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RAF 'to cut back trainee pilots'

A quarter of the RAF's trainee pilots are to be sacked in the latest stage of the the Government's defence cuts, it was reported.

The Daily Telegraph reported that up to 100 student pilots will be told the news tomorrow that they have no future in the service.

They are said to include some who are just a few flying hours hours away from earning their wings as fully qualified pilots.

According to the paper up to 20 fast jet pilots, 30 helicopter pilots and 50 transport aircraft pilots are to go.

Air Vice Marshal Mark Green, the head of RAF training, was said to be preparing to visit the three training schools to inform them of their fate.

The cuts will mean that the Ministry of Defence will effectively have to write off the £300 million spent on their training, which can cost up to £4 million a man, the paper said.

Some trainees were said to have made last-ditch appeals to be given a year's sabbatical while others were said to have offered to take a pay cut in order to be able to stay on and complete their qualification.

One told the paper: "It's a real kick in the teeth and I would be devastated if I was chosen for redundancy as this is something I have worked for my entire life, through school, air cadets and university."

The MoD would not comment directly on the report although it pointed out that all three services were facing cuts under cost-cutting plans set out in last year's Strategic Defence and Security Review.

"The SDSR has already made clear there will be a reduction in the number of assets and airframes across all three services, and that the RAF would be reduced by around 5000 personnel to a total of about 33,000 by 2015," a spokesman said.

"However, any reductions in the RAF will not affect operations in Afghanistan and priority areas of capability will not be compromised."