The British Government has now unveiled the details of its long-awaited and keenly-anticipated Strategic Defence and Security Review and, as predicted, it focuses on heavy armed forces equipment and personnel reductions.
“This review is about how we project power and influence in a rapidly changing world”, British Prime Minister David Cameron said in the introduction to a 20-minute speech made in the House of Commons on 18 October 2010. “We need to be more thoughtful, more strategic and more coordinated.”
Outlining the specifics to come, the Prime Minister highlighted the need to transition from armed forces that are overstretched and underequipped to a professional and flexible capability.
Defence Review Cuts
The defence review cuts will not result in reduced support for UK forces deployed in Afghanistan, Mr Cameron said. They will, however, see over 40,000 defence-related job cuts made.
25,000 cuts will involve civilian staff while alongside these, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force will each see personnel numbers drop by 5,000, and Army troop numbers will decrease by 7,000.
It was emphasised that, by 2015, the Army’s total manpower will reach 95,000: sufficient to be able to deploy a maximum force of 30,000 troops on a one-off basis, if needed. Special Forces will receive additional investment, to “ensure they remain at the leading edge of enhanced capability.”
Defence Review MoD Cuts
Alongside the Defence review’s MoD cuts, though, a total of £500m will be invested into cyber security, in order to deal with the threats presented by the world today and boost the UK’s ability to deal with these threats, if required.
As far as defence assets are concerned – as covered in an earlier Armed Forces International News Item – HMS Ark Royal is to be withdrawn from the Royal Navy after 25 years service, while the two new Future Aircraft Carriers will enter service as scheduled.
The new Astute submarines are set to provide a crucial role by feeding “vital strategic intelligence back to the UK”, Cameron said, while a new programme of cheaper, more versatile frigates will also be inaugurated.
The defence cuts will affect both the British Army and the Royal Air Force. A 40 per cent reduction in tanks and heavy artillery will be implemented, but this will be partially offset by the introduction of new armoured vehicles, such as the Warthog. On the air force front, the Harrier strike fleet will go – although no date has been given for this withdrawal. Meanwhile the Nimrod MRA4 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, set to enter full RAF service in coming months, faces total cancellation.
“There is no cut whatsoever in support for our forces in Afghanistan”, the Prime Minister asserted. “Changes to the MoD that result from today’s review will not affect this funding.”