IFV and integrated anti-tank units.

A decision will need to be made on anti-air, perhaps a boxer with chain gun or integrating Starstreak into a Boxer hull. Both brigade types should work to achieve a rapid response capability for a battle group at least. This is particularly true of the Strike Brigade which should be looking at 30 days. Both would benefit from having a battle group forward deployed. Armour to Estonia? Strike to Oman?

Develop and improve the capabilities of the 16TH AIR ASSAULT BRIGADE. Based on the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the parachute regiment and currently a Royal Gurkha  Rifles battalion. By adding another Gurkha battalion we could achieve two operational strike groups… each with a Lead Assault Force headquarters unit.

Pathfinder platoon and a lead company group, all on two days notice followed by the rest of the Parachute Battalion on four to five days and finally the Gurhkas after eight to ten days.  Two batteries of 105mm light guns; two batteries of 24 Starstreak.

Each Strike Group supported by an AAC regiment with Apache and Lynx helicopters. All anti-air and anti-tank units and logistical elements would be a permanent part of the brigade.

Each brigade would have it’s own home base and training companies and  be the  link between the all regular 3rd Division and the Army Reserve providing additional manpower as necessary after deployment. Logistical and engineering support should wherever practical be attached permanently to its brigade allowing for the closest possible co operation. 

A dedicated ARTILLERY BRIGADE to support another brigade or battle group or in its own right should the circumstances demand. Three artillery regiments each with three batteries of 16 Archer (?) 155mm howitzers and three regiments of depth fire- 16 GMLRS

The British Army will continue to roll out its Sky Sabre missile defence shield. The air defence of the UK against all aerial attack could be further enhanced by the acquisition of the Aster SAMP/T ABMDS

A new opportunity would be a regiment of land launched anti-ship missiles based in Scotland and/or the North of England, a game changer in tackling Russian naval activity.

In conclusion, may I thank all who take the time to read this paper. It is in no way definitive but does, I believe, offer a sensible and cost effective way forward.

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Thanks Geoff nice article.


sounds interesting, what is the total manpower in this force ?


Interesting but struggling to visualize what you end up with and manning. Can we have some sort of summary table or graphic?


I like it and makes sense. Boxer MGS should have a 120mm gun for commonality with tanks, If Italians are able to put in Centauro II , Boxer should be able too.
Just drones are missing.


Perhaps the Amos mortar is a better solution for us. Double barrelled with direct fire capability


That implies the only direct fire anti tank capacity of the brigade are the anti tank missiles.


if We are serious about this set up every single vehicle should have tow on them, especially the boxers.

the Amos system gives options and is 120mm

every single IFV should have a cannon (CTA is selected) and at least 2 TOW with further units inside for dismounts

These divisions will need c. 4K vehicles all in and those vehicles need to be kitted out to make up for the lack of mass

precision fires is central to this

Jason Bannister

Totally agree with this comment, the system seems to have been overlooked. That may be because Mortars are seen as an Inf Wpn, whereas Amos could and should be fielded by the RA


I am certainly no expert on this but boxer with this and 4 units per company would be a big increase in capability, especially if the IFV have a CTA turret and TOW as std,

we just can’t afford to send out under armed boxers or Ajax with such a small army.

get this right and it’s a game changer, get it wrong and the army is not fit for purpose

Steve P

All seems very sensible but rests on three key developments that quite a few have flagged as necessary 1) Ajax moves to the armoured brigades. 2) Boxer variants with greater firepower are procured for strike 3) Artillery is overhauled/augmented, including air defence. The problem with 1 is that the Ajax order is currently too large for them to just provide armoured recon for those (presumably two) brigades. Perhaps the order can be reconfigured for them to at least partially replace Warrior. The problem with 2) and 3) is money! Although I noticed Nicholas Drummond is tweeting positively hinting at something… Read more »


I just read his posts, gives you some hope that there might actually be some joined up thinking going on! fingers crossed.


