What is the Ranger Regiment (UK)?

Introduction

The Ranger Regiment (Rangers) is a special operations regiment of the British Army which was formed on 01 December 2021 under the Future Soldier reform, and forms part of the Army Special Operations Brigade.

It is intended to be used primarily in an unconventional warfare and foreign internal defence capacity in a similar manner to US Army Special Forces (aka the ‘Green Berets’). Unlike, UK Special Forces who operate with total secrecy, the Ranger Regiment will be discreet but not secret (Forces.net, 2021a).

Clothing

The regiment gained media attention after reports that multiple British Army officers had expressed fears the regiment’s cap badge was based on that of the Selous Scouts, a claim denied by the British Army.

The British Army states that “The Ranger Regiment badge takes its inspiration and spirit from the Peregrine Falcon, a bird that is fast, found across the globe and loyal to its partner.” (Future Soldier Guide, 2021, p.71). “…and everyone will wear a metal badge, irrespective of rank.” (MOD, 2021a).

Both the regiment’s beret and stable belt will be gunmetal grey.

Brief History

History of the ‘New’ Rangers

On 22 March 2021, the Defence in a Competitive Age paper was released underlining the future of the British Armed Forces. As part of a wider reorganisation of the British Army, the following was announced:

A new four-battalion Ranger Regiment will be formed in August 2021, seeded from the Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland; 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment; 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment; and 4th Battalion, The Rifles. The new regiment will sit within the redesignated Specialised Infantry Group, becoming the Army Special Operations Brigade.

Initially, the regiment is planned to be “based on four Infantry Battalions but selecting personnel from across the Army”. The regiment’s task will be as follows: “[It will be] designed to support and conduct special operations discreetly in high-risk environments”. According to a reporter of Forces News, the regiment will “conduct missions traditionally carried out by United Kingdom Special Forces (Special Air Service and Special Boat Service)”. During an interview with the (then) Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, the rangers will be “special forces” and will “go beyond training, advising, and assisting” to “support local operations”. He also stated the Ranger’s functions will be similar to the United States Army’s “Green Berets”, a nickname for the US Army Special Forces.

The regiment was initially due to form in August 2021, however this was subsequently postponed to 01 December 2021.

History of the ‘Old’ Rangers

According to the British Army, the Ranger Regiment’s name comes from an 18th Century unit that saw action in North America, using “irregular tactics”.

The first Ranger groupings fought in the French and Indian War, between 1754 and 1763, including the unit of Robert Rogers, who wrote ’28 Rules of Ranging’.

These early units specialised in “unconventional warfare”, such as forest ranging, and environments usually inaccessible to other forces, as well as carrying out reconnaissance roles.

Rangers were also used by both sides during the American War of Independence, with Robert Rogers’ unit eventually evolving into a British Army regiment, the Queen’s Rangers.

Following that conflict and loss of the North American colonies, the British Army was without a suitable environment to employ a ranger unit, and the ranging capability ceased to exist in the same way.

In 1800, the Experimental Rifle Corps was formed, carrying some of the skills deployed in North America.

According to the Army, regiments which incorporated the ‘Ranger’ name over the following decades included: Central London Rangers, The Connaught Rangers, The Royal Irish Rangers, and The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry.

Today, a ‘Ranger’ is a term used to describe a Royal Irish Regiment soldier, although the term’s meaning differs from the original “unconventional warfare” definition.

Role

“The Ranger Regiment provides the foundation for the Army Spec Ops Bde, operating at the vanguard of expeditionary posture in austere and hostile environments. This involves deterring adversaries and contributing to collective deterrence by training, advising and if necessary accompanying partners in support of national interests.” (Future Soldier Guide, 2021, p.71).

It will see soldiers take on roles usually carried out by Special Forces personnel, operating in high-threat environments to train, advise and accompany allies.

Organisation

The regiment was formed on 01 December 2021 through the renaming of four of the existing Specialised Infantry battalions. The fifth Specialised Infantry battalion, 3rd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, which was initially formed in January 2020, was not made part of the Rangers, with instead its formation cancelled and its planned personnel formed into a number of company sized units. One of these, F (Falklands) Company, was formed on 18 November 2021 and attached to the 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (Queen’s and Royal Hampshires).

Units

  • Regimental Headquarters.
  • 1st Battalion, The Ranger Regiment, at Palace Barracks, Belfast; ex- The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion (1SCOTS), The Royal Regiment of Scotland (MOD, 2021a).
  • 2nd Battalion, The Ranger Regiment, at Aldershot Garrison; ex- 2nd Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (Queen’s and Royal Hampshires).
  • 3rd Battalion, The Ranger Regiment, at Pirbright then Aldershot Garrison (2027); ex- 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (King’s, Lancashire and Border).
  • 4th Battalion, The Ranger Regiment, at Aldershot Garrison; ex- 4th Battalion, The Rifles.

The battalions are planned to be “all-arms” battalions and be open for anyone in the Army (in future it will select personnel from across the Army (Forces.net, 2021b)). All four battalions form the main element of the Army Special Operations Brigade.

All four battalions were formed on 01 December 2021 and restructuring should be complete by April 2023, as noted in the document ‘Future Soldier Guide’ published on 30 November 2021.

The Ranger Regiment will have approximately 1,000 personnel, with about 250 per battalion.

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

So today I can confirm a major reorganisation under four new administrative divisions of infantry, the Queen’s division, the Union division, the Light division, and the Guards and Parachute division. These divisions are designed to reflect historic ties, while also balancing their number of battalions and unit roles, offering greater flexibility and opportunity for soldiers of all ranks. (MOD, 2021b).

Selection and Training

Training and selection will commence from the 1st December 2021. (MOD, 2021b).

All applicants to the ranger regiment will have to undertake a two-week Cadre Course, followed by a six-week Ranger Course, before continuing with eight months of training at their battalion.

The Ranger Regiment will be underpinned by emotional intelligence, linguistic skills (these will be taught but personnel must have the capability to learn) and an ability to work in small teams.

Cadre Course

The Cadre Course will be a two-week assessment that selected individuals from throughout the entire Army can tackle, judging their aptitude from the start.

Ranger Course

Successful Cadre Course applicants will attend a six-week course, and this could take place in a number of places, including outside the UK.

Those who pass through the Ranger Course then join a Ranger battalion for eight months of training.

This includes fundamental and mission-specific skills training and special role training.

There is also operational partner training at this stage, which will prepare personnel for interaction with foreign UK partners (training, advising and, if necessary, accompanying them).

All personnel who are moving from the Army’s Specialised Infantry Battalions to form the Ranger Regiment’s ‘all arms’ battalions will have passed the Cadre Course and Ranger Course already.

Those who fail to pass the courses will return to their cap badges.

Operational Readiness

“The end of this year [in December 2021] our new Ranger Regiment will reach initial operating capability…”

Reference

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

Forces.net. (2021a) 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].

Forces.net. (2021b) Ranger Regiment: What We Know about Army’s New Elite Force. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.forces.net/news/new-army-ranger-regiment-what-we-know-so-far. [Accessed: 13 December, 2021].

MOD (Ministry of Defence). (2021a) Scottish Troops to Pioneer Army’s New Ranger Regiment. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/scottish-troops-to-pioneer-armys-new-ranger-regiment. [Accessed: 12 December, 2021].

MOD (Ministry of Defence). (2021b) Defence Secretary Announces Future Soldier for the British Army. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/defence-secretary-announces-future-soldier-for-the-british-army. [Accessed: 13 December, 2021].

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