How to fix ... the Irish Land Forces (Army and Army Reserve)

To join NATO appears to be in fashion, and there's occasionally talk about whether Ireland should join. I took this as a welcome thought experiment.
My conclusions are not terribly different from my other "How to fix..." blog posts, especially the Belgian one.
Another relevant article is the one about a 'budget brigade' that aged fairly well:
Super-brief introductions on real existing Irish land forces are
I cross-checked the equipment claims with my (dated) Jane's Infantry Weapons book and they check out (not identical info, but plausible that the few changes happened that way since the book was published).
So, first things first. Is the notorious "2% GDP military spending requirement" something to be applied to Ireland?
No, that's total bollocks on every angle. For starters, there's no such requirement to any NATO member. It's made-up nonsene, a scam.

The same reasoning applies as with Belgium:
My stance is that membership in a large alliance does NOT mean that you need to pay more to be a "good" ally and actually helper to some of the most aggressive alliance members. The purpose is to enable small powers to achieve deterrence and defence in the first place to maintain peace and sovereignty and secondarily it makes security and defence cheaper. 

A simple model shows this; two countries are border on each other and a third, larger and threatening country. Going alone they would need to maintain armed forces to deter an attack by the bigger neighbour on their own, and deter by being able to inflict punishing damage on both neighbours at once if they attack. An alliance between the two smaller countries enables them to not consider each other as a threat any more, and to spend roughly half as much as without the alliance, for they would stand together against aggression by their larger neighbour.

It's a simple, reasonable and rational principle - and utterly covered up by the nonsense that politicians spew about how smaller allies should spend much on their military [...] because they are in an alliance.
It makes no sense for Ireland to create a fast jet air force. It would be tiny and irrelevant. Air policing over Ireland is not an issue. Who's supposed to violate their airspace? Tu-95 flying a long distance just to annoy Ireland and NATO? And what would be the harm in that? Why would they overfly Ireland if no air policing is present, but not if it's present? It's not as if NATO fighters would actually shoot down a Russian military aircraft only because it violates sovereign air space of a NATO country. The fighters would accompany it, shoot some tracer rounds past the Tu-95 for warning and intimidation, document the transgression and then return.

It makes no sense to set up a real navy, either. Again, it would be tiny and irrelevant to collective defence.

This is why I pay attention to the land forces instead (also ignoring the helos, which have mostly domestic functions that could be done by civilian helos as well).

The simplistic equipment list of the Irish Army looks acceptable quality-wise, though some additions are advisable. I wouldn't have picked most of that gear on a clean slate force design, but there's no good reason to spend much on replacing the kit (unless it's -unknown to me- worn out already).

Keep in mind, I write this as a superficial case study to apply some of my rather general thoughts (opinions based on reasoning), not as a real recommendation by someone who knows what exactly is wrong with the Irish Army (and there's always something wrong in any army). 
The current army has a mostly domestic role, though it also features some equipment that does not quite fit to that (Javelin ATGMs, which were very new high-tech when they were introduced about two decades ago). I'll pretend that the domestic tasks (such as disaster aid) can still be met satisfactorily with the structure that I propose.
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The multiple brigades make little sense in a context of about 7,000 army personnel. A highly agile small brigade type might be small enough that two brigades would make sense, but there's no reason why one should expect such a thing from Ireland.

Thus I say they should consolidate into one brigade with some reservist components, some capability additions to get ready for conventional warfare in Europe and with the logistics to support such a brigade on the continent. Additionally, the participation in non-combat blue helmet missions requires some more abilities.

For the continental warfare part; that's mostly what I wrote in the 'budget brigade' blog post, minus the tanks.
For blue helmet missions: I assume a deployment of a company or two of infantry with protected wheeled vehicles. They would benefit greatly by a tailored sustainment company, a detachment for military intelligence and passive EW and sensor drones, engineers with demining/EOD and construction equipment, a military police detachment with investigative capabilities, a Civ-Mil relations detachment, a small workshop, a medical detachment and attached snipers.
HQ Company (including signals detachment and MP plt)
2 Infantry Battalions (including the Piranha III vehicles, each one sniper plt)
1 Reserve Infantry Battalion (no AFVs, only light equipment in sealed storage - no cannibalisation)
1 Artillery Battalion (24 105 mm guns, 120 mm mortars, RBS-70)
1 Sensing Battalion (small; drones, passive EW, MI cell)
1 Logistics Battalion (incl. workshop, medical teams)
1 Engineer Company
1 CivMil team

So why no tanks this time? It would be a significant investment to add those (even assuming they're refurbished M1A2s and M88s), add huge operating expenses and are not absolutely necessary for defence of a frontline + attacks with (very) limited objectives. The current crop of Russian tanks can be defeated en masse without 105...125 mm tank guns.
I would add some M1043 (lightly armoured HMMWV) and M997 (HMMWV MedEvac vehicle). I'm normally no proponent of this vehicle class, but such vehicles are dirt cheap (especially refurbished ones) compared to new-built ones, and the newer designs followed a bad path with excessive emphasis on IED protection. IEDs and AT mines would not be relevant to the Irish Army's missions, not even be important in blue helmet missions. I'd hand over the aforementioned M1043s to the artillery (which has 24 105 mm guns, 120 mm mortars and forward observer teams). I'm not sure if a M1043 can properly tow a M118/M119, though (base HMMWV can do). These British light field howitzers are significantly heavier than the less durable French competitor, the LG1.
Logistics vehicles would need to be added, but this can be done with a low cost strategy
A lot of flying drones should be procured, primarily as standoff sensors with bird's view advantage. An overflight of hostile forces or their terrain would be more ambitious and thus either more expensive or a less trustworthy capability. I'm inclined towards a mix of tethered multicopters (should be fine for up to 30 kph base vehicle speed) and VTOL fixed wing drones (easy and safe operation combined with good endurance and not giving away the base vehicle's location so easily). The sensors should be zoomable E/O, zoomable IIR and (in a tethered type only) also passive 30...88 MHz listening and direction finding to map emitting tactical radios.
Forward observer teams and infantry platoons would have their own quadcopters with zoomable E/O camera (sensitive enough to sense near infrared illuminators at 500 m distance at night) and a thermal camera. DJI Mavic 3 quality with encrypted datalink and trustworthy control software (including returning based on INS if contact is lost) would make sense.

Some kind of effective yet affordable counter to small flying drones needs to be found and introduced, but this should be a MOTS (military off the shelf) purchase with zero R&D expenses for Ireland. It's fairly obvious that there should be some battlefield radars, which should also detect and track drones. I do generally prefer a mast-mounted solution for this, though a portable one could be mounted on roofs of buildings - ideally both would be of one type. Giraffe 1X is a candidate, but there are more candidates.
Spares and munitions (save for Javelin) should suffice for at least two years of peacetime operation + 30 days of combat. Munition storage sites do not need hardening, just sabotage & theft protection. The Javelins, the Javelin 1st generation command launch units and the RBS-70 missiles may be in need of refurbishment.
Expenses for "interoperability" should be limited to getting compatible signals equipment at brigade level. All other communications compatibility needs can be handled by neighbouring allied forces detaching a liaison team to Irish battalion command teams or by detaching a forward observer team (JFST).
The detachment of officers to NATO institutions should be minimised. There's nothing to be gained from participating in those anyway. Playing with big boys is no value in itself for the nation, and officers who want to do it for their own fun may do it while on unpaid leave if they insist.
The readiness should suffice to get the brigade without the blue helmet-deployed elements to Suwalki/Poland within 20 days, at 90% (fully trained) personnel, material and supplies (for 3 combat days) strength excluding the reserve infantry battalion. This includes a couple days for calling up reservists and giving them a refresher training of several days. The assumption is that the armoured vehicles would be shipped to Hamburg for further self-deployment (1000 km or 18 hrs driving time under peacetime conditions to Suwalki/Poland).
The further munitions should be stored on pallets that can easily be loaded into, stacked in and transported by commercial semi-trailer vehicles. These would need to be commandeered and driven by reservists in case of an emergency.

The Irish should not spend more for the military after joining NATO, as this would be senseless. They would not really gain security by joining, so why spending more? To join NATO would be mostly a symbolic affair, as "NATO" is increasingly synonymous with the Western society system and civilisation in Europe.

Thus ways to cut expenses should be sought and found, and so far I only wrote about things that sound like adding expenses. A reduction of personnel strength and some reductions during the restructuring process would have to offer savings and I have a hunch that all army ranks above Colonel are bollocks for them. Eight ranks (recruit to Colonel) should suffice in this case.
There's a minimum threshold in my opinion; it's about motivation of the troops and national self-respect. One decent brigade is IMO the minimum for a nation of Ireland's size in NATO. Anything below that would make sense as an army. To go any cheaper than one decent brigade would only make sense if it's about forming an anti-occupation and disaster aid militia incapable of conventional warfare. That would rather suit a neutral Ireland than a NATO member Ireland, though.

I hardly mentioned the reserves. It makes little sense to have a smaller formation than a brigade as the army's active component, and if a proper light brigade already risks asking for a budget increase, then the budget does not offer room for large reserves, regardless of their cost efficiency. I do thus conclude that the best choice for the army reserve would be a decently-administrated individual reserve in order to have all the logistics vehicles drivers, demolition experts, EOD experts, emergency room doctors (including for eye and burn injuries), emergency room nurses, motor vehicle mechanics, reserve infantry battalion perosnnel and generally individual replacements that they need in an alliance emergency. Personnel that left service after serving in the infantry battalions (or the rangers, which I consider pointless and its civilian tasks could and should be met by a police unit) would be available to fill out the reserve infantry battalion.


1 comment:

  1. If I understand developments correctly, there's a trend towards unmanned systems that are to a degree autonomous, but all communicate thru a network. Such an importance of networks seems a general trait of our societies, including the military, and Ireland is a key digital hub of Europe. What measures can be done by Ireland to secure the communication of their forces, the population and industry of their allies?