I think this looks like a logical structure. A few questions:
* Even with 2 armoured brigades, we will deploy just 2×36 MBTs. Is this really powerful enough?
*What would we do with the remainder of the Ajax order of 589 in all variants if we use only 2×32 in the armoured brigades and make Strike all wheeled?
*Instead of developing an artillery Boxer, could we not look again at the M777 portee , a British design on a British vehicle?
*Should not the RN be the priority customer for a heavy anti ship missile?

Daniele Mandelli

The Ajax order replaces the CVRT Scimitar, Sultan, Samaritan, Samson, Spartan family of vehicles. Originally purchased for 3 Armoured Recc regiments, 1 per Armoured Brigade.

Added to this the Armoured Regiments, Armoured Infantry battalions and some other units all use CVRT variants, so the 589 are more widely spread. Armoured Infantry battalions for example have a platoon of Scimitar.

Armoured Regiments are of the Type 56 type and have been for years, even when we had 5 regiments worth in 5 brigades pre 2010 SDSR.

Peter S

Agreed: the original plan [email protected] was to have a more or less one for one replacement of all cvrt variants(except the Stormer derivative). It was later that the idea of using Ajax in Strike was mooted. I have never understood the thinking behind the Ajax contract,given the simultaneous aim to upgrade Warrior. Nor do I understand why we chose such a large platform( chassis length and width similar to Challenger) to replace something so much lighter and more agile. It’s hard to imagine how a worse series of decisions about afvs could be made, although the US army is giving… Read more »

Ian M.

Hi Peter, the size of the Ajax hull is a direct result of MOD survivability requirements and selection of a powerful (large) powertrain.


Thankyou a good read , it is important that the army doesn’t become the Cinderella of the armed forces. I like the focus of the article

John Hartley

Go look at the Oerlikon Skyranger. It is based on Boxer, but has a 35mm turret with EO & Radar. Shown shooting down UAV. The Russians believe in 3 layer air defence & they are probably on to something. So top layer SAMP-T (or similar), middle layer SkySabre/CAMM & bottom layer 35mm Skyranger, would be my choice. We need to keep an eye on various US projects. The medium tank, the Bradley replacement, long range precision fires & the early steps in a M1 tank replacement. I would buy some 2nd hand, ex USMC 155mm M777 if they are going… Read more »

David Flandry

Did I read correctly? Cuts to the Army? It was cut to the bone and beyond by the incompetent Cameron government. The result is an army that cannot even meet it recruitment goals for 82,000, so it has to settle for 80,000. I cannot tell what the future British Army will look like or what it’s supposed to accomplish. Defend East Anglia?


I do think we can generate 7 fully integrated divisions of 14,664 personnel. And agree with the writer that we need to do it our way I believe we should have 3 strike, 3 armoured and 1 commando divisions in the permanent force each capable of delivering 2400 dismounts into the field current thinking is that divisions and corps are too ineffective and certainly the British army has the organisation of a force 10 times its actual size and simply isn’t fit for purpose 1. Smaller force means we go all mechanised 2 those mechanised assets must have far more… Read more »

4th watch

‘We go all mechanised’.. ‘Bout time, but what about the horses?


Got to keep them for the tourists and the grand national

My money is on Victoria’s cross!!!


As an organisation, the army needs total restructure. My belief is that, just ignore the strike abortion at the moment, that the Armoured formations need to be training and based around the Battlegroup. No more separate large organisations. Yes you can be a member of a certain Infantry Bn, an Arty Regt, Tank Regt, loggies etc but you should be affiliated to a certain BG, give it a BG name, and then you spend 5 years or so being independantly posted, say at 2 x Coy, 1 x Sqn, 1x Bty to this specific BG. More realistic way of training,… Read more »


Couldn’t agree more Reinforced regiments of 1800 personnel 600 inf 600 combat support 600 logistics Key here is infantry really is infantry and logistics is drivers, gunners, QM and REME The beauty of this is that the logistics battalion can be heavy armour, strike or a combination of the 2 Add in 600 air support and that’s your standard regiment Division wise. A fires regiment and a command regiment bring it all together Each division is smaller but standalone (what happens when half the army is wiped out) can self sustain. Do this right and each regiment will want to… Read more »


