Future of the British Army (Army 2020 Refine)
Army 2020 Refine, formerly known as Future Army Structure (Next Steps) or FAS (Next Steps), is the name given to an ongoing restructuring of the British Army, and in particular its fighting brigades.
The British Government gave an indication of its proposals for the future structure of the Army in early 2008, in a press report stating that it was considering restructuring the Army into a force of three deployable divisional headquarters and eight 'homogenous or identical' brigades, each with a spread of heavy, medium and light capabilities. This report indicated that the existing 16 Air Assault Brigade would be retained as a high-readiness rapid reaction force.
Subsequently, it was reported that the former Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, wanted to see the Army structured so as to extend the interval between operational tours from two to two-and-a-half years.
In 2010, the Strategic Defence and Security Review was published. As part of the plans, the British Army will be reduced by 23 regular units, and by 2020 will number 117,000 soldiers, of whom 82,000 would be regulars and 30,000 will be reservists. The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 increased the planned number of reservists from 30,000 to 35,000.
On 7 June 2012, the Secretary of State for Defence set out some key considerations for the future of the British Army. Refinements to the plans following the 2015 Review became known as "Army 2020 Refine". Further changes were announced in a written statement in December 2016, and detailed in a Freedom of Information response in March 2017.
Originally envisaged structure
The originally envisaged future structure was announced on 19 July 2011 in a briefing paper entitled Defence Basing Review: Headline Decisions. This structure had five identical multi-role brigades, each of around 6,500 personnel. However, in June 2012 a significantly different structure known as Army 2020 was announced.
- One armoured regiment of Challenger 2 tanks
- One armoured reconnaissance regiment
- One armoured infantry battalion in Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicles
- One mechanised infantry battalion in FV432 Bulldog armoured vehicles
- Two light role infantry battalions
Army 2020 Refine
According to the British Army, the post-SDSR 2015 Army 2020 plan is called "Army 2020 Refine". The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 announced that the structure of the Reaction and Adaptable Forces would further change, in an evolution of the previous Army 2020 plan. The main changes of Army 2020 Refine are:
- Creation of two new "Strike brigades", to be formed by converting an Armoured Infantry brigade and an Infantry brigade. These will be formed by 2025, comprising 5,000 personnel each, equipped with Ajax vehicles.
- The UK's 3rd division will, by 2025, comprise two armoured infantry brigades, a strike brigade, and a strike experimentation group.
- Creation of a Specialised Infantry Group, to be formed by converting four infantry battalions and creation of a new battalion and training cell.
- Two innovative brigades will be established, comprising a mix of regulars and specialist capabilities from the reserves, that are able to contribute to strategic communications, tackle hybrid warfare and deliver better battlefield intelligence.
Strike brigades & Armoured Infantry brigades
The armoured infantry brigades will be reduced from three to two. In a Defence Committee hearing, Chief of the General Staff Sir Nicholas Carter stated that "each of these [Strike] brigades will have two AJAX regiments and probably two Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) battalions as well." There will be around 50 to 60 Ajax vehicles per Strike Brigade.
- Household Cavalry Regiment
- King's Royal Hussars
- 1st Battalion, Scots Guards
- The Highlanders, 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland
Other units such as 1 Regiment RLC, 1 Close Support Battalion REME, 3 Medical Regiment and 21 Engineer Regiment will provide close support to this Strike Brigade. 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery and 4th Regiment Royal Artillery are assigned to the Strike Brigades.
Specialised Infantry Group
Several units will be closed, with all manpower in those units being redeployed to other areas of the Army in its refined structure. These are:
- Headquarters 102nd Logistic Brigade
- 35 Engineer Regiment
- Headquarters 64 Works Group Royal Engineers
- 2 Medical Regiment
- Headquarters 4th Regiment Royal Military Police
- 33 Field Hospital
- 104, 105 and 106 Battalions of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
35 Engineer Regiment was however retained and reformed as an explosive ordnance and search regiment.
32nd Regiment Royal Artillery was also initially planned to be placed under suspended animation. This was reverted in October 2019.
