What is the Army Special Operations Brigade (UK)?

Introduction

British Army Special Operations Brigade TRF.

The Army Special Operations Brigade (Army Spec Ops Bde) (previously called the Specialised Infantry Group) is a formation of the British Army, initially created as a result of the Army 2020 Refine reorganisation, intended to train foreign forces.

Its name and role was adapted after the Defence in a Competitive Age reforms, to a unit that not only trains partner nations, but also fights alongside them in “complex high-threat environments”.

The Army Spec Ops Bde is separate from UK Special Forces (Forces.net, 2021) and, unlike UKSF, will be classed as discreet but not secret.

Brief History

Specialised Infantry Group

The group was formed to work alongside partner forces, a role which has similarities to that of the US Army Security Force Assistance Brigades. Initially formed in October 2017 with the 4th Battalion, The Rifles (4 Rifles) and Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 Scots). in July 2018, the 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment was added to the Group. and in January 2019, a fourth battalion, the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, was added and this was followed by the 3rd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles in 2020.

In February 2018, 4 Rifles deployed for the first time to Kuwait to work with the Kuwait Army and Kuwait National Guard. R Company, It also trained the Afghan Army and forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In July 2018, C Company from the 2 PWRR was dispatched to Nigeria, where 1 Scots also trained the Nigerian Army for their fight against Boko Haram.

Army Special Operations Brigade

On 31 August 2021 the group was re-designated as the Army Special Operations Brigade (Future Soldier Guide, 2021, p.17), with the four battalions of the newly created Ranger Regiment under its command, along with 255 Signal Squadron of the Royal Corps of Signals providing communications, and 1 Squadron (Honourable Artillery Company) providing two Troops of Reconnaissance STA Patrols to support the Brigade.

The mentoring and training role that was previously undertaken by the Specialised Infantry Group, will be taken on by a new brigade, formed through the conversion of 11th Infantry Brigade, into the 11th Security Force Assistance Brigade.

The brigade will sit within 6th (United Kingdom) Division alongside 77th Brigade.

The 6th (UK) Division delivers cyber, electronic warfare, information operations and unconventional capabilities designed for warfighting and for operations conducted below the threshold of war. Additionally, it enables other Field Army Formations, HQ ARRC and the Strategic Joint Force Headquarters to achieve Information Advantage and a disruptive edge. (Future Soldier Guide, 2021, p.70).

Role

The role of the Army Special Operations Brigade (Army Spec Ops Bde) is to operate in complex, high threat environments below the threshold of war alongside specialised Partner Forces to deliver operational insights and effects to Counter Violent Extremist Organisations and Hostile State Threats. The Army Spec Ops Bde has a persistent presence across the world and can be authorised to operate at higher risk beyond the remit of conventional forces. (Future Soldier Guide, 2021, p.71).

Structure

Former Structure (Pre-2021)

The structure of the Specialised Infantry Group in March 2021 was as follows:

  • Group Headquarters at Saint Omer Barracks, Aldershot Garrison.
  • Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS), at Palace Barracks, Belfast.
  • 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (2 PWRR), at Keogh Barracks, Mytchett.
  • 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (2 LANCS), at Elizabeth Barracks, Pirbright Camp.
  • 4th Battalion, The Rifles (4 RIFLES), at Normandy Barracks, Aldershot Garrison.
  • 3rd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles (3 RGR), at Aldershot Garrison.

Future Structure (Post-2021)

The future structure of the brigade (by 2030) is (Future Soldier Guide, 2021):

  • Brigade Headquarters at Saint Omer Barracks, Aldershot Garrison.
  • 255 Signal Squadron, Royal Corps of Signals, at Swinton Barracks, Perham Down (Aldershot from 2027 and restructured by September 2023).
  • 1st Battalion, Ranger Regiment (1 RANGERS), at Palace Barracks, Belfast.
  • 2nd Battalion, Ranger Regiment (2 RANGERS), at Keogh Barracks, Mytchett (future station: Aldershot).
  • F (Falklands) Company, Royal Gurkha Rifles – formed 18 November 2021 from personnel of old 3rd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles.
  • 3rd Battalion, Ranger Regiment (3 RANGERS), at Elizabeth Barracks, Pirbright Camp (future station: Aldershot in 2027).
  • 4th Battalion, Ranger Regiment (4 RANGERS), at Normandy Barracks, Aldershot Garrison.
  • A (Coriano) Company, Royal Gurkha Rifles – formed from personnel of old 3rd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles.
  • Joint Counter Terrorist Training and Advisory Team, at Risborough Barracks, Shorncliffe Army Camp (Forces.net, 2021).

The above is quoted on the relevant Wikipedia page but the Future Soldier Guide (2021, p.71) only lists the 4 Ranger Battalions and 255 Signal Squadron as part of the brigade.

The infantry will be reorganised into four new Infantry Divisions, each with an affiliated Ranger Battalion. (Future Soldier Guide, 2021, p.17).

Reference

British Army (2021) Future Soldier Guide (30 November 2021).

Forces.net. (2021) Exclusive: Ranger Regiment Selection Process before taking on Special Forces Roles. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.forces.net/news/exclusive-ranger-regiment-selection-process-tackling-special-forces-roles. [Accessed: 13 December, 2021].

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