The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an European nation off the north-west coast of France. It was offically founded in 1707 by the Act of Union which linked the nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Later in 1921, the Southern and Western counties of Ireland became independant and formed the Republic of Ireland. The remaining six northern counties stayed under British control to form Northern Ireland. The British flag called the Union Flag (more commonly and erroneously reffered to as the Union Jack) is a combination of the English, Scottish and Irish flags. The UK still plays an active role in global politics and at the height of its power controlled more than a third of the entire globe - the largest empire in global history.
Before 1707 the nations of Britain had massive experience of warfare. Examples of this include the 100 years war with France, the various wars between the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish, the War of the Roses, the wars with France and Spain in the Tudor era and the English Civil War. The British military is widely considered to be one of the best in the world, with a military expenditure similar to that of China. The Modern British military is made up of the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and British Army:
The British Army is quite small by modern world wide standards with only around 96,000 regulars and 200,000 reserves. Despite this, it is widely regarded as one of the most well trained and professional fighting force in the world with vast experience and fighting pedigree.
The British Army maintains several corps of Infantry, Armour/Cavalry, Artillery, Signals, Engineers, Electrical & Mechanical Specialists, Aviation, Medical, Logistics, Intelligence, Special Forces and a plethora of smaller corps.
The main infantry weapon is the L85A2 (more commonly known as the SA80A2) assault rifle which is a highly accurate and reliable weapon, firing the standard NATO 5.56mm round. The rifle comes with a SUSAT telescopic sight as standard and can be fitted with a bayonet, rifle grenage and the AG36 under barrel grenade launcher. Other standard infantry weapons include the L9A1 9mm Browning pistol and Sig Sauer 226 9mm pistol, L86A2 5.56mm light support weapon (used in the designated marksmans role), L110A1 5.56mm FN Minimi Para light machine gun, L7A2 7.62mm FN MAG General Purpose Machine Gun, L129A1 7.62mm Sharpshooter Rifle, L115A3 8.58mm Long Range Rifle, Barret M82 12.7mm Anti Material Rifle and the L128A1 Benelli Combat Shotgun.
Heavy infantry weapons and anti armour ordnance include the L2A1 12.7mm Machine gun, Heckler & Koch 40mm Grenade Machine Gun, L9A1 51mm mortar, M6-640 60mm mortar, L16 81mm mortar, MBT LAW Light Anti-Armour Weapon, FGM-148 Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Missile, L72A9 Light Anti-Structure Munition and MATADOR Anti-Structure Munition.
The British Army, like most modern armies, fields a wide array of vehicles for many purposes. Britian's current Main Battle Tank (MBT) is the Challenger 2. The Challenger is armed with a 120mm rifled L30A1 cannon (capable of firing APFDS, HESH and HEAT rounds), L94A1 7.62mm chain gun and L37A2 7.62mm pintle mounted machine gun. It is protected by a heavily modified version of British Chobam armour, known as Dorchester. So effective was the armour, it was said (until recently) the only thing that could crack a Challenger was another Challenger. Only 2 have been lost in combat; the first being destroyed by another Challenger, the other being immobalised by a massive shaped charge. Unlike many modern MBTs, The Challenger 2 does not have an auto loader, but instead maintains the position of loader in the crew, after exhaustive testing concluded that autoloaders were more likely to fail and reduced the potential survivability of any MBT. Well trained crews have proven that they are able to keep the rate of fire to a comparable level with tanks equipped with auto loaders (e.g. the German Leopard 2). The rifled gun used by the Challenger is also considerably more accurate compared to its smoothbore counterparts. The L30A1 Gun holds the world record for longest range tank vs tank kill in history. The Challenger 2 is also reported to be the worlds fastest MBT across rough ground.
The main Infantry Fighting Vehicle (or Armoured Personel Carrier) used is the highly versatile, adaptable and rugged FV510 Warrior IFV. It is armed with a L21A1 30mm RARDEN cannon, capable of firing HE, AP and Canister shot and a L94A1 7.62mm chain gun. The Warrior is designed to carry 7 fully armed soldiers plus equipment, but can generally find more room when asked.
The main aiborne attack asset open to the British Army is the AugustaWestland WAH64/AH1 Apache Attack Helicopter (a modified, license built version of the US Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow). While the armament is identical to it's American counterpart, the Westland Apache has been fitted with more powerful (and more reliable) Rolls-Royce engines, increasing top speed and decreasing time required to maintain them. The Westland Apache was also fitted with the BAE Systems/SELEX Helicopter Integrated Defensive Aids System, a multifunctional countermeasure system, capable of automatically identifying an incoming threat and activating the correct countermeasure to deal with the threat. The upgrades have made the Westland Apache the deadliest helicopter of its kind in the NATO arsenal.
