The concept of a Future Commando Force has understandably drawn much interest and a degree of criticism, based on fears for the future of the RM, concern about Britain’s future amphibious capability, but also sometimes on misunderstandings about amphibious operations and the role of the RM, and even on opposition to change simply because it is change.

To start with the basics: what is amphibious warfare? Simply put, it is landing troops from ships on to land, whether for a raid or an invasion. It does not require that the troops be landed by boats or other specialist types of vessels. 

HMS Albion operating at night.

Picture this: a friendly government in East Africa is faced by a sudden revolt; the rebels seize an army base and the government appeals to Britain for military assistance. London agrees and orders a fast helicopter-carrying ship (with no dock) of the Royal Navy, deployed off Yemen, to carry an Royal Marines force to aid the beleaguered African government as fast as possible. Accompanied by a single escort, it does so. Arriving on the scene, the RN/RM force swings into action: the escort confuses the rebels by bombarding an uninhabited group of hills close to the rebel base while a company group of RM, complete with mortars and anti-tank missiles, is landed in a helicopter assault. An RM anti-tank missile knocks out the key rebel machine gun post, the marines storm the base, the rebellion collapses.

A scenario to justify the ‘Future Commando Force’?

No. A summary of what actually happened in what is now Tanzania – in 1964! The ship involved was the light fleet carrier HMS Centaur and, interestingly, for the operation it embarked two RAF Bristol Belvedere helicopters, then the biggest and most powerful helicopter type that Britain had. (1)   

The first heliborne assault by the RN/RM took place in 1956, during the Suez Crisis. The first wave of RM went ashore in the traditional way, in landing craft, with the heliborne assault being the second wave. But in 1961, during the first Iraq/Kuwait crisis, the heliborne assault (conducted in a sandstorm) was both the lead and main landing, deploying an entire Commando (battalion) and securing the airport, allowing further reinforcements to be flown in. Then there was the 1964 action in East Africa. At the end of 1968, the rear-guard covering the British evacuation from Aden was provided by the RM and this rear-guard was withdrawn by helicopter, not landing craft. 

In the 2003 Iraq War, the RM, working with the US Marine Corps (USMC), deployed overland or carried out a heliborne assault using USMC helicopters. The 1982 Falklands War, with its heavy dependence on landing craft, was a throwback, an aberration. Even so, troop carrying helicopters were of critical importance in that operation (2). 

These heliborne assaults (and withdrawals) were made using aircraft carriers which had been permanently converted (HMS Albion and Bulwark, referred to as Commando Carriers), or temporarily adapted, to carry RMs and their helicopters. These vessels had no ability to carry any landing craft (except less than a handful of the smallest category of these vessels, which could be handled by the ships’ davits). From the late 1950s to the late 1970s real-world amphibious warfare for the RN and RM normally meant heliborne assault from the sea. Prior to 1982, the dock landing ships HMS Fearless and Intrepid seem to have seen almost no real-world action (as distinct from NATO exercises) at all. 

However, to regain this capacity, used so frequently and successfully in the 1960s and 1970s, will require fast ships. The Albion, Bulwark and Centaur all had maximum speeds of nearly 30 knots.

This is why the RN was right to dispose of HMS Ocean: not only was she demanding in terms of crew complement (about 300), she was also slow (just 18 knots maximum speed). What the RN needs is a pair of fast, lean-crewed (about 150 each) ships capable to embarking a minimum of six Merlin, two Chinook and three or four small (Wildcat) helicopters, plus a self-contained company group of RM (250-300 personnel). Like the Commando Carriers, they should be built to merchant ship standards to reduce costs. They could be based on container ship designs, which can be fast (around 24 knots, which should be sufficiently fast for their role)(3).     

The RN’s current dock landing ships, named after the Commando Carriers, are also too demanding of personnel (the RN can keep only one in commission at a time) and are again too slow (18 knots)(4).

HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark.

