Saturday, August 13, 2016

British Heavy Armour for the future: Combined Arms Regiment

In detail: the Combined Arms Regiment

In this post I provide a graphic which helps in visualizing the Combined Arms Regiment I’ve been proposing as a solution to the British Army’s current heavy brigade headache. How do you square three brigades into two, and how do you deal with the insufficient number of Warrior vehicles to be upgraded under the Capability Sustainment Programme, while also delivering a workable, credible force structure?

My reply is: with the Combined Arms Regiment. This mirrors, in some ways, what the US Army has been doing for years in its Heavy Brigade Combat Teams, which were composed of two such regiments (then grown to three in exchange for a reduction in the number of brigades).
Israel also combines infantry and tanks within the same armoured regiments, albeit in a different way. Italy used to, in better days for its army.
The British Army does it regularly… but only on deployment and during training. The Combined Arms Regiment is, in the end, a formalization of the “2+2” square battlegroup that the British Army knows all too well. 2 tank squadrons supporting 2 armoured infantry companies.

The graphic uses vehicle profile drawings from Credits for their realization to users Darth Panda, Glorfindel and Sgtsammac. Click on the link to see in full size at

I feel confident in saying that it is time to make this structure permanent. The one good thing of Army 2020 is that armoured infantry and tank units are now all based in the same place, on Salisbury Plain, which virtually removes any remaining logistic / infrastructure reason against such an approach.
The two Heavy Brigades in Army 2025 would restructure each on 3 such permanent battlegroups, and rotate them into readiness, one by one, making the force generation cycle quite straightforward and greatly reducing the need to pull pieces from this regiment, that battalion and that other company over there, which is the current norm.

With the CAR, the British Army:

-          Maintains the same number of MBTs it had in Army 2020, replacing 3 “Type 56” regiments with 6 binary “battalions” (a handy trick to avoid capbadge issues!) of 28 tanks each. The number of frontline tanks is unchanged, at 168.
-          Has more tanks per brigade, 84 versus 56.
-          Has an even balance of tank squadrons and armoured infantry companies. One problem of the Army 2020 armoured brigade is lack of tanks: only 3 squadrons to support as many as 9 companies of infantry (6 armoured, 3 mechanized).

The CAR also “avoids” an otherwise unavoidable cut from 6 armoured infantry battalions to 4: with 245 “turreted” Warriors expected to be upgraded, there simply isn’t enough of them for six battalions. Make the count by yourself: 6x3 companies, and 14 Warrior per company, would require 252 vehicles. And that’s without counting any in the Fire Support Companies, and without any in reserve and in the training fleet. Simply unworkable.
The CARs reduce the number of infantry companies on Warrior to 12, for a total of 168 vehicles. More are used within the six Fire Support Infantry companies, leaving an uncomfortably small margin for the training fleet and for attrition, but at least fitting within the 245 figure. A much needed injection of realism.

The CARs also require 135 men less than the Army 2020 structure (6 infantry battalions of 729 and 3 tank regiments of 587 versus 6 battlegroups of 1000 each).

The graphic shows the distribution of manpower and vehicles. One important piece of the puzzle is the Armoured Battlegroup Support Vehicle, the replacement for the ancient FV432 family of vehicles. The ABSV programme hasn’t been launched yet, but remains on the army list for the next future.
In my CAR assumptions, I’ve inserted the hope for a firepower boost in the form of 120mm mortars and, finally, a vehicle-mounted anti-tank missile capability (complementing, not replacing, the dismounted Javelin teams carried in the back).

ABSV, also known as "turretless Warrior", is a programme that is attempting to take off from well over 10 years. It is fundamental to get it on the move, because FV432s aren't getting any younger. 
ABSV: it was around when Alvis was still kicking... 

The CAR makes up for the relative weakness in infantry numbers by fielding an exceptionally large and capable Fire Support Company, shaped to attach mortar and ATGW sections not only to the infantry companies, but also to the tank squadrons. Mortars, after all, can be extremely useful in setting up smoke curtains and suppressing enemy ATGW firing positions, thus helping and protecting the tank’s ability to manoeuvre.

One relatively unique feature of the proposal is the reconnaissance element. Armoured Infantry and tank formations have so far enjoyed the support of recce troops equipped with 8 Scimitar vehicles, and it was assumed that these would be replaced with an equal number of Ajax. However, the British Army is now looking at forming 4 regiments on Ajax, but all destined to the two Strike Brigades (an approach I do not personally support, but so it is).
Even a more reasonable scenario based on an Ajax regiment in each Heavy and each Strike brigade would still require forming a fourth regiment, out of the same number of vehicles to be purchased. So, the vehicles have to come from somewhere.
My CAR proposal thus does recce with Warriors carrying dismounts, and with the support of the sniper pairs. This collaboration is, again, nothing really new. The sniper pair’s use of quad bikes for independent battlefield mobility is also something that already happens.
The Assault Pioneers, 4 sections mounted each in a Warrior (3 crew + 6 dismounts following the upgrade), stand ready to offer their support.

The REME Light Aid Detachment is expanded to account for the big fleet of vehicles, including tanks. Its structure is a hybrid formation built from the REME elements found in the current armoured infantry battalions and tank regiments.

The HQ Coy is also considerably larger, to account for a bigger echelon with the greater number of trucks needed to support the battlegroup. The HQ Coy is composed of HQ element, Signal Platoon, Quartermaster platoon, Motor Transport platoon, catering and other supporting elements.  

Supported by a capable artillery battery from the brigade’s Fires regiment; a logistic group and an armoured engineer squadron, a CAR is a ready-made battlegroup.
In a future post I will explore the difficult topic represented by the fourth battlegroup, the cavalry one, tasked with reconnaissance and screening. The Army’s need to put some flesh on the bones of the mythological “strike brigades” has given birth to the questionable idea of moving Ajax into those, leaving a big question mark floating on the future scouting element within the armoured brigades.

What the Strike Brigade really needs, but isn’t getting, is the cancelled FRES SV Direct Fire variant, also known as “Medium Armour”. The army had plans for procuring this medium tank variant, armed probably with a 120mm smoothbore gun, but the plan was cancelled years ago as part of the infinite wave of cuts.
Now, Ajax is being asked to play the part of “medium armour” within the Strike Brigades, but armed only with a 40mm gun, and at the cost of leaving the armoured brigades short of recce support. A failure from one end to the other. 
This also signals a further move towards recce by force rather than by stealth, and it would as a consequence require additional firepower to enable the cavalry to manoeuvre, scout ahead and act as an effective screen even in presence of enemy armour. 
The US Army cavalry squadron within armoured brigade combat teams is swapping out all 4x4 in favor of more Bradleys and is also being given a tank company (although, for now at least, this is robbed from one of the combined arms regiments rather than being additional). 
The italian reconnaissance cavalry is also an interesting example. It is wheeled, not tracked, but nonetheless includes a tank-destroyer squadron to be equipped with 8x8 Centauro 2 vehicles armed with a 120mm smoothbore. 
If the British Army wants to be able to manoeuvre against a capable enemy, a regiment of sole Ajax with 40mm will not do: the heavy brigade reconnaissance regiments should have a Challenger 2 presence; while the Strike Brigades should include the Medium Armour variant of Ajax. (or, better still, use a wheeled tank destroyer and recce vehicles, to better match the rest of the brigade that is to be mounted on 8x8). 

Meanwhile, the bids are in for the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme, an enterprise which now faces a couple of years of Assessment Phase, hopefully with two rival industry teams selected for the demonstration programme as “soon” as this October.
The widest possible range of budget figures have been quoted for this programme, going anywhere from 250 to 1200 million pounds. Hard to say what kind of room for manoeuvre Army HQ might have in funding the obsolescence removal from Challenger 2. After years of false starts, the consensus is (or maybe was…?) that the gun and powerpack would not be replaced, despite being the two biggest weaknesses of the tank. But there was a most impressive and interesting development when Rheinmetall filed its bid and boldly promised that their “innovative solution” will enable the switch from the rifled L30 to the smoothbore L55.

A new turret bustle? The image from Rheinmetall does not provide a definitive answer, but suggests so. 

To understand the Challenger 2’s gun problem it is important to underline that the heart of the matter is not so much the fact that it has a rifled barrel, but the fact that it uses two-piece ammunition. This unique feature means that the current ammunition storage spaces are far too short to take the long one-piece shells used by everyone else in NATO; and it also means that the Challenger 2 crews can store the explosive rounds and the launch charges beneath the turret ring, where they are generally safer. In exchange for this, the Challenger 2 does not have the extensively protected and blast-venting ammunition storage compartments found, for example, on the M1 Abrams.
Switching the gun is very easy, and has been trialed and validated already years ago: the problem is that the ammunition storage needs to be completely re-thought, and vast internal modifications become necessary.
Rheinmetall does not elaborate, for now, on how their proposal work. Extensive rebuilding of the turret seems inevitable, and the one CGI image they have published might provide clues to it: the Challenger 2 in the picture seems to have a new turret bustle, which also houses a new independent thermal sensor for the commander (compare the position in the picture with that of the current system to see the difference). Rheinmetall might be suggesting, effectively, a complete reconstruction of the rear of the turret.
There is no telling how much it could cost, and whether the army could face that cost, but I think the Army will be very interested in hearing what Rheinmetall has to say on the matter.

The Challenger 2’s gun is fundamentally handicapped by its use of two-piece ammunition, which makes it pretty much impossible to adopt new, longer armor-piercing darts, putting a hard roof to lethality that is already assessed as problematic and will only get worse over time. In addition, while in the past the HESH round for the L30 added a flexibility that smoothbore tanks did not match, now the situation is fundamentally reversed. There is now a whole variety of ammunition available for smoothbore guns, including novel tri-mode HE shells with airburst and anti-structure capability, and the Challenger 2 is locked out, lost in its own little sea of aging shells with their own exquisitely unique logistic tail. An oddity in NATO, with all what descends from it.

On the engine front, the current powerpack is not powerful enough, especially with how much heavier the Challenger 2 add-on armour kit have become, pushing combat weight as far upwards as to 75 tons. It is also not commendable in terms of reliability.

An army slide about CR2 LEP from last year. The Army has wanted to replace the gun for many years now, but eventually lost hope in front of the ammunition storage problem. Can Rheinmetall's proposal change this, and can the MOD buy?

It is my opinion that if these critical weaknesses can’t be solved, the whole LEP expenditure might become questionable at best. Alternative approaches would have to be considered, with the LEP cancelled and all the money moved across towards the Ajax family, to restore the Medium Armour variant.

FRES SV variants that will never (?) be: ambulance, medium bridgelayer, and Medium Armour / Direct Fire

Being lighter, the new tank would never be able to match the formidable survivability of the Challenger 2 and would inexorably have less passive protection, but it could at least be rolled into service with a smoothbore gun, up-to-date electronics and a powerful powerpack. And if a suitable number of them was procured over time, both Heavy and Strike brigades could have their hitting power secured.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The ministry of stealth budgeting and stealthier cuts

Thanks to the MOD’s sales service, we have just discovered that the Royal Navy has been robbed of yet another precious capability, with the untimely demise of RFA Diligence, the Forward Repair Ship. She is now on sale, ready for further use in the hands of a new owner.

She is in good conditions despite the many years of age, having received constant updates and adjustments over the years, which have included an improved ballast water treatment plant purchased in 2014. She completed her last refit in March 2015… and left service, according to the sales brochure, in May 2015.
Congratulations, MOD! It is not the first time that money is wasted to refit a ship which is then immediately after removed from service. In recent times, it has been the fate of RFA Orangeleaf as well. But this does not mean that the practice is any less demented and offensive.

The cut of RFA Diligence is probably the stealthiest in many years. Sthealtier still than the cut of 2 of the Point class RoRo transports, which took place merely months after the SDSR 2010 had specifically said that all 6 would stay in service. There have been no messages, no ceremonies, no news, no explanations. Only silence.
Nobody knew that RFA Diligence had gone out of service. It was known that she was in port since may 2015, but the assumption was that the RFA had put her “in pause” due to the well known shortage of manpower.
Even the MOD itself seems to have missed the cutting of RFA Diligence, since they replied to a FOI in December 2015 saying that her Out of Service Date was 2020.

The following is a very interesting article about RFA Diligence, her capabilities and her role, from Marine Maintenance Technology International, September 2015 issue.

Yet, she is gone. And a replacement is nowhere to be seen. Considering the capability she offered, it is a big loss.

In the meanwhile, another interesting FOI offers actual numbers to back up the coloured but un-detailed graphics of the 10 year Equipment Programme. This, together with the annual publication on the MOD Major Projects status, makes it possible to play a little bit of math. Open all three documents, and follow me in this puzzle-solving game. 

