This is a work of fiction created for the Twilight 2000 Role Playing Game. Original material © Dave Ross

1990 Strategic Defence Review 
(Options For The Future)

Commonly known as Options for the Future (or simply Options), the 1990 Strategic Defence Review was the fourth such Review since the end of the Second World War (although many of the recommendations put in the 1981 Review were abandoned in the wake of the 1982 Falklands War). Whilst the UK’s defence policy continued to focus on joint NATO operations, Options also attempted to address lessons learned from the Falklands.


The British Army


Whilst the Regular Army’s overall strength remained relatively constant the structure of many of the Support arms was changed, with a number of different Corps being amalgamated into two new ones – the Royal Logistics Corps (formed by the amalgamation of the Royal Corps of Transport, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, the Royal Army Pioneer Corps, the Army Catering Corps, and the Royal Engineers’ Postal and Courier Service) and the Adjutant General’s Corps (formed from the Royal Army Educational Corps, the Royal Army Pay Corps, the Women’s Royal Army Corps, the Army Legal Corps, the Corps of Royal Military Police, and the Military Provost Staff Corps).


The Combat arms remained largely unchanged, although the Review recommended that two additional Infantry battalions be raised to provide greater flexibility for out of area operations (this had been one of the key points to come out of the Falklands War) Challenges were anticipated finding the manpower to form these Battalions however so in a move that was not without controversy, the Government turned to the one area where recruitment was not an issue – the Brigade of Gurkhas – and plans were set in motion to restore two Gurkha Battalions from “suspended animation” [Note 1], with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles became fully operational in 1992 and the 2nd Battalion, 6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha Rifles following a year later


Options also confirmed the replacement for the Challenger 1 Main Battle Tank, with an order being placed with Vickers Defence Systems to purchase the Challenger 2. Whilst it was intended that the Challenger 2 would eventually completely replace the Challenger 1, by the outbreak of the Twilight War in 1996, only five of the Royal Armoured Corps’ twelve MBT Regiments were completely equipped with Challenger 2, with the remainder still operating the Challenger 1 (the RAC Training Regiment – at the outbreak of the Twilight War the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars – was equipped with a mix of Challenger 1 and Challenger 2’s). The Chieftain tank gradually began to be phased out as the new Challengers came into service, and by the start of the Twilight War the only Chieftains in regular British Army service were those used by the Armoured Squadron based in Berlin (at the outbreak of War C Squadron, 14th / 20th King’s Hussars) and a number of engineering variants. With the exception of a small number transferred to the Territorial Army (see below) and a number sold to Oman, the RAC’s remaining stocks of Chieftains were placed in storage. A number were sold to the People’s Republic of China in late 1995 and early 1996, however the majority of the Chieftains would be brought back into British service from 1997 onwards to replace Challengers lost on the battlefield. The Royal Artillery also began to receive the new AS90 self propelled gun and the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System to replace its Abbot and M109 guns, whilst the Starstreak surface to air missile was scheduled to enter service in 1995, replacing the Javelin.


A requirement was also identified for a new attack helicopter to replace the Westland Lynx; this would lead to the signing of a contract in 1993 to purchase the AH64 Apache, with delivery scheduled to commence in 1997. World events would overtake this however and the Apache never entered Squadron service with the Army Air Corps, although four aircraft were delivered in 1995 for testing and evaluation purposes.


The Territorial Army was also affected by Options for Change; several TA Infantry Battalions were restructured, leading to a net gain of four Infantry Battalions. Under the new structure, it was intended that Battalions with a BAOR reinforcement role would consist of an HQ Company, three Rifle Companies, and a Support Company, whilst Battalions with a home defence role would have an HQ Company and four Rifle Companies (a few Home Defence Battalions would retain a Support Platoon). Additionally, the 51st (Highland) Infantry Brigade, which had previously served as an administrative HQ for TA units in Northern Scotland was reroled as an Operational Brigade, reinforcing the BAOR in time of War.


In an effort to bolster connections with their traditional recruiting areas, a number of Battalions were “rebadged” [2], while two new Yeomanry units were formed by reroling other TA units – the London Yeomanry was formed by the reroling of a Signals Regiment whilst the Scottish Yeomanry was formerly a Royal Corps of Transport Regiment. It was also planned that in addition to the above every TA Battalion, including those tasked with a BAOR reinforcement role, would include a Company of Home Service Force troops who would have a purely home defence role [3].


In another change the Royal Wessex Yeomanry swapped its home defence role for a BAOR reinforcement role and exchanged its Land Rovers for Chieftain Tanks, making it the TA’s only armoured unit (the Chieftains would themselves be exchanged for Challenger 1’s as the BAOR Regiments were reequipped with the Challenger 2). In an attempt to attract more recruits to the TA, the tax free bounty paid every year was increased slightly [4].


Notes


1. 'Suspended animation' is an officially used British Army term. Battalions placed in “suspended animation” have not formally been disbanded, but effectively they cease to exist. The two Gurkha Battalions were placed in suspended animation in 1968 (2nd Battalion, 6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha Rifles) and 1987 (2nd Battalion, 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles) respectively.


