International

Britain Announces Massive Defense Cuts

harrier ark royal

A Harrier jet of 1(F) Joint Force Squadron hovers as it comes in to land on the flight deck of HMS Ark Royal. The ship and its jets are to be immediately scrapped. Christopher Furlong/Getty hide caption

itoggle caption Christopher Furlong/Getty

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced defense cuts today that will completely fundamentally change British military capabilities. From the FT:

According to a series of defence planning assumptions, the UK will in future be able to carry out a one-off intervention, such as an invasion of another country, with no more than 30,000 troops. This is about two-thirds the size of the force of 45,000 British troops which went into Iraq in 2003.

The assumptions also state that Britain will be able to deploy no more than 6,500 troops with maritime and air support in a long-term stabilisation force. This is well below the figure of 10,000 troops which are currently deployed on long-term stabilisation in Afghanistan, mainly in Helmand province.

As part of the cuts the flagship of the Royal Navy, the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and its fleet of Harriers will be immediately scrapped. That will leave the UK without an aircraft carrier capable of carrying jets for 10 years.

Cameron said massive budget deficits made completely reshaping the British military a necessity.

"From a Ministry of Defence that is too big, too inefficient and too overspent to a department that is smaller, smarter, and more responsible in its spending," he said.

"From a strategy over-reliant on military intervention to a higher priority for conflict prevention. From concentrating on conventional threats to a new focus on unconventional threats. And from armed forces that are overstretched, under-equipped and deployed too often without appropriate planning to the most professional and most flexible modern forces in the world, fully equipped for the challenges of the future."

Also to be cut, 7,000 Army personnel, 5,000 Navy personnel, another 5,000 from the RAF, and 40% of the country's tank force.

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