The FOI’s table offers a more readable breakdown of the Equipment Budget, showing:

-          Money reserved for the launch of new procurement (it does not break down the share destined to support of said new equipment); separating between committed and uncommitted funds. Uncommitted funds are not yet tied down by a contract.
-          Money for In Service Equipment (so, basically, the cost of supporting what is already in service), again in Committed and Uncommitted form.
-          Money for procurement, which is the expenditure on ongoing programmes

Taken alone, these numbers are interesting and impressive, but do not tell the story. What is this money paying for? What margin exists for procuring new kit? Is the situation so desperate that it requires losing a ship as cost-effective and capable as Diligence?
The MOD does not provide the information required. Compare the “10 Year Programme” and all other sparse documents published by the MOD or about the MOD (NAO reports, namely) to the defence budget documentation produced by France, USA and even Italy, and you’ll see that the MOD is as transparent as a thick plate of steel painted solid black.

We only have indications about costs and performance of a handful of selected programmes, and always one year after the budget is determined. The MOD publishes an Excel spreadsheet, annually, detailing the status of the major programmes in the previous Annual Budget Cycle.
The document published this July, in fact, is composed of data from September 2015.
The NAO report works in similar fashion.
Other programmes never get detailed: we are not told what is their in-year cost, nor we are told how much kit is ordered in a set year, and how much kit is taken in charge in the year.
France and US are particularly good at reporting these information. Italy is a bit less detailed, but each year it is possible to read a good document saying how much money is going to go on programme X during the year. The MOD gives no comparable information.

Joining the FOI data with the Excel spreadsheet, though, it is possible to compose a decent picture of the Royal Navy’s equipment budget situation for the year 2015 / 16.
In 2015/16, the Royal Navy has been given, for Surface Ships:

54 million for (eventually) starting new procurement processes for new kit (money uncommitted)

529 million, committed, for supporting equipment in service
302 million, uncommitted, for support to equipment in service

1009 million, committed, for ongoing procurement
310 million, uncommitted, for ongoing procurement

The Excel spreadsheet offers information on in-year expenditure for several programmes. Specifically:

Queen Elizabeth class procurement, 712,93 million
Carrier Enabled Power Projection studies, 1,44 million
Tide class tankers, 194,98 million
Type 26, 222,3 million

The budget allocated in year can be underspent or overspent, depending on how things go. The Excel document contains also the forecasted actual expenditure, most of the time slightly smaller than the allocation.

Adding up the budgets above, however, the total goes well above the Committed 1009 million. The Uncommitted money is not money available for procuring additional kit, but merely money that isn’t yet tied to a specific contract.
If we consider Committed and Uncommitted money together, we reach a 1319 million total. There is in theory a 187,35 million margin, but of course there are programmes we aren’t given details about. For example, the procurement of the River Batch 2. Its cost is 348 million spread over N years, where N is pretty certainly not less than 4. However, the spread of expenditure is not equal, so 348/4 is only a wild estimate.
Again, the Royal Navy also committed 12,6 million (over how many years?) to the ATLAS combined sweep demonstration programme; and a further 17 million (over how many years, again?) for the MMCM system being developed jointly with France.

All things considered, the margin, at the end of the day, is nonexistent. It would be very interesting, instead, to learn what happened to the 54 million for wholly new procurement. It is a small sum, but a non insignificant one. And this year the amount is 80 million, yet, the Royal Navy is reportedly going to lose Scan Eagle, because there is no money to buy the currently contractor-operated systems; nor to renew the current deal; nor to launch the new Flexible Deployable UAS the Royal Navy had hoped to start. This is puzzling, but we simply do not have the information needed to paint a better picture.

The Submarines budget is another interesting area. The FOI gives:

77 uncommitted millions for new procurement, and 15 committed

194 uncommitted and 1663 committed for support to existing equipment

684 uncommitted and 1628 committed for ongoing procurement.

Detectable expenditure in-year in the Submarines budget is given as:

638,65 million for Astute

170,5 for the Nuclear Core Production Capability

770,41 for Successor SSBN

37 million for the Spearfish torpedo upgrade (might actually fall in the Complex Weapons budget line, though)

1085,43 million in costs for AWE Aldermaston, its new infrastructure developments and the Nuclear Warhead Capability Sustainment Programme which is replacing the non-nuclear components of the MK4 warheads to turn them into MK4A.

Again, the total go well above the committed procurement funding, and above the total obtained adding the uncommitted money, too. The most likely explanation is that a big share of the AWE costs actually fall into the Support to in service equipment voice, considering that it is expenditure connected to kit and infrastructure already in use.