They have good command facilities and their main use in recent years has been as flagships. But the arrival of the two new supercarriers has rendered that role redundant. As for being command ships for amphibious operations, two factors are undermining that. Firstly, the great advances in miniaturisation, modularisation and containerisation allow such command facilities to be placed in containers which can be moved around, including by helicopter, deployed where needed and quickly linked together to become operational.

All a ship needs to provide is a convenient deck handling system for the containers, deck locks, power connections, and a sufficient volume to accommodate them. Secondly, there is the reported restructuring of 3 Commando Brigade RM into two permanent “Commando Expeditionary Groups” (CEGs). By definition, these will each be self-contained with their own organic armour, artillery, engineer, intelligence, reconnaissance and logistical assets. In other words, the majority of the functions of the brigade HQ will be devolved down to the CEGs, leaving a much smaller brigade HQ (basically a task group HQ). 

It must not be forgotten that Britain cannot engage in “conventional” amphibious operations against peer enemies, except on isolated islands, but can undertake fast, heliborne strategic raids. Strategic raids can tie down large numbers of hostile troops (as they did in the Second World War). Helicopters would allow the ships to stay well offshore, move fast, and manoeuvre freely most of the time, making it much more difficult for enemies to locate and target them. Conventional amphibious ships have to come close inshore, move very slowly and cannot manoeuvre, making them sitting ducks for modern long-range missile systems.

As for modern air defence systems, these are indeed very formidable – except at very low altitudes, at which their sensor and weapons ranges are very short. And helicopters can fly at very low altitudes. Of course, traditional amphibious ships still have their uses, which is why the UK should retain the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s Auxiliary Dock Landing Ships. But the RN/RM cannot emulate the US Navy/USMC, and indeed have never attempted to do so.

Of course, successful amphibious operations, whether by helicopters or landing craft, whether raids or aimed at securing territory, need fighter cover and, although this can sometimes be provided by land-based air forces, only the possession of aircraft carriers can guarantee the necessary air cover, especially regarding strategic raids.

And one last point. The RM are a naval asset, paid out of the RN’s budget. They are an instrument of maritime warfare, both tactical and strategical. They are not an instrument of terrestrial warfare. Fundamentally, they must serve naval ends, including achieving strategic results from the sea, which they have traditionally done, over centuries, by raiding operations, or short-term landing operations, interspersed, on rare occasions, by longer forays on land. The FCF firmly re-establishes the RM as a branch and asset of the RN.

Royal Marines whilst developing experimentation and innovation trials that underpin the Littoral Strike concept, the Future Commando Force vision and the Royal Navy’s Transformation strategy.

To sum up, the FCF concept assures the future of the Royal Marines. It will provide a capability of great value in both low intensity and high intensity contingencies. Coupled with suitable and fast ships, however it is structured it will provide the UK with a rapid reaction force that can be permanently forward deployed.

It is not, in fact, a plunge into a risky and uncertain future but basically a return to a proven, indeed highly successful, operating model from only a half-century or so ago. The fundamental mission will be the same now as it was then: to support and help protect friendly countries from both subversion and external attack, through deterrence and, when required, rapid action. 

NOTES

  1. David Hobbs The British Carrier Strike Fleet After 1945, Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, 2015 pp 295-299.
  2. Hobbs, ibid., pp 162-205, 285-294, 455-457; John Keegan The Iraq War, Hutchinson, London, 2004, pp 169-171.
  3. Roger Chesneau Aircraft Carriers of the World, 194 to the Present: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Brockhampton Press, London, pp 140-146; Werner Globke Weyers Warships of the World 2013/2015, Bernard & Graefe, Bonn, pp 120-121; “Fuel Consumption by Containership Size and Speed”, https://transportgeography.org/?page_id=5955, accessed 30/08/2020. 
  4. Globke, ibid.

 

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Patrick O'Keefe
Patrick O'Keefe
8 months ago

The Royal Marines are a branch of Her Majesty’s Naval Service, not the Royal Navy (which is its own discnint branch of Her Majesty’s Naval Service).

