British Army Launches New 6th Division
Specialist Brigades Group to Deliver Cutting-Edge Capability
The British Army has today unveiled its latest adaptation to modern warfare: the 6th (UK) Division. The new division replaces and augments the former Force Troops Command structure. With ten specialist brigades, the 6th Division is the now the largest of the British Army’s three divisions.
Hailed as a hybrid warfare capability, the 6th Division will deliver what the Army chooses to call combat support, command support and specialist logistics support. Comprising about one third of the entire British Army, the new division brings together 1st Signal Brigade, HQ 11th Signal and West Midlands Brigade, 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade, 7th Air Defence Brigade, 77th Brigade and the Specialised Infantry Group.
Discussing the new development, Lieutenant General Ivan Jones, Commander Field Army, , said: “The character of warfare continues to change as the boundaries between conventional and unconventional warfare become increasingly blurred. The army must remain adaptable and evolve as a fighting force. The three complementary British army divisions harness the wide range of British army capabilities, providing choice to the government in defence of the UK’s interests. The speed of change is moving at a remarkable rate and it will only get faster and more complex.”
Quoted in the Daily Telegraph, Lt Gen Jones further said that the division would operate “above and below the threshold of conventional conflict” specifically to address threats from Russian unconventional warfare units and technologically sophisticated terrorist groups such as the Islamic State.
The 6th (UK) Division was first established in 1812 by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, for service in the Peninsular War as part of the Anglo-Portuguese Army and was active for most of the period since, including the First World War and the Second World War. The modern division was reformed on 1 February 2008 as a deployable two star Headquarters for service in Afghanistan during Operation Herrick. The division was officially reformed with a parade and flag presentation at York on Tuesday 5 August 2008 and then closed in April 2011, until being reformed again on 1 August 2019 to replace Force Troops Command.
The new 6th Division is essentially a rebranded Force Troops Command, but with some adjustments. Previously, Force Troops Command comprised eight brigades: 8th Engineer Brigade, 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade, 1st Signal Brigade, 11th Signal Brigade and Headquarters West Midlands, 2nd Medical Brigade, 104th Logistic Support Brigade, 77th Brigade, 7th Air Defence Group.
In a statement released by the MOD, Lt Gen Jones added that the “6th Division focuses on Cyber, Electronic Warfare, Intelligence, Information Operations and unconventional warfare through niche capabilities such as the Specialised Infantry Battalions.”
Headquartered at Upavon, Wiltshire, the 6th (UK) Division is made up of specialist brigades from across the country. According to the British Army, the 6th comprises ten such brigades, but the new webpage for the formation lists only six of these:
1st Signal Brigade
1st Signal Brigade is, uniquely, under the Operational Command of both 6 (UK) Division and the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC). The Brigade provides Force Elements at readiness to the ARRC, Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ), the Joint Helicopter Force and other government departments. 1st Signal Brigade is composes of three units: 22 Signal Regiment provides the information communications systems to enable Commander ARRC to exercise command over the Corps; 30 Signal Regiment is responsible for enabling PJHQ’s deployable Joint Force Headquarters and supporting other High Readiness Formations such as the Very High Readiness Field Hospital, the Air Assault Task Force and Joint Helicopter Command; and 299 Signal Squadron (Special Communications) provides specialist communications support worldwide.
HQ 11th Signal and West Midlands Brigade
Headquarters 11th Signal and West Midlands Brigade is located at Donnington, near Telford and we cover the counties of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands conurbation. The Brigade has six Regular Army signal regiments and three Army Reserve signal regiments.
1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade
1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade became operational on 1 September 2014 and has responsibility for all British Army ISR capabilities. The Brigade is comprised of 19 units of 10 Regular and 9 Reserve units, approximately 3,300 Regular and 3,000 Reservist personnel, including elements from Royal Signals, Royal Artillery and all seven of the Army’s Military Intelligence battalions, as well as Specialist Group Military Intelligence, Land Intelligence Fusion Centre and the Defence Cultural and Linguistic Support Unit.
7th Air Defence Brigade
Headquartered at Baker Barracks, Thorney Island, 7th Air Defence Group commands the British Army’s Air Defence Capability. It is also responsible for detecting, identifying and tracking aircraft in support of UK Operations. 7 AD Gp is equipped with the Rapier missile that has seen service in the Falkland Islands, the High-Velocity Missile and the LEAPP target identification system. It is soon to upgrade to the new state-of-the-art SkySabre anti-aircraft missile system which it will start to be introduced later in the year.
The Formation is made up of: 12th Regiment Royal Artillery; 16th Regiment Royal Artillery; and 106 (Yeomanry) Regiment Royal Artillery (Reserve Regiment).
Based at Denison Barracks, Hermitage, the British Army describes the 77th Brigade as “an agent of change” using targeted information activity and outreach to contribute to the success of military objectives in support of Commanders as a fundamental part of the Army’s Integrated Action model. It currently comprises five groups: Information Activity Group; Task Group; Outreach Group; Support Group; and Staff Corps.
Specialised Infantry Group
Headquartered at Imphal Barracks, York, the Specialised Infantry Group was formed in October 2017, initially comprising only two battalions: 4 RIFLES and 1 SCOTS. In July 2018, the Group increased in size from two battalions to three (2 PWRR) and saw the arrival of the Joint Counter Terrorist Training and Advisory Team. 2 LANCS was added to its strength in January 2019, bringing the SIG up to four battalions. By October 2019, all units will deploy trained Spec Inf Coy’s on operations.
The Three Division Structure
This restructuring of the Field Army is described by the MOD as “part of the Army’s response to the emerging Defence thinking” intended to create a Field Army of integrated, interdependent and complementary formations from 1 Aug 2019.
1st (United Kingdom) Division
The 1st (United Kingdom) Division (1 (UK) Div), with its blend of lighter infantry, logistics, engineers and medics, will provide more strategic choice and a range of capabilities, conducting capacity building, stabilisation operations, disaster relief and UK resilience operations. It will include: 4th (Infantry) Brigade, 7th (Infantry) Brigade, 11th (Infantry) Brigade, 51st (Infantry) Brigade, 8th Engineer Brigade, 102nd Logistic Brigade, 104th Logistic Brigade, 2nd Medical Brigade.
3rd (United Kingdom) Division
The 3rd (United Kingdom) Division (3 (UK) Div) will remain as the Army’s primary armoured warfighting force comprising: 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade, 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade, 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade, 1st Artillery Brigade, 101st Logistic Brigade, 25th Engineer Group. The MOD statement also included the 7th Air Defence Group, but the British Army website clearly lists 7 AD Gp as part of the new 6th.
6th (United Kingdom) Division
The re-designation of Force Troops Command (FTC) to 6th (United Kingdom) Division (6 (UK) Div) will provide the Army’s asymmetric edge , orchestrating Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, Information Operations, Electronic Warfare, Cyber and unconventional warfare. 6 (UK) Div will include: 1st Signal Brigade, 11th Signal Brigade, 1st Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade, 77th Brigade, 7th Air Defence Group and the Specialist Infantry Group.
There will be no changes to personnel numbers, resourcing, cap badges or locations.
Image: from the webpage of the 6th (United Kingdom) Division, British Army (Crown Copyright, 2019).