The Conservative Party’s manifesto’s removal of a commitment to “maintain the overall size of the armed forces” made two years ago by Theresa May has forced military top brass to consider cutting the Army down to 60,000 from 73,000. The Tories had pledged to maintain the Army at 82,000 soldiers, but further budget cuts have seen the numbers of troops being slashed. The army numbered 3.1 million men at the end of World War Two and then shrank to 159,000 in 1980 and was at 102,120 in 2003, during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Royal Navy are said to be furious over the decision to lease out one of the two flagship Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers that have recently been commissioned.
A military told The Sunday Times: “The army hates the aircraft carriers, which they have always seen as white elephants, but the Americans love them.
“They’re cutting-edge because they can operate with far fewer crew than the US carriers.
“Both the army and the navy think that the job of the RAF will soon be done by drones.”
Troop numbers are to be slashed
The considerations for military cuts remain at an early stage but have followed a directive by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace that they must “cut their cloth” according to the budget.
He has secured another £2.2billion for the military but said he wants better kit rather than an expanded fighting force.
In September, Mr Wallace revealed the money would go towards “dilapidated not fit for purpose accommodation.”
The news comes as a former British Army Chief of General staff described how cuts to the defence budget in recent years has left the Army, “half as capable as it once was”.
British Army and Navy could see cuts
General Lord Richard Dannatt said there is a “very strong case” for Britain to increase defence spending, and that the military would benefit from an extra £5 billion a year.
Asked about the current state of Britain’s military and whether it has been damaged beyond repair, he highlighted how the UK has some “very good equipment”, but not enough of it.
General Lord Dannatt told the Press Association that when he was at the head of the Army in 2009 it was at a size of 102,000 but is now at a level of less than 73,000.
He said: ”What that represents is a situation whereby 10 years ago we could have five combat brigades rotating through a campaign in Iraq, and at the same time five combat brigades rotating through a campaign in Afghanistan.
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British Army and Navy could see cuts
“The figures are actually quite harsh, for a 7% reduction of the defence budget which is what happened in 2010, it resulted in a 20% cut in the size of the Army, and I would actually suggest a 50% cut in what we can actually do.”
His comments come ahead of the latest budget, and amid calls to increase spending to above 3% of GDP on top of a black hole in the budget of at least £20 billion over the next decade.
General Lord Dannatt, who was head of the Army between 2006 and 2009, highlighted how the UK is meeting the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.
He said: “During the Cold War years we were spending 5-5.5%, during the 1990s we were spending 4% and until quite recently it was 2.5-3%.
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“So going down to 2% represents the smallest figure we have ever had, and it is buying us the smallest Navy, Army and Air Force we have ever had.
“That is fine until we have another major conflict somewhere.”
“Unless you have got a full range of capabilities, and you have got a crystal ball that is really accurate and can tell you exactly what the next threat is going to be, if you haven’t got that full range of capabilities then you may have a gap in your response.”
Army numbers may be cut
General Lord Dannatt said an increase in defence spending would send an important message to Britain’s European partners.
He explained that it would also be welcomed by the Americans.
He added: “And I think it would be a message not lost on Mr Putin or the Kremlin.”