The Scottish and Prince of Wales' Divisions of Infantry will merge, incorporating The Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Royal Welsh Regiment and The Royal Irish Regiment. This administrative division will be called the Scottish, Welsh and Irish Division. The Mercian Regiment from the Prince of Wales’ Division will join with the King's Division.
Foxhound-equipped units will no longer be assigned those vehicles but will only have them available before deployment or operations.
Field Army restructuring 2019
The Field Army was restructured in July/August 2019 in order to meet the threats of the future. The following list the new structure of the Field Army.
- 4th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Northeast
- 7th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters East
- 11th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Southeast
- 51st Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Scotland
- 8th Engineer Brigade
- 102nd Logistic Brigade
- 104th Logistic Support Brigade
- 2nd Medical Brigade
- Strike Experimentation Group
- 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade
- 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade
- 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade
- 1st Artillery Brigade
- 25 (Close Support) Engineer Group
- 7th Air Defence Group
- 1st Signal Brigade (United Kingdom)
- 11th Signal Brigade and Headquarters West Midlands
- 1st Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade
- Specialised Infantry Group
- 77th Brigade
The full future British Army structure under Army 2020 Refine can be found here.
Original Army 2020 structure
At the RUSI Land Warfare Conference in June 2012, the army's Chief of the General Staff General Sir Peter Wall set out a significantly different army structure from that foreseen in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The new structure was confirmed by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, on 5 July 2012. The Army Command will comprise the reaction force, the adaptable force, and force troops:
The Reaction Force
The 16 Air Assault Brigade, comprising two battalions of the Parachute Regiment and two Army Air Corps regiments of attack helicopters. This will deliver a very high readiness Lead Air Assault Task Force, with the rest of the brigade ready to move at longer notice.
The 3rd (UK) Mechanised Division, renamed the 3rd (United Kingdom) Division, comprising three armoured infantry brigades: 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade, 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade and 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade. These three brigades will rotate, with one being the lead brigade, a second undergoing training and the third involved in other tasks. The lead brigade will deliver a Lead Battlegroup at very high readiness, with the rest of the brigade at longer notice. Each armoured infantry brigade will be made up of:
- 1 Type 56 armoured regiment comprising:
- 1 armoured cavalry regiment comprising:
- 2 armoured infantry battalions, each comprising:
- 1 heavy protected mobility infantry battalion comprising:
- 101st Logistic Support Brigade.
- Royal Wessex Yeomanry providing replacement crews to the three Challenger 2 regiments.
The complete air assault brigade and a full mechanised brigade will be available for deployment within three months. All three brigade's HQs are to be based in the Salisbury Plain Training Area.
The Adaptable Force
The 1st Armoured Division, renamed as the 1st (United Kingdom) Division, along with Support Command. Comprises seven infantry brigades (4th, 7th, 11th, 38th, 42nd, 51st and 160th) of various sizes, each made up of paired regular and Territorial Army forces, drawn from an Adaptable Force pool of units. These infantry brigades will be suited to domestic operations or overseas commitments (such as the Falkland Islands, Brunei and Cyprus) or, with sufficient notice, as a brigade level contribution to enduring stabilisation operations. This force pool will comprise:
- Three light cavalry, paired with three yeomanry regiments, each comprising:
- 3 sabre squadrons, each with 16 Jackal vehicles;
- Six light protected mobility infantry battalions equipped with Foxhound vehicles, each comprising:
- 3 rifle companies
- 1 support company.
- Several light role infantry battalions, each comprising:
- 3 rifle companies
- 1 support company.
- 102 Logistic Support Brigade.
Force Troops Command
This will comprise:
- 1st Artillery Brigade and Headquarters South West
- 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade
- 1st Military Police Brigade
- 1st Signal Brigade
- 2nd Medical Brigade
- 8th Engineer Brigade
- 11th Signal Brigade and Headquarters West Midlands
- 77th Brigade
- 104th Logistical Support Brigade
The table above provides the general structure of the British Army once Army 2020 is completed. It excludes regiments like the Corps of Music or units under other commands such as the air defence regiments.
Royal Armoured Corps
Four of the Royal Armoured Corps' Regiments will merge into two regiments:
In accordance with the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the number of AS-90 self-propelled guns will be reduced by 35%. The number of active Challenger 2 tanks was cut by around forty per cent, and by 2014 had been reduced to 227.
