Letter: Self-reliance the key to defence

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Sir: Paul Vallely ("How Blair can save billions on defence", 10 February) dismisses many capabilities of our armed forces as unnecessary, and makes several suggestions that can never be practical.

Do we need tanks at all? Yes, we do, as, great though helicopters are, they cannot take and hold territory. They are needed to guard the armoured personnel carriers that carry our troops, and they are vulnerable to hand- held surface-to-air missiles.

Tomahawks can never totally replace attack aircraft, as their unit cost makes that decision very uneconomic compared with an aircraft that can be re-used.

We train and equip our forces for high-intensity conflict because then they are prepared for all eventualities. Situations can change very quickly, and troops could go in intending to peace-keep and end up inside a major conflict. Then we would not have the time to run to the Americans for help, or persuade a European committee.

By all means integrate Europe's defence industries, but we have to maintain a capability to conduct limited high-intensity warfare, in support of Nato, our European partners, or even for our own national interest. We cannot totally rely on other nations .

KEN O'NEILL

London SW14

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