This article provides an overview of the British Army’s new Physical Employment Standards (PES), or Role Fitness Tests (RFT), introduced in April 2019.
The PES are part of the Military Annual Training Tests (MATTs) that soldiers must undertake during their careers, specifically MATT 2 (Fitness). Further information on MATTs can be found here. Information on the Soldier Conditioning Review (SCR) can be found here.
The RFT where developed in part to enable women to join frontline roles from 2019 as part of the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD’s) plans to open all roles to women (Hookham, 2016; Sculthorpe, 2018), and in part due to lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan (The Telegraph, 2018).
“And analysis of recent Army recruits suggests only 30 women a year would pass the current physical standards for joining the front line units.” (Sculthorpe, 2018).
In March 2019, the British Army reported that it was busy training its physical training instructors (PTI’s) to deliver the new PES by completing the tests themselves at the Armour Centre, Bovington (British Army, 2019).
2.0 What are the Physical Employment Standards?
The PES are objective, role-related, age and gender-free physical fitness standards that are measurable and designed to prepare all soldiers for operational duty.
They are incorporated within a structured suite of Army Role Fitness Tests (RFT) which provides progression from entry into Phase 1 ‘basic’ training through to employment in the Field Army as a trained soldier.
The PES help to ensure that personnel have the physical ability for their role so they can, safely and satisfactorily, complete essential tasks.
Additionally, the PES help to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal (MSK) injury for personnel.
3.0 When Will The PES Be Introduced?
When the PES comes into effect for personnel depends on whether they are in ground close combat (GCC) or non-ground close combat (NGCC) roles:
- The new standards came into effect for all GCC roles on 01 April 2019.
- New standards for non-GCC roles will be implemented in 2021/22.
- In the interim, non-GCC personnel will continue to complete the current Annual Fitness Test (AFT).
4.0 What is the Role Fitness Test?
The Role Fitness Test (RFT) is replacing the Annual Fitness Test (AFT) as the in-service PES. Which RFT an individual undertakes depends on their role and training status:
- Role Fitness Test (Entry) (RFT (E)):
- This is the recruit entry standard.
- Recruits will have to meet a required standard to be able to join different roles within the Army.
- All new British Army recruits will undertake the RFT (E) prior to undertaking basic training (Callaway, 2019).
- Role Fitness Test (Soldier) (RFT (S)):
- Replacing the AFT as the in-service PES for Regular GCC personnel only.
- That means anyone who has joined the Infantry or the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC).
- Role Fitness Test (Alternative) (RFT (A)):
- This is for Reserve GCC personnel.
- The RFT (A) is a gym based predictor of RFT (S) success and addresses the unique challenges of the Reserves.
- It is a critical pass/fail test for Reserve GCC personnel and will be required to gain the Certificate of Efficiency.
- Reserve personnel who deploy or attend career courses will be required to pass the Regular RFT (S) when it is the appropriate physical standard for the role.
- Role Fitness Test (Non-GCC) (No official title yet):
- The underpinning research for non-GCC roles is underway and is set for delivery in 2021/22.
- This involves a full and detailed role analysis completed by a world leading scientific institute.
- “Underpinning research to determine what the Non-GCC test will consist of is underway and as with the RFT(S) it is being designed to be representative of military tasks. The delivery is expected in 2021 which will complete the Army-wide replacement of the current Annual Fitness Test.” (Callaway, 2019).
Beyond the point of recruitment, the standards required to pass each stage in a soldier’s career will vary depending on their role:
- Basic Training (i.e. Phase 1) Output Standard:
- GCC personnel will need to meet RFT (A) which is roughly the same test as RFT (E) but with different standards to reflect the improved fitness gained during basic training.
- Non-GCC personnel will need to meet the existing 6-mile AFT standards.
- Initial Trade Training (i.e. Phase 2) Output Standard:
- GCC personnel will need to meet RFT (S) which is an advancement on RFT (A) and will represent the standards which are to be maintained throughout a soldier’s Field Army career or during subsequent trade training.