BRd2 | Royal Navy
Her Majesty’s Naval Service – Wikipedia

john melling
john melling
8 months ago

So Rebecca your basically at the same conclusion as the RUSI paper a couple of years go: 201911_op_requirements_for_the_uks_amphibious_forces_in_the_future_operating_environment_kaushal_watling_web.pdf (rusi.org) The Occasional Paper (link) from Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies Requirements for the UK’s Amphibious Forces in the Future Operating Environment written by Sidharth Kaushal and Jack Watling The paper explored the very same issue and came up with very strong solutions. and includes other improvements! New ships aka Littoral Operation Vehicles (LOV) big enough for those helicopters you mention and a decent strike force of marines and so on. The new doctrine above, and wonderfully written… Read more »

Paul42
Paul42
8 months ago
Reply to  john melling

The simple answer here is to replace Bulwark and Albion with 2 x LHDs. We need the ability to airlift marines in and back them up with heavy support vehicles if necessary.

JohnN
JohnN
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

Yep, a couple of these will do the job nicely

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=t2W-LdOjQNA

Cheers,

AlexS
AlexS
8 months ago
Reply to  JohnN

Canberra is only 19kt. I can’t see that hull being able for more.

Trieste is 25kt but is probably too big with 12 Merlin.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vnp–kJGmts

Rob
Rob
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul42

Agreed. Something along the lines of the Aussie Canberra class LHDs. Plenty of room for helicopters, LCUs or LCAC. Could easily put a 1000 man battlegroup ashore. Get two to replace Ocean, Albion & Bulwark. Whatever we do we must not consider the QEs as commando platforms. If they are in that role then they aren’t doing what they were designed for, ie Fleet carriers.

Paul42
Paul42
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Despite what you might read elsewhere, the QEs never have, and never will be actively considered as a stand in LPH in time of conflict.. At the moment with small numbers of F35Bs its been thrown out there that POW could operate in the LPH role – but only in a disaster relief zone for example. Once QE returns from her IOD she’ll need a period of maintenance, POW will have completed her trials with F35B and will step up as the active carrier.

Ron
Ron
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

I find this an intresting article, I have on several occasions said that we need two possibly three Canberra type or Dokdo type vessels for the RN. On many occasions I have been told fantisy fleet, money issues and some other comments not worth mentioning. I would like to see a mix of two Dokdo type ships (23 knots) and a Juan Carlos I (21 knots) due to cost. These three vessels would cost £1 billion it would mean that the Army could land one armoured battle group and two strike battle groups by air and sea. If we think… Read more »

maurice10
maurice10
8 months ago

Without these forces, the UK can not participate in first strike land warfare from the sea, which would place the UK behind other major powers. The US DOD would possibly prefer a British capability than being dependant on others on such operations? What does not compute with me, is the capability of a carrier task group without a sea/land invasion component, which we currently possess? Our foreign policy would also be on shaky ground, if Britain can guarantee a carrier strike group, but not have the capability of a heavy ship to shore offensive ability.

Pacman27
Pacman27
8 months ago

Not only should the Commando force be retained, it should be expanded, I don’t understand any country reducing its best capabilities in the way the UK has. These guys really are elite and any other country would love to have this capability. Lets also not forget that the marines were also heavily utilised in Middle East rotations and for a force that is so small, they really do offer value for money. If the army was 50% as efficient as they lot, it wouldn’t be in such a mess. Well done to RN and RM seniors for having a plan… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Agree on expansion.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
8 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

I agree. Agility and flexibility are keynote issues and elite formations are the way forward combined with highly specialised supporting forces. A small island nation, Britain’s major wars have always been fought with allies since the War of the Spanish Succession 1701-14; we have not since the 18th century fought a major war alone. A large standing army was alien to the Victorians. Our unique contribution to conflict in modern times has been placing small highly trained unconventional forces in the right place at the right time to carry out tactical missions or providing exploitation opportunities. The Second World War… Read more »

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
8 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

The RM battle groups, FAA helos, JF Harrier (RN pilots and ground crew) and RN on ground support ( Logs and Hospital etc) at one point was at around 9K people in Afghan. That whilst still maintaining ships at sea doing all the other regular stuff the RN did. Not bad with only 30K people on the books!. The RMs deployment cycle and rebuild post deployment was nearly twice as quick as the ARMY and was a major factor in the Army being able to stay there. Without the RM/RN contribution the army would have seriously struggled with getting and… Read more »

Pacman27
Pacman27
8 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

couldn’t agree more Gunbuster, the RN and RM have done an exceptional job at force generation, often I fear at the personal costs of those who serve.

Personally I would take the headcount the army can’t fill (if they haven’t been above 75k for 3 years they should lose 7k and give it to the RN.

Airborne
Airborne
8 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Why? we just make an effort to recruit more Army. The way people are talking it seems people think the Army blokes are shite! The Army is lacking enablers, lots of them. The main difference is that the RN have looked after there people better, ie 3 Cdo Bde, and know how useful they are. While Army head sheds have been terrible at standing up for the Army, and the cap badge mafia have set things back years.

Pacman27
Pacman27
8 months ago
Reply to  Airborne

It is certainly not the people, but the leadership lurching from one self inflicted crisis to another. I could never understand why Nick Carter got the top job instead of the Royal Marine candidate and he is a big part of the problem. RAF have also done a good job and should be given the kudos they deserve. I am ex Army and believe the whole UK force should become one integrated force as its smaller than the USMC and just really inefficient. Better to know what you are and be good at it, than spread too thin, which is… Read more »

Simon m
Simon m
8 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

How many Main Battle tanks, IFVs, self-propelled artillery pieces etc. Does 3 commando have? Isn’t it a bit apples & pears? RM are a RRF more comparable to 16th air assault? Wouldn’t that be a fairer comparison?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago

I guess we must wait and see on the composition of these new groups and their enablers before judgement, though her passage on structure is interesting – “restructuring of 3 Commando Brigade RM into two permanent “Commando Expeditionary Groups” (CEGs). By definition, these will each be self-contained with their own organic armour, artillery, engineer, intelligence, reconnaissance and logistical assets. In other words, the majority of the functions of the brigade HQ will be devolved down to the CEGs, leaving a much smaller brigade HQ”  This suggests that units like 24RE and 29RA will survive, encouraging as this has been a… Read more »

Rob
Rob
8 months ago

Remember the RMs only got the commando role in 1942 alongside the Army commandos. Maybe if we were looking to expand the commando capability then we should consider creating one or more Army commando Btns to serve alongside the RMs.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

I do wonder, given the importance of the Northern flank/arctic role whether these proposed Army Commando’s should take the role if the RM are moving to smaller persistently afloat/forward deployed groupings.
I cannot see how they can continue to maintain that at any reasonable strength beyond a single Commando Group as at present.

John Clark
John Clark
8 months ago

I would also second expansion of RM Corps. I would suggest a force level of about 10,000, to allow a Brigade level deployment and operate the new strike force concept along side. A single slightly enlarged Commando of 850, outfitted for and split into these forward deployed Strike groups, would fill the roll. Re the LSS concept of 150 crew Daniele, I assume that’s purley for running of the vessel, the air element would be in addition to this. I would also concur that Albion and Bulwark need to be replaced by two 25,000 ton Helicopter Carriers, capable of operating… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

Hi John. Yes, surely that number excluded air group.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
8 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

And how do we pay for that wish list when the MOD equipment budget is already 7.3 billion the red.

John Clark
John Clark
8 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Good question Robert, just suggesting a hypothesis that would meet the requirements moving forward. I think the next 20 years will ‘belong’ to the Navy with regards to funding. It’s been disproportionately hit by the war on Terror and stripped to the bone. The only reason the Royal Marines survived in my opinion, is they were needed to fill places in those long, utterly pointless desert wars that achieved little. All that time spent as line infantry, meant Maritime skills we’re sacrificed and forgotten. They have literally had to rebuild core RM capability from scratch, post Afghanistan. Looking forward, both… Read more »

Jon
Jon
8 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

Navy stripped of funding. Challenger 2 40 plus year old platform. Warrior AVF 30 year old platform. What item in the Navy or Air Force are that old.

