Tooth Vs. Tail

Discussion in 'Infantry' started by WhiteRabbit, Oct 16, 2011.

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  1. I have just finished reading Frank Ledwidge's "Losing Small Wars". Whilst I don't think it was quite the Book of Revelations that many reviewers had touted, it did contain many striking points about our Army today. One aspect that was mentioned, but was never really expanded on in any depth, was the tooth to tail ratio in theatre and its impact on effectiveness in the environment of a capped ceiling on troop numbers deployed.

    To that end, proportionally how many support troops in rear bases do we actually need to sustain and enable the 'boots on the ground'? Is there a case of bloated headquarters sucking valuable slot numbers that could be used to deploy Riflemen instead? How much of the essential support services could be contracted out, as already occurs to a degree?

    I realise that the Americans have a greater proportion of support services to line infantry, but their ability to deploy in such numbers as required, negates the effect of the quantity of one denuding the other.
  2. It won't have escaped your attention that this thread has not exactly lit a fuse in the minds of the Arrse membership.

    I suspect that, in a small way, this is an indicator ofhow excited the Army is going to get about the failings on which Ledwidge has tried to shine a light.

    The Brit Army's logistic footprint (compare it with that of the IDF - OK, I know they never play away) is, in part at least, symptomatic of the same kind of 'Empire Building'/Doctrinally disconnected behaviour that gives you (in a supposed age of 'Mission Command', with minimal emphasis on the 'Control' part of C2) ever-expanding HQs.

    This is what happens when conflicts are seen principally as golden career opportunities, rather than as tragedies to be dealt with professionally, efficiently and - above all else - intelligently.

  3. Bit of a difference there. Is TF Helmand's tooth-to-tail ratio really that bad though? How does it compare to other forces out there? To me (a layman) it seems pretty comparable to WW2. I know the Canadians had about 2800 to put one quite large battle group in the field. The British have a force of 9500 which manages to put by my count four and half or so maybe smaller battle groups in the field plus advisors to the ANA and ANP, RAF and AAC elements which surely must count as combat forces, and various other odds and sods. How good or bad is this? If the logistic footprint is too big, who should be cut? I was under the impression that a fair amount was already done by contractors. Which other logistic functions can be privatised or done away with? And which is the bigger problem- the logistic footprint or the manpower cap?
  4. And there was I, taking it personally! :)

    I take it that you are taking aim at the 'bloated' staff appointments? Whilst I do agree with that sentiment, it wasn't my main contention. I was genuinely asking if the ratio of CS/CSS: Infantry wasn't fundamentally skewed by our way of waging war.

    Are the Canadians a measuring stick that we want to use vis-a-vis efficiency of force deployment? The comparisons with other nations will always be interesting. I mentioned the Americans, because their capacity to deploy frontline troops in sufficient numbers for the task (mostly) renders their tooth to tail ratio as superfluous. That is not the case with us. You ask, "Is TF Helmand's tooth-to-tail ratio really that bad though?". Well if you don't have enough Riflemen on the ground then the answer can only be, 'Yes'. It has been my own experience, and the experience of many other Infantry Officers, NCOs and Rfn that I have talked to, that manpower is always an issue.

    If we are spread too thin and our numbers are capped, is there a way to rebalance the ratio? Yes there are a large number of logistic contractors, can we not use more? More over do some of these support elements deploy with more men than they need? Do you need a whole Signal Sqn to maintain Comms for the Bde? Maybe you do, but I do wonder.
  5. Taking a rather wider view - Are we fighting our wars correctly at all ? The entire population of Afghanistan is only about 25m pax. I've not got a number for this year but in '09 we spent about £4.5Bn on the campaign as UK PLC, Lord knows what the US and the rest of NATO is spending. As at '09 the UK had spent £25Bn - or £1000 for every man woman and child in Afghanistan. Narrow that down to our particular AOR and whatever the real numbers are its a genuine shit-load of dosh. Might we get a better effect by the use of influence - simple bribery of the locals ? " Please deliver the heads of all foreign fighters and any local Terry who will not play ball to your local PB. Cash Waiting" together with a message to the local head-honchos that Eldorado - real mega bucks, not just a pishy school/well/bridge - awaits if they'll get with the programme, all bets off if we get so much as a nasty look on our next patrol ?
  6. The Palestinians have absorbed foreign aid in amounts that would make them all individually richer than your above average Brit, yet they still live in shit and poverty. Why would it be any different in Afghan?

    As for paying the locals to grass on the naughty people, I think that bribing them as been done to death already.
  7. Ah, but if we were doing it rather than the EU it would all be done very professionally..... :)

    I'm talking here about buying off the entire population, not just giving a few petty bungs. Not pretty morally but .....
  8. I'm not sure what the name of the Pashtun code of honour is but I'm pretty certain if it protected that smarmy BBC twat John Simpson from the wrath of Osama Bin Laden himself, then it will probably protect the young kid from the village who is expected to fire a magazine off at the bad guys and then **** off sharpish.

    I am not personally bothered in the slightest by the prospect of paying off the locals if it gives the result needed but I get the feeling that a large chunk of it would probably end up in the hands of the Taliban anyway. I do like the idea of the Sons of Iraq though. That was a smart piece of bribery, and I am sure it would have been tried again in Afghanistan if it was possible.
  9. I have worked for the US Army since 2003 making their kit ready for Iraq and Afghan through various missions including RESET, LBE and even maintaining the crap that gets left behind. And I have no equivalent in the British Army. The irony is that many of the guys I work with are ex British Army. They would to a man give their left arm to work for the British but the only game in town is the US Army. We get no pension, cost nothing to train and can be sacked on command.