Signal, Manoeuvre

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers put their training into practice
The British Army is due to receive a new EW unit in the form of the 21st Signal Regiment. This will be re-rolled from its current signals responsibilities. It will form part of the army’s new CEMA group.

More details come to light on the British Army’s future cyber and electromagnetic activities posture.

The British Army’s Future Soldier Guide was published in late November 2021. It is a by-product of two recent British Government documents. The first, Global Britain in a Competitive Age, was published in March 2021. It outlined the United Kingdom’s foreign policy and defence priorities in the wake of her departure from the European Union. The same month the government published Defence in a Competitive Age. This outlined the UK’s defence procurement priorities for the goals outlined in the Global Britain publication.

In its own words, the Future Soldier initiative “is about delivering a modern British Army that is fit for the challenges of the future.” This focuses on improving the army’s lethal, agile and expeditionary attributes across the spectrum of operations. These include peace, war and so-called ‘grey zone’ operations betwixt the two.

The Future Soldier Guide says the army will enjoy a 100 percent increase in its Electronic Warfare (EW) capabilities. What this means in practice is that a new electronic warfare and signals intelligence unit will be added to the manoeuvre force, a UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) source told Armada.

21st Signal Regiment

The new unit will be raised by re-rolling the army’s 21st Signal Regiment. This formation is based in Colerne, western England. According to official MOD information, the regiment is responsible for tactical, operational and strategic communications. Other responsibilities include the deployment of wide area networks and information systems. It comprises 215 Signal Squadron which supports brigade headquarters, 220 Signal Squadron assisting brigade elements and a support squadron. The re-rolling of the unit for its new electronic warfare tasks should occur by 2024, according to the MOD source.

The 21st Signal Regiment will form part of a new British Army Cyber and Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) group. “The timetable to establish the CEMA group is still being finalised,” the source continued. Once activated, the group will be headquartered in Andover, southeast England. In 2018 the MOD published its CEMA doctrine. This prescribed the deeper coalescence of cyber and EW capabilities across the British military.

The army’s current EW unit is the 14th Signal Regiment headquartered at Cawdor Barracks, south Wales. By 2028, both the 14th and 21st Signal Regiments will have moved to Innsworth, central England. These two regiments will be joined by the new 13th Signal Regiment responsible for cyber operations. All three will form the CEMA group. In turn, the CEMA group “will be part of Land Operations Command” in the Field Army Headquarters the source said. The Field Army is responsible for generating and preparing units to support operations. Parts or all of the CEMA group will be made available to the army’s manoeuvre force as and when required the source continued.

Deep Effects

At the doctrinal level, the army is to shift from close battle to deep effects. This will be achieved by combining kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities to deliver effects at ranges of up to 499 kilometres (310 miles). The guide has set a target date of 2024 for this to become reality.

The bedrock of the army’s manoeuvre force will be the 3rd (UK) Division which will house the armoured force. This division will be supported by light forces in the army’s 1st (UK) Division and 6th (UK) Division. The latter houses the army’s unconventional warfare assets, including its EW elements. These three divisions will provide the constituent parts of the planned Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) constituting the army’s deployable manoeuvre force. The army will have five BCTs. two (12th and 20th BCTs) will be built around armoured elements. Lighter forces will include the 7th Light Mechanised BCT and the 4th Light BCT. These will be supplemented by a Deep Reconnaissance Strike BCT.

As Armada has recently reported, plans are afoot to introduce new EW capabilities across the manoeuvre force. This includes the acquisition of eleven ARTEC Boxer wheeled armoured fighting vehicles configured to support electronic warfare. Although not confirmed by the MOD, it seems certain that the new vehicles will be deployed with the EW regiments in the CEMA group.

by Dr. Thomas Withington