The RAF is the world's oldest air force, originally created as the Royal Flying Corps in 1911. The RAF has around 1000 planes, of which around 450 are combat aircraft. The RAF's most common strike and attack aircraft are the Panavia Tornado and EuroFighter Typhoon. Future frontline aircraft will include the F35 JSF Lightning II, which will be Britain's first stealth capable aircraft. Other aircraft it uses are for intelligence like the Norman-Islander, transport like the Westland Merlin or Puma or bombing like the Reaper drone. The RAF operates a Airfield defence corps called the RAF regiment which was formed in 1942 by Royal Order. The RAF Regt. uses the same weapons as the British army and is around 2500 strong. Both RAF and RAF Regt. contribute men and assets to aid British Special Forces.
The Royal Navy is the oldest force in the British Military, being formed in the early 1600's. It is known in the British military community as the 'Senior Service'. Between 1640-1943 it was the largest and most powerful navy on earth. The Royal Navy is a specalist blue-water navy, one of the few left in the world and of substantial size in relation to Britain herself. It has 80 commissioned ships and submarines (not including patrol boats or training vessels) in service as of June 2010. The Royal Navy controls the UK's stock of 150 trident nuclear warheads, which are maintained in Scotland except for the single Nuclear Submarine that is always at sea. Despite the recent defence cuts in the UK the Royal Navy is actually being upgraded with 2 Queen-Elizabeth class carriers have been ordered along with several new type 26 frigates and upgraded Westland Lynx helicopters for the Fleet Air Arm. The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm operates in much the same way as the RAF and is also awaiting delivery of its new F35 Lightning II Stealth Fighters.
The Royal Navy is also home to The Royal Marines Commandos; Britain's elite corps of marines, serving as fleet protection and light infantry. Sharing the same infantry weapons as the army, the Royal Marines are widely regarded as the best soldiers in the world outside the special forces community (although it is not uncommon for RMCs to carry out missions more akin to special forces). To qualify as Royal Marines, recruits must face the gruelling Commando Course, which has a 90% fail rate, and is the longest training regieme of any non-special forces unit in the world. The Royal Marines are the forerunners of modern elite infantry practice, and quickly earned a reputation for their ferocity, dedication to duty and legendary sense of humour.
The Special Air Service is the world's most senior special forces unit, being formed in the early 1940's. Little was known about the SAS until they were projected to super-stardom with their execution of the Iranian Embassy seige in 1980. Each SAS regiment maintains 4 specialist sub-units known as 'Troops'; Air Troop (airborne), Mountain Troop (mountain and arctic warfare), Mobility Troop (experts in vehicular and desert combat, the real ancestors of the SAS) and Boat Troop (Naval specialists, who often train with the SBS).
As grandfather of the special forces world, and with invaluable experience, the SAS is frequently called upon to train the special forces units of other nations (e.g. Delta Force was created on the recommendation of an American officer serving on exchange with the SAS) Most NATO special forces units are based entirely on the SAS, some even sharing the famous motto; "Who Dares Wins". The SAS has 3 regiments, the regular 22nd Regiment and the 21st and 23rd Territorial Reserve. The preliminary SAS selection course lasts for 5 weeks followed by 49 weeks basic training and 20 weeks advanced training. During this period, the recruit can be returned to original unit at any time. Naturally, the fail rate for the SAS is staggering and around 95% of all applicants fail.
The Special Boat Service are the Special Forces Branch of the Royal Navy. They are often considered to be the 'poorer cousin' of the SAS, as they receive less media attention, which is probably better, seeing as special forces desire secrecy. They are organised in much the same way as the larger SAS but are more orientated around maritime operations. To join the SBS, the recruit must have already passed the Commando Course (a requirement not necessary for SAS recruits). The SBS also operates a small reserve force in tandem with the regular unit. Understandably, the SBS shares a feirce rivalry with the SAS.
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment conducts a wide range of classified activities related to covert surveillance and reconnaissance. The SRR draws its personnel from existing units and can recruit volunteers from serving male and female members of all the United Kingdoms Armed Forces. Very little is known about this highly secretive organisation.
The Special Forces Support Group was formed to fill a gap which had been periodically filled by Royal Marines and members of the elite Parachute Regiment. It was formed to support the Special Air Service and the Special Boat Service on operations. This could include diversionary tactics, protective cordons and extra fire power. The SFSG was initially composed of personnel from the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment, the Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment, but is now open to all personnel in the United Kingdom's Armed Forces that have passed either Pegasus Company, run by the Parachute Regiment, the Royal Marines Commando Course or the Royal Air Force Pre-Parachute Selection course.