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SCORPION CYCLONE ~ 1st Deep Reconnaissance Strike BCT

The British Army AJAX reconnaissance vehicle deployed for the first time on a major field exercise during SCORPION CYCLONE 2023 ~ on its 1 DRS BCT media début on Salisbury Plain the cold September rain was so intense it would not have been surprising to hear a Guns N' Roses soundtrack over the top! [© Bob Morrison]

SCORPION CYCLONE 2023 was the first major field exercise for the UK’s new 1st Deep Reconnaissance Strike (1 DRS) Brigade Combat Team (BCT), reports Bob Morrison.


Exercise SCORPION CYCLONE 2023, which ran through September and into October, was the UK’s 1st Deep Reconnaissance Strike (1 DRS) Brigade Combat Team (BCT) element of the UK Warfighting Division’s Exercise IRON TITAN.

The 1 DRS Brigade Main during SCORPION CYCLONE ~ the changing nature of warfare meant it was much smaller than other brigade headquarters we have visited over the years [©BM]

The sub-exercise saw the brigade deploy a force package in a fully tactical scenario, exercising the United Kingdom’s recce-strike complex for the first time in the field, and was intended to prove the brigade ‘Ready To Fight Tonight’ if called upon to do so as part of 3 UK Division. According to the Media Op Note circulated prior to us visiting the deployed headquarters of 1 DRS BCT on Salisbury Plain for a briefing last month, “a ground-breaking new method of taking the fight to the enemy” was being rolled out for the first time.

Briefing from the Brigade Commander on the building of the Recce-Strike Complex, from formation in July 2022 through until becoming fully operational in 2024 [©BM]

In simple terms there are usually three distinct areas to the modern battlefield, termed Deep, Close and Rear: Deep being the furthest forward of the line of battle, nearest to the enemy’s positions and in some cases beyond; Close being where the main body of a fighting division sits, toe-to-toe with its adversary; and Rear being the ground behind the fighting forces. In a conventional scenario a fighting division would send forward its reconnaissance units to gauge the locations and strength of the enemy but, being comparatively lightly armoured for mobility and only lightly armed for self-defence, these recce units would normally not directly engage enemy forces as that was previously deemed the role of the main battlegroups operating in the Close area.

AJAX, formerly Scout SV, is the new primary tracked Recce-Strike vehicle of the British Army and replaces the CVR(T) Scimitar [©BM]
ARES is the Protected Mobility Recce Support variant of AJAX and replaces the CVR(T) Spartan [©BM]

In a first for the British Army, the new Deep Recce Strike concept combines Reconnaissance effects with Fires / Artillery assets from 3 UK Division, giving the new formation the ability to speedily strike enemy positions and infrastructure. Integral to this is the new AJAX fighting vehicle family working alongside integrated unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare and counter-fires radar. As attacking the enemy in the Deep space degrades and weakens its force before it comes into contact with the main battlegroups, under the new concept enemy targets, once identified by the recce assets, would now be directly engaged by the Brigade Combat Team’s integral long-range MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) and 155mm heavy artillery batteries.

The Scorpion is the Tactical Recognition Flash for 1st Deep Recce Strike Brigade [©BM]

HOW DRS FIGHTS ~ Purpose: Through the establishment of the Division’s multi-domain Surveillance & Target Acquisition Plan and the coordinated delivery of multi-domain Fires, 1st DRS BCT will FIND, UNDERSTAND and STRIKE the enemy across the Division’s depth in order to DEFEAT sufficient enemy combat power to give the Close a decisive advantage.

In essence there should no longer be any formation boundary between Sensors, Deciders and Effectors. Key advantages of the new concept are:-

  • Highly agile command and control
  • Ability to integrate by design and exercise mission command
  • Greater tempo
  • Asymmetric approach to defeat the adversary’s kill chain
The different Force Packages from a Squadron Group through to a ‘Full Orchestra’ available for 3 UK Division to operationally deploy if/when required

The aims of SCORPION CYCLONE 2023 were: to physically demonstrate a vertical slide of DRS; to replicate candidate deployment options; and to strengthen interoperability with NATO allies (including integrating almost 200 US Army Stryker-borne recce and support personnel from 2/2CAV). Key objectives were to: practice the deployment of a DRS HQ as part of a NATO vanguard; deploy an AJAX Troop operationally; project capabilities with support from the RAF; validate secure long range communications; and integrate with key allies.

According to UK MoD, “the all-new concept delivered spectacular results earlier this year when it was trialled in the USA during the simulated wargaming exercise, WARFIGHTER 23”. If, after analysis, SCORPION CYCLONE returns the expected results it said that these “could pave the way for how the UK, US and the rest of NATO fights in any future conflict”.


¤ The primary British Army formations currently allocated to 1DRS BCT, which was stood-up on 1st July 2022, are:-

  • 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards [with JACKAL]
  • Household Cavalry Regiment [with AJAX]
  • Royal Lancers [with WARRIOR]
  • Royal Yeomanry [with JACKAL]
  • 1 Royal Horse Artillery [with AS90]
  • 3 Royal Horse Artillery [with MLRS]
  • 4 Regiment Royal Artillery [with Light Gun]
  • 5 Regiment Royal Artillery [with STA]
  • 19 Regiment Royal Artillery [to receive ARCHER]
  • 26 Regiment Royal Artillery [with MLRS]
  • 101 Regiment Royal Artillery [with MLRS]
  • 104 Regiment Royal Artillery [with MLRS]
  • NRHQ Royal Artillery
  • 6 Battalion REME
The Supacat JACKAL, seen here operationally deployed in Estonia earlier this year, is the brigade’s light recce asset [©BM]
The Warrior, seen here operationally deployed in Estonia earlier this year, would provide flank protection and screen to Find, Cover and Guard [©BM]
The newly procured ARCHER FH77BW L52 wheeled self-propelled howitzer will soon also join 1 DRS BCT
[© BAE Systems]

[images © Bob Morrison unless otherwise credited]


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