The British Army has been reduced to just one single tank regiment, despite fears that the move might be premature amid growing tensions in eastern Ukraine.
A ceremony on Saturday morning will mark the merger of Britain’s last two tank regiments as part of a cost-cutting exercise by the Ministry of Defence.
The event will see current and former soldiers gather in Wiltshire's Aliwol Barracks to see the joining together of 1 Royal Tank Regiment and 2 Royal Tank Regiment to become the newly-formed Royal Tank Regiment.
After years of fighting campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, Britain has in recent years prioritised spending on light infantry essential for combat in these areas.
As a result, spending on heavy armoured equipment, like tanks, has been drastically reduced.
In 1990, there were four tank regiments in the British Army, which had at their disposal nearly 800 tanks. Now the British army can call on just 156 tanks, with 56 of them belonging to the newly formed Royal Tank regiment.
Some fear that with the annexation of the Crimea by Russia and the continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, that this decision to move reduce the number of tanks might be premature.
It is believed that a more conventional army equipped with a healthy number of tanks would be essential if Britain wanted to deter the threat posed by Russia.
Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Ridgway, Colonel of the new Royal Tank Regiment, told The Times: “Going down to the small number [of tanks] that we are going to have in future is taking a risk.”
He said: “The defence capability is like insurance: You don’t have the insurance you want. You have the insurance you can afford. The crucial thing is to get your priorities right, to make sure the things you really need are what you have.”
With the latest cuts, the British Army now has almost double the number of horses in its ranks than it has tanks, and this is a worry for some.
Former member of the tank regiment Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, told The Times that: “Recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria appear to signal the demise of the tank but activities in Ukraine especially and Gaza might suggest this is a little premature.”
Despite theses concerns, the Ministry of Defence has said that they will keep a number of tanks in storage and Britain will have the ability to replenish its tank supplies if needed.
The decision to reduce the number of tanks is part of a major military spending review by the government in 2010, which sought to cut military spending by 8 per cent in four years 2015.
In the review, it was decided that the number of tanks would be cut by 40 per cent, while heavy artillery funding would be reduced by 35 per cent.
Alongside the new Royal Tank Regiment, the King’s Royal Hussars and the Queen’s Royal Hussars will be the other regiments in the British Army with tanks at their disposal.
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