Last Updated: 08 August, 2016
In 2012, the Capability Directorate Combat (CD Cbt) (encompassing Mounted Close Combat and Dismounted Close Combat) brought together elements of HQ Infantry, HQ Armour and Capability Ground Manoeuvre in one central authority, tasked with developing a coherent approach to land capability in the UK.
The regiments of the Household Cavalry and Royal Armoured Corps form the armoured capability of the British Army. These regiments deploy on operations in a variety of roles and are equipped with some of the most formidable fighting vehicles in the world. Their core specialist roles are armoured, brigade reconnaissance and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, as well as the ceremonial duties carried out by the regiments of the Household Cavalry.
The Household Cavalry consists of The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals. They are the oldest and most senior regiments in the British Army and are split between two different units equipped to perform two quite different roles.
On 08 July 2016, the MOD announced that all Ground Close Combat Roles (RAC, Infantry, Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment) would be opened to women by 2018 (British Army, 2016).
2.0 Training Hierarchy
The Armour Centre, discussed below, is a core training site and forms part of the Army Recruiting and Training Division (ARTD), commanded by the Director General, Army Recruiting and Training (DG ART), a Major General (OF-7), who in turn reports to the Commander Force Development and Training (FDT), a Lieutenant General (OF-8).
During the 2013/2014 training year the ARTD was re-subordinated back to the Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC), also under the command of a Lieutenant General (OF-8), and at the same time absorbed the Collective Training Group (CTG).
3.0 The Armour Centre
The Armour Centre, based at Bovington Camp in Dorset, is the British Army’s centre of excellence for training in the core skills of armoured warfare. Together with Lulworth Camp it forms part of Bovington Garrison and is commanded by a Colonel (OF-5). The garrison supports two barracks complexes and two forest and heathland training areas that support Phase Two training for soldiers of the RAC and armour trades for the HC Regiment, as well as other units.
The Armour Centre trains soldiers in driving/maintaining armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) and operating vehicle weapons’ systems and communications equipment.
The AFV Training Group, commanded by HQ Armour Centre, has three schools delivering training in the three disciplines of armour:
- Signals (Communications and Information Systems);
- Driving & Maintenance (D&M);
- AFV Gunnery School; and
- The Royal Armoured Corps Training Regiment.
The majority of this training is delivered at Bovington Camp with live gunnery activities taking place at nearby Lulworth Ranges. The AFV Training Group’s role is to provide initial and through-career training for British Army soldiers. Driving, maintenance, command, control and communications are taught at Bovington, and gunnery training at Lulworth. The AFV Training Group provides training for a variety of armoured vehicles.
The Armour Centre has a fleet of over 180 AFVs and provides catering and accommodation facilities for up to 2,000. The Armour Centre also has 10,000 acres of training area including an 8km all-weather driving circuit, a 75km cross-country driving circuit and extensive firing ranges capable of accommodating advanced troop fire and manoeuvre exercises.
3.1 AFV Gunnery School
The AFV Gunnery School was formed in 1916 after it was acquired from the Weld estate under the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA). It remained in a “tented camp” state for a few years before it was upgraded to Z type accommodation. The first ranges were constructed in order to train both dismounted and mounted troops and the first round down the range, fired by soldiers belonging to the Dorset Rifle Volunteers, was surprisingly from the Snider P-1864 breech loading rifle and not a tank!
The School is divided into two wings and delivers a number of courses. However, due to Army 2020 the school underwent some restructuring during 2014 and subsequently adopted light cavalry training.
- Reconnaissance and Armoured Infantry Wing (formerly the Light Armoured Wing (LAW)), courses include:
- Warrior (Wr) and CVR (T) Regimental Instructor Gunnery (RIG).
- CVR (T) Crew Commanders.
- CVR (T) Troop Leaders.
- Armoured Infantry Platoon Commanders Course (AIPCC) Gunnery phase.
- Light Cavalry Junior Crew Commanders (JCC), Crew Commanders (CC) and Troop Leaders).
- RWMIK+ Weapons Operators (Phase 2 recruits)
- Remote Weapon Station (RWS) for Trojan, Panther, Mastiff and other variants.
- Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) and Grenade Machine Gun (GMG).
- The AFV Gunnery Schools Cadre (Wr, CVR (T) & Lt Cavalry).
- Armoured and AV (Wheeled) Wing (formerly the Heavy Armoured Wing (HAW)), courses include:
- Challenger 2 (CR2) Junior Crew Commanders.
- CR2 Crew Commanders.
- CR2 Gunners (Phase 2 recruits).
- CR2 Troop Leaders.
- CR2 RIG’s.
- The AFV Gunnery Schools Cadre (CR2).
Figure 1 provides an outline of the, still to be confirmed (as at August 2014), organisation of the AFV Gunnery School.
Figure 1: Organisation of the AFV Gunnery School
4.0 Phase 2: Specialist Training
On completion of Phase 1 initial training, all Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) all Officers and Other Ranks move to the Armour Centre to complete their Phase 2 training before joining their regiments.
The 6-week training course at Bovington provides Phase 2 soldiers with foundational skills in the art of mounted close combat.
During this training soldiers will:
- Learn to ‘fight the tank’.
- Get their full driving licence and then start on their specialist vehicle:
- Those joining armoured regiments – the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, King’s Royal Hussars, Royal Dragoon Guards, 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, Queen’s Royal Hussars (The Queen’s Own and Royal Irish) & A Squadron, 1st Royal Tank Regiment – will learn how to operate Challenger 2 tanks.
- Those joining formation reconnaissance regiments – the Household Cavalry Regiment, Queen’s Dragoon Guards, Queen’s Royal Lancers, Light Dragoons, 9th/12th Royal Lancers – will learn how to operate combat reconnaissance (tracked) vehicles.
On completion of this Phase 2 specialist training soldiers will be able to drive a tank, fire the gun and operate the communications equipment.
4.1 Cost of Training
In 2012, it was estimated that the cost per soldier recruit for Phase 2 training for the RAC was £31,520 to £67,090 (HC, 2012).
5.0 Phase 3: Career Training
The centre also provides through career, and promotion, training for soldiers and officers.
6.0 Army 2020 Restructuring
As part of the Army 2020 restructuring the Queens Royal Lancers will amalgamate with 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales’s) upon completion of scheduled operational commitments and not before October 2014 and the 1st Royal Tank Regiment and the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment will merge upon completion of scheduled operational commitments and not before April 2014.
HC (House of Common Debates) Daily Hansard – Written Answer, 12 June 2012, Column 449W. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120612/text/120612w0002.htm#120612w0002.htm_spnew58. [Accessed: 12 March, 2014].
TQ (2011) Case Study: AFV Driving & Maintenance, Gunnery and Communications Training to the UK Army’s Armour Centre. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.tq.com/filelib/Bovington. [Accessed: 12 March, 2014].
British Army (2016) Ground Close Combat Roles Open To Women. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.army.mod.uk/news/28632.aspx. [Accessed: 08 August, 2016].