Airborne
Airborne
8 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

Everyone has had to rebuild core skills since Afghan. And it’s not just basic skills but interoperability at every level. That has taken years and we are just about back where we should be. And as for getting rid of armour, I have to say I disagree. I have spent 29 years as light forces but let me assure you, to take and hold ground, you need armour, both medium and heavy. If we get rid of a capability, then history has shown it is damn nigh impossible to get it back. Cheers.

Jon
Jon
8 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

It’s like a army general wish list. Makes little to no sense 5 of them 10 of them and who mans them.

Pacman27
Pacman27
8 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

hi robert I have posted a proposal on uklandpower that details how the UK can achieve a 7 division standing force (+3 division reserve) by adopting a different approach, similar to the USMC MEU model. No matter what happens the land force needs a massive increase in spend, but can be modernised for £3bn pa over the next 10 years and then maintained at this level going forward. We have a lot of decent kit we can use today, but need clear plans on how and when we upgrade. What we can’t do is deliver an old style division of… Read more »

Ryan Brewis
Ryan Brewis
8 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Pac man,, could you link that? No offence but I find that hard to believe (which maybe says more about the state of things than it should).

Rogbob
Rogbob
8 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Brewis

It’s mental. The ignorance of how land organisations actually generate and sustain themselves is staggering and it’s a grossly simplistic reallocation of 1000s of people with no comprehension of what they do and why they are there. The Army can and should have a lot of muck thrown at it for its thinking, but arbitrarily reassinginf blobs like that is just insane. Before venturing down that path, the author needs to join up and understand the commitment in people and resource to actually train and administer forces. Noting the RMs blister off the Army and RN to a huge extent… Read more »

Pacman27
Pacman27
8 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Brewis

Hi Robert

its in the comments for this thread, clearly it can’t cover everything, but it does offer a way to move to a more sustainable force, its also not for the purists.

https://uklandpower.com/2020/12/31/optimising-uk-strike-brigade-structures/

I can send the excel with the detail to UKdef if possible

Ryan Brewis
Ryan Brewis
8 months ago

“restructuring of 3 Commando Brigade RM into two permanent “Commando Expeditionary Groups” (CEGs). By definition, these will each be self-contained with their own organic armour, artillery, engineer, intelligence, reconnaissance and logistical assets” “What the RN needs is a pair of fast, lean-crewed (about 150 each) ships capable to embarking a minimum of six Merlin, two Chinook and three or four small (Wildcat) helicopters, plus a self-contained company group of RM (250-300 personnel)” These two seem like utterly different and actually conflicting roles and requirements to me. The first sounds like an MEU/multi ship taskforce centred around an LHD with a… Read more »

James McAvoy
James McAvoy
8 months ago

Something with the crew size of a Mistral ~160 mixed with the speed and utility of the Trieste makes ~25knts both powered by RR Trent GT, can carry ~600 marines and can accommodate ~12+ helicopters.

Ian
Ian
8 months ago

Have we enough helicopters for this type of amphibious assault , as well as crows nest , training , ASW and maintenance
Thanks Ian

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian

The Merlin of the CHF are not Merlin HM2’s, but the ex RAF Merlins, which once numbered 28. ( 22 plus 6 taken from a Danish order! ) They do not undertake the ASW or Crowsnest role. you mention. We don’t have enough of them either! As we have lamented many times here. The HM1’s that could have helped here were cannibalised according to posters who know. Do we have enough for amphibious assault? Depends how big a lift we are talking of. By comparison, the helicopters they replaced, the Commando Sea King HC4’s of 845, 846, and 848 NAS… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Daniele Mandelli
Ian
Ian
8 months ago

Hi Daniele…… it seems to make this work we need to increase our helicopter numbers and increase the numbers of sailors and marines…… and the 2 fast assault ships…… let’s not hold our breath
Thanks Ian

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian

For a larger operation yes. If the LSS are more SF orientated vessels like the US versions on smaller scale but available then that is certainly doable. Most nations cannot even do that.

John Clark
John Clark
8 months ago

There is a solution that’s mutually beneficial for the RAF and RN Daniele, replace the Puma with a second batch of 25 Commando Merlin and give them a duel Airforce / Maritime tasking. We have to make sure we make all future orders of equipment as capable and multi roll as possible. That means helicopter orders fully marinised and amphibious. A total fleet of 50 Commando Merlin’s and Chinooks on call as needed, would be enough airlift for our needs for projected Helicopter Carriers and QE class deployment. One point re the Commando Merlin, athough it’s numbers are less than… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

So John…another one up late! The J’s, there were rumours some years back DSF was looking at the USSOC Herc gunships. Agree on pods for Hercs and AAR for helis. Long suggested as another item on the DSF’s shopping list. The new Chinooks for the RAF have the probe I believe. Fair point on Merlin. Always the way though with new platforms. Far too few for the roles they are expected to carry out. I’d be quite happy with more Merlin myself as a Puma replacement though I think the RAF themselves were not keen on Merlin and would just… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
8 months ago

Yep another late one mate!
My main issue, with a proposed seperate medium support buy to replace Puma is we end up with small fleets of limited use, but with a disproportionately high seperate support cost.

Simply replacing with a second batch of 25 Commando Merlin, enhances lift, uses the same support network and backs UK industry.

As you rightly say, probably just withdrawn without replacement though….

Rogbob
Rogbob
8 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

Merlin was a pain in the arse as a battlefield helo, the RAF was happy to get rid for more Chinnys. Too complicated to maintain, too difficult to repair. Compared to Puma2 in hot and high the latter wins out anyway. The FAA got a single fleet albeit relatively little actual cross over benefit, but availability remains poor and really that goes to the base of the design. The tragedy of Obama’s VH71 cancellation was that investment would have fixed the platform (hence the astronomical costs!) and the UK could have benefited massively from that and further buys would have… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
8 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Thanks for the lowdown, allow a man to dream though! The fact remains, we need to replace the 20 plus Pumas before long and would you agree a medium type is needed and further a Maritime enabled platform would make sense? If the answer is yes, then surely the only logical answer is an additional buy of Commando Merlin, so we don’t introduce yet another fleet to support. I fear we will replace the Puma with 10 additional CH47’s, or just retired without replacement…. Re the C130J’s, I thought Bushmaster had developed a cannon system that was self contained and… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
8 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

Hey, dreaming is cool ! I’ve a fantasy force with allsorts in it 🙂 For Puma, I suspect absorbed into Chinook force, there is talk of a order to retire old airframes so covered within that as part of a better fleet availability and usability. Yes Puma does things a Chinny cant, as Harrier did things a Tornado couldnt, but Tornado was a larger fleet in better condition with “must have” capabilities as is Chinook in comparison. This UKism of having so many types in small numbers is a massive logistical and training burden. Ideally yes add some more Merlins/Wildcats… Read more »

George Royce
George Royce
8 months ago

The MOD and HMG give us a new lesson in the art of brevity. ‘Future Commando Force’ is just waffle for ‘cuts’.

Airborne
Airborne
8 months ago

Raiding role is all part and parcel of the RMs job. However lets not pretend its about capability and a new “role”. Its about cost, and reducing the heavier (costlier) assets, and therefore saving money. The RM needs to have the ability to land, fight and move off the “beachead”. This requires decent kinetic fighting power but also with a sustainable logistic and resupply, a set of “enablers” and OS support, all delivered by the correct flaoting platforms! They need the ability to depoy attached armoured forces if required. We dont want 3Cdo to go the way of 16 Bde.… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  Airborne

We think alike. This is my No1 concern too with this whole business. Enablers. Enablers. Enablers. That means firepower, artillery, signals, logistics, ISTAR, and the means to put them where needed. Ships. Helicopters. Landing craft. Boats.

