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Cuts confirmed for British Armed Forces

Despite promises made by Boris Johnson during recent election campaigning, it has now been revealed that Britain’s army, navy and air force will all be cut back over this Parliament.

The five-year Defence Review confirms that the army target size will be cut by 9,500 to 72,500 by 2025, its lowest level since 1714. Additionally, the number of navy frigates and destroyers will drop from 19 to 17 in the next 18 months and a third of the army’s Challenger tanks will be scrapped, while 148 will be upgraded, at a cost of £1.3 billion.

The current army size is 76,000, well below the formal target of 82,000 set at the 2015 Defence Review, because of continuing problems with recruitment and retention.

The Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said that the future vision for the UK Armed Forces is for them to become a threat-focused integrated force with a continued shift in thinking across land, sea, air, space and cyber domains.

Wallace said: “This Defence Command Paper ensures our armed forces are threat-focused, modernised and financially sustainable. Our military will be ready to confront future challenges, seize new opportunities for Global Britain and lay the foundations of a more secure and prosperous Union.

“We will continue to work with allied partners to address future global security threats whilst also enhancing critical outputs in the battlespace domains. Our people and their expertise are at the heart of what we do and further investments into training, welfare and support facilities will be reflective of this and ensure our armed forces are well equipped to face tomorrow’s threats today.”

In November 2020, the Prime Minister announced a £16.5 billion increase above the manifesto commitment over four years for the Ministry of Defence, dubbed as the biggest programme of investment in British defence since the end of the Cold War. The latest paper shows that day-to-day budgets remain flat at £31.5 billion from 2021-22 for the rest of the Parliament – which Labour calculated amounted to a cut of 2.4 per cent in real terms between 2019-20 and the year ending in March 2025.

New programmes to be funded include replacing the UK’s Trident nuclear warheads, the cap on which was increased to 260 last week. Analysts estimate it will cost £10 billion.

A total of £2 billion over the next four years has also been earmarked for the Tempest future combat aircraft, which will launch towards the end of the next decade.

John Healey, Shadow Defence Secretary, responded: “The decision to cut the army by another 10,000 is a mistake, it could seriously limit our Forces’ capacity simultaneously to deploy overseas, support allies and maintain strong national defences and resilience. After cutting nearly 45,000 personnel from the Armed Force over the last decade, this decision will be another blow to our forces, who rightly pride themselves on their history, dedication and skill. It will also cause concern amongst our military allies who rely on Britain’s contribution to collective defence.”

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