David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has disclosed that 42,000 defence jobs in Britain will go as part of 8 per cent budget cuts in the strategic defence review.
Recent veterans of the war in Afghanistan are understood to be at risk of redundancy, as 7,000 jobs go in the Army; 5,000 in the Royal Navy; 5,000 in the Royal Air Force; and 25,000 civilian jobs at the Ministry of Defence.
In terms of equipment, the RAF will lose the Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft programme, the entire Harrier jump-jet fleet will be scrapped, and bases will be turned over to the Army.
The Army will have its tanks and heavy artillery cut by 40%, and half of the soldiers in Germany will return to the UK by 2015, with the rest brought home by 2030 and housed in former RAF bases.
The Navy will have its destroyer fleet cut from 23 to 19 and will be provided with less expensive frigates. It will also be affected by the loss of the Harriers.
Overall, the defence budget is to be cut by 8% but Mr Cameron insisted that Britain would continue to meet the Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.
He said the SDSR would shift the Armed Forces to a focus on flexibility rather than conventional weaponry, to make them “the most modern in the world”.
A national cyber security programme will be launched, costing £500m, “to fix shortfalls in cyber infrastructure”, while more focus will be given to tackling terrorists such as Al Qaeda and dissident Irish republicans in what he said would be “continuing investment in our world class intelligence agencies”.
Army numbers will fall to 95,500 by 2015 – 7,000 fewer than today – but ground forces will continue to have vital operational role in the future, he said.
Britain will be able to provide a “self-sustaining brigade” anywhere around the world for an indefinite period, with the ability to send 30,000 troops into the field for a “one-off major operation”.
Investment in Chinook transport helicopters, more mobile vehicles and better communications equipment would also be made, he said, while Gen Sir Nicholas Houghton, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, will conduct a review of the role of the Army Reserves.
The Navy will be provided with a fleet of the Astute Class hunter-killer submarines, Mr Cameron said, describing them as “the best in the world” as well as six modern Type 45 destroyers, making the Fleet “as a whole better able to tackle today’s tasks”.
The 40-year-old Harrier fleet will be scrapped because the top brass believe that the Tornados are more capable aircraft and perform better in Afghanistan, he said. Personnel numbers will drop to to 33,000 by 2015 – a reduction of 5,000.
The RAF will become a force based around a “fleet of two of the most modern” aircraft in the world, he said, the Typhoon – providing air-to-air and air-to-ground attack capabilities – and the Joint Strike Fighter – “the world’s most advanced jet”.
New A400m transport planes, as well as the C17 transporters and future strategic aircraft will “enable us to fly our forces whereever they are needed in the world”.
The nuclear threat to Britain would be countered by “the ultimate insurance policy” – the “independent nuclear deterrent” – Mr Cameron said, by extending the life of the Vanguard class submarines so that the first replacement will not be required until 2028.
He added that the Government would save billions of pounds by “reducing the number of launch tubes from 12 to eight, warheads from 48 to 40, with the stockpile of usable warheads from less than 160 to fewer than 120”.
Mr Cameron insisted that Labour had created a “mess” which had to be made into a “coherent future”, adding: “”We can’t go on like this.”
By Andy Bloxham
Published: 4:23PM BST 19 Oct 2010
Source: The Telegraph