UK & World News
Defence Cuts: How The Army Will Be Overhauled
Details of massive changes to the structure of the British Army have been obtained by Sky News, revealing an emphasis on armoured infantry amid continued controversy over cuts to Welsh, Irish and Scottish units.
Under plans drawn up by Lieutenant General Nick Carter the regular Army will number 82,000 by 2020. Reserves will be expanded to 30,000.
It will be split into Reaction Forces and an Adaptable Force.
Reaction Forces will be made up of a division of three armoured brigades, each with a tank regiment and two armoured infantry regiments plus an airborne brigade.
This division will be commanded by a major general and will be responsible for short-term interventions from instant deployment through to a larger dispatch of troops, which could take a year to prepare.
One armoured battle group and a parachute battle group would be on standby for immediate dispatch to a global emergency.
The airborne brigade and one mechanised brigade, armed with Warrior fighting vehicles, will be capable of deploying inside three months. Emergency missions would be backed by two regiments of Apache helicopters.
Adaptable Forces will be made up of seven infantry brigades capable of providing troops for a long-term operation of several years. They will also provide the troops for on-going commitments to ceremonial duties, protecting the Falkland Islands, two battalions based in Cyprus, and one in Brunei.
This division will depend heavily on reserves soldiers who will be grouped into battalions to shadow the regulars. During a long-term operation, General Carter believes that 30% of forces in the field would be reservists.
Both parts of the Army will share resources from a new element called Force Troops And Logistics Support.
This will include one artillery, an engineer, a surveillance, a medical, two signals and two logistics brigades - many of these made up of reserves.
These reforms are expected to result in the cutting of five infantry battalions and two armoured regiments.
Defence sources have told Sky News that the largely Welsh Queens Dragoon Guards and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are unlikely to be disbanded, which would put pressure on English cavalry regiments especially the Royal Tank Regiments.
The Brigade of Guards, Parachute Regiment, and the Gurkhas are also to be spared the axe, sources have said, leaving many of the cuts likely to fall disproportionately on English regiments, especially the Yorkshires and the Mercians.
Final decisions about where the cuts will fall have not been taken as Downing Street wrestles with the regional political fallout that would follow cutting famous Scottish regiments.
Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, has suggested that an independent Scotland might need its own army - cuts to Scots units, Westminster fears, would play into his hands.
But Scottish regiments have sometimes struggled to meet recruitment targets and bulked up their numbers with soldiers from the commonwealth, especially Fiji and South Africa.
There is also likely to be some criticism that the Army 2020 proposals have not been radical enough.
Some senior officers favoured a more expeditionary role for the Army closely modelled on the US Marine Corps. This would have put the emphasis on quickly deployable brigades rather than the heavy mechanised infantry that form the backbone of the Carter plan.