It gets more complex with the other services, as the data is even more fragmented and incomplete. The Excel sheet does not provide info on in-year Typhoon expenditure, so Combat Air calculations could only be incomplete.
The simple fact that it takes this kind of research, guessing, reasoning and puzzle-solving to compose a picture of the situation is a sign of just how badly the MOD works, and how much is done to make cuts such as RFA Diligence’s unfortunate departure invisible, or almost so.
The detail about requirements and future purchases is inexistent, and even when the SDSR documents say something, you can expect something else entirely to happen (see the Point class event, or the fact that the “up to six OPVs” in the SDSR 2015 is already turning into “5”, with only of the River Batch 2s replacing HMS Clyde even though the ship is still very much young).

My first plea to the new government is to clear up this mess, and make MOD plans less stealthy. This constant scamming and book-cooking is unhelpful when it is not offensive. This absolute lack of transparency is a shame that needs to be ended. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Good news and a confirmation of a bad habit

"Cut in haste, U-turn at leisure" is a synthetic, perfect definition of modern British defence policy. After the obscene blunder of the SDSR 2010, that is more true than ever.
The latest U-turn relates to the Brigade of Gurkhas, which was sharply cut back as part of early Army 2020 phases and was several times described as a potential victim of disbandment.

I've been saying for ages that, among the many good reasons to keep the Brigade of Gurkhas going, there is the simple fact that there never is a shortage of Gurkhas volunteering for service, making this formation invaluable for filling manpower gaps.
And currently, even against the very low target of 82.000 regulars, the Army has a sizeable manpower gap and a recruitment and retention problem.

Enter the U-turn on Gurkha cuts. The brigade (which was all but overmanned in 2010) finished to shred personell as mandated by 2010 cuts just last year, and now is being expanded by 642 new positions, going back, more or less, to pre-cuts liability levels.
The brigade had more than 3000 posts until 2010, but that was cut down to the current low of 2612. The 642 new positions bring liability back to 3254.

"Cheers for all your hard work making people redundant, Gurkha Brigade HQ. Now that you are done, call back everyone."

The most "amusing" is the literal invite to those who have just been kicked out in the four tranches of redundancies to come back in their previous rank and without paying back the Compensation lump sums received.

Brigade of Gurkhas current composition: 

Headquarters Brigade of Gurkhas (HQBG) is now based at the Former Army Staff College, Camberly, Surrey and is responsible for providing advice on all matters relating to the recruiting and employment of Gurkhas in the British Army.
It also helps coordinate welfare for retired Gurkhas in the UK. HQBG is not part of the operational chain of command and has no operational units directly under it, but it provides an important unifying element for the Brigade, its activities and its soldiers.

Headquarters British Gurkhas Nepal (BGN) is situated in Jawalakhel, Patan, just south of the river from central Kathmandu. BGN co-ordinates Gurkha recruitment, provides local support to the soldier and ex-servicemen and maintains Disaster Relief preparedness within resources in order to support Firm Base activity in Nepal.

Gurkha Staff and Personnel Support Company was formed on 30 Jun 2011. GSPS personnel were known as Gurkha Clerks before the inception of GSPS.

Gurkha Company (Mandalay) is located in Brecon, Wales and provides support to the Infantry Battle School (INFBS). The INFBS conducts realistic battle training for officers who have passed out of Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and for Warrant Officers, SNCOs and JNCOs. Gurkha Company provides training support to the INFBS, enabling world class training for those undergoing courses at Brecon.

Gurkha Company (Sittang) dates back to 1972 and is as an integral part of the Royal Military Academy Sandhusrt (RMAS). Sittang Company provides training support to the Academy, enabling world class training for the Army’s future leaders.

Gurkha Company is located at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick and is part of the 2nd Infantry Training Battalion. Its mission is to mould Nepalese youths into trained soldiers who will live up to the traditions of the Brigade of Gurkhas.

The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas was raised in Nov 1859 as part of an Indian Gurkha Regiment called the Sirmoor Rifle Regiment. It has 16 Bandsmen and one Naik (a leader and soon became a part of Regimental life, playing for parades, polo matches, dinners and troop entertainment at the Regimental base at Dehradun, North East of Delhi. In early days the Band travelled with the Regiment to other areas of India, Malta, Cyprus and Afghanistan.

The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment also known as 10 The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment or 10 QOGLR is a regiment of the British Army. The regiment forms part of the Royal Logistics Corps and was created on 5 April 2001. The regiment was formed as a merger of The Queen’s Own Gurkha Transport Regiment, The Gurkha Transport Regiment and The Gurkha Army Service Corps; which were formed as component parts of The Brigade of Gurkhas on 1 July 1958.

