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Protecting our United Kingdom

Of the Army Expo 22’s four themed stands showcasing the British Army of tomorrow: Constrain, War Fight, Protect and Engage, it would be fair to say that the Protect stand provided by far the most eclectic demonstration of what the British Army is and will be delivering well into the future.

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of any army? – of course, it is to protect the United Kingdom by being ready to fight and win wars on land. So, protect is the common weft weaving its way through the fabric of the Army underpinning its very existence. Army Expo 22’s Protect stand touched on such wide-ranging subjects as: bomb disposal, state ceremonial, flood defence and the recent support given to the nation during its darkest months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Protect stand itself was divided up into three sub-categories: Innovation & Experimentation, Homeland Resilience Operations and the Army’s Institutional Foundation or put more simply, the delivery of physical, morale and conceptual support not only to its own personnel but also the people and communities it serves.

Under the ‘Future Soldier’ concept the British Army is progressing through its most radical transformation and will emerge as one of the most technologically advanced fighting forces on the planet; more lethal, agile, expeditionary, and resilient in its approach to conflict – in essence taking the cutting edge to the front line.

Contributors to the innovation & experimentation section of the stand included DSTL (Defence Science & Technology Laboratory), DE&S (Defence Equipment & Support), the Future Capabilities Group, Future Force Development, the Experimentation Trials Group and troops from 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (2 Yorks) who as the Enhanced Light Force Battalion are very much the show case unit revolutionising the means by which soldiers will take the fight to the enemy.

As you would expect, with the word experimentation in the title, the Army’s Experimentation and Trials Group were out in force on this section of the stand. Recently established, its raison d’être is to accelerate the development and the in-service dates of emerging technology – working alongside industry and the Enhanced Light Force Battalion (2 Yorks), to turbo-charge delivery and in service dates.

Perhaps of the three sub-categories, Homeland Resilience was the most pertinent to the stand’s main theme of ‘Protect’. It focused on the Army’s contribution to protecting the British nation at home, be that against terrorist, weather, flood, disease or whatever else may threaten life or property.

Visitors to this part of the stand started off with a briefing by 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal & Search Regiment, part of the Royal Logistic Corps and more commonly referred to in the media as the ‘Bomb Squad’. It will be one of their troops, which are located around the country, that will attend to make safe the WW2 Luftwaffe bomb unearthed on a building site, the ‘souvenir’ Grandad brought back from the war or, on a more sinister note, a deadly improvised explosive device sown by a terrorist organisation. What followed then was a demonstration of the search element of the regiment’s repertoire performed by Rio from 1st Military Working Dog Regiment whose ultra-sensitive nose tracked down the scent of a pistol magazine and a spent cartridge case.

Homeland Resilience under the ‘Future Soldier’ concept is set to be the forte of the Army Reserve, which will swell to 30,100 easing the pressure on the regular force to concentrate on the expeditionary and deterrence aspects of the Army. The Army Reserve was critical in the delivery of Operation Rescript, the military’s response to the UK’s fight against the Covid pandemic and will be front and centre should  extreme weather or flooding beset the country again this winter. Having been shown a video that set out a flood scenario, visitors were asked to don a virtual headset that sat them next to a Gold Commander at a strategic co-ordination group meeting; a briefing by the heads of all the emergency services and government agencies involved in the crisis which, in this case, called for MACA (military aid to the civil authority) to be raised. The visitor was then taken virtually to an operational military briefing detailing a unit to erect a flood barrier. Afterwards, the visitors had the opportunity to chat through the whole process with Reservist soldiers from the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) and the Royal Wessex Yeomanry who have deployed out on such operations for real.