Navy and RAF pay the price to fund Afghan war

Civil servants also in the firing line as Defence Secretary outlines swingeing cuts

The RAF and Royal Navy will bear the brunt of swingeing cuts in defence spending to pay for the rapidly rising cost of the war in Afghanistan.

The Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, also announced that 7,500 civil servants will lose their jobs and that the size of the armed forces would be slimmed down.

He set out plans for an extra £900m to support the fight against the Taliban in Helmand and disclosed that the bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan now exceeds £14bn.

The extent of the cuts – which will see one RAF base closed and a second mothballed – was spelt out by Mr Ainsworth in a Commons statement. It brought accusations that Britain's defences were being undermined because of "catastrophic economic mismanagement" by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The cost of fighting foreign wars has traditionally been met from central government coffers to ensure that defence budgets were not affected by emergency deployments of troops.

But as Britain's involvement in Afghanistan enters its ninth year, Mr Ainsworth said economies would have to be found in his ministerial budget.

Up to three squadrons of Harrier and Tornado jet fighters will be axed, resulting in the closure of the RAF base in Cottesmore, Leicestershire.

A fleet of Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft will be taken out of service within months – 12 months earlier than expected – and not replaced for several years. The move leaves a question mark over the future of the RAF base at Kinloss, Moray, and the 1,800 service personnel who work there.

The Royal Navy will have a minesweeper and survey ship scrapped early, as well as losing Lynx and Merlin Mk1 helicopters.

The MoD will lose about 7,500 of its 100,000-strong civilian workforce.

Mr Ainsworth also warned that the number of servicemen and women would be cut by "slowing recruitment" and not rehiring some who are on short-term contracts: "The emphasis will be on prioritising our manpower for our operations in Afghanistan."

The Defence Secretary said some army training would be cut and spending reduced on the maintenance of defence sites.

Mr Ainsworth said the moves would ensure that "those who put themselves in harm's way on our behalf remain properly supported and resourced".

The cash saved will help fund the new £900m increase in spending on military equipment in Afghanistan, which will be spread over three years.

It will pay for 22 Chinook helicopters, 10 of which will arrive in 2012-13, and another C-17 heavy-lift aircraft. More troops will be issued with "state- of-the-art body armour" and night-vision goggles.

Mr Ainsworth also promised that communications within Helmand would be enhanced with more tactical radio and patrol systems, while the number of Reaper drones used to collect intelligence about the Taliban would be increased.

Liam Fox, the shadow Defence Secretary, said: "Making cuts to our wider defence capability when we're fighting a war only strengthens the perception that we have a Government that does not give a high priority to the Armed Forces."

He said the Nimrod announcement would leave submarines unprotected and hamper reconnaissance and long-range search and rescue capabilities.

The union Prospect, which represents 9,000 MoD specialist staff, said the cuts threatened the capability of the armed forces.

Steve Jary, its national secretary, said: "Our members report that the department is close to melt-down."

* Two British soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, The Rifles, were killed by a suicide bomber yesterday while on patrol with the Afghan National Army in Helmand Province, the Ministry of Defence said. Next of kin have been informed.

Casualties of war: Where cuts will fall

* RAF Cottesmore, Leicestershire, with 3,500 staff, to shut.

* RAF Kinloss, Moray, with 1,800 staff, to be scaled back.

* Some 7,500 civilian staff to lose jobs, cuts in numbers of service personnel.

* Size of RAF Harrier and Tornado fast-jet forces to be reduced by two or three squadrons.

* Nimrod surveillance aircraft coming out of service a year early.

* Minesweeper, survey ship and naval helicopters axed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power