AJAX - the ‘NOT the CR2 upgrade’ thread

Cynical

LE
Book Reviewer
The difference being that the technical level of entry for previous conflicts (pretty much a rifle, helmet and waterbottle) no longer pertains. Nor does having large amounts of manufacturing capacity.

We don’t have the speed of response. We go with what we have on the day. That’s it, that’s all.
And it's all over by Chritmas...
 
My point being value for money to achieve the maximum amount of strategic effect. We’ve spent an eye watering amount on AJAX and achieved absolutely bugger all. Soldiers are still riding around in antiques led by officers with zero plans other than flipping through colour charts for new beret and stable belt colours. We could have spent the same amount wasted to date on AJAX on additional Astute Class submarines that can span the globe, and in time of conflict keep enemy politicians awake at night. SSNs also require a huge amount of effort and treasure to kill and are better suited to the policy of pivot east. Instead, we have an army, which near peer enemies know will last five minutes on a modern battlefield if forced to fight without the Yanks.

I look at what Turkey and Poland are achieving in land force modernisation (money spent and platforms introduced) and I’m starting to question if some key decision makers in the army/MOD are actually working for the Russians or Chinese? Do we have a new ‘Cambridge Five’ to worry about? It can’t just be down to gross incompetence, can it?

The British Army IMHO is proactively incapacitating itself through an organised programme of obsolescence.
Problem we have from what I understand is we are lead by an officer Corps who are rooted in the past (which past depends on how old they are) so are restricted in thought on how to plan for the future. It can't just be something the officer Corps invented themselves as individuals, it has to be something in the way they are educated from Day 1.

Planning ahead a week, month year etc is relatively easy and they normally manage it quite well, planning decades in advance seems to be much more difficult.
 

riksavage

War Hero
Problem we have from what I understand is we are lead by an officer Corps who are rooted in the past (which past depends on how old they are) so are restricted in thought on how to plan for the future. It can't just be something the officer Corps invented themselves as individuals, it has to be something in the way they are educated from Day 1.

Planning ahead a week, month year etc is relatively easy and they normally manage it quite well, planning decades in advance seems to be much more difficult.
Does this mean we need to bulldoze Sandhurst into the ground and start afresh? Or do we continue with Sandhurst, but screen the brightest and best out early and send them off to an elite ecole to train their brains to think strategically in the hope we can generate a new class of visionaries who’re able to look beyond oil paintings of past glories in the mess. The remainder can continue as per normal: fitting in, being good at games and work hard towards achieving ‘bon oeuf’ status amongst the lads.
 
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Does this mean we need to bulldoze Sandhurst into the ground and start afresh? Or do we continue with Sandhurst, but screen the brightest and best out early and send them off to an elite ecole to train their brains to think strategically in the hope we can generate a new class of visionaries who’re able to look beyond oil paintings of past glories in the mess. The remainder can continue as per normal: fitting in, being good at games and work hard towards achieving ‘bon oeuf’ status amongst the lads.
Not ever having been a commissioned officer I can't honestly say from 1st hand knowledge. I would think though that screening out the potentially brightest and best would leave their knowledge of the capability and pitfalls of the majority of the remainder of the officer corps somewhat lacking, I'd suggest therefore that a complete and thorough examination of what and how they are taught, and by who, may be in order.
 

Alamo

LE
Does this mean we need to bulldoze Sandhurst into the ground and start afresh? Or do we continue with Sandhurst, but screen the brightest and best out early and send them off to an elite ecole to train their brains to think strategically in the hope we can generate a new class of visionaries who’re able to look beyond oil paintings of past glories in the mess. The remainder can continue as per normal: fitting in, being good at games and work hard towards achieving ‘bon oeuf’ status amongst the lads.
Given that we’re pretty crap at identifying such people after they’ve got 15 odd years of experience, how the hell would we identify them during initial training?
 

Majorpain

War Hero
Given that we’re pretty crap at identifying such people after they’ve got 15 odd years of experience, how the hell would we identify them during initial training?
iu

Feeling lucky punk?
 
