Is the United Kingdom taking a page from America’s Special Forces?
SAS is considered among the best in the world, if not the best … but apparently, that’s not enough.
A shake-up of Britain’s elite forces will see SAS operatives (Motto: “Who dares, wins”) working alongside MI6 agents, while a new Ranger Regiment will be formed to handle terror threats, according to media reports in The Sun and The Daily Star.
Operatives from the elite SAS regiment will work alongside MI6 agents in a bid to “disrupt Russian meddling around the world,” according to the reports.
The Army is also planning to establish a new Special Operations Brigade to carry out missions in “high threat” environments overseas, at a cost of some £120 million, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced.
The new Ranger Regiment that will be tasked with many roles traditionally carried out by the SAS and their colleagues in the less well-known SBS.
General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, who as chief of the general staff is the most senior officer in the British Army, told the Daily Telegraph that special forces will be given a new specific focus on tackling “hostile state actors.”
He explained that the SAS would be “tracking a different trajectory” with this new role and that many of the tasks they had traditionally been associated with would be “handed off” to this new Ranger force, media reports said.
He also said that the new Special Operations Brigade would be expected to operate alongside “both regular and irregular partners and proxies in high-threat and hostile environments.”
“The Army Ranger Regiment will be the vanguard of the Army’s global footprint,” he added.
The Telegraph reported it was likely that Special Forces units would be tasked alongside MI6 with uncovering the activities of Russian military intelligence – the GRU – thought to be responsible for the Salisbury nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Elite units could also be charged with countering the activities of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organization widely thought to act as proxies for the Kremlin, media reports said.
According to a senior military analyst, who preferred to remain anonymous, the combination of SAS/MI6 bodes well.
“The SAS/MI6 mix provides the power and skills of the SAS with much more and better intelligence making for a much stronger organization,” he said.
“Previously they had to rely on military intelligence, where for dealing with today’s terrorist threats, MI6 is better suited.”
The news has emerged as the Ministry of Defence prepares to publish the Defence Command Paper, part of the Government’s Integrated Review of foreign, defence, security and development policy.
The Army is expected to benefit from an extra £3 billion in government spending – although there are also expected to be significant cuts alongside the cash boost, media reports said.
“We will develop Army special operations forces which are specially trained units with the skills to deal with high-risk environments,” according to draft plans seen by British media.
“They will support UK Special Forces with cyber, electronic warfare and information operations capabilities, through special reconnaissance and human analysis.”
New tactics will see regular troops deployed in smaller, self-sufficient units known as Brigade Combat Teams in order to react more quickly, media reports said.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that Britain needs to reinvent its armed forces as the threats that the nation faces “has changed beyond recognition.”
“Our enemies have infinitely more options: Encryption, precision, and information operations complicate the threat picture.
“We find ourselves constantly confronted in the ‘grey zone’ … that limbo land between peace and war. So conflict prevention is more critical than ever.”
Meanwhile, the UK Army is set to lose 10,000 troops as the MoD invests in cutting edge new weapons including lasers and high-speed missiles.
It also expected to lose around 80 Challenger 2 tanks and more than 700 Warrior armoured vehicles which are increasingly vulnerable to drones and missile attacks.
But there will still be a role for armoured troops and mechanised infantry units “to seize and hold ground” as well as specialist air assault forces backed by long range artillery, attack helicopters and resupply drones.
“The army will reduce the risk of large formations by physically dispersing and by using electronic deception to effectively hide their electronic footprint,” the plans for the Future Land Combat System state.
In future, the Army will have to operate “below the threshold of conflict.”
“This might mean operating in cyberspace or providing a show of physical strength on land and air,” it adds.
The new Land Special Operations force will “blend physical presence with remote digital information activities” to boost Britain’s partners and “check the advance of hostile states and violent extremists.”
Troops will also spend more time deployed abroad in a network of bases known as Land Regional Hubs.
The government also plans to invest in bases in Kenya, Oman, Singapore, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Germany so forces can respond more quickly — with a new focus on the Indo-Pacific.
Sources: The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Star, The Sun, The Independent, CIA Factbook