Army manpower would be slashed to its weakest for 200 years under plans that would also do away with 76 tanks. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace insisted the review would enlist more technology so “greater effect can be delivered by fewer people”. But Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, ex-Chief of the Defence Staff, warned the cuts would leave the UK open to invasion by Russia or China. And Tory MP Tobias Ellwood said cyber warfare and unmanned vehicles “come at a huge price to our conventional defence posture”.
The chairman of the defence select committee added: “We face multiple complex threats to our security and our prosperity, yet our defence spend remains at a peacetime level of just 2.2 percent [of GDP].
“Is it not the time to increase the defence budget to three percent so these dangerous cuts to our conventional hard power can be avoided?”
“Defence chiefs want to bolster cyber, space and sub-sea technologies. Greater emphasis is to be placed on special forces operations, with the launch of a Ranger Regiment to support the elite SAS and SBS units.”
However, fewer traditional Army units will be required, leaving some medics, mechanics, electricians and logisticians facing the chop. Mr Wallace told the Commons yesterday that he intended to “reduce the size of the Army…to 72,500 by 2025.
“These changes will not require redundancies.”
The MoD said 76 Challenger 2 battle tanks will be mothballed. The remaining will be given upgrades while 700 Warrior fighting vehicles will be replaced by at least 500 Boxers.
The Army is also grounding nine CH-47 Chinooks and 20 Puma helicopters.
RAF chiefs also confirmed 24 Typhoons and all 14 C-130 transport planes would be gone by 2025.
Mr Ellwood has said they were favoured by the SAS to land in tricky terrain, but defence chiefs insist new A-400 jets can carry out many of the C-130’s roles.
The Navy will retire two Type-23 frigates and lose 13 minesweepers, leaving 17 frigates until Type 31s enter service in 2027.
On Russia and China, Lord Richards warned: “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 hightech capabilities aren’t going to be much good.”
Britain cannot “shut out China”, Theresa May has warned. The former Prime Minister told the national security strategy committee: “We have to find away of balancing the relationship with China which is economic on one side and concerns about security and human rights on the other.”