RAF faces 5,000 cut in manpower

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Indy Politics

Royal Air Force manpower will be cut by 5,000 to 33,000 by 2015, and the iconic Harrier jump-jet removed from service under the Government's defence review announced today.

The Nimrod MRA4 reconnaissance aircraft programme will also be scrapped and the ageing VC10 and TriStar aircraft will eventually be withdrawn from service.

Tornado fast jets will be retained after reported lobbying from service chiefs and the review envisages a "future fast jet force" of Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighter aircraft - although these will be the type capable of take-off and landing from carriers and will be fewer than originally planned.

The lumbering C-130 Hercules transport fleet, which has been used extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq, will be withdrawn from service 10 years earlier than planned and be replaced by 22 new A400M aircraft and 14 Airbus A330s which will also be able to provide air-to-air refuelling.

The Government also committed itself to buy 12 new Chinook heavy-left helicopters.

The review says that taken together, all the changes will mean the RAF in 2020 will be able to provide "air defence of the UK and South Atlantic Overseas Territories".

The Harrier will be removed from service in 2011 and the review says: "Retaining the Tornado fleet allows a fast jet contribution to be sustained in Afghanistan and support to concurrent operations which would not have been possible if Harrier was retained instead."

Precise dates and figures for many of the proposals are not given in the review document.