It is currently composed of: 

36 (HQ) Squadron 
1 Supply Squadron
28 Fuel and General Transport Squadron 

The Queen’s Gurkha Signals (QGS) is a regular unit of Royal Corps of Signals, one of the combat support arms of British Army. Together with the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, the Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment and the Royal Gurkha Rifles they form part of the Brigade of Gurkhas. QGS was formed during The Malayan Emergency to support the 17th Gurkha Division.

-         Army 2020 establishment: 481 (down from 522 + 22 recruits in training)

-          246 Signal Squadron, 2 Signal Regiment
-          248 Signal Squadron, 22 Signal Regiment
-          250 Signal Squadron, 30 Signal Regiment
-          Brunei Signal Troop
-          Nepal Signal Troop
-          Alpha Troop, 217 Signal Squadron, 22 Signal Regiment
-          Seremban Troop, 44 RLC Sqn, Sandhurst academy (Troop commander, 3 NCOs, 12 signallers)

The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers (QGE). Gurkhas were first enlisted into the Royal Engineers in September 1948 when a Gurkha Training Squadron RE was formed. The British Officers were drawn from the Corps of Royal Engineers, 1st King George’s Own Bengal Sappers and Miners, 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Madras Sappers and Miners, 3rd Royal Bombay Sappers and Miners and Gurkha Officers and Other Ranks were drawn from 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Goorkhas (The Sirmoor Rifles), 6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha Rifles and 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles.

-          Army 2020 liability for 284 all ranks

-          69 Gurkha Field Squadron. 36 Royal Engineers Regiment
-          70 Gurkha Field Squadron, 36 Royal Engineers Regiment
-          ARRC Close Support Troop and ARRC Engineer Section from October 2014, based in Gloucester.  (26 RGR + 8 QGE)

1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles is a regiment of the British Army, forming part of the Brigade of Gurkhas. The Royal Gurkha Rifles are now the sole infantry regiment of the British Army Gurkhas. Like the other Gurkha regiments of the British and Indian armies, the regiment is recruited from Gurkhas, a term for people from Nepal, which is a nation independent of the United Kingdom and not a member of the Commonwealth. The regiment was formed in 1994 from the amalgamation of the four separate Gurkha regiments in the British Army.

October 2015 deal with Sultanate renews partnership; 1st Gurkha Rifles to stay for “next five years”, suggesting a slow-down in unit rotations. 

2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (RGR) is a regiment of the British Army, forming part of the Brigade of Gurkhas. The Royal Gurkha Rifles are now the sole infantry regiment of the British Army Gurkhas. Like the other Gurkha regiments of the British and Indian armies, the regiment is recruited from Gurkhas, a term for people from Nepal, which is a nation independent of the United Kingdom and not a member of the Commonwealth. The regiment was formed in 1994 from the amalgamation of the four separate Gurkha regiments in the British Army. Under Army 2020 it was due to be part of 11 Infantry Brigade but, in another U-turn, it was assigned to 16 Air Assault brigade when it became evident that just 2 PARA battalions were not enough (another very obvious thing which somehow had to be "discovered"). 

Repeatedly through the history of the british army, sub-units of Gurkhas have been formed and disdanded to fill manpower gaps in other regiments. Until recently, there was a Gurkha formation of engineers within 24 Commando Engineer Regiment, for example. 
We will undoubtedly see more of this in the future, too. 

A few gurkha engineers and logisticians who left the army under the redundancy tranches transferred into the Royal Navy, and i've been wondering for months now on whether the Royal Navy could / should open up its own recruitment unit in Nepal, to bring in some much needed manpower. 

The new expansion 

234 new positions will be added to Royal Gurkha Rifles, Gurkha Staff and Personnel Support and Gurkha Engineers over the next 3 years. 

A new squadron of Gurkhas will be formed within the Royal Signals within the next three years, which is very good news because the army has a massive, massive shortage of Signals resources as i've detailed on these pages in many occasions. 

The Gurkha Logistic Regiment will expand by 2 new squadrons, which is good news because logistics are another area badly hit by Army 2020 cuts, and the regiment is currently pretty weak, with just two squadrons plus HQ and an establishment of 471, with a concept of operation based on the assumption that lots of local contractors would be hired in theatre to fill the gaps. 


The Gurkha brigade remains a very precious element within the Army, and an invaluable reserve of loyal volunteers.