Future of the British Army (Army 2020)

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Army 2020, formerly known as Future Army Structure (Next Steps) or FAS (Next Steps), is the name given to an ongoing review of the structure of the British Army, and in particular its fighting brigades.

The British Government gave an indication of its proposals for the future structure of the British Army in early 2008 in a press report stating that it was considering restructuring the Army into a force of three deployable divisional headquarters and eight 'homogenous or identical' brigades, each with a spread of heavy, medium and light capabilities. This report indicated that the existing 16 Air Assault Brigade would be retained as a high-readiness rapid reaction force.[1]

Subsequently, it was reported that the former Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, wanted to see the Army structured so as to extend the interval between operational tours from two to two and a half years.[2]

In 2010, the Strategic Defence and Security Review was published. As part of the plans, the British Army will be reduced by 23 regular units, and by 2020 will number 112,000 soldiers, of whom 82,000 will be regulars and 30,000 will be reservists.[3]

On 7 June 2012, the Secretary of State for Defence set out some key considerations for the future of the British Army.[4]

Future structure[edit]

Originally envisaged structure[edit]

The originally envisaged future structure was announced on 19 July 2011 in a briefing paper entitled Defence Basing Review: Headline Decisions.[5] This structure involved five identical multi-role brigades, each of around 6,500 personnel.[6] However, in June 2012 a significantly different structure known as Army 2020 was announced.[7]

The divisional headquarters of 2nd, 4th and 5th Divisions were disbanded in 2012 and replaced by a single formation known as Support Command based at Aldershot.[5]

Up until June 2012, it was envisaged that FAS (Next Steps) would results in five large multi-role Brigades. Each of these brigades would have comprised:[8]

  • One armoured regiment of Challenger 2 tanks
  • One armoured reconnaissance regiment
  • One armoured infantry battalion in Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicles
  • One mechanised infantry battalion in FV432 Bulldog armoured vehicles
  • Two light role infantry battalions

Combat Support and Logistics would have been retained at a divisional level. It was envisaged that 19th Light Brigade, which is currently part of 3rd Mechanised Division, would be disbanded.[9]

Army 2020 structure[edit]

Structure of the British Army after the "Army 2020" reform (click to enlarge)

At the RUSI Land Warfare Conference in June 2012, the army's Chief of the General Staff General Sir Peter Wall set out a significantly different army structure from that foreseen in the Strategic Defence and Security Review. The new structure was confirmed by the Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, on 5 July 2012. The Army Command will comprise the reaction force, the adaptable force, and force troops:[10][11][12]

The Reaction Force[edit]

The complete air assault brigade and a full mechanised brigade will be available for deployment within three months. All three brigades HQs are to be based in the Salisbury Plain Training area.[14]

The Adaptable Force[edit]

A diagram in the 2014 British Army Journal entitled 'A New Structure for Defence Engagement And Overseas Capacity-Building', illustrating the operational focuses globally of Adaptable Force brigades.[15]
  • The 1st Armoured Division, renamed as the 1st (United Kingdom) Division, along with Support Command made up of seven infantry brigades (4th, 7th, 11th, 38th, 42nd, 51st and 160th) of various sizes, each made up of paired regular and Territorial Army forces, drawn from an Adaptable Force pool of units.[16] These infantry brigades will be suited to U.K. operations or overseas commitments (such as the Falkland Islands, Brunei and Cyprus) or, with sufficient notice, as a brigade level contribution to enduring stabilisation operations. This force pool will comprise:
    • Three light cavalry, Paired with three yeomanry regiments, each comprising:
      • 3 sabre squadrons, each with 16 Jackal vehicles;
    • Six light protected mobility infantry battalions equipped with Foxhound vehicles, each comprising:
      • 3 rifle companies.
      • 1 support company.
    • Several light role infantry battalions, each comprising:
      • 3 rifle companies.
      • 1 support company.
  • 102 Logistic Support Brigade.

