Future Army 2020

At the evidence session on Army 2020, undertaken on 5 December, the Chief of the General Staff undertook to provide further clarification on three points. The information requested is as follows.

Question 38 - an explanation of what a unit is;

A unit is the generic term for a military organisation that is the basic building block of a specific operational capability. It includes service personnel predominately from a single cap-badge but with small detachments of other cap-badged personnel that provide specialist capability.  A unit may be called a Regiment or a Battalion, dependent on the capability it provides and will generally consist of a Headquarters, a support sub-unit and 3 other sub-units called companies, squadrons or batteries, dependent on the unit type.  The size and structure of each unit varies considerably (408 up to 729) and is dependent on its role and specialisation.

In the A2020 structure, combat units will be grouped into either the Reaction Force or the Adaptable Force.  Regiments or battalions in the Reaction Force are normally larger as they comprise mainly full-time service personnel able to deploy on operations at minimal notice.  The combat units in the Adaptable Force are slightly smaller as their full-time manpower is planned to be augmented by reservists who will require additional training and preparation before the unit can be deployed.

Within the Infantry the standard unit is the battalion and consists of a battalion headquarters, a headquarter company, a support company and 3 rifle companies; the size is dependent on role.  The Reaction Force infantry battalions are 729 or 709 strong, dependent on capability, each rifle company consisting of 3 rifle platoons.  Within the Adaptable Force, infantry battalions are slightly smaller at 581 or 561 personnel.  

The Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) unit is termed a Regiment and consists of a regimental headquarters, a headquarter squadron, a support squadron and 3 reconnaissance or sabre squadrons dependent on the unit role.  Within the Reaction Force, an RAC Regiment is 587 or 528 strong and within the Adaptable Force it is 404 strong.  

This terminology is applied across the British Army, so for example a Royal Engineer unit is called a regiment and its sub units are termed squadrons.  Those Royal Engineer units supporting the Reaction Forces are c.600 strong and those supporting the Adaptable Force are c.500 strong.  Similarly the Royal Artillery has Regiments but its sub units are termed batteries; its units in the Reaction Forces are c.600 strong and those supporting the Adaptable Force are c.400 strong.

Question 44 - why some battalions which are being abolished appear well manned;

The logic behind the Army’s decisions on which combat units to withdraw has been made public on a number of occasions, but it is worth repeating.

There were a number of criteria applied. These were: maintaining a regimental system which is largely regionally aligned; demographic sustainability of regiments according to projected regional supply of recruits in the 2020 timeframe; proportionality of outcome, with no cap badge deletions and no regiment losing more than one battalion in a re-organisation; balancing the whole infantry structure to maintain variety of roles and parity of opportunity of experience for officers and soldiers; taking account of previous decisions on mergers and deletions; historical manning performance; and ensuring a solution that the Army would see as fair and equitable.


Drawing on demographic data from the Office of National Statistics for the age cohort across the UK from which infantry recruits are drawn (15-29 age group), and taking account of historical trends in terms of the percentage of that cohort likely to join the Army, an assessment was made of which regiments were likely to be the least sustainable in the future if they retained their current structure.  This work also included a comparison of each regiment’s historical outflow so the likely recruiting requirement could be determined.


This analysis showed that those regiments likely to be the least sustainable in future were the Royal Regiment of Scotland (predicted to be 1.75 battalions short), The Yorkshire Regiment (predicted to be 0.8 battalions short), The Mercian Regiment (predicted to be 0.56 battalions short) and the Royal Welsh Regiment (predicted to be 0.55 battalions short).  It was therefore decided to remove one battalion from each of these regiments.


After the removal of these four battalions, and taking account of the criterion that there should be no cap badge deletions and no regiment losing more than one battalion, the method for predicting future sustainability became less statistically discerning.  Therefore to determine the fifth battalion to be withdrawn required the application of criteria that went wider than future demographics. 

