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UK artillery has nearly 15% personnel shortfall

04 September 2019 Tim Ripley

Frontline units of the British Army's artillery branch are nearly 15% short of their regular and reserve personnel, according to data released to Jane's under the UK's Freedom of Information (FOI) Act on 30 August.

The data shows that the Royal Artillery only had some 6,640 trained personnel in its 17 frontline regular and reserve regiments on 1 April 2019, against a workforce requirement of some 7,784 personnel. This shortfall of 1,144 personnel represents some 14.69% of its personnel requirement.

While the 12 regular or active duty regiments were some 562 personnel or 9.6% short of their required number of soldiers and officers, the five reserve regiments were 582 or 29.36% short of personnel.

According to the breakdown of the data by regiments, only one of the 17 artillery regiments - 32 Regiment, which operates Desert Hawk mini unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) - had more troops than its workforce requirement.

The worst recruited regiment was the Royal Artillery sole Watchkeeper UAV equipped unit, 47 Regiment, which was 178 personnel short of its 548 requirement.

The next worse unit was the 105 mm Light Gun equipped 29 Regiment, which was 90 personnel short. This regiment is assigned to support 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines and is required to be at high readiness for amphibious missions. Coming close behind with a shortage of 89 troops was 26 Regiment, which is in the process of relocating from Germany to Larkhill on Salisbury Plain. The other regular regiments have shortfalls ranging from 15 to 61 soldiers.

Shortfalls of personnel in the Royal Artillery's five reserve units is significantly worse than in regular regiments, which have a combined strength of 1,400 troops compared to a requirement for 1,982 soldiers and officers. The worse recruited unit is 101 (Northumbrian) Regiment, which is the only reserve unit to operate the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

The Army Headquarters Secretariat at Andover in Hampshire, which provided the FOI data, denied the shortages of personnel would impact on operational availability, saying "although workforce requirements demonstrate the planned strength for each unit, they (or their sub-units) will deploy at the necessary strength for the operation, backfilled by the wider army as required.

The current manning level is therefore not a direct reflection of a unit's ability to be deployed."

Jane's reported in September 2018 on the shortfall in personnel in the British Army's infantry battalions and it would appear from this latest data that the Royal Artillery is not immune from the same recruiting and retention problems.

The 9.6% personnel shortages facing regular regiments of the Royal Artillery are just over 1% above the average shortfall for the rest of the British Army as of 1 April 2019, which was 8.5%, according to the most recent Ministry of Defence quarterly service personnel statistics.

The shortages facing the Royal Artillery reserve regiments will be of particular concern to senior British Army commanders. On 1 April 2019 the Army Reserve was some 10% short of its recruiting target of 30,100, but the Royal Artillery shortfall in reserve regiments was nearly three times that figure.

Tim Ripley is a contributor to a variety of Jane's products. This text originally appeared in Jane's Defence Weekly.

Posted 04 September 2019 by Tim Ripley, Correspondent, Jane’s Defence Weekly



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