Being an Island nation has never been less of an advantage than today. Those seas can be crossed very easily, especially with the RN at a very low nadir & both other services at very low strength. It’s not WW2 any more. Helicopters, tilt-wilngs, fast transports, hovercraft etc rapidly deliver invading forces. Chain guns for AA are ridiculous as they provide far too low rate of fire to cope with anything more than slow helicopters. We need always to be prepared to intervene for freedom & democracy across the world, or else it’s a short wait until ruthless repression is… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Nice one Geoffrey, very good piece. I don’t know where to start! So much to absorb and consider. Ajax back to Armoured Brigades. Absolutely. A must. “organised within an all regular 3rd UK Division.” As far as I’m aware 3 (UK) Division is almost all regular save some Reserve Infantry battalions that have been paired with their regular Warrior Armoured Infantry counterparts, a recent army reorganisation. Other Reserve elements are in 101 Logistic Brigade, again that brigade has mostly regular elements. Almost all the army’s combat power is already concentrated in the Division. It is in 1 (UK ) Division that… Read more »

Geoffrey Roach

Hi Daniele, Thank you for your kind comments. Your quite right. The brigades are based on the old T 56…if it works…I still don’t understand, to use a technical term, why they are still faffing about with tracks and wheels so Ajax..yes..back to armour. I know this leaves us with a surplus but I’m sure there are some hull conversions that could be made. I wanted an all regular force to clear the potential slow down in deployment. I know the U.S. has done some work on this and they reckon mixing in the National Guard can add up to… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Thanks Geoffrey, for your thoughts behind the article. The SAM units. If they are UK based could they be manned by reservists? The RAF Regiment did have SAM expertise with several squadrons worth of Rapier FSC and going back further to the Cold War others guarding USAF bases, Lossimouth, and Leuchars, as well as Bloodhound. All of this I know you know, just wondering if they have been out of it long enough for skills to have faded? As for land based ASMs. Has the UK ever fielded any? Uncertain. Certainly not in the later Cold War which I’m more… Read more »

John Hartley

Wasn’t there a land based Exocet battery in Gibraltar at one time? Was it manned by Army or RN?

Daniele Mandelli

No idea John. If so, I’m very interested in learning about that as it’s passed me by.


Hi John,

Simple answer is yes there was.

There is a realy great write up of the history of Gibraltar on Wikipedia. One of the final elements of fortification installed, in October 1985, was a single MM38 battery with associated Type 1006 Radar. It was decommisioned in 1997.

Out of interest the last 9.2inch artillery batteries on Gibraltar were only decommisioned in 1976!

Cheers CR

Geoffrey Roach

Hi Daniele,

The answer,helpfully, is I don’t know. I think I know what your getting at but given the SAM units need to be on permanent standby….? Because there in the UK maybe it would be O K. ABMDS needs to be the priority.I can’t recall there ever being any British SSM’s. Nearest equivalent is probably the naval guns on the east coast in the war!
Here is where your reserves idea could come in,trained in the peace and activated in time of war?

Daniele Mandelli

Yes, good point. Maybe for SAM role reserves not so good.


How about burying a couple of 8-cell Sylver Vladimir in every major army, RN and RAF base throughout the country, with control of them being centrally managed.

for anti-ship, use a truck launcher version of the naval strike missile or whatever interim anti ship missile the RN chooses. These could be used for home defence or deployments eg falklands or South China Sea or gulf.


Bloody hell. How did VLS get altered to Vladimir

The Artist Formerly Known As Los Pollos Chicken

excellent article 👍🏻

One thing is for sure I rather suspect recruitment won’t be an issue for too much longer. When there are less job opportunities as inevitable once the dust settles from all the covid fallout the armed forces will be one of the few employers always looking to recruit.

