British Army Future: Fewer Soldiers, but adding Rangers

With General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith billing it as the “right solution for the Army” the latest recast of the British military will include the “Future Soldier” program that is “more agile, more integrated and more expeditionary – ready for the next challenge, not the last.”

Among the cuts will be dropping the Army’s official desired active strength from 82,040 today to 72,500 by 2025 (excluding 2,900 Gurkhas, whose numbers, if anything, are expected to increase). However, with historic lows in recruiting and retention (after all who wants to spend all of the 20s and 30s in an endless repeat of forever wars in the Sandbox while London bathes in wokeness?) current actual strength is only about 76,500 personnel (sans Gurkhas), so the slice is not that deep.

For a historical perspective, the strength of the 1991 Gulf War/Ulster-era British Army was 295,000– down from 700,000 at the time of Suez and the typical 1980s Cold War strength of 325,000. This dropped to below 200,000 in 2006 and under 100,000 a decade later. 

The latest integrated defense review, “Defence in a Competitive Age” terms Russia as “the greatest nuclear, conventional military and sub-threshold threat to European security,” and China as “by far the most significant geopolitical factor in the world today.” As such, it sets aside a fresh £23bn for new Army vehicles (Ajax, Boxer and, Challenger III), long-range rocket systems, drones, electronic warfare, and cyber capabilities.

As far as unit changes:

The Infantry will be restructured into four divisions. These divisions will comprise a balanced number of battalions offering the full range of infantry roles. No cap badges will be deleted nor any redundancies required.

A new Ranger Regiment will be the vanguard of this expeditionary posture as part of an Army Special Operations Brigade. This Regiment’s four all-arms units will be aligned with the new Divisions of Infantry and initially seeded from the current Specialised Infantry Battalions: 1 SCOTS, 2 PWRR, 2 LANCS and 4 RIFLES. They will be able to operate in complex, high-threat environments, taking on some tasks traditionally done by Special Forces. This work will involve deterring adversaries and contributing to collective deterrence by training, advising and, if necessary, accompanying partners. The Army will establish this Regiment in August and invest over £120m over the next four years in equipping it.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy will keep both of their brand-new F-35 Lightning Carriers, although the numbers of actual F-35s to be acquired will only allow for one FAA/RAF air wing with the U.S. Marine Corps backfilling the British flattops with Devil F-35Bs. However, the number of legitimate surface escorts and attack submarines will continue to atrophy.

And the beat goes on…

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