Boris Johnson has broken another election promise with today’s announcement of the five year defence review confirming cutbacks to the British army, navy and air force as the British military transforms into a “cyber force”.
Army troop numbers will be cut by 9,500 to 72,500 by 2025 – making it the smallest since 1715 – with a third of its Challenger tanks scrapped and 148 upgraded at a cost of £1.3 billion. The navy’s frigates and destroyers will be cut from 17 to 19 over the next 18 months, and the air force will retire a string of bombers and helicopters, including 24 Typhoons, nine Chinooks, 14 Hercules and 20 Pumas.
The biggest reforms to the military since the Second World War will see billions spent on drones and robots with massive investment in equipment, infrastructure and technology that the defence secretary said “marks a shift from mass mobilization to information age speed, readiness and relevance for confronting the threats of the future.”
‘Sentimentality risks the lives of our people,’ says Wallace
Ben Wallace told MPs that while it was “tempting to use the shield of sentimentality to protect previously battle-winning but now outdated capabilities,” to do so “risks the lives of our people”.
Wallace said: “The army’s increased deployability and technological advantage will mean that greater effect can be delivered by fewer people.”
Shadow defence secretary John Healey, aksed: “What does the defence secretary say to each and every voter who heard the prime minister say at the launch of the Conservatives’ 2019 election campaign, I quote, ‘We will not be cutting our armed forces in any form. We will be maintaining the size of our armed forces.’”
The prime minster turned defence into a major issue during the campaign for the December 2019 election, arguing there was a “sharp distinction” between his and Jeremy Corbyn’s plans for the military.
PM is ‘a congenital liar’, says McDonnell
However, less than 16 months on and the British army will have its lowest number of soldiers for more than 300 years, with the size of the RAF and Royal Navy both reduced.
Johnson said the reforms will provide the military “the kit now that they need to make themselves all the more useful, all the more, I’m afraid, lethal, and effective around the world.
“Therefore, all the more valuable to our allies, and all the more deterring to our foes.”
Quoting the prime minister’s election pledge, Labour’s John McDonnell called Johnson: “A congenital liar.”
Today’s review follows last week’s announcement that the UK is increasing its nuclear warhead stockpile by 40% to 260.
PM gets second red, white and blue jet
Meanwhile the Independent report the government has splashed out for a “second, brand new plane painted in the colours of the union flag to be used by the prime minister and other dignitaries for short haul trips.”
A government spokesperson has insisted the new aircraft – a six-month-old Airbus A321 – represents “value for money” and has been repainted with a “Global Britain livery”. It is understood the plane is being leased from Titan Airways.
The government withstood criticism last year when it emerged it had paid £900,000 to repaint an RAF Voyager Airbus A330 red, white and blue, paid for by the taxpayer.