Force Troops Command[edit]

This will comprise:

The table above provides the general structure of the British Army once Army 2020 is completed. It excludes regiments like the Corps of Music or units under other commands such as the air defence regiments.

There are three Foot Guards incremental companies stationed in London, and one Line Infantry incremental company stationed in Edinburgh.[17] Note: The Foot Guards units will continue to Unit Move (-), rotating through the 5 Foot Guards Barracks - Aldershot (Mons & Keogh), Pirbright, Hounslow and Windsor. The table shows all moves up to Summer 2018 when the next rotation is due to take place.[18]

Joint Helicopter Command/Army Air Corps[edit]

The Joint Helicopter Command will remain an integral part of the land force. The Army Air Corps will be reduced by one regular regiment. 1 and 9 Regt AAC will merge with the new Wildcat helicopter not before Oct 2015.[19] One Regiment will be at high readiness annually, with one Apache Squadron committed towards the Lead Armoured Battlegroup. 653 AAC will be a Operational Training Squadron from 2015, leaving the Apache Regiments with four active squadrons altogether[20][21]

Reductions of the Infantry[edit]

Four of the British Army's 36 regular infantry battalions will be disbanded/merged with sister units in their regiments:

A fifth battalion, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, will be reduced to a single company to carry out public duties in Scotland.

Armoured Corps and Artillery[edit]

Four of the Royal Armoured Corps' Regiments will merge into two regiments:[22]

39 Regiment Royal Artillery will disband, with its Multiple Launch Rocket Systems being transferred to the rest of the Royal Artillery and Territorial Army.

In accordance with the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the number of AS-90 self-propelled guns will be reduced by 35%.[23] The number of active Challenger 2 tanks was cut by around forty per cent, and by 2014, had been reduced to 227.[24]

Army Reserve[edit]

The Territorial Army will be renamed the Army Reserve, and will be expanded from 19,000 to 30,000 personnel.[25] Its military equipment will be upgraded to meet the standards of the regular army.[3] Units will be realigned according to this ORBAT.

Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers[edit]

The regular component of the REME structure will reduce by one battalion to seven regular battalions. 101 Force Support Battalion will be removed from the Regular Army ORBAT not before autumn 2015.

Royal Military Police[edit]

As part of the drawdown from Germany the Royal Military Police will lose one regiment, 5 Regiment RMP, from the ORBAT. The three remaining regiments will be re-organised.[19]

Royal Artillery Air Defence[edit]

12th and 16th Royal Artillery will continue to be placed under a joint Army-RAF unit, Joint Ground-Based Air Defence Command.[26][27][28]


British Forces Royal Logistic Corps in Germany will be withdrawn back to the UK by 2015:

  • 8 Regiment RLC disbanded (formerly at BFG Munster and late York Barracks) on 31 March 2012.
  • 24 Regiment RLC (part of 104th Logistic Support Brigade) will disband in Bielefeld, Germany in August 2013.
  • 23 Pioneer Regiment RLC (part of 104th Logistic Support Brigade) at Bicester disbands in 2013/14.

Note: There is no mention of where 12 Close Logistics Regiment will be in the Army 2020 documents. Newspapers say it will be disbanded.[citation needed]

Formation structure[edit]

Regular units only, table does not include Force Troops Command Units or Logistics Brigades