Given that we’re pretty crap at identifying such people after they’ve got 15 odd years of experience, how the hell would we identify them during initial training?
"15 years experience . . . ", of been pommelled, and beaten, so that their innovative free-thinking, non-conformist, "rough-edges" and "corners" have been worn away, so that they fit, comply with, the "round-hole" of group-think conformity :( !!

A very significant factor, influencing my decision to initially decline a Regular Commission having passed RCB as an 18 year old; and, again as a 30+ year old, when offered a Regular Army Commission, and appointment as OC of a Sqn, at RCT Training Regt, Buller Bks :( .
 
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Alamo

LE
"15 years experience . . . ", of been pommelled(?), and beaten, so that their innovative free-thinking, non-conformist, "rough-edges" and "corners" have been worn away, so that they fit, comply with, the "round-hole" of group-think conformity :( !!

A very significant factor, influencing my decision to initially decline a Regular Commission having passed RCB as an 18 year old; and, again as a 30+ year old, when offered a Regular Army Commission, and appointment as OC of a Sqn, at RCT Training Regt, Buller Bks :( .
Why would you have completed RCB in the first place then?
 
Why would you have completed RCB in the first place then?
All part of a learning experience . . . and, a more attractive alternate prospect in the automotive manufacturing industry . . . i.e. Fodens.
 
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Cynical

LE
Book Reviewer
I'm reluctantly biting.

Many here may well dislike officers, or hold them in contempt. My suggestion to them is try it yourself; it's not easy. When I taught at RMAS with very few exceptions the ex NCOs (some 20% of the intake at that time) were mediocre leaders at best.

For sure the switch to 12 years and the de facto removal of the 3 year SSC is likely to have had an adverse impact on recruiting wild cards - 12 years is a hell of a commitment on both sides. The simple truth is that the weak officer on a 3 year SSC was not extended, and soldiers were effective in ensuring weakness was obvious (as were the rest of the officers in the mess).

It's relatively easy to identify those with leadership potential, AOSB does that well.

It's relatively easy to develop leadership potential at RMAS (although much of that is theoretical) as well as instilling the skills and knowledge to produce a junior commander and manager. The product of RMAS is an entry point leader/commander/manager. Post special to arm training the development of lead/command/manage skills is pretty much on the job training.

In terms of tactical command ability, Clausewitz, Liddle Hart and (most recently) Allan Mallinson all believe in the concept of a commander's coup d'oeil which, like leadership may be a natural gift that is nurtured (cue discussion Commanders and Leaders; born or made?). an army that lacks budget for challenging tactical training is unlikely to develop commanders.

None of the above has anything to do with the strategic shaping of the Army of the future. Nor does it have anything much to do with intellectual development.

The Staff College and RCDS may add a strategic view. Or they may propagate group think. Certainly the selection process does not encourage the wild cards and favours conformists. But that is generally true of any large organisation and particularly government service. Hence, I would argue, the NHS, and Education departments which are at least as challenged as the Army. Indeed the MOD and whole Civil Service might benefit from bringing in outsiders at senior level (I know they say they do that, but it's window dressing).

The comparison with state of RN and RAF is not entirely fair or useful. The former is platform centric and is managing to cover up the lack of platforms with interoperability with NATO etc. Which is fine, but they should make it clear that we are only able to protect national interests if they're our allies national interest too. Which is bad news for the Falklands. RN procurement has not been an unqualified success either - Crowsnest springs to mind RAF have ruthlessly deleted platforms to stay in the technology led game with F35 and Tempest. The cock ups in Nimrod/P8 and Wedgetail are neatly obscured by the "yebbut Red Arrows" and "Ooh Spitfire" approach.

Land warfare is far more people centred. To the advocates of robot warfare, what happens when all my robots have killed all your robots (or vice versa)? If it was a vital national interest there is no choice but fight on.
Army people at the sharp end come in tribes, with cap badges and history.,

While many here, in the MOD and in the wider population deride the Regimental system - and indeed the large regiment approach so beloved of RGJ/Lt Div/Rifles/CDS may have transformed it beyond all recognition - note that when the US Army was rebuilding post the Vietnam debacle one of the things that impressed them most about the British Army was the Regimental system - in as much as it made people more likely to opt into combat. (Only evidence is anecdotal from US Army personnel I served alongside / met over my career). Whatever the Army's current problems (and they are legion) it is not the regimental system. No attempted "fix" of the Regimental system will solve the Army's problems either.

For sure the Army spent much of 1997-2015 kicking the can down the road, focusing on rebuilding post the end of austerity cuts and desperately seeking any conflict to get stuck into. (To be fair, it was brilliantly successful at finding conflicts to get stuck in!) As the increasingly intractable issues of these conflicts used more thought time, budget etc. The predominance of lt role experienced officers and the mistaken (IMHO) assumption that armour was no longer needed led to programme drift.

The latest defence review was an exercise in obfuscation and betting the ranch on Strike being the way ahead.

In commerce failing companies die. If they have asset value they get dismembered by asset strippers; if they have potential they get taken over by turnaround guys and sorted. Note that these turnaround guys are not from within the company.

The question is, surely, how does the Army (and probably the whole MOD) find a turnaround team? Generals and senior civil servants need not apply.
 
I'm reluctantly biting.

Many here may well dislike officers, or hold them in contempt. My suggestion to them is try it yourself; it's not easy. When I taught at RMAS with very few exceptions the ex NCOs (some 20% of the intake at that time) were mediocre leaders at best.

For sure the switch to 12 years and the de facto removal of the 3 year SSC is likely to have had an adverse impact on recruiting wild cards - 12 years is a hell of a commitment on both sides. The simple truth is that the weak officer on a 3 year SSC was not extended, and soldiers were effective in ensuring weakness was obvious (as were the rest of the officers in the mess).

It's relatively easy to identify those with leadership potential, AOSB does that well.

It's relatively easy to develop leadership potential at RMAS (although much of that is theoretical) as well as instilling the skills and knowledge to produce a junior commander and manager. The product of RMAS is an entry point leader/commander/manager. Post special to arm training the development of lead/command/manage skills is pretty much on the job training.

In terms of tactical command ability, Clausewitz, Liddle Hart and (most recently) Allan Mallinson all believe in the concept of a commander's coup d'oeil which, like leadership may be a natural gift that is nurtured (cue discussion Commanders and Leaders; born or made?). an army that lacks budget for challenging tactical training is unlikely to develop commanders.

None of the above has anything to do with the strategic shaping of the Army of the future. Nor does it have anything much to do with intellectual development.

The Staff College and RCDS may add a strategic view. Or they may propagate group think. Certainly the selection process does not encourage the wild cards and favours conformists. But that is generally true of any large organisation and particularly government service. Hence, I would argue, the NHS, and Education departments which are at least as challenged as the Army. Indeed the MOD and whole Civil Service might benefit from bringing in outsiders at senior level (I know they say they do that, but it's window dressing).

The comparison with state of RN and RAF is not entirely fair or useful. The former is platform centric and is managing to cover up the lack of platforms with interoperability with NATO etc. Which is fine, but they should make it clear that we are only able to protect national interests if they're our allies national interest too. Which is bad news for the Falklands. RN procurement has not been an unqualified success either - Crowsnest springs to mind RAF have ruthlessly deleted platforms to stay in the technology led game with F35 and Tempest. The cock ups in Nimrod/P8 and Wedgetail are neatly obscured by the "yebbut Red Arrows" and "Ooh Spitfire" approach.

Land warfare is far more people centred. To the advocates of robot warfare, what happens when all my robots have killed all your robots (or vice versa)? If it was a vital national interest there is no choice but fight on.
Army people at the sharp end come in tribes, with cap badges and history.,

While many here, in the MOD and in the wider population deride the Regimental system - and indeed the large regiment approach so beloved of RGJ/Lt Div/Rifles/CDS may have transformed it beyond all recognition - note that when the US Army was rebuilding post the Vietnam debacle one of the things that impressed them most about the British Army was the Regimental system - in as much as it made people more likely to opt into combat. (Only evidence is anecdotal from US Army personnel I served alongside / met over my career). Whatever the Army's current problems (and they are legion) it is not the regimental system. No attempted "fix" of the Regimental system will solve the Army's problems either.

