The Defence Secretary has announced his plans to modernise the British Army – including unveiling further details of its new Ranger Regiment.
Future Soldier is the British Army's plan for its most radical transformation in more than 20 years, with Ben Wallace saying the Army will be more globally deployable.
Now, the Ranger Regiment's cap badge has been revealed, with it said to have taken "inspiration and spirit from the peregrine falcon; the most geographically dispersed bird of prey globally".
Everyone serving in the Ranger Regiment will wear the metal badge, regardless of rank, with a gunmetal grey also chosen for the regimental beret and stable belt.
Established as part of the modernisation plan, the Army's new Ranger Regiment will stand up from 1 December 2021.
Watch: Ranger Regiment – could the new Army unit's first mission be in East Africa?
The regiment will be routinely deployed alongside partner forces as part of the newly established Army Special Operations Brigade – reflecting the Army's new expeditionary posture.
Future Soldier will also increase the Army's ability to defeat enemies at range, with investment in new long-range capabilities.
Mr Wallace told MPs in the House of Commons a new-look Army service will be "designed for genuine warfighting credibility as an expeditionary fighting force" with six "distinct" elements:
- More personnel deployed for longer, via a "new network of regional hubs" in places such as Oman, Kenya, Germany and Belize.
- Capability to field a division throughout the decade as part of NATO warfighting contribution.
- Upgraded tanks, digital network armoured vehicles, long-range strike, cyber and electro-magnetic capability.
- A new trials and experimentation group established in 2022 to "stay at the cutting edge" of technology.
- Greater integration of Regulars, Reservists and civil servants for a "more productive" force.
- Increased proportion of the Army based in each of the devolved nations.
Watch: One of the Army's new defence hubs is in Germany.
By Autumn 2022, two battalions of the Mercian Regiment "will merge to form a new, Boxer-mounted battalion in one of our armoured combat teams," said Mr Wallace.
Planned transformation of the service across the UK will look like this:
- Scotland – Will host an extra Army unit, going from six to seven. Glencorse Barracks in Edinburgh will be retained, while Kinloss and Leuchars will continue to grow.
- Wales – Increased soldier presence due to the return of the 'Welsh cavalry', The Queen's Dragoon Guards and a new Reserve company of The Royal Welsh. Brecon Barracks will be retained and there will be growth in Wrexham Barracks.
- Northern Ireland – Same number of Army units but a greater proportion of the Army's workforce – Reservists taking principal responsibility for Homeland Protect and Resilience operations, gaining an additional Reserve company of the Royal Irish Regiment.
- England – A new Reserve Brigade based in York.
In a letter to the Army, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, Chief of the General Staff, said "Future Soldier is an exciting and bold blueprint for a transformed Army".
Watch: Army chief speaking earlier this year – new Ranger Regiment will match 'brainpower with firepower'.
He added it will make "the most capable Army of its size anywhere in the world".
The strength of the regular Army will be larger than previously outlined, at 73,000 troops – 500 more than originally planned as a target after reduction.
As part of its Integrated Review, the Government had planned to reduce the size of the regular Army from a target strength of 82,000 troops to 72,500.
Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey described the plan as "dictated by costs not threats", adding: "I fear that this plan leaves the British Army too small, too thinly stretched, too poorly equipped to deal with the threats that the UK and our allies now face which are growing and diversifying.
"Given recent events, not least in Ukraine, surely the Army's primary role must be to reinforce Europe against Russia and be an effective warfighting partner to NATO allies?" he asked.
"This demands high-end warfighting capabilities, not just light forces and cyber operations."
Mr Healey also questioned why MOD civilian staff numbers had risen by 2,200 since 2015, while the number of full-time soldiers had been cut by 5,000 in the same period.