A new approach to fighting and winning wars has been launched by the British Army.
Eighteen months in the making, ‘The Land Operating Concept – A New Way of Winning’, sets out how the Army will respond to future threats to the UK.
The radical new strategy for fighting and winning wars was announced by General James Bowder, Director of Army Futures, at DSEI 2023 on Thursday (14 September).
Over the next decade, competing states will threaten the UK while instability driven by violent extremists, climate change, evolving demographics and the malign activity of hostile states will play out.
This will place significant demands on the Army to deter and, if needed, eradicate threats at range.
Battlegroups that can see further and shoot further in direct and indirect fires terms than we have ever managed before. Drones that can see and sense well beyond the next tactical bound." General James Bowder,
Director of Army Futures
The Land Operating Concept (LOpC) predicts four areas of significant change. Armies across the world will increasingly find themselves:
An exponential increase in both the quality, and number of, advanced sensors and precision weapons is resulting in an expanded and more transparent battlefield. It is becoming much more difficult for soldiers to hide and survive.
The march of autonomous systems will continue. Developments in robotics on the ground, and especially in the air, are already forcing tactics to change.
Meanwhile, Artificial Intelligence will see a step-change in the speed and accuracy of targeting and decision making. Humans will remain in the loop but dependency on autonomous systems will grow.
Adoption of advanced technologies means a greater reliance on data, software and the digital networks which connect them.
A network’s links are inherently susceptible to interference, while its nodes are exposed by their broadcasts. If everything is connected, everything is vulnerable.
The prevalence of cameras, mobile technology and the internet means that combat increasingly takes place in a global goldfish bowl.
With military actions being more closely scrutinised in real time, maintaining surprise, deception and legitimacy will be more of a challenge.
In response to these predicted changes, the British Army will:
Fight by Recce-Strike
Recce-Strike is the intelligent combination of surveillance capabilities with artillery and other strike assets to find the enemy as far forward as possible and destroy them.
The future army will aim to apply this approach at every level, in battlegroups, brigades, divisions and in the corps, drawing – where available – on air, naval and space capabilities.
General Bowder said this new approach to warfighting will mean:
“Battlegroups that can see further and shoot further in direct and indirect fires terms than we have ever managed before. Drones that can see and sense well beyond the next tactical bound.
“Pervasive electronic surveillance that can spot enemy ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and C2 (Command and Control) before it can land a punch. Anti-armour weapons that can kill at ten kilometres and beyond.”
However, whilst technology will continue to drive tactics, the bravery and ingenuity of the British Army’s soldiers will remain fundamental to its success and will matter more than equipment.
Adopt a new approach to survival
The protection of soldiers will be at the heart of the new strategy, due to the increased risk of being revealed by drones or electronic surveillance and struck by long range missiles.
Fighting forces will disperse, deceive and conceal themselves whilst hunting down the enemy’s artillery, surveillance assets, logistics chains and command nodes.
Exploit the electromagnetic spectrum and cyberspace
This will be a key determinant of success on a future battlefield given digital dependence on both sides. Outmanoeuvring, outpacing, and outmatching an opponent on this critical frontline will invariably lead to tactical advantage.
Reboot logistics to make them fit for the ‘Precision Age’
The reach and accuracy of contemporary and future artillery places traditional approaches to logistics, and the resupply of land forces, in jeopardy.
Large logistics nodes are tempting targets and an effective enemy will punish a force which concentrates its supplies.
The new approach will draw upon dispersal, concealment, forward manufacture, and repair, as well as contracted support to offset the challenges of a more dispersed and expanded battlefield.
Seize the initiative in the information environment
Land forces must increase the speed, reach and sophistication of their information warfare capabilities to set the conditions for success before conflict and to quickly help shape perceptions if a crisis unfolds.
They must be first with the truth, adept at calling out misinformation and expert at publicising the enemy’s missteps. The Army’s 77 Brigade will lead on seizing and maintaining the initiative in the information environment.
During his keynote speech at DSEI earlier this week, General Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of the General Staff, said the Land Operating Concept is:
“the most robustly evidenced and inclusive piece of conceptual thinking that the Army has produced in over three decades. This places the British Army at the intellectual edge of land warfare, able to lead in NATO and support our sister service across all domains.”
In developing the LOpC, the Army has engaged widely across NATO, to ensure it aligns with their strategic vision, and with the Five-Eyes alliance that includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
In closing, General Bowder said the Army in the future will:
“continue to think, experiment and adapt in response to the inevitable continued march of external change.
"And we will do so in the closest possible collaboration with the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and UK Strategic Command, as well as NATO partners.
“After all, the land force is but a cog within a multi-domain and coalition machine. As much as anything else, the power of combinations will unlock the future land battle.”
The LOpC has been subjected to rigorous testing by leading academics from RUSI, the Institute for Strategic Studies and other bodies, scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and defence industry experts, such as QinetiQ.