I wonder if we are not underestimating the number of vehicles we need to have access to in order to sustain a deployed fleet?
Underestimating is a vague term. Ultimately it should include a target-sized fleet with estimates of wastage rates for a particular type of desired operation and an estimate of duration for how long those operations are to be maintained. We have none of those because we do not have a target theatre of operations nor a commitment which we are bound to.
When I look at the problem I use certain criteria which I admit are artificial but are based on current equipment holdings (with the assumption those will not be increased unless there is a change in defence policy) and the most economical way to maintain the objectives.
Those objectives are:
1) a capability to deploy and sustain one mechanized or armoured battlegroup (with one or two tank squadrons) indefinitely as a deterrent force.
2) to surge deploy one mechanized (60 tanks) or armoured brigade (74 tanks) as a deterrent show of force for limited periods of time.
3) to fight with that surged brigade and to sustain it until hostilities stop or the brigade's resources are exhausted and it is relieved by other forces.
There is no expectation of being able to sustain it indefinitely as we do not have the industrial configuration to do that.
Essentially the limit is the equipment deployed "all in" with the exception of a small training force back home. Personnel are provided at a 6 to one (preferably 9 to 1) ratio during stage 1) and with a 2 to 1 (preferably 3 to 1) ratio for stage 2) and 3).
The rough ratio of 30/70 RegF/ResF achieves an ability to have a core of trained professionals to maintain both equipment and skills and to have the depth to expand in crisis.
It wasn't clear to me whether the author was talking man-hours or tank-hours per year but either way our older steamboat assumptions seem to need revisiting.
I took it as man hours. I always go back to my experience with the M109s. Our establishment roughly averaged a seven man detachment to look after an M109 and its M548 limber (with other tracked vehicles averaging around 4 people per) and 10 men who were vehicle technicians (there were also weapons, radio and electronics techs) for a fleet of roughly 21 tracked and roughly 15 wheeled vehicles. Typically we would have three to four firing exercises plus run a tracked driver course each year. We managed to keep it all serviceable unless there was a parts shortage which occasionally occurred. Our flyover prepositioned battery in Germany had a full maintenance detachment plus a BK and clerk and its equipment was maintained at 100% readiness with one, sometimes two exercises per year. When not working on their own gear, the maintainers would provide support to the other three batteries who conducted significantly more training on their own equipment.
I expect that the automotive side of maintenance has not changed much since then albeit that electronics maintenance is undoubtedly much more complex. Electronics and optics in my day was mostly component switch out which requires a supply of spare parts. Actual repair was workshop. Some was doable by our own regimental techs and some requiring backloading to a more complex workshop or factory.
My point here is that you need a functioning system and the right holding of spares. We had that mostly and thus were able to keep everything rolling with a low VOR rate. A small gap in the chain (such as insufficient electronic spares to swap out) will take an otherwise functioning vehicle off the road. If you do not maintain the entire system, it will fail. Tracked maintenance is not rocket science. A few trained technicians assisted by trained crewmen for the muscle work can do a lot ... if the supply chain keeps them supplied with replacement components.
From today's Telegraph
German Chancellor's indecision over deliveries of Leopard tanks criticised by coalition partners
40/264 = 15% of the fleet available.
To be fair it is not stated the readiness of the other two battalions. They could be much higher.
But even allowing for that, is it worthwhile counting 15% battalions as part of the operational fleet? Doesn't it make as much sense to take those battalion tanks and put them into an OEM reserve from which to maintain the readiness of the two high readiness battalions?
On the 24/7 battlefield there is, to my mind, a strong argument for shift work - meaning, effectively, multiple crews for each weapon system while, at the same time, reducing the number of people needed to operate the system effectively in combat.
Germany has consistently reported poor readiness rates over the years since the end of the Cold War. One problem with the RegF/Res/F construct. You cannot count on the ResF for running maintenance. A true Class A ResF is barely able to have enough time to learn the basics of operating and maintaining their equipment but cannot contribute the "end of exercise" maintenance required. For that you need full-timers. If the equipment is shared then you need to build in maintenance cycles with full-timers. Typically that would be at the end of the summer (when most of your ResF training is finished) and at the end of your RegF annual training cycle (typically at the end of spring/before the summer with some additional minor breaks just before and during the winter.
I do not count Class B reservists employed on maintenance as "reservists". To me its either assigned full-time crews (RegF or Class B) or part-time crews (Class A). The characteristics of a proper reserve is to having a cheaper and adequately trained stand-by force that you can call on to bulk out deployments when needed (including, if available, for pre and post summer maintenance cycles). Year-round, peacetime Class Bs are not cheaper than RegF ones.
I think basing numbers on German readiness is probably a flawed premise. Firstly we have no idea what the standard of “ready” is for a German tank, and secondly we don’t know what effect their budget has really had in part and maintenance.
I like the idea of Reservist crews; I’m a big fan of the British system of having regiments of “crew replacements” who can train on existing systems.
To varying extents the artillery is doing that. ResF artillery units use the same basic command post equipment and procedures. FOOs are trained as dismounted observers but not on the LAV OPV or as JTACs. Guns are trained on the C3 but there are M777 conversion courses and detachment commander courses available. During Afghanistan a typical battery deployed with a 15% strength of reservists and we are sending them to Latvia as well.
I think to optimize the system you need to have hybrid units sharing equipment where the RegF command team is responsible for training both components.
Roles and tasks for Res F units need to be aligned with proximity of training areas and equipment and, where possible, Reg F units, not WWII end-state tasks for units that may well have been re-roled multiple times from '39-45.
While close physical proximity certainly helps, the important thing is to align command authority and responsibility between the RegF and ResF units. One can always reposition some equipment for training and transport people to training areas. The current system does not align authority or responsibility below the division. It needs to be at the unit level. My personal thought is that ResF battalions/regiments be right-sized as subunits and put under the command of an appropriate RegF unit - hence the 30/70 concept. The Brits currently team ResF battalions in RegF brigades with teaming between battalions. I have yet to see a decent analysis of how well that works. I have my doubts that it is much better than our own current system.