UK Defence Secretary Outlines Future Structure of the British Army

Released on Thursday, December 16, 2004
United Kingdom
FRES - Future Rapid Effect System
NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization
UK - United Kingdom
Geoff Hoon, UK Secretary of State for Defence, set out the planned future structure of the British Army in a Statement to the House of Commons. The reforms follows extensive work by the Army aiming at elaborating a suitable response against the 21st century challenges.

The new structure will focus on: capabilities for the challenges of today and tomorrow, an Army aimed at warfighting, a more effective force overall, provide individual comfort to Army personnel balancing their commitment to the service and the commitment to their families, and more battalions available at any moment ending up units movements around the country and the world. Thus, these changes will lead to a more deployable, agile and flexible force.

The British future force will be arranged around two armored brigades, three mechanized brigades, a light and an air assault brigades in addition, of course, to the Royal Marines Commando Brigade. Overall the British Army will be equipped with seven brigades backed up by the Commando Brigade from the Royal Marines.

The 19th Mechanized Brigade, based in Catterick, will begin conversion into a light brigade in January 2005. The light brigade will be ready for operational deployment in the first half of 2006 and will be assigned to the NATO response force. The 4th Armored Brigade, based in Germany, will transition to a mechanized brigade in 2006. The other brigades will undergo conversion to the new structure in a similar time frame. The whole new structure should be ready for operational service in 2008.

This transformation will run in parallel with introduction of new capabilities such as Bowman and Falcon communications, Watchkeeper intelligence utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and Soothsayer electronic warfare. On the ground, the Panther/MLV? armored reconnaissance vehicle and the FRES family of medium weight fighting vehicles will lead the Army transformation.

Other aspects of the future British Army are a force composed of 36 infantry battalions that will actually be available for operations. Currently, there are 40 battalions in the Army but as many as seven are unavailable for operations at any time. That means an ineffective force and a waste of highly valuable resources. Special forces will suffer broader changes because they are deemed as a critical asset to the prosecution of the war against terror. The creation of a tri-service 'Ranger' unit is strongly recommended.


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