The Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, has announced a radical reorganization of the British military, with an additional £8.6 billion to spend on equipment and the creation of a new ranger regiment to counter extremist organizations and hostile threats to the state.
The Future Soldier program would reconfigure the military to address next-generation threats around the world and position it as a globally engaged, modernized fighting force, Wallace told MPs.
“To keep up with the changing nature of warfare, our military must be forward-looking, flexible, and embrace new ways of working, as well as new weapons and technologies,” he said.
Wallace said the additional £8.6bn in equipment over 10 years, bringing the total investment to £41.3bn, would create “a modern, innovative and digitized army”. The military would operate on a “continuous basis” and be “constantly engaged around the world”. It would be “as agile in the new realms of cyberspace as it is on the ground,” with state-of-the-art equipment, including upgraded tanks, he said.
The program would transform the military into a more agile, integrated, lethal and expeditionary force, with integration at its core, bringing together regular, reservists and officers, Wallace said.
Beginning in December, a new ranger regiment will be part of the army’s newly created special operations brigade, and it will be routinely deployed around the world to counter extremist organizations and hostile state threats. A new combat team of the “deep recce strike brigade” will be established in mid-2022.
New equipment such as Boxer armored vehicles, Challenger 3 tanks, AH-64E Apache helicopters, long-range precision missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles will be introduced, while much of the armed forces will be under new self-supporting brigade combat teams. An experiment and pilot group will try out new technologies.
There will be some restructuring and reorganization of units over the next four years. The regular army will be 73,000 strong by 2025, which combined with an army reserve of 30,000 means that the number of armies will exceed 100,000.
“For too long, historic infantry structures have hindered the transformation of our military. We can’t afford to be slaves to sentiment once the threat has moved on,” Wallace said.
Each unit would be affected in some way by the changes, he said. By 2025, the permanent staff of the army headquarters will be reduced by 40% and the integration of the reserve will be made more productive.
Reservists will play a vital role in homeland protection and resilience operations. A new reserve brigade in York will ensure crises on the home front, such as the Covid pandemic, are dealt with at points that are needed.
There are changes to promotion limits, plans for a soldier academy to reflect Sandhurst’s prestige, and a new career management system that is “fit for the digital age”. A mental health team within the field army will support well-being.
Wallace said the changes would result in “a credible and relevant, relentlessly adaptive force that will face the threats against the nation and meet the challenges of the future.”