The Army is refining its force structure to deliver the capabilities set out in the strategic defence and security review (SDSR) 2015 and modernise the Army’s ability to fight at the divisional level. The SDSR 2015 significantly increased the readiness levels required of the Army, underpinned by investment in new capability and a war-fighting division as part of joint force 2025. It introduced the innovative strike brigades, based on the new AJAX vehicle family and the development of specialised infantry battalions, reconfigured to provide an increased contribution to countering terrorism and building stability overseas.
I am today setting out refinements to the Army which will take place during the life of this Parliament. These have been aligned with the “Better Defence Estate” strategy announced in early November. As we previously committed, we will continue to sustain a regular Army of 82,000, a whole force of 112,000 regular and reserve troops and the Army’s footprint in the devolved nations. All existing regimental cap badges will be retained. Large parts of the Army will be unaffected but it will involve some units changing their role, equipment or location.
A modernised division will be centred on the 3rd (UK) Division, organised with four brigades of two armoured infantry and two strike, rather than three armoured infantry as now. A significant uplift in capability, it will hold one of each at high readiness, rather than the current single armoured infantry brigade. From this, in times of crisis, the Army will be able to deploy a credible division of three brigades. To develop and transition to this new posture, in 2017 the Army will launch a strike experimentation group in Warminster. This will ensure that the first new strike brigade will be formed by the end of the decade.
In 2017 the Army will also create the first two new specialised infantry battalions to pioneer this new capability. A new group headquarters for the units will be established, initially based in York alongside the 1st (UK) Division of which the group will be part, before moving to Aldershot by 2020. To reinforce this capability the Army plans to create two further specialised infantry battalions by 2019. They will conduct defence engagement and capacity building, providing training, assistance, advice and mentoring to our partners.
As part of our continued investment in the Army Reserve we will build on the success of the Future Reserves 2020 plan. We will optimise reserve structures, embed the successful pairing of regular and reserve units and increase the number of reserve combat units supporting the division. As a result two new reserve infantry battalions will be created from 2017. A new reserve explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) regiment will also be created.
A summary of the Army units most affected is described below.
Summary of changes proposed under Army 2020 Refine
The first strike brigade will operate from Catterick and Salisbury plain and will be composed of the Household Cavalry Regiment, The King’s Royal Hussars, the 1st Battalion Scots Guards and The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. A number of Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer (REME) units will be allocated to provide close support logistic support, beginning with 1 Regiment RLC and 1 Close Support Battalion REME.
Specialised Infantry Battalions
In 2017 the Army will also create the first two new specialised infantry battalions to pioneer this new capability. These units will be The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland and 4th Battalion The Rifles, the former relocating to Aldershot from Belfast by 2019. A new group headquarters for the units will be established, initially based in York alongside the 1st (UK) Division of which the group will be part, before moving to Aldershot by 2020. To reinforce this capability the Army plans to create two further specialised infantry battalions by 2019. These units will be the 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment both joining the group in Aldershot by 2020.
Renaming of administrative structures
The introduction of the specialised infantry capability will mean some reorganisation of the infantry divisional structure, within which infantry regiments are administered, from seven to six divisions.
The Scottish and The Prince of Wales’s Administrative 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’s Division will join with the King’s Division. Army administrative divisions of infantry are the groupings within which the Army manages its infantry soldiers and officers to give them the necessary broad spread of relevant career experience from across a number of different units and activities. They have no operational role. There will be no changes to the names or regimental construct of The Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Mercian Regiment, The Royal Welsh Regiment, or The Royal Irish Regiment as a result of these administrative changes.
The changes announced will require adjustments in some supporting and enabling elements of the Army. HQ 102 Logistic Brigade, 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery, 35 Engineer Regiment, Headquarters 64 Works Group Royal Engineers, 2 Medical Regiment, Headquarters 4th Regiment Royal Military Police, 33 Field Hospital and 104,105 and 106 Battalions of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers reserve will be rationalised, with all manpower in those units being redeployed to other areas of the Army in its refined structure.
As part of our continued investment in the Army Reserve we will build on the success of the Future Reserves 2020 plan. We will optimise reserve structures to better support the modernised division, embed the successful pairing of regular and reserve units and increase the number of reserve combat units supporting the division. As a result, two new reserve infantry battalions will be created from 2017. These are 4th Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and 8th Battalion The Rifles. A new reserve explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) regiment will also be created.
House of Commons Hansard
15 December 2016