Latest threats to maritime power: The targets set in Options for Change are clearly not final. Christopher Bellamy reports

THE Government's announcement on Thursday night that Royal Navy strength would be reduced by a further 5,000 below the Options for Change target of 55,000 has focused attention on a new round of defence cuts, now called 'post-Options' by Ministry of Defence officials. In addition to reductions in the regular Navy, the Royal Naval Reserve is under threat of cuts below the Options target of 4,700.

The Navy also faces the loss of a vital component of British maritime power, which could never be replaced, according to senior officers. Proposals to sell the four newest Upholder-class conventional (diesel-electric) submarines to Canada were leaked earlier this year, and these - the Navy's only non-nuclear-powered submarines - remain at risk after the reprieve of the new commando helicopter carrier, announced on Monday.

Nuclear-powered submarines can remain submerged for much longer than conventional ones. But the latter are quieter and smaller, and have advantages in shallow water and for Special Boat Service commandos.

The Options for Change plans envisage a force of four Trident ballistic-missile firing submarines, 12 nuclear-powered attack submarines and four conventional submarines. Naval sources are adamant that a four- boat conventional submarine force is the absolute minimum. Meanwhile, 70 countries have conventional submarines and Iran has just acquired a Russian Kilo-class boat.

The Army and RAF could also face cuts beyond the Options 1995 threshold. Army strength, due to be reduced to 116,000, is now being held at 119,000, but after 1997, when Hong Kong is handed to China, the number of battalions might be further cut.

The RAF is to be reduced from a 1990 strength of 89,000 to 75,000 by 1995. Yesterday, the MoD rejected speculation that there could be a further reduction to below 70,000. 'So far the Government has only announced 75,000,' an RAF spokesman said.

Clearly, Options targets are not final. 'It's a continuing reassessment of the manpower requirements', an MoD Navy department official said. 'There are no operational implications.'

There are operational implications, however, of cuts to big equipment programmes, which are necessary to shave pounds 1bn off the defence budget over the next two years.

The reprieve of the Navy's new pounds 170m commando carrier, the landing platform helicopter, guarantees 1,500 civilian shipyard jobs for four years and safeguards what is probably the Navy's most immediately useful weapon. It can put 500 highly trained Marines ashore anywhere in the world - but it will have to be paid for.

The Royal Naval Reserve is due to be reduced from 5,900 to 4,700. Fears have been expressed that the RNR might be abolished, but MoD sources yesterday ruled that out.

'There is a study into the future structure of the RNR, and that could mean further cuts', a source said, 'but total wind- down is not a runner'.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments