http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;$sessionid$JTRMYTAMVFUZRQFIQMFSFFWAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/2003/07/31/narmy31.xml&sSheet=/portal/2003/07/31/ixportal.html Army chiefs are out to capture the Marines By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent (Filed: 31/07/2003) The Army and the Royal Navy are fighting a turf war for control of the Royal Marine Commandos amid a reorganisation of infantry forces to provide more rapid reaction units. Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the Chief of General Staff, is understood to be behind a move designed to wrongfoot the Royal Navy and bring all land forces under his control. It follows efforts by the Royal Marines to build on their role in Iraq, where they outshone the Army's Parachute Regiment, to acquire their own dedicated armoured reconnaissance units. The Army's response has been a demand that the Commandos, originally an Army force, should be brought back under its wing, something the Royal Navy has rejected. Gen Jackson, himself a paratrooper, appears to be attempting to pull back the Royal Marine Commandos who, when Adml Sir Michael Boyce was Chief of Defence Staff, had the choice of all the best jobs. With Gen Sir Mike Walker replacing Adml Boyce as Chief of Defence Staff, the Army is in charge and determined to reassert its authority in this autumn's Government Defence White Paper. Under plans to create more forces that could be sent abroad very quickly, the Army is also ready to axe its main front-line rapid reaction force, 16 Air Assault Brigade, and revert to a dedicated airborne brigade, the journal Defence Analysis reports today. The decision is a tacit admission that the Apache attack helicopter will not deliver the radical changes once promised. The 1998 Strategic Defence Review was based on the belief that the helicopter could destroy enemy tank formations, transforming front-line operations, and making many of the Army's own tanks redundant. It created a special unit, 16 Air Assault Brigade, merging the former 5 Airborne Brigade with three regiments of Apache helicopters. But five years later, the Government is poised to admit that the whole concept of "deep air manouevre", under which the Apache helicopters would take over part of the anti-tank role of the Challenger 2 tank, was a costly mistake. The Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade will now be split into two, with the Parachute Regiment forming the basis for a revived 5 Airborne Brigade and the Apache helicopters hived off to support individual battle-groups. The demise of 16 Air Assault Brigade is bound to raise serious questions over why the Army Air Corps was so eager to acquire its 67 Apache helicopters at a cost of £4 billion that it ignored potential pitfalls. An embarrassing failure to train sufficient pilots has left half the helicopters mothballed until 2007 while problems with night flying technology mean they will not be fully operational until 2012. But the nail in the coffin of 16 Air Assault Brigade has been the Apache's poor performance in Afghanistan and Iraq where it proved highly vulnerable to the Second World War-era RPG7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers. During Operation Anaconda in eastern Afghanistan last year all seven Apache helicopters thrown into the fray were forced back by machinegun fire and RPG7s. Those problems were reaffirmed in Iraq when 32 Apaches attacking Republican Guard positions at Kerbala were beaten off by a "hornets' nest" of small-arms fire. As more and more problems have emerged with both the helicopter and the tactics, defence chiefs have decided that the whole concept was flawed and they would be better off reverting to a simple airborne brigade. Although poor tactics played a role in Afghanistan and Iraq, the impact was such that, according to Defence Analysis, "the concepts drawn up in the mid-1990s for the use of the Apache have been torn up and thrown away". Defence chiefs also aim to set up an additional rapid reaction brigade by converting a mechanised infantry brigade into a light infantry brigade or even a second airborne brigade. An MoD spokesman said there were no current plans to move the Royal Marine Commandos from Royal Navy control to that of the Army.