12th and 16th Royal Artillery will continue to be placed under a joint Army-RAF unit, Joint Ground-Based Air Defence Command.
Four of the British Army's 36 regular infantry battalions will be disbanded or merged with sister units in their regiments:
- 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (light role)
- 3rd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) (light role)
- 2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh (Royal Regiment of Wales) (armoured infantry)
- 3rd Battalion, Mercian Regiment (Staffords) (armoured infantry)
Joint Helicopter Command/Army Air Corps
The Joint Helicopter Command will remain an integral part of the land force. The Army Air Corps will be reduced by one regular regiment. 1 and 9 Regt AAC will merge with the new Wildcat helicopter not before Oct 2015. One Regiment will be at high readiness annually, with one Apache Squadron committed towards the Lead Armoured Battlegroup. 653 AAC will be an Operational Training Squadron from 2015, leaving the Apache Regiments with four active squadrons altogether. The government pledged to upgrade 50 AgustaWestland Apache to AH-64E standard, however, an 11 May 2017 US government contract list states that only 38 will be re-manufactured.
The Territorial Army will be renamed the Army Reserve, and will be expanded from 19,000 to 30,000 personnel. Its military equipment will be upgraded to meet the standards of the regular army and its units will be realigned. The 2015 review increased the intended strength of the Reserves to 35,000.
Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
The regular component of the REME structure will reduce by one battalion to seven regular battalions. 101 Force Support Battalion will be disbanded not before autumn 2015.
Royal Military Police
As part of the drawdown from Germany, the Royal Military Police will lose one regiment, 4 Regiment RMP. The three remaining regiments will be re-organised.
British Forces Royal Logistic Corps in Germany will be withdrawn back to the UK by 2015:
- 8 Regiment RLC disbanded (formerly at BFG Munster and late York Barracks) on 31 March 2012.
- 24 Regiment RLC (part of 104th Logistic Support Brigade) will disband in Bielefeld, Germany in August 2013.
- 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC (part of 104th Logistic Support Brigade) at Bicester disbands in 2013/14.
Regular units only, table does not include Force Troops Command Units or Logistics Brigades
|3rd (United Kingdom) Division|
|Brigade||Armoured Cavalry||Armoured||Armoured Infantry||Heavy Protected Mobility|
|Strike Brigade||HCR||RDG||1 YORKS|
|Strike Experimentation Group||RL||KRH||1 SG|
|12th Armoured Infantry Brigade||RTR||1 R WELSH
|20th Armoured Infantry Brigade||QRH||5 RIFLES
|1st (United Kingdom) Division (rotation until 1 September 2016)|
|Brigade||Light Cavalry||Light Protected Mobility Infantry||Light Role Infantry|
|Specialized Infantry Group||1 SCOTS|
|4th Infantry Brigade||LD||2 YORKS|
|7th Infantry Brigade||QDG||2 R ANGLIAN|
|11th Infantry Brigade||1 WG|
1 GREN GDS
|38th Irish Infantry Brigade||1 R ANGLIAN|
|Headquarters North West||2 LANCS|
|51st Infantry Brigade||SCOTS DG||3 SCOTS||2 SCOTS|
|160th Infantry Brigade||1 RIFLES|
1 R IRISH
|16th Air Assault Brigade|
|Infantry||Air Corps||Support troops|
|7 (Para) RHA|
23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault)
216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron
13 Air Assault Support Regiment
16 Close Support Medical Regiment
7 Air Assault Battalion REME.
|Formation||Light Protected Mobility||Light Role|
|British Forces Cyprus||1 LANCS|
|British Forces Brunei||2 RGR|
|London District||1 CLDM GDS|
2 GREN GDS1
2 CLDM GDS1
1: The colours and traditions of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards, 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and 5th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland are each perpetuated by a reinforced infantry company serving as a permanent public duties unit
An initial basing plan located infantry brigades throughout the United Kingdom, with the three reaction force brigades situated in the Salisbury Plain Training Area. On 5 March 2013, a future basing plan of units in the UK was released. As noted above, all Germany-based units will be relocated to the UK, with the Salisbury Plain area holding the largest concentration of troops.
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