Tuesday 16 July, 2024

British Army prepares for largest exercise in 20 years

The British Army is gearing up for its largest land exercise for over twenty years which will see around 8000 troops taking part.

Exercise Iron Titan will focus on the support elements of the 3rd (United Kingdom) Division and is being held across various locations in England and Wales.

The Division is actively training, experimenting with innovative ideas, and testing new concepts in just a few days after General Sir Patrick Sanders, the Chief of the General Staff, announced the restructuring of the British Army’s warfare strategy for future conflicts.

Brigadier General Matt Brown from the United States Army serves as the Deputy Commanding General of the Division and is responsible for assessing the effectiveness of the artillery, logistics, aviation, signals, and engineering units in achieving the “lethal, agile, expeditionary, and resilient” approach outlined by General Sanders:

“The synchronised delivery of these capabilities is how our Division fights – it’s how we generate tempo and maximise lethality to win. That lethality is underpinned by the kind of soldiers’ trust and cohesion that only come from sharing tough experiences. Even though we’re at home, the common challenges of distance, scale, weather, and the replicated enemy are making us all better.”

Known as The Iron Division, the 3rd (United Kingdom) Division consists of infantry and cavalry regiments that regularly engage in complex field exercises. The support teams responsible for providing combat service and sustaining frontline troops are exploring innovative ways to convey the General’s instructions to the battlefield.

The Division is composed of various groups, including the 1st Deep Reconnaissance Brigade Combat Team, 12th Armoured Brigade Combat Team, 20th Armoured Brigade Combat Team, 11 Signals Brigade, 101st Operational Sustainment Brigade, 7th Air Defence Group, 25 (Close Support) Engineer Group, 4 Military Intelligence Battalion, and 7 Military Intelligence Battalion.

As the UK’s strategic land warfare asset, the Iron Division can leverage the British Army’s substantial firepower and bring together various forces such as Reconnaissance, Armoured Cavalry, Armoured and Mechanised Infantry, Aviation, Artillery, Engineers, and Logistics, collectively referred to as “the full spectrum” of warfighting capability.

The Iron Titan 23 exercise will validate their readiness, from basic soldier skills to the specialized roles required to ensure that combat soldiers receive the right equipment at the right time. To succeed in a campaign, which could last an unknown duration, these supporting units must be as intensively trained as those on the front line, whether they work in the air or on the ground.

Because these units often operate over long distances, maintaining communication, safeguarding personal protection, and protecting frontline equipment and services are critical. The Combat Ready Training Centre (CRTC) has developed a scenario that will test how commanders coordinate their manoeuvres to achieve an integrated effect and secure routes to the imaginary frontline while the soldiers face pressure from Team Hannibal, who act as the enemy, disrupting logistics and preventing the delivery of firepower.

Major Paddy Pratt from the CRTC and his team are running the exercise: “Normally we are responsible for delivering collective training to infantry, but Iron Titan is the first divisional level exercise with a focus on logistics elements, Deep-Recce Strike, fires, engineers, and aviation. It is the first time we have had all those capabilities working together to deliver the 3rd (UK) Division required outputs.

“As we look towards how we fight in 2026 we are drawing on all of the lessons learnt from conflicts, particularly in Ukraine, to be able to design our training to make sure we are incorporating these and making training as relevant, realistic and current for soldiers so we make them as ready as possible to face the challenges of tomorrow.”

It is crucial for the 3(UK) Div to have interoperability with other countries as it prepares to “warfight” under the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, which is the UK’s NATO Corps, according to General Sanders speaking at DSEI 2023. As part of Exercise Iron Titan, Ghost Troop from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in the United States has been fully integrated into the reconnaissance capability of the Royal Lancers Battlegroup, which is part of the 1st Deep Recce Strike Brigade Combat Team.

Lieutenant Colonel Robin Davies, Commanding Officer The Royal Lancers explains: “Working with Ghost Troop on Exercise Iron Titan has provided a great opportunity for us to prove tactical-level interoperability between ourselves and the US Army. They are hugely professional and enthusiastic and have been a pleasure to work with.

“This training has deepened our understanding of each other’s tactics and procedures and has proved that we can communicate and integrate effectively. In doing so we have formed friendships and trust that are enduring and will be essential if we are called upon to fight side by side under a NATO banner in the future.”

Whilst this six-week exercise across the southwest of England and south Wales allows soldiers to innovate and experiment using their specialist technical skills, the lessons they learn will be a firm foundation to continue to train as they fight to win wars on land.

Brigadier General Matt Brown adds: “Exercise Iron Titan is all about our readiness to fight and win. We’re in direct support of Op Mobilise, the Field Army’s ‘How We Fight 26’ direction, and we’re developing real proficiency in the fundamentals of our profession along the way.”

“In the largest sense, how we fight in the near future is a product of how we prepare ourselves today – and we couldn’t be prouder of the way the entire team is leaning into this training.”

Neil Ritchie
Neil Ritchie
Neil Ritchie is the founder and editor of DefenceToday.com. Neil has a keen interest in the UK armed forces and national security issues as well as global defence procurement and cyber security matters. He also researches and writes about Scottish and military history.

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