With the announcement of the new uniform, insignia and equipment of the Royal Marines Commandos, there are some immediate acquisition-related questions that arise. With comments about it being the first time in hundreds of years that the Royal Marines will have a different uniform from the British Army, it seems contrary to traditional procurement theory that savings are made by quantity and the scale of purchases and not just in buying ‘commercial off the shelf’ which the Ministry of Defence Press Release highlights. However, as the Royal Marines are only 6.25% of the size of the British Army, it may have little impact.
Clearly the Royal Marines have identified a specific requirement to have a different uniform from other dismounted close combat soldiers; however, the press release and subsequent commentary doesn’t specifically identify what this requirement is – there are general comments such as it has ‘higher tear-strength… faster-drying and is more breathable.’ These are described as practical benefits that ‘shouldn’t be underestimated’ and this gives confidence to the thought process but doesn’t this mean that it would be desirable for the Army too? Or is this leading a change in concepts and doctrine for the use of the Royal Marines compared to Army regiments? There seems to be a great play here by the Royal Marines, not only to visually appear different to the Army but also to use this as setting out how they will be used in the Future Commando Force for different purposes than the Army. Moving away from the joint and combined deployments that have taken place in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past where Army and Royal Marine units were replacing each other in the same operational role.
The acquisition of the new Royal Marines Commando uniform does potentially mean that they now have a combat uniform that no longer suits the ‘working’ activities they undertake on a day-to-day basis and this may incur an indirect cost to provide suitable additional uniform. The Army’s future dress programme possibly needs to adjust their programme to reflect on this development, or may have done so already. Perhaps we shall see the 24 Commando Engineer Regiment and the 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery, both transition from their Army uniform to the Crye-Precision uniform as well?
In the photos distributed by the MOD, the C8 Diemaco L119A1/A2 rifle features rather than the SA80A3, and without mention, leading some to comment that this may be a subtle demonstration that the Future Commando Force will use it more widely that the units it’s currently on issue to. Further deviation here may be of benefit to the SA80A2 to A3 upgrade programme (requiring less weapons to be put through the project) but it does, again, lead to capability management considerations for ensuring that the logistics and supply of support to these weapons is in place and affordable for smaller quantities in the Royal Marines and the Army.
As acquisition is all encompassing and incorporates the acquisition of personnel through recruiting, perhaps a final comment would be that the Royal Marines’ ‘brand’ now looks a lot different to the Army and may well build on the perceived recruitment successes that they have had in the past, however, with the aggregation of the Royal Navy’s and the Royal Marines’ recruitment data, it will be difficult to tell.