The British Army has spent the past two decades transforming itself for the post-Cold War, IT-dominated world. Moreover, in typical English fashion, it has done so without the fanfare that accompanied American military transformation. The 1990s were spent experimenting with “digitization,” this being the British precursor to networking the force. This decade also saw the British Army develop a new humanitarian mission, which in turn required new thinking about more discriminating ways to achieve strategic effects, and more effective collaboration with civilian partners. Change in Army equipment, doctrine and structure gathered pace in the opening years of the new millennium. This coincided with the United States launching its own self-styled program of “military transformation.” The military ideas and technologies being developed under this American program, especially for network-centric warfare (NCW) and effects-based operations (EBO), attracted considerable interest in the British Army. In essence, the British took these American innovations and adapted them to fit British circumstances.
More recently, British Army transformation has shaped, and, in turn, has been shaped by, military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Network capabilities and effects-based thinking have unquestionably impacted, mostly in beneficial ways, on the conduct of operations. At the same time, the Army has re-equipped to fight these wars, and this, combined with growing budget constraints, has proved fatal for the Army’s flagship transformation program for a new generation of armored vehicles.