Till then the fancy uniforms are just window dressing, however useful for the guys wearing them.

Both brigades seem to be moving to enlarged versions of UKSFSG rather than actual deployable brigades with the full range of supporting assets from the CS & CSS units.

I remain hopeful that things will change for the better.

Rob
Rob
8 months ago

Quite right. We have, in the last 35 years, gone from a country that could deploy a Corps, to a division, then Brigades and now Battle Groups. Now even a British BG is quite formidable but in these days of great power competition we need to get back to Bdes & Divs to stay in the game.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Would be nice. I think however RN RAF SF ISTAR areas will be priority from now on.
A doctrine I’ve always supported personally.

Rogbob
Rogbob
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Our ability to deploy a Corps was hollow. Look how denuded of equipment and supplies BAOR was to put a 2 Brigade Division in the Gulf in 1991. Equally with a Division- look at what we had in the Orbat to deploy a 1 heavy Brigade Div in 2003, and how again how denuded the rest was of equipment (war standard) and supplies to achieve that and then sustain the Brigade level deployments. So where we are now is a bit more realistic but not actually that much different from the past. We may have had hundreds of bits of… Read more »

Mike O
Mike O
8 months ago

This is not a topic that I have read much about. Really interesting read. Cheers.

Simon m
Simon m
8 months ago

First of all many thanks for writing the article & this has been a subject I feel needs discussion. However, although I see the need for some elements of FCF unfortunately, couldn’t disagree more with it on its being the best future for RM or the RN or the UK. Especially considering the supposed ambition of global Britain and if we have a true desire/need to influence & be involved on the world stage. I am not against FCF just some of the premise of the article. The article doesn’t take in to account we have just invested in 2… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon m

The other factor not mentioned is one of the primary strategic role of 3 commando which is helping to secure the northern flank which I believe is very pertinent in the current climate. I cannot see how small raiding parties would a actually provide a) meaningful defence & b) appear to allies that we are committed to trying to do so. So are the RMs dropping this important commitment & is the army to pick it up?”

Agree. I’m worried by this too.

farouk
farouk
8 months ago

Daniele,
That used to be the remit for ACE Mobile Force (Land) better known as AMFL which was pronounced Anfil. It was disbanded in 2002, after the Uk removed its contingent (The largest component) in which to concentrate on the upcoming invasion of Iraq and nobody else stood up to the plate. Apparently its been replaced by the NATO Response Force. But to be honest, I’ve not heard much of them

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  farouk

That’s right Farouk. 1 Infantry Brigade I recall. I’d read they could. theoretically, have been deployed from Turkey to Denmark to Norway. NATO flanks.

Did any of the army units of this force have the same quality of arctic training of the RM? Considering we’ve talked on here recently of the possibility of the army taking the role.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
8 months ago

Interesting article. I agree with a number of points, but while the RM might be limited to light strike and vehicles capable of air lift such as Viking (and perhaps in future JLTV if not too heavy), we should probably also assume we need to land heavier equipment up to at least Ajax/Boxer levels to support larger army operations. We can’t assume we will adequately deter a peer adversary from expeditionary adventures with just a light strike capability. An example scenario might be the ability to reinforce northern Norway by sea if the limited land routes heading north have been… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
8 months ago

Here’s a link to the Damen Landing Ship Transport 120 with a video showing it in action. Note that I am not advocating for the landing craft shown. https://products.damen.com/en/ranges/landing-ship/landing-ship-transport-120

