Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has announced a string of changes to the armed forces, which will see the Army lose troop carrier planes, Chinooks and other helicopters, whilst warplanes are being ditched by the RAF and the Royal Navy will lose frigates
The British Army will sink to its lowest level in 200 years, reducing troop numbers to a staggering 72,000, in the biggest military shake-up since the Cold War.
One battalion has been ditched and seven divisions of troops will be reduced to four as commanders take Britain’s military out of “the industrial age” and into a new technology war.
As well as soldiers the Army will lose troop carrier planes, Chinooks and other helicopters whilst warplanes are being ditched by the RAF and the Royal Navy will lose frigates.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed troops, already well below the previous target of 82,500 will be slashed to 72,500 and 700 Warrior fighting vehicles will be dumped.
Dwindling Army numbers are just 76,000 – well below target – but in the new defence paper Wallace argued the British Armed Forces will be “leaner, more lethal, nimbler…”
The cuts mean the British Army will be smaller than it has been since the Crimea War, relying on gaps filled with drone technology and communications systems.
Army commanders will also lose 20 Puma helicopters and nine Chinooks, both of which have been vital in the war in Afghanistan.
In addition to these losses the Army is also set to lose as many as 76 main battle Challenger II tanks whilst the rest of its tank fleet, a further 150 is being revamped into Challenger III.
Whilst much of the equipment being ditched will be replaced, experts are concerned the Armed Forces’ procurement system will lead to worrying delays.
A new elite 1,000-strong Ranger Regiment will be formed from four “specialized infantry” battalions including 1 Scots, 2 Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, 1 Lancs and 4 Rifles.
The four battalions of 250 troops will be allocated to a new Special Operations Brigade.
They will embed into the UK’s four divisions and be sent in small numbers permanently around the globe, mentoring and fighting with local forces.
These frontline troops will take on hazardous missions, freeing up Special Forces like the SAS to combat threats from the Russian GRU and major terror networks, alongside MI6.
Sources said there will be “no redundancies” as the four established battalions form the new Ranger Regiment.
An extra £24 billion will be pumped into defence, to pay for Space Wars, tackling Cyber espionage, to battle escalating threats from Russia and China to UK satellite systems.
The money will also fund a massive investment in drone technology; unmanned flying systems that can spy on enemy forces, carry injured troops and perform re-supply missions.
The paper warned the Army shortfall will rely increasingly on our reserve troops and better weapons, saying: “The Army of the future will be leaner, more lethal, nimbler and more effectively matched to current and future threats.
“Through a more productive integration of the Reserves, increased lethality of weapons systems and survivability of platforms and a specialized workforce for the digital age the Army will continue to be world-class.”
The Royal Navy will lose two frigates in the cuts and the RAF will ditch its 14 C-130 Hercules troop carriers, 24 Typhoon fighters will be axed and Hawk jets.
But despite the high-tech boom in our military many defence experts warned against slashing numbers of soldiers as they could leave the UK open Russia or China attacks.
Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, who was Chief of the Defence Staff from 2010– 2013 said the changes: “…can’t be at the expense of conventional capabilities”.
He added: “You’ve got to have some of the more traditional capability in case mass becomes an asymmetric attraction to one’s potential opponents.
“I’m thinking Russia and China. I don’t necessarily buy that they’re about to start World War Three with us, but they still possess large numbers, and if all we’ve got is high-tech stuff, and they’ve got half a million troops that can come across the border at you, then these high-tech capabilities aren’t going to be much good.
“If your opponent senses that they are at a disadvantage, or their own capability is being neutered by one’s own possession of those capabilities, they will look for another way of achieving their goals, and that could suddenly become numbers again, mass. And we certainly won’t have it.”
Labour has criticized the review, with shadow defence secretary John Healey saying there was a “gulf between the Government’s ambitions and its actions, which is set to grow with this new review”.
He added: “Further Army cuts could seriously limit our forces’ capacity simultaneously to deploy overseas, support allies and maintain strong national defences and resilience.”