16 Nov 2011

Adaptability at core of infantry future

UK Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Peter Luff has highlighted adaptability as the crucial component in the future of infantry equipment.

When outlining his vision in a speech to the Modern Infantry Conference and Exhibition at Bisley in Surrey, Mr Luff spoke about creating a new structure for the Army with new equipment and a better way of acquiring and supporting that equipment.

He said: “In this volatile world, everyone in Defence – including the infantry – will need to be adaptable as the character of war continues to evolve.”

The Minister did not shy away from the problems of a difficult financial climate, saying the move forward from inheriting a ‘shockingly out of control Equipment Plan’ has not been ‘pain free’.

“If you want to equip and support them to a first-class standard – which it’s my job to do – then you need a force structure that’s fit for the 21st century and a defence programme which is affordable and sustainable.”

The Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) has set out a vision for an adaptable future.

It is thought that by 2020 there will be a total trained Army of 112,000, consisting of 70% regular and 30% reserves. This will create a more integrated and robust contingent capability for the Army, who will also engage more broadly overseas in conflict prevention as well as relief operations.

The journey to an increase of 10,000 trained reservists and reduction in regular manpower is not without risks and challenges but is essential, Mr Luff said.

A balanced but fluid forward programme is needed, he said, the delivery of which will be exercised through the Command Plan, binding the MOD’s acquisition organisation, DE&S, the Front Line Commands and the wider MOD into a contract.

On Defence Reform, Mr Luff said that the Service Chiefs now have the power to deliver and will be held rigorously to account for doing so.

Despite historic attitudes that frontline soldiers have not been well served by the government, Mr Luff said that today the view reported back to him from Afghanistan is that the British Infantryman has never been so well equipped, supported and protected.

He confirmed that new equipment arriving in theatre will have adaptability at its core, citing advancements in the Foxhound light protected patrol vehicle, 200 of which will be ready for deployment within months.

He concluded: “The Future Army Review will bring the clarity all of us need. And with this vision and clarity, I’m confident that equipping and supporting an adaptable Infantry will be within our reach, and at a price this country can afford.”