3rd (United Kingdom) Division
Brigade Armoured Cavalry Armoured Armoured Infantry Heavy Protected Mobility
1st Armoured Infantry Brigade HCR RTR 1 RRF
4 RIFLES[17]
12th Armoured Infantry Brigade RL KRH 1 YORKS
1 R WELSH[17]
1 SG[29]
20th Armoured Infantry Brigade RDG QRH 1 PWRR
4 SCOTS[17]
1st (United Kingdom) Division (rotation until 1 September 2016)
Brigade Light Cavalry Light Protected Mobility Infantry Light Role Infantry
4th Infantry Brigade LD 2 YORKS [30]
7th Infantry Brigade QDG 2 R ANGLIAN 1 R IRISH
1 R ANGLIAN[17][30]
11th Infantry Brigade 1 WG
1 RGR[30]
38th Irish Infantry Brigade 1 SCOTS
2 RIFLES[17]
42nd Infantry Brigade 2 LANCS
51st Infantry Brigade SCOTS DG 3 SCOTS
2 SCOTS[17]
160th Infantry Brigade 1 RIFLES[17]
16th Air Assault Brigade
Infantry Air Corps Support troops
7 Para RHA
23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault)
216 (Air Assault) Signal Squadron
13 Air Assault Support Regiment
16 Close Support Medical Regiment
7 Air Assault Battalion REME[17]
Other commands
Formation Light Protected Mobility Light Role
British Forces Cyprus 1 LANCS
2 PWRR[30]
British Forces Brunei 2 RGR[17]
Public Duties 1 CLDM GDS
1 IG
4× incremental infantry companies1


An initial basing plan located infantry brigades throughout the United Kingdom, with the three reaction force brigades situated in the Salisbury Plain Training area.[31] On 5 March 2013, a future basing plan of units in the UK was released.[14] As noted above, all Germany-based units will be relocated to different parts of the UK, with the Salisbury Plain area holding the largest concentration of troops.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jane's Defence Weekly, 9 July 2008, page 4, "British Army proposes to revamp brigade structure"
  2. ^ Harding, Thomas (20 January 2009). "General Sir Richard Dannatt announces major Army changes". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  3. ^ a b http://www.army.mod.uk/news/24264.aspx
  4. ^ Defence Secretary on Army 2020
  5. ^ a b Briefing Paper SN06038 Defence Basing Review: Headline Decisions House of Commons Library
  6. ^ Harding, Thomas (19 October 2010). "Defence review: Army to face less pain than RAF and Navy". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  7. ^ General Sir Peter Wall on Future Army 2020 on YouTube
  8. ^ Britain lowers its military sights IISS, 19 October 2010
  9. ^ Column 637 Hansard, 18 July 2011
  10. ^ Top Officials Offer Glimpse of a Restructured British Army
  11. ^ Defence Cuts: How The Army Will Be Overhauled
  12. ^ British Army looks to reactive and adaptive division, page 5, Jane's Defence Weekly, vol 49, issue 26, dated 27 June 2012
  13. ^ Kirkup, James (5 March 2013). "Famed Desert Rats to lose their tanks under Army cuts". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "Regular army basing plan" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-03-23. 
  15. ^ British Army Journal 2014 (PDF) (2014 Yearbook Edition ed.). Newsdesk Media. 2014. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-906490-95-9. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  16. ^ "Regular army basing plan" (PDF). MoD. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Regular Army Basing Announcement" (PDF). AFF. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  18. ^ page 5
  19. ^ a b Transforming the British Army Annex D
  20. ^ http://forces.tv/60545910
  21. ^ http://www.theeagleonline.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/WattishamEagle_Autumn_2014.pdf
  22. ^ Beale, Jonathan (5 July 2012). "Army to lose 17 units amid job cuts". BBC News. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  23. ^ Heyman, Charles: The Armed Forces of the European Union, 2012-2013, p. 134
  24. ^ Akinyemi, Aaron (29 March 2014). "British Army has just 227 tanks left after spending cuts". International Business Times. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  25. ^ Watt, Nicholas (30 June 2013). "Reservists to fill frontline army gaps". The Observer. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  26. ^ http://www.1846southall.com/The%20Royal%20Air%20Force.pdf
  27. ^ http://www.aff.org.uk/linkedfiles/aff/latest_news_information/cregulararmybasingannouncementgridunclas.pdf
  28. ^ http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmdfence/uc1655/m165502.htm
  29. ^ {http://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/20130703-A2020_Update.pdf
  30. ^ a b c d http://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/20130703-A2020_Update.pdf
  31. ^ Figure 6