Senior UK general says Ukraine war lessons should reshape defence priorities
According to Maj Gen Charles Collins, the UK Assistant Chief of the General Staff, the Ukraine War has highlighted the British Army's shortcomings while also underlining the continuing need for boots on the ground in conflicts.
Writing in the British Army Review, Collins said that the focus on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency has left the army deficient in areas such as air defence, long-range fires, uncrewed aerial systems, and electronic warfare. He added that outdated assumptions about warfighting have led to a lack of preparedness for high-intensity combat.
However, sounding a note of optimism, he said that current Chief of the General Staff, Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, has mobilised the army to correct course.
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Collins said that the army's mobilisation under the Future Soldier plan remains a key focus, with five lines of effort. These include building a combat-credible force, supporting Ukraine through Operation Interflex training schemes, meeting the requirements of NATO's New Force Model, addressing productivity and reinforcing leadership in NATO. The army is believed to have already trained over 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers and continues to enhance its capabilities in this area.
The mobilisation of the army in support of Ukraine is an acknowledgment that the return of visceral, high-intensity land warfare to Europe has thrown its core purpose into sharp relief. Collins said that it has repudiated the arguments that British policy should prioritise the cyber, space, air and maritime domains instead of land warfare.
However, he added that the army faces challenges in mobilising, as it is only three years into the decade of delivery for Future Soldier and has only delivered 40% of the promised organisational changes. Collins also acknowledged that the prevailing financial climate in the UK also poses a challenge, although Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may announce an increase in the defence budget
In conclusion, Collins said that despite some progress, challenges remain and the army must seek opportunities amongst them to accelerate its modernisation.
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