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Commander Field Army: Preparing for war is the best way of securing peace

Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine determined the subjects for discussion at this year’s Land Warfare Conference. 

The conference, which hosts international practitioners, academia and industry, is run in partnership with the British Army’s Chief of the General Staff, Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), and took place in London, and its overarching theme was ‘Mobilising Today to Secure Tomorrow’.

Learning lessons is relatively straightforward when you’re fighting; you know who your opponent is, you quickly know what works and what doesn’t work, and you have a captive audience whose survival depends on their ability to learn, adapt and overcome LIEUTENANT GENERAL SIR RALPH WOODDISSE, COMMANDER FIELD ARMY

Guest speaker Lieutenant General Sir Ralph Wooddisse, Commander Field Army (CFA), opened the first session with lessons from Ukraine, and how the Army is adapting its approach to operations, command and control, and its capability priorities, based on what is being observed in Europe.

He told the audience: “Learning lessons is relatively straightforward when you’re fighting; you know who your opponent is, you quickly know what works and what doesn’t work, and you have a captive audience whose survival depends on their ability to learn, adapt and overcome.

“But in peacetime, where its arguably more important, where you have the time to think, to train and to buy the equipment that you need, Armies are not always so successful.”

Over the past year the British Army and its Allies have been training the Ukrainian armed forces and with that comes countless insights from the battlefield. CFA continued: “In simple terms we’re learning three things that distinguish warfare in this century vice the last.

“First, that it is much easier to see further and with more detail than we have ever managed before, through a combination of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, standoff Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, and other technical means.

“Second that it is self-evidently much more difficult to hide; and third, that the proliferation of long range fires coupled with a vast increase in our ability to absorb and process data, means that we can strike many more targets and much greater distances than has been the case in the past.

“This combination of factors means that the battlefield is extending in its breadth and depth, and we need to rapidly adapt as a result.”

In short we are mobilising physically and conceptually for the war that we might well have to fight, conscious that preparing for war is the best way of securing peace LIEUTENANT GENERAL SIR RALPH WOODDISSE, COMMANDER FIELD ARMY

Those invaluable insights, along with those from other recent conflicts, have changed the way the British Army train and, “in many respects, the fundamental element of the near-term transformation of how we fight”, said General Wooddisse.

“These changes are already impacting on the Field Army, ‘How We Fight 2026’, is that conceptual aiming mark. It is designed to make the best of the Army that we have today rather than the Army we would like to have 10 years from now.”

He added: “While the Army has been moving in this direction for some time, war in Ukraine has shown what the latest technology can do today, particularly if we can bring industry in as partners.

“We’re learning and are determined to do all that we can to ensure that the way we fight is optimised for the war of the future rather than the past.

“In short we are mobilising physically and conceptually for the war that we might well have to fight, conscious that preparing for war is the best way of securing peace.” 

To read the British Army Review ‘How We Will Fight 2026’, click here

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