For sure the Army spent much of 1997-2015 kicking the can down the road, focusing on rebuilding post the end of austerity cuts and desperately seeking any conflict to get stuck into. (To be fair, it was brilliantly successful at finding conflicts to get stuck in!) As the increasingly intractable issues of these conflicts used more thought time, budget etc. The predominance of lt role experienced officers and the mistaken (IMHO) assumption that armour was no longer needed led to programme drift.

The latest defence review was an exercise in obfuscation and betting the ranch on Strike being the way ahead.

In commerce failing companies die. If they have asset value they get dismembered by asset strippers; if they have potential they get taken over by turnaround guys and sorted. Note that these turnaround guys are not from within the company.

The question is, surely, how does the Army (and probably the whole MOD) find a turnaround team? Generals and senior civil servants need not apply.
Excellent post, particularly your closing question.

My thoughts; start with working out who can / how to deliver the now. Deliver those capabilities that have been approved. It’s simply not acceptable to have squandered multiple major initial gate approvals to the point where the Army has no medium or heavy capability. Yes, the other two services have had some procurement disasters, but they have predominantly had successes. It’s vital that the Army gets Ajax and Boxer right, even if getting Ajax right means doing a Nimrod.

Next, form some kind of “skunk works” setup to develop future visions. Very radical for an institutional hierarchy, but what is there to lose? There has to be a place where innovators can group and it’s not in the mainstream chain of command. We have to break the culture of “tactics being the opinion of the senior officer present”. Harness the bright people who have a stake in the future, irrespective of rank.

And then work out how to make people accountable.
 

Alamo

LE
I'm reluctantly biting.

Many here may well dislike officers, or hold them in contempt. My suggestion to them is try it yourself; it's not easy. When I taught at RMAS with very few exceptions the ex NCOs (some 20% of the intake at that time) were mediocre leaders at best.

For sure the switch to 12 years and the de facto removal of the 3 year SSC is likely to have had an adverse impact on recruiting wild cards - 12 years is a hell of a commitment on both sides. The simple truth is that the weak officer on a 3 year SSC was not extended, and soldiers were effective in ensuring weakness was obvious (as were the rest of the officers in the mess).

It's relatively easy to identify those with leadership potential, AOSB does that well.

It's relatively easy to develop leadership potential at RMAS (although much of that is theoretical) as well as instilling the skills and knowledge to produce a junior commander and manager. The product of RMAS is an entry point leader/commander/manager. Post special to arm training the development of lead/command/manage skills is pretty much on the job training.

In terms of tactical command ability, Clausewitz, Liddle Hart and (most recently) Allan Mallinson all believe in the concept of a commander's coup d'oeil which, like leadership may be a natural gift that is nurtured (cue discussion Commanders and Leaders; born or made?). an army that lacks budget for challenging tactical training is unlikely to develop commanders.

None of the above has anything to do with the strategic shaping of the Army of the future. Nor does it have anything much to do with intellectual development.

The Staff College and RCDS may add a strategic view. Or they may propagate group think. Certainly the selection process does not encourage the wild cards and favours conformists. But that is generally true of any large organisation and particularly government service. Hence, I would argue, the NHS, and Education departments which are at least as challenged as the Army. Indeed the MOD and whole Civil Service might benefit from bringing in outsiders at senior level (I know they say they do that, but it's window dressing).

The comparison with state of RN and RAF is not entirely fair or useful. The former is platform centric and is managing to cover up the lack of platforms with interoperability with NATO etc. Which is fine, but they should make it clear that we are only able to protect national interests if they're our allies national interest too. Which is bad news for the Falklands. RN procurement has not been an unqualified success either - Crowsnest springs to mind RAF have ruthlessly deleted platforms to stay in the technology led game with F35 and Tempest. The cock ups in Nimrod/P8 and Wedgetail are neatly obscured by the "yebbut Red Arrows" and "Ooh Spitfire" approach.

Land warfare is far more people centred. To the advocates of robot warfare, what happens when all my robots have killed all your robots (or vice versa)? If it was a vital national interest there is no choice but fight on.
Army people at the sharp end come in tribes, with cap badges and history.,

While many here, in the MOD and in the wider population deride the Regimental system - and indeed the large regiment approach so beloved of RGJ/Lt Div/Rifles/CDS may have transformed it beyond all recognition - note that when the US Army was rebuilding post the Vietnam debacle one of the things that impressed them most about the British Army was the Regimental system - in as much as it made people more likely to opt into combat. (Only evidence is anecdotal from US Army personnel I served alongside / met over my career). Whatever the Army's current problems (and they are legion) it is not the regimental system. No attempted "fix" of the Regimental system will solve the Army's problems either.

For sure the Army spent much of 1997-2015 kicking the can down the road, focusing on rebuilding post the end of austerity cuts and desperately seeking any conflict to get stuck into. (To be fair, it was brilliantly successful at finding conflicts to get stuck in!) As the increasingly intractable issues of these conflicts used more thought time, budget etc. The predominance of lt role experienced officers and the mistaken (IMHO) assumption that armour was no longer needed led to programme drift.

The latest defence review was an exercise in obfuscation and betting the ranch on Strike being the way ahead.

In commerce failing companies die. If they have asset value they get dismembered by asset strippers; if they have potential they get taken over by turnaround guys and sorted. Note that these turnaround guys are not from within the company.

The question is, surely, how does the Army (and probably the whole MOD) find a turnaround team? Generals and senior civil servants need not apply.
Some good points in there, a few thoughts:

My own experience of being DS at Cranwell and in command at various ranks accords with yours when it comes to most commissioned NCOs being average leaders. Most of my acquaintance find it’s a bit harder then sitting in an office signing leave passes, and if they do well it tends to be in subordinate roles where they don’t have full responsibility and still enact someone else’s direction - 2IC rather than boss. I can think of few that have really made the transition well. I also think we take some excellent NCOs and turn them into cack officers.

The US may have been impressed with the regimental system in the 70s. But then I would venture there was a lot more to be impressed about back then. That was also a time when the Brits were held in almost universally high regard military wise; and, let’s be fair, a fair number in the US are easily impressed by anything that’s old! (and I say that having lived there).

Lastly, tribes, cap badges and history are all well and good, but surely in the Highly Desirable not Essential category. When they compromise output and performance, and I think there’s a credible case that they have, they should be questioned.
 
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For sure the switch to 12 years and the de facto removal of the 3 year SSC is likely to have had an adverse impact on recruiting wild cards - 12 years is a hell of a commitment on both sides.
Particularly when much of that twelve years is going to be spent at a desk often doing make-work. As the saying goes the best officers leave as captains after looking at years on end before they get to major and lead soldiers again. If they can't see a way to easily leave after platoon/troop command will they even bother to join in the first place?
 
In the 1980’s the US Army tried to replicate the British regimental system but it didn’t work out. One was the creation of the COHORT system, company sized unit that would go through basic training together and then deploy to their duty station. The experiment lasted from 1981 to 1995 but failed due to a number of issues involving, among other things, promotion and career progression.

Master of Military Art and Science Theses
 
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Alamo

LE
In the 1980’s the US Army tried to replicate the British regimental system but it didn’t work out. One was the creation of the COHORT system, company sized unit that would go through basic training together and then deploy to their duty station. The experiment lasted from 1981 to 1995 but failed due to a number of issues involving, among other things, promotion and career progression.

Master of Military Art and Science Theses
The societal factors are way different. I suppose the Guard and, for those that have one, the State Guard, could make the concept work?
 
The societal factors are way different. I suppose the Guard and, for those that have one, the State Guard, could make the concept work?
There were some initial problems with discipline when the Guard mobilized during WWII since they were little too much like a close knit family but that got dealt with quickly. Same with volunteer regiments during the Civil War. Familiarity can breed contempt.
 

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