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
8 months ago

Oh and as long as we’re consolidating the disparate ship classes in the RN and RFA we might also use the same basic design to replace the Echo class vessels in due course. Point-class might be another candidate for replacement, perhaps eliminating the PFI since we would then have much more flexible role vessels that can be more fully uilized under RFA operation, depending on how we expect that capability to operate in future. We might rarely need the large Point-class cargo in peacetime, and in war their ro-ro port operating constraint might not make them practical for anything other… Read more »

geoff
geoff
8 months ago

Good Morning gents. You guys have said most of what needs saying so- good article from Rebecca in ‘Suid Afrika’ and as an historic footnote, it is worth noting that the original Kommandos were the Boer irregulars from the 1899-1901 Anglo-Boer War. These were brave, hardy men of steel,expert marksmen who perfected the art of guerilla warfare and earned the praise of American and British generals in the conflicts of later years when they deployed with their English speaking compatriots as the South African Army. The Royal Marines still retain ‘Sarie Marais” as a Regimental March in tribute to those… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  geoff

Morning Geoff.

Thanks for that detail. I wasn’t aware of any of that apart from the source of Commando.

geoff
geoff
8 months ago

Hi Daniele. Hope you well and that the weather is improving in your neck of the Northern Hemisphere! Yes-fascinating country is South Africa with an amazing history. Another thing about the name. The old South African Army prior to 1994 had what was known as The Commandos which was an all volunteer Reserve Force similar to your old Territorials which backed up the Army and Police. Probably also similar to the US National Guard. Now done away with.
Keep Safe!

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
8 months ago

As someone who spent a very enjoyable 3 years on an LPD doing amphibiosity a number of points are valid but equally a number are not. As the RM raison d’etre moves to raiding it cannot all be achieved by air assault. The need for shore connectors will remain. If RM is told to assault a SAM missile battery to allow for instance a evacuation flight into an area to rescue civilian staff you are not going to do it in a helo right up to the SAM battery’s front door (for obvious reasons) . Chances are that if the… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
8 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Awesome post. The author does seem ignorant of the reality of logistics and rather “San Carlos” fixated in terms of LPD and LCU usage. The idea that everything can go by air is absurd unless you ignore everything but the actual marine, and the examples in the piece contraict that position very clearly. The LPDs are great platforms although the stupidity of cutting the hangar deck out of the design to save a few pennies of its lifetime cost is the massive achillies heel. An LHD replacement of 20-25k tons would be perfect, built to warship standards as the Author’s… Read more »

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
8 months ago
Reply to  Rogbob

Ocean was built to commercial standards and the MOD spent more bringing it up to milspec than they would have if they had just milspeced it from scratch. I worked on her in Guz a few times when I was in the Mob and again later when I started working for a living as a civvy when she visited the Gulf. She was on her last legs then and it was a exercise in just keeping her running. Towards the end the obsolescence issues where huge. The USN is looking at light carriers (Again!) but possibly using the America as… Read more »

Rogbob
Rogbob
8 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I’m not fussed on the speed, the author is wrong on that too and the USN has found to enormous cost how pointless it was for LCS. An amphib at 20kts is as strategically and operationally deployable as one that can nominally do 30 but cant because even all our tankers couldnt support that, and which comes at heavy cost in constraining more important parts of the design. In the days where a few knots made the difference between outrunning another ship then yes its worth optimising for that, in the days where the threat is near or above supersonic… Read more »

Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub
8 months ago

Post Falklands, the replacement for the Atlantic conveyor was meant to be a vessel capable of being fitted with containerised weapons systems and carrying a significant number of vehicles and troops. Post Brexit, government financial support to British shipping companies that operate such vessels, would provide a welcome boost to amphibious warfare.

John Hartley
John Hartley
8 months ago

Part of me still misses Engadine, Tiger & Blake. I like the idea of a couple of RN Destroyers/Frigates, fitted with a hangar big enough for 4 helicopters & a flight deck big enough for 2.

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
13 days ago

This makes a lot of sense. The United States Navy, with vastly greater resources, has an increased focus on littoral operations. A huge proportion of the world’s population lives within 100 miles of the coast. The original commando concept was raiding, which, as accurately pointed out, ties up a disproportionate amount of enemy resource. FCF seems to me to be about getting back to the original concept. The Marines are not meant to be a conventional land brigade. Given the increasingly hostile posture of China in the South China Sea, we also need to consider how a military threat from… Read more »