Having discounted those regiments that were already losing a battalion, and those which were single battalion regiments, the choice came down to a battalion from one of the following: The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment; The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment; The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (RRF); The Royal Anglian Regiment; and The Rifles. The Parachute Regiment having been excluded on the grounds of its specific role. Taking account of the need to maintain equity of opportunity across the Infantry Divisions, the Army decided that it should be the Queen’s Division (comprised of Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, The Royal Anglian Regiment and the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers) that lost a battalion; this was because it had six battalions in comparison to other Divisions that would be left with only four or five. From within the Queen’s Division, and taking account of historical manning performance, the RRF, with average historical undermanning of 13.3% since the previous reorganisation of the infantry in 2007, and being a regiment with two battalions, was therefore determined as the next appropriate regiment from which to withdraw a battalion.


The units withdrawn were therefore those which were judged to be the least sustainable in the 2020 timeframe and/or with the poorest historical recruiting performance. We recognise that some of those units were well manned at the time the decision was made. This is not surprising as recruits are allocated to regiments where there is a need i.e. those which are undermanned or which are due to deploy in the near future. In the case of the RRF, their manning improved as a result of Divisional manning priorities - the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment and the Royal Anglian Regiment’s battalions were already fully manned.

Question 77 - a translation of Figure 1 Force Development Deductions of Transforming the British Army.

Figure 1 in the Army 2020 brochure "Transforming the British Army, July 2012" was a list of high level factors, based on recent operational experience and the work of those areas of the MOD who look at how those lessons might apply in the future, that are likely to be relevant in future operations. In the order they appeared in the table, they are:

· We need to treat operational command and control as a capability in its own right and correct a tendency to treat it as an administrative overhead on an operation. This is especially so at formation level, that is at brigade headquarters and higher levels. In particular, we must take care in the future to allow brigade headquarters to concentrate on planning and executing local tactical actions, for that is what they are designed, organized and trained for. We should not burden them with complex integration tasks or long-term planning, which are more efficiently delivered by divisional headquarters, or indeed at an even higher level. We need to redefine the tasks and organisation of our brigade and divisional headquarters in the A2020 structure accordingly, so that all have a well-founded understanding and expectation of what brigade and divisional level headquarters will respectively be required to do in the future.

· Armoured infantry (i.e. infantry equipped with tracked armoured vehicles, known as Warriors) will be the core capability around which manoeuvre is built in the future (manoeuvre being the coordinated fire and movement of numerous capabilities to defeat an enemy). The default setting for the use of armour (i.e. Challenger 2 tanks) will be in more direct support of infantry than has been the case historically.

· "Soft Effect" (i.e. computer network action, psychological methods, deception, engaging with key leaders, and media communication) will need to be institutionalised into the Army’s structures and training as clever use of these effects is fundamental in achieving an advantage over our opponents in the information age.

· The current predominance of suppressive fire capability (area weapon systems for engaging/neutralising large targets) needs to be brought into balance with an increasing ratio of precision fires (extremely accurate guided munitions for engaging specific targets).

· Information and communication services, particularly broadband connectivity, must be delivered to more elements of the deployed force, not just the larger headquarters.

· Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities collect and provide different sorts of data and information. This comes in many different forms and no one system will yield a wholly comprehensive "picture" of what is happening or what has happened. To get as full a "picture" as possible it is necessary to organize, train and operate these systems to complement one another. In Army 2020, we will re-organize our ISR assets to complement one another better on operations. The information provided by ISR assets is assimilated (processed) and duly assessed for its significance, at which point it is treated as intelligence. It is used, for example, to make short term decisions and as a basis to determine future plans. But given the increasing operational trend of conducting military and security operations among populations (whether friendly, hostile or indifferent), and where there are invariably complex political, social, economic and religious factors at play, commanders and staff need to understand the relevance and significance of their intelligence assessments in those contexts: often called the human domain. In particular they need to understand the consequences of their actions and interventions upon the people among whom they are operating. In Army 2020, in addition to re-organizing our ISR assets better to complement one another on operations, we will invest more so as better to understand the societies among whom we may be called to operate.

· Rarely will we fight alone outside of coalitions and partnerships, and thus our structures need to be built with multi-national integration in mind.

· We require an end-to-end approach (i.e. factory to foxhole) to supply and distribution that opens up possibilities for the involvement of the commercial sector. In effect, we need to look more imaginatively at where the boundaries should sit between industry and the military in providing this service.

Prepared 15th May 2013