Gurkha recruitment could be increased fairly rapidly if the desire was there. Never a shortage of these amazing fine fellows wanting to take HM’s shilling .🇬🇧

That and the nhs, we need legions of vaccinators, buckets of testers and tracers ….and as for our acute respiratory beds……let’s just say respiratory wards and a shit ton of staff to run them are going to be de rigueur….no more running a health system with less acute beds, dr and nurse per 1000 population than anyone else in the west ( or giving public health to councils who ran the whole thing down to a Staff of about 3 PH consultants and specialists) At the moment we have mainly packed up the day job to do all this…. but… Read more »

A mate in naval recruitment was saying that numbers are up, both re-entries and new faces. Its a pity that it takes a crisis to push the numbers up that are interested rather than it being the norm. I’ve banged on about it before but that’s something the forces should be looking to.


With Army numbers and available finacial resources this article makes sense. As a starting point it could be built on, for example dedicated air lift and naval resources to transport these Brigades. I have often argued on this and some other sites that Albion Bulwark and yes Ocean needs replaced with three LHDs each with a embarked Strike or Armoured Battlegroup. The Royal Marines should revert to what they are really good at small teams at a max company deployments for this a Crossover type ship would be useful. By doing that the Army would have three battlegroups for world… Read more »


Sounds good to me Geoff ,hope there don’t cut the Army for me all three services need more man power and equipment like we did in the 80s.Yes that will never happen and people will laugh but hey are we not in a cold war 2 ?


The Army only has itself to blame for the current mess. A fanatical attachment to preserving cap-badges even if it means a hideously convoluted structure and under-strength units, coupled with an inability to stick with decisions and accept 90% solutions. At the very least i’d look to do the following…. 6 brigades – 2 armoured, 2 strike and 2 light should be perfectly achievable. For a start ditch Warrior, have all Ajax in the armoured brigades and all Boxers in the strike brigades, with more of both procured over time as troop carriers for the former and fire support platforms… Read more »

Geoffrey Roach

Thanks for your responses and support .Iv’e been jammed up all day so I’ll get back to you with some answers tomorrow…as best as I can.


Maybe I understand this wrong, but it only give total of 12 infantry battalions? Will infantry go back to 4 rifle companies? And each brigade seems weak, low numbers of tanks, artillery and infantry. If UK is only planning to have active 5 brigades then they must be as strong a possible, maybe 6,000 people each, minimum 4 infantry, much much more artillery, use all current tanks, boxer with only heavy mg is a waste. I don’t understand who this format is meant to fight? Infantry number too low for Iraq and Afghanistan situation, everything to low for Russia situation

Geoffrey Roach

Morning all. I’ll try to cover the questions you have raised…hopefully you’ll find the replies helpful. Ian/DRS I don’t have anything like a graph but I have used British Army establishment figures so a brigade as formatted would have a strength of around 3800 to 4000. You probably noticed that I have divided all brigades into two battle groups and these can be divided again into multi arms task groups. Alex Agreed. The 105mm is a current Boxer option but I’m sure they could work a 120mm into the equation. Drones are mentioned briefly but only in a development sense.… Read more »

Peter S

Thanks for this. I think your structure seems sound and logical. But the numbers do expose starkly how small the army is.
Aside from the usual shambles of equipment programmes, the biggest failure in recent years has been to deliver the plan for greater use of reserves. The aim was to match the US approach but we never got close. To be able to respond to the range of crises your note lists, we need forces that are readily expandable.
Given budgetary constraints, effective use of reserves may be the only way for us to deploy meaningful landpower.

john melling

We should also move on from the L118 Light Gun and use a 120 Heavy Mortar carrier as part of the Strike Brigade so that they are more mobile and engage the enemy and move on… a Boxer or Ajax variant

The 120mm mortar also allows for a more rapid delivery of munitions (up to 12 rounds per minute per barrel)

And we would have the Ammunition commonality with NATO allies

Geoffrey Roach

Hello…some more answers… John H Skyranger would be a good option and your layered anti-air system would be extremely sound. Incidentally, I said Chain gun in the article which was a mistake. I should have said Rotary. David F Yes the army is in the frame. The article you have just read was part of a paper considered by the ISDR team I have tried, with the exception of my wish list at the end to make the proposals fairly budget neutral. Airborne Couldn’t agree with you more. That’s why I have gone for smaller brigades that can be sub… Read more »

john melling

I see Lockhead UK have an interesting new concept as part of any potential strike brigade

