To meet this challenge, the Command Paper promises that: ‘The Army will deliver a modernised, adaptable and expeditionary fighting force, centred around HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps [ARRC] as a corps HQ and 3(UK) Division as a warfighting division, optimised to fight a peer adversary in a NATO context’ with a total of £23billion to be spent on this capacity. This already has the potential for political friction with allies. Although based in the UK, with its commanding general and chief of staff always from the British Army, ARRC is explicitly a NATO asset, not a British one, 60% of its staff come from other NATO countries and so it would be difficult to impossible to deploy it in a purely British war of choice. And yet, as the Command Paper understands, it allows the British Army to retain its capacity to command at corps level, so the relationship here is complicated to say the least.
Moreover, prior to the Integrated Review and Command Paper’s publication, there were concerning rumours about the structure and equipping of these forces, some turning out to be true. Conventional land warfare is about contesting control of territory, fighting for ground as opposed to insurgency’s contesting control of populations. To fight for ground cost-effectively, a force must maximise its capabilities at protection, movement and shooting at close range which means it needs tanks or some kind of tank-like capability. Yet, the build-up to the Integrated Review was awash with media rumours that as a reaction to the alleged mass destruction of Armenian armour by Azerbaijani UCAVS in autumn 2020 and the ‘conventional warfare is dead’ narrative pressed online and in some currently influential literature, the British Army was going to retire its entire MBT force, the money to be spent instead on UCAVs and non-kinetic cyber and information capabilities. These rumours got to the point where Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who had hinted previously at supporting such a move, was forced to issue a public denial. That these rumours were taken so seriously is a possible indicator of current internal culture within the Army. It is rather noticeable that no other army in NATO appears to be having this debate, nor are potential adversaries. Russia, for instance, fields nearly 3,000 MBTs while holding another 10,000 in storage and these figures do not include its new model, the T-14 Armata. In the event, the British Army will retain a token MBT force of 148 Challenger 3s – Challenger 2s with updated turrets and powerpacks installed by Rheinmetall and due in service by 2030. The Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle will be phased out of service with no clear indication of what will replace it, as, according to General Carleton-Smith, it risks obsolescence in a future battlefield dominated by urban fighting. It seems, therefore, that