‘No Comms, No Bombs’
‘The changing operating environment and threat environment faced by western militaries is ever changing and the UK and its allies must be able to deter and be ready to defend ourselves’. The Defence Secretary’s speech at RUSI outlines challenges the UK military will face in the future, which is predicted to be more contested, connected, congested, cluttered and constrained. In CGRM’s recent transformational concept ‘Designing for the Future’, he not only attempts to mitigate risk against these threats but also adapt how the Corps operate in a vanguard response to the Modernising Defence Programme. This transformation will take time from concept to reality and the Signals specialisation must be ready to respond and adapt. This paper will initially articulate proposals to develop Signals vocational training and latterly how the branch could be restructured to support the Future Commando Force (FCF) and Littoral Strike Unit/Group (LSU/G).
Current basic Signals vocational training produces a Suitable Qualified and Experienced Personnel (SQEP) signaller who can operate tactical communication systems, including Multi Mode Radios. This meets the current demands. The training pathway for vocational signallers equates to nearly a year of training by the rank of Sergeant. This does not account for in-role training to maintain developments in current systems, nor standard commando role training.
Various departments, have worked on projects to develop a credible model future force, focusing on the conversion of 2 manoeuvre units (40 and 45 Cdo RM) and to rapidly transform 3 Cdo Bde RM well before the current FCF 2035 vision, with LCG (FCF FOC) Q1 2022. The proposal for a Future Commando Force forward deployed as a LSU(N) and LSU(S) could offer a aggregated ‘outside force’ effect (LSG) in war fighting and crisis response or deploy as a disaggregated strategic raiding ‘inside force’, operating in offensive littoral operations against key targets. Force elements could well see themselves dislocated at distance from the LSU/LSG, operating outside the working ranges of tactical radio equipment and reliant on strategic reach back systems.
Today’s training meets the established role requirements, but we must look to the future structures and roles highlighted if we are to adapt appropriately. Changes to course structure should be implemented to accommodate Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) and Size Weight and Power systems being used now and for future capabilities. To enable additional training some elements of current course content could be refined or removed to optimise what is and will be delivered. JNCO and SNCO courses conduct induction exercises and revision periods on the ComBAT modules 1, 2 and 3, which are not training objectives, with increasing obsolescence. An argument could be put forward that these exercises and periods are not required. Identified periods such as this could be used to refocus. Similarly, training activity on Cyber Electromagnetic Activity (CEMA) would educate key personnel and allow the benefits of counter measures to permeate across the wider team. These are a taste of some easy areas to increase focus. To embrace technological advances and computer-based training, resources such as the Defence Learning Environment (DLE) should be exploited. Implementation of pre-course training objectives, reading material, Defence Writing and ComBAT modules could reduce the training burden and help to improve resource efficiency – saving time on course. Additionally, task books or online platforms at unit level could be introduced to record continuous professional development. The RN adopts a similar approach to training and promotion, which avoids a ‘training spike’ prior to command or trade courses. Changes to training has already started with funding allocated for bespoke classes on some of the areas noted. This will certainly enhance training, especially at the Det Comd level and will ensure personnel are SQEP on both tactical and strategic systems.
The Signals branch is responsive and adopts agile processes, however developing new concepts must be reviewed regularly with efficient allocation of time and resources to refine prior to implementation. This is no truer for the adoption of Information Warfare (IW), which encompasses C5I. This forward-thinking approach has already begun to optimise the delivery of Signals training in conjunction with the Clerks and Combat Intelligence specialisations, where Information Assurance and Management is at the very core of the capability. Increasing and maximising collaborative training opportunities will better train the student groups, as well as the introduction of collaborative working within a challenging environment. There is potential to advise and develop architecture and software to enhance this collaborative working, particularly with the rise of Artificial Intelligence and the commercial sector leading on many designs. This leads itself to discuss the idea for future amalgamation of the Signals, Clerks, Information Systems and Combat Intelligence specialisations in becoming sub-specs under the umbrella of an IW Branch which would link to the RN IW blueprint, for better linkages with our parent service.
Force development is currently looking into FCF information concepts. Work will need to analyse and adapt to provide agile and robust C2 nodes in a reduced Command Post (CP) footprint. This could potentially decrease the number of deployed planning staff requiring bandwidth, and ultimately the number of signallers to establish and support the C2. Careful consideration will be needed to ensure the balance is right. However, any reduction in CP numbers could be reinvested in low-level support of the disaggregated CONEMP, providing tactical formations (Section / Troop) the specialist signallers to enable strategic reach back, along with the benefits of any re-role of IW noted above. This would be predicated on any changes to Brigade/Unit level CP configuration.
This paper articulates proposals to develop Signals vocational training and how the branch could be restructured to support the FCF and LSU/LSG. There must be collective coherence from across the communications community for the Signals specialisation to remain agile and adapt to incorporate new technology, new equipment and changes in procedures. Agile C2 capabilities should be a priority for the LSU/G if it is to be successful. An increase of CIS systems trials requires effective control and management to ensure the results and proposed implementation is disseminated down and out. Surging instructors to Units could be established to update and train personnel on new systems if not captured at initial training. Developments should lead to an CONEMP review, with the commensurate redesign of vocational training. Future discussion and proposals for an IW branch or rebranding of Signallers to IW Operator or Specialist should occur.
Although Signals training and manpower structures are not optimised for the information age today, adjustments to vocational courses and role realignment will produce a SQEP ‘IW Operator’ capable of operating in current and future tactical, strategic communications and information systems. The challenge for organisations and training is keeping up with the pace of change, particularly technology. The Signals branch needs to remain relevant to ensure that it meets current requirements but should also look ahead and plan for future systems. If we wish to shape the world, rather than be shaped by it, we need a fundamental shift in the way we think, act and invest. The Corps and the Signals branch have been challenged to get ready for the future and to develop with a fluid mindset, acknowledging that this transformation will take time from concept to reality.
 Defence Secretary The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP, Defence in Global Britain speech 11 Feb 2019.
 Strategic Trends Programme, Future Operating Environment 2035, 6th Edition.
 CGRM, Designing for the Future – A Transformational Concept, dated 2 Mar 18.
 3 Cdo Bde RM, Generating and Operating 2 x Littoral Strike Groups, dated 10 Dec 18.
 Key targets: C2, Anti Access & Anti Denial (A2AD) nodes, logistics and lines of communication.
 C5I encompasses the term Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Collaborative and Intelligence.
 Joint Concept Note 2/18. Information Advantage.