Forces left unable to launch ‘major’ missions overseas

Cameron axes 42,000 defence jobs including 25,000 at MoD as only 30,000 troops can be deployed in foreign operations. Savings total £3bn, but £3.6bn is written off by scrapping Nimrods

The defence cuts announced yesterday effectively mean that in future Britain will be unable to undertake missions on the scale of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and will need aid from her allies in mounting a major operation to defend the Falkland Islands.

The numbers of troops which can be used for a deployment overseas would be restricted to 30,000 – one-third less than the size of the Iraq invasion force – and then only for a limited time, during which there would be nothing spare for other military operations. A smaller scale deployment, like that in Afghanistan, would be limited to 6,500 – Britain currently has a force of 9,500.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review signals a fundamental change in defence and foreign policy and the end of "wars of liberal intervention" that marked the Tony Blair era. The likes of the Falklands War in 1982, where victory saved Margaret Thatcher's premiership and established her long tenure in Downing Street, also appear to be in the past. Referring to that conflict, the review acknowledged: "Should we need to conduct major operations overseas, it is most likely that we will do so with others."

David Cameron and his ministers have been forced to repeatedly assure the Obama administration that Britain will continue to play her part as a military partner, on the last occasion after US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, expressed deep reservations about the scale of the impending cuts.

Announcing the conclusions of the review yesterday, the Prime Minister insisted the UK would remain a first-rank military power, saying: "Britain has traditionally punched above its weight in the world and we should have no less ambition for our country in the years to come."

He faced an immediate Tory for postponing a decision on the nuclear deterrent, with senior MPs accusing him of bowing to pressure from Liberal Democrat ministers who oppose the replacement of Trident missiles.

Mr Cameron claimed the economies would make vital savings in the defence budget of 8 per cent. However, the sum involved, about £3bn, is less than what has been written off on a single project – the £3.6bn already spent on Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft which were due to come into service next year.

The Afghan operation, where the British commitment is the second largest after that of the Americans, would be "ring-fenced", Mr Cameron said. Speaking in the Commons, he again blamed the need for cutbacks on previous Labour governments having left a "£38bn black hole" in the defence budget. But Julian Lewis, a former Tory defence spokesman, urged him to rethink and hold the key vote on Trident before the election due in 2015. "Will he explain what reason he has for delaying this vital vote into the next parliament, other than to make our nuclear deterrent a political gambling chip to satisfy the Liberal Democrats?" Dr Lewis asked.

Sir Peter Tapsell, the Tory member for Louth and Horncastle, who is the longest-serving MP, said many in the Commons would view the decision to postpone the Trident vote "with great concern", adding: "[It] looks like the subordination of the national interest to political expediency."

James Arbuthnot, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, said the plans appeared to "take a real gamble with the short term in order to provide security and stability in the long term".

Richard Ottaway, the Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, asked for reassurances that a planned cut in the Royal Navy's frigate fleet would not lead to a scaling-back of its commitments around the world.

Douglas Carswell, the Tory MP for Harwich, said the cuts marked a "milestone" in Britain's military decline. He added: "We are the sixth largest economy yet we are reduced to the status of being Belgium with nukes. We are catastrophically inept at getting value for money from our defence budget."

Rear-Admiral Terry Loughran, a former commander of HMS Ark Royal, said the decision to scrap the Navy's flagship aircraft carrier and fleet of 80 Harrier jump-jets was "incoherent". The first of two new carriers will enter service in 2016, but will only be configured to carry helicopters – not jets – before being mothballed indefinitely, or sold once the second carrier enters service.

Admiral Loughran said: "It is not the Navy which will be viewed as a laughing stock, it is the nation that will seen as a laughing stock to have provided such a capability [carriers] and then not the aircraft to go on them."

Union leaders reacted angrily to the cutbacks. Bernie Hamilton, of Unite, said last night: "These decisions will cost thousands of skilled jobs and have long-term consequences for the UK's manufacturing base."

How the axe will fall


Announcement Within the next five years the Army is to lose 7,000 troops, The Navy will see its personnel cut by 5,000, some of them Royal Marines, and the RAF by the same number.

Verdict The Navy, which has a total strength of 35,000, and the RAF, 38,000, have proportionately lost more personnel than the Army with 102,000. However after 2015 another 13,000 Army places may go. Some senior Army officers believe the second tranche may not be as severe as now envisaged.


Announcement The Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft will be scrapped.

Verdict The spending review will save just under eight per cent of the defence budget, or around £3bn. This is less than the £3.6bn which is being written off by scrapping the Nimrod MRA4, which was due to come into service next year. The project exemplifies the absurdities of defence procurement. Nineteen were ordered originally, ultimately reduced to nine with the cost of each aircraft going up by 200 per cent. The National Security Council has not said how the maritime capabilities lost will be replaced.


Announcement The Army is to lose 40 per cent of its armour and heavy artillery.

Verdict General Sir David Richards, who is about to take over as the head of the military, had indicated that he was prepared to lose some of his armour. This will amount to around 100 tanks and 200 armoured vehicles. The rationale is that the UK no longer faces the massed armour of the Soviet Union and future land wars will be counter-insurgencies. However, the Canadians and Danes use their mainline battle tank in Afghanistan and find them effective against IEDs.

Aircraft Carrier

Announcement Both proposed aircraft carriers are given the go ahead.

Verdict The project has been a bone of contention with the Army and Navy due to the massive costs – estimated to be about £15bn with aircraft and support ships – entailed. Both will now be built, with delays because of modifications, but only one will have aircraft, but not until 2020. The second one will be put on a "state of extended readiness", or, in simple terms, put in mothballs while attempts are made to find a buyer. Meantime, Britain will not have any carrier cover.


Announcement The life of the Vanguard class submarines will be extended and no decision will be taken on replacement until "about 2016".

Verdict This was one of the most controversial of the projects to be addressed by the spending review with the Liberal Democrats long opposed to renewing Trident. What has emerged is a political fudge which has led to deep discontent in the Tory right with MPs accusing David Cameron of caving in to Nick Clegg's party. The unsatisfactory and temporary compromise means added costs in the long run.

Helicopter Carriers

Announcement One of the two helicopter carriers currently in service will be scrapped.

Verdict The choice is between HMS Ocean and HMS Illustrious and the strategic advantage of decommissioning either vessel remains unclear, especially as aircraft carrier cover will be lost for a decade.

The helicopter carriers, a relatively low-cost alternative, would be useful in countering the risks detailed in the National Security Strategy, ranging from projecting British influence to dealing with natural calamities.

Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
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

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

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
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam