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Command, Leadership & Urban Operations

Command, Leadership and Urban Operations

Refining the professionalism and performance of the British Army, Royal Marines and NATO

We rely on our armed forces to maintain national security and international order. Professor Anthony King has worked with both the British Army and the Royal Marines, as well as our NATO allies, linking research with training in ways that have developed new insights into our military and helped enact positive reforms. Troops and commanders alike have benefited from his insight into command, leadership and urban operations.

The challenge

In the twentieth century, military operations took place over short ranges along a clear front which limited the number of decisions a general had to make. In the twenty-first century, however, military operations are more complex and decisions have multiplied, diversified, and have to be made with precision and proportionality. In addition, smaller armies have led to more urban fighting. Battles against insurgents in cities require precision operations, in specific neighbourhoods and against particular targets.

Professor King’s interactions with the British Army and the Royal Marines have made a direct contribution to their efforts to remain competitive in the context of these major shifts in the character of command and conflict.

Our approach

Professor King has made his research available to the British Army, Royal Marines and NATO forces through:

  • Over 60 talks to British and NATO military audiences (at home and abroad)

  • Annual lectures to the Higher Command and Staff Course

  • Seven policy papers

  • Accompanying formations on exercises.

Senior officers have rethought many of their presumptions after discussions with Professor King, including a rejection of many historical examples – such as Berlin or Stalingrad – as models of urban warfare. This has allowed Professor King to contribute new thinking and expertise to military decisions.

Our impact

The British Army and Royal Marines have embraced Professor King’s research. The Headquarters of 3 Division – the UK’s reaction force – increased the size of its staff by almost 50% after adopting Professor King’s recommendations. Throughout the reporting period, his advice was sought on the reform of military culture in the Marines. One positive consequence of King’s input was that it helped the Marines to prepare for the accession of women in 2019, in a manner that was consistent with equality and diversity regulations and norms.

The Army’s expertise in the urban environment have also improved thanks to Professor King’s suggested reforms to the Copehill Down training ground. Further afield, Professor King has advised German, Danish and Portuguese officers on how to modernise their understanding of command in the 21st century.

Proving his influence, Professor King’s 500-page 2019 single-authored book that underpins much of the impact, Command: The Twenty-First Century General, won the British Army’s own annual literary award in December 2020.

Watch Professor King's analysis of the final defeat of ISIS for France 24

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