RAF to make final flight from Germany in 2002

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The Independent Online
The Royal Air Force is to leave its last base in Germany in 2002, after 57 years, according to the defence White Paper published yesterday.

The announcement that the last four squadrons of Tornado GR1 bombers will withdraw from RAF Bruggen brings to an end an era during which, for much of the time, Britain maintained a large air force on the Continent.

The main reason for the withdrawal is the disappearance of a direct threat from the East, although the White Paper stresses that the "pace and progress of military, political and economic reforms in Russia continue to be significant factors in our defence planning".

After the Cold War ended, the RAF closed two of its four German bases - Wildenroth and Gutersloh.

The decision to close the third base, Laarbruch, in 1999, has already been announced.

Yesterday the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo, said that the decision was subject to consultation with Nato allies. Asked about the 25,000 Army troops in Germany, he said: "There are no plans to change that."

The White Paper acknowledges the recent recruiting crisis affecting the Army, which on 1 April had 104,000 trained troops, a shortfall of 4,000, mainly in the artillery, armoured corps and, most critically, infantry. Mr Portillo said the three services together needed to recruit 25,000 young people this year.

CM 3223 Statement on the Defence Estimates 1996, HMSO, London, May 1996, pounds 13.00

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