2. A process where a unit transfers from one Regiment to another, exchanging the Cap Badge of the old Regiment for that of the new one. The following Rebadgings took place as part of Options:


The Scottish Division

8th / 9th Battalion, Royal Scots formed from elements of 2nd Battalion, 52nd Lowland Volunteers

3rd Battalion, Royal Highland Fusiliers formed from elements of the 1st Battalion, 52nd Lowland Volunteers

4th / 5th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers formed from elements of 1st and 2nd Battalions, 52nd Lowland Volunteers

3rd Battalion, Black Watch formed from elements of 1st Battalion, 51st Highland Volunteers

3rd Battalion, Queen’s Own Highlanders formed from elements of 2nd Battalion, 51st Highland Volunteers

3rd Battalion, Gordon Highlanders formed from elements of 2nd Battalion, 51st Highland Volunteers

7th / 8th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders formed from 3rd Battalion, 51st Highland Volunteers


The Queen’s Division

1st Battalion, London Regiment formed from elements of 6th / 7th Battalion, Queen’s Regiment, 5th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and 1st Battalion, 51st Highland Volunteers

2nd Battalion, London Regiment formed from elements of 6th / 7th Battalion, Queen’s Regiment, 5th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and 4th Battalion, Royal Irish Rangers


The King’s Division

3rd Battalion, Prince of Wales’ Own Regiment of Yorkshire formed from 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Volunteers

4th / 5th Battalion, Green Howards formed from 1st Battalion, Yorkshire Volunteers

3rd Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment formed from 3rd Battalion, Yorkshire Volunteers

4th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment formed from 4th Battalion, Yorkshire Volunteers


The Prince of Wales’ Division

5th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment formed from 1st Battalion, Wessex Regiment

4th / 6th Battalion, Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment formed from elements 2nd Battalion, Wessex Regiment

4th / 5th Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment formed from elements 2nd Battalion, Wessex Regiment


3. The Home Service Force was established in the United Kingdom in 1982. It was linked to the Territorial Army (TA) and recruited from volunteers aged 18–60 with previous experience in any arm of the British forces (Regular or reserve), the police, or the cadet forces. It was introduced to guard key points and installations likely to be the target of enemy ‘special forces’ and saboteurs, so releasing other units for mobile defence roles.


4. For some months afterwards, Critics of Options For The Future would claim that raising new Gurkha Battalions and placing a greater emphasis on the TA was a way of increasing the Army’s strength “on the cheap”. Particularly vociferous criticism came from various sections of the national press, most noticeably the Daily Mail.



The Royal Air Force


Options confirmed the purchase of the Eurofighter for the Royal Air Force, with an initial order being placed for 250 aircraft, the first of which was scheduled to enter Squadron service with the RAF in 1996. As a stop gap measure the Phantom FGR2 would remain in service until then, being phased out as the Eurofighter came into service. The Tornado GR1 fleet was upgraded to GR4 standard (enhancements included a FLIR (Forward-Looking Infra Red) camera, a wide-angle HUD (Heads-Up Display), improved cockpit displays, NVG (Night Vision Goggles) capabilities, new avionics, and a Global Positioning System receiver), whilst the Harrier fleet was upgraded to the GR7A standard (upgraded avionics and an uprated power plant).


The Eurofighter project was beset with numerous delays and political wrangling however, and by the start of 1995 the expected in service date had been pushed back to 1998. Unwilling to rely on the aging Phantom fleet, the Ministry of Defence agreed a deal with the US Department of Defence to take delivery of a number of F16’s on a loan basis. The first batch of twenty eight aircraft was delivered during the second half of 1995, with a further twelve being delivered during 1996 [5], for a total of forty aircraft, which formed two Squadrons in Germany (where they replaced the Phantom FGR2 [6]) and an Operational Conversion Unit in the UK. Further deliveries were halted by the outbreak of the War. The F16 was known as the Falcon F1 in RAF service.


Half a dozen Eurofighters were delivered for testing and evaluation purposes prior to the outbreak of the Twilight War, all of which were pressed into service in the Air Defence role.


Notes


5. The initial twenty eight aircraft consisted of thirteen single seat F16A’s and fifteen two seat F16B’s which had originally been ordered by the Pakistani Air Force under the Peace Gate programme but were never delivered because of diplomatic wrangling between the US and Pakistani Governments. Lockheed upgraded these aircraft to the F16C/D Block 40 standard prior to delivering them to the UK. The remaining twelve were all brand new build single seat Block 40 F16C’s.


6. The Falcon Squadrons were 19 and 92 Squadrons, both of which were based at RAF Wildenrath. The OCU was based at RAF Honnington in England. The Phantom remained in service with 56 and 74 Squadrons, both of which were based at RAF Wattisham in England. Phantoms would also be deployed to Hong Kong and Cyprus in 1995 and 1996 respectively.


The Royal Navy


Like the Army, the Navy’s numbers remained relatively constant, however budget constraints meant that a number of projects were either downsized or abandoned altogether, most noticeably the replacement for the Batch 1 Type 42 destroyers first commissioned in the 1970s. The Navy’s three aircraft carriers remained in service, while a new Amphibious Assault Ship (HMS Ocean) was commissioned, entering service at the end of 1995. The Royal Marines were increased slightly in size, with 41 Commando being brought out of suspended animation, becoming fully operational at the start of 1993. The addition of this extra Commando allowed the Marines to keep a unit on standby for rapid deployment outside the NATO area without impacting on 3 Commando Brigade. Trident entered RN service as planned in 1994, as did the Vanguard Class submarine, although only HMS Vanguard and HMS Victorious entered service before the 1997 nuclear exchanges halted further production, meaning the older Polaris armed Resolution Class submarines remained in service.


Writer’s note


Please note this is a work of fiction created for the Twilight 2000 Role Playing Game and is not intended to be an accurate representation of the UK Government’s 1991 Defence Review “Options for Change”.  

RAF F16 pictured in the summer of 1996