Lockheed Martin UK unwraps future anti-armour concept (

And I like the idea

Peter S

This article has been really effective in eliciting a lot of interesting contributions, although most of them,like mine plunge into detailed preferences. Thinking more broadly, given the dire financial situation we, along with most other Western countries are in, are any of the otherwise sensible suggestions really feasible? Unless governments are willing to cut back in other areas, will there ever be the resources to have worldwide capabilities like we had in the recent past? Added to the economic problems, the cost inflation of military equipment continues to run way ahead of general inflation, so numbers get ever smaller. Even… Read more »

Geoffrey Roach

Hi peter I understand your concerns but I think, with the exception of my dream ticket ideas of a ASM ans a SSM system, all other equipment either exists or are orders or requirements that can be changed. The overall battle order is actually smaller than what is currently proposed but each battle group is better equipped and designed to be deployed more quickly. I think Global Britain has to work. Whatever you might think about leaving the E.U. we’ve done it so new trade is going to be in the Indo-Pacific, and that means us being seen to be… Read more »

Peter S

My comment was in part prompted by your mention of land based AShM. If China is causing the USN serious concern by deploying them, couldn’t we benefit from the same approach? And couldn’t we deal more cost effectively with Russian air intrusions by deploying long range land based AAM? I have listened for years to arguments that trade requires a military presence and never accepted them. Japan, Germany, South Korea have built more successful economies and have largely avoided all overseas military involvement and their costs. I am absolutely not in favour of cutting defence, quite the opposite. But re-establishing… Read more »

John Hartley

Britain has not had a high end SAM since Bloodhound fell apart from old age. We should have bought at least one battery of Patriot after 1991, or THAAD circa 2000-10, or SAMP-T, but we did not. Any attack by Russia would start with a blizzard of cruise & ballistic conventional missiles on key targets. We have no current means of stopping most of them. So yes, a high end SAM or a layered system, would be on my wishlist. Air policing needs manned fighters too, in order to have a look & escort away. With SAMs you just have… Read more »


Chain guns?, 105 light guns?, 105’s on Boxers (hopefully they’d never encounter any MBT other than a Challenger 2 or 3!) As90’s? I thought this was about the future. God help us if we still aspire to be the most under gunned out there…


I read Geoffrey’s comment that the army inevitably faces cuts with disbelief, knowing that the army is the smallest it has been since the Napoleonic wars. It is also pertinent to mention that it was reduced to and set at 120,000 to be the right size post-Cold War in Options for Change, yet was then reduced to 102,000 then 95,000 then 82,500 over the next 25 years with no underpinning logic. I read today that Ben Wallace is considering a reduction to 72,500 over the next few years. An army of such a small size will be mocked by the… Read more »

Peter S

The 2015 SDR planned for overseas deployable ground forces up from 30000 to 50000. An army not lower than 82000 with 35000 reserves was envisaged. Given the failure to achieve the plan for reserves,a cut in regulars means an even bigger overall reduction. I don’t see how such smaller numbers are compatible with the 50k deployable force ambition. Maybe that is going too but given daft Boris’s global Britain message, that would seem unlikely. With unemployment especially amongst young people sure to rise, now is the time to raise numbers and make good the damage of years of cuts. Pay… Read more »

Mike Saul

Moving forwards without Watchkeeper according the Sunday Telegraph today. Expected to be scrapped in the next defence review. The project has been a shambles from the beginning, so probably correct.

Dave Lloyd

The biggest risk with our assumed adversary may well be inadvertent escalation. By making our military so ‘agile’ that we will soon be able to fit our entire ‘expeditionary’ capability in a couple of C17s we are already ahead of the game. It is difficult to dangerously escalate a situation once you are no longer credible.


Really like the concept of Area Denial Missiles in Scotland – perhaps a HiMaRs unit. Believe there is an opportunity to add a 120mm turret to ASCOD rather than persisting with 105mm. Rest is good. May wish to ponder logistics of moving these Units rapidly.


Only problem with this plan is. It was drawn up for Cameron and he walked away 5 years ago. This plan would never get approved Army still trying to do to much.