- Non-GCC personnel will need to meet the existing AFT standards.
- During Field Army service or Subsequent Trade Training:
- GCC personnel will need to meet RFT (S) and Soldier Conditioning Review (aka Personal Fitness Assessment, PFA).
- There will be a period of grace for the introduction of the new tests to current Field Army service personnel.
- From April 2019 to October 2019 there will be a transition period for units to implement training of RFT (S).
- From October 2019 to April 2020 a formal testing period is introduced with all GCC to undergo testing.
- The failure policy will be waivered during this transitional year to April 2020, after which scores will be formally recorded and the failure policy introduced.
5.0 What Does the New RFT Include?
The new format RFT has six activities for personnel, including:
- Infantry/RAC: 4 km tab with 40 kg within 50 minutes followed by a further 2 km with 25 kg in 15 minutes.
- 16 Airborne Assault Brigade/Para’s: 4 km tab with 40 kg within 35 minutes followed by a further 2 km with 25 kg in 12 minutes 30 seconds.
- Fire and
- Twenty 7.5 metre tactical bounds controlled by a PTI, followed by a 15 metre crawl and 15 metre sprint in 55 seconds.
- 110 kg bag pulled over 20 metres in 35 seconds.
- Simulates moving with a stretcher.
- Carry two 22 kg cans over 240 metres in 4 minutes.
Casualty Evacuation (Casevac):
- 70 kg lift, hold for 3 seconds.
Lift and Carry:
- Shifting bags weighing 20 kg, 20 times over a 30 metre distance in 14 minutes.
The above is an outline of the RFT (S) which is the PES for Regular GCC personnel.
Previously, the old format AFT (prior that known as the Combat Fitness Test, CFT) consisted of:
- A fast-paced march at fifteen minutes per mile (brisk walking pace), in full combat gear including personal weapon, across rough terrain and roads.
exact weight of the equipment carried depends upon the type of unit:
- 15 kg for combat service support (CSS) troops (e.g. medics and clerks).
- 20 kg for combat support (CS) troops (e.g. Royal Artillery).
- 25 kg for combat troops (e.g. Infantry).
- All covered a distance of 8 miles in less than 2 hours.
The AFT was gender free, meaning all personnel had the same test regardless of age or gender, with women carrying the same weight as their male counterparts, determined by their cap badge.
6.0 Useful Publications
- Military Annual Training Test (MATT 2) Policy introduced in August 2008.
- Fitness Test Failure Policy.
Bird, S. (2018) End of ‘Hell for Leather Training’ as Army gets New Fitness Regime. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/06/end-leather-training-army-gets-new-fitness-regime/?WT.mc_id=tmgliveapp_androidshare_Aqmsdy2S5dpw. [Accessed: 06 June, 2018].
British Army. (2019) Army PTIs Learn New Role Fitness Tests. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.army.mod.uk/news-and-events/news/2019/03/army-ptis-learn-new-role-fitness-tests/. [Accessed: 28 March, 2019].
Callaway, J. (2019) New Army Fitness Test Demonstrated In Cyprus. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.forces.net/services/army/new-army-fitness-test-demonstrated-cyprus. [Accessed: 28 March, 2019].
Hookham, M. (2016) Fitness Test ‘Relaxed’ to Help put Women on Front Line. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/fitness-test-relaxed-to-help-put-women-on-front-line-79d7bxp25. [Accessed: 02 June, 2018].
Sculthorpe, T. (2018) Army Fitness Test to be Re-written to make sure Female Soldiers can Qualify for Front Line Duty. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3521538/Army-fitness-tests-written-make-sure-female-soldiers-qualify-line-duty.html. [Accessed: 02 June, 2018].
The Telegraph. (2018) End of ‘Hell for Leather Training’ as Army Gets New Fitness Regime. Available from World Wide Web: https://theworldnews.net/uk-news/end-of-hell-for-leather-training-as-army-gets-new-fitness-regime. [Accessed: 02 June, 2018].