Proposals Would Shrink British Military to Size Medium

More leaks from Britain’s ongoing defense review, part of a dramatic shrinking of the public sector by the new Conservative-led coalition government. The Daily Telegraph got hold of “detailed proposals” that include slashing the RAF’s fighter fleet to fewer than 200 planes, cutting two nuclear submarines, three amphibious ships and an armored brigade. Total military personnel losses under the government’s new austerity plan are put at 16,000.

The RAF would lose all of its 120 GR4 Tornados and the Eurofighter Typhoon fleet would drop from 160 t0 107 planesas the Telegraph put it, the RAF would shrink to levels not seen since World War I. It’s really hard to see how the UK goes ahead with its planned buy of 138 Joint Strike Fighters amid such deep cuts.

The Army could be reduced by as much as 40 percent. The paper said the Royal Marines will be taken from the Navy and grouped with the Army’s remaining two parachute battalions into a “super elite” unit. One of two Army armored brigades still based in Germany is expected to be dropped from the rolls along with its collection of Challenger 2 tanks and Warrior armored personnel carriers.

The paper writes:

“If implemented, the cuts will mean that Britain will almost certainly depart the world stage as a major military power and become what military chiefs call a “medium-scale player.”

Britain’s government won’t announce the depth of the actual cuts until October; the information leaking out now is about the various proposals being debated. The leaks may serve their intended purpose and mobilize various constituencies to try and stop some of the cuts; although, the British government appears to be pretty intent on their announced goal of cutting military spending by 20 percent over the next four years.

— Greg Grant

  • JEFF

    Well it seems the sun has set on the British Emprie. Its taken a while but here it is.

    • Unfortunately. This is a very melancholy situation.

  • William C.

    That happened a long time ago Jeff. This is just salt in the wound to pay for unsustainable social programs and entitlements. The British military will go from a key ally, to one of those countries who sends 50 troops to a NATO operation and calls it a day.

    Didn’t they learn anything during the 1930s?

    • Tallyrand Corp

      How come you never call military spending unsustainable? Social spending actually creates sustainability through job training, reduction in chronic health ailments, better education, oversight to insure clean water, unadulterated food, maintaining infrastructure, etc. Besides the jobs affiliated with defense spending, these funds are mostly lost on the most wasteful enterprise known to man: war. America spends more on defense than most of the rest of the planet combined, and still I hear complaints about about how much goes to non-defense needs. You do realize the country has concerns other than war, right? That goes especially for England with its reduced economic base. Grow up, no one is taking us over so stop with the apocalyptic rhetoric.

  • John Moore

    Better to get your costs in order while there is relative peace in your area on the globe.

    • William C.

      It can take many years to rebuild this sort of lost capability.

      • Tallyrand Corp

        It’s a pittance compared to losing the lead in say, green energy research and production techniques, or cheap desalination, or any other of dozens of areas of economic development. What long-term benefit does a marginal increase in manpower grant England compared to what it could gain from wise investment of the same funds? If you haven’t noticed, the world has changed since the Cold War…the opportunity cost of military spending frequently outweighs the direct gains of more hard power. Look how much hard power America has exerted in Iraq and Afghanistan…do you really think those hundreds of billions have been well spent?

        • Brian

          That depends entirely on what happens in the future. Investments in robotic limb replacement, better communications systems, autonomous vehicles, and other technologies developed purely for the military may have significant benefits for the civilian sector in years to come. After all, satellite communications, the laser, the microwave oven, radar, all these things were developed for military use initially. We don’t know how our current projects will pay off, because we don’t have a crystal ball.

          There’s also the benefits we gain from using that hard power. The actual value of that is nearly impossible to determine. What are the benefits to having a friendly government in power in Iraq? That depends entirely upon what happens in the future. War with Iran? Peak oil?

          There’s no way to accurately predict the future value of any of these investments, military or social.

          • Tallyrand Corp

            I agree, but you overstate your case by downplaying non-defense related innovation. The fact that military R&D has acted as an economic force multiplier doesn’t automatically make it a good buy–what’s the typical rate of on-budget, on-time contract fulfillment for a military program? There are many ways to fund public R&D outside the flawed, wasteful, and corrupt procurement system.

            As for hard power, I never said it was useless, just that it is wasteful. A friendly government in Iraq that was installed militarily at a cost of over a trillion dollars and thousands of American lives is too much to pay. If the goal was energy security, those funds could have funded the greatest research program on renewable energy in history.

          • Brian

            The thing is, there’s no accurate way to measure any of this. That’s why supporters of both sides can make their arguments, with no one ever agreeing on what dividends should count for how much. Do all the developments of Belll Labs, like the transistor, and eventually, the microchip, count as derivatives from defense funding? The internet? Whichever side you take, people won’t agree.

            I’m not some nutjob who hates social spending. I like public schools and want to see them well-funded and successful. I don’t have a problem with some degree of public health care (though I think Obamacare is badly planned and a huge waste of time and resources). But I think we have grown accustomed to having the world’s most powerful military, so much so that we often take the world today as if this were its natural state. It is not. There are a lot of problems, a lot of issues we never have to face, simply because of the massive amount of hard power that we wield.

        • STemplar

          So if we all turn inwards and only spend on self serving entitlement programs what happens if a regional conflict breaks out in the Persian Gulf? If say an embolden Iran sees European and hypothetically we’ll say the US, turning a blind eye to the international stage? That conflict breaks out and the flow of oil out of the Persian Gulf in interrupted. What happens to the world economy?

          • Tallyrand Corp

            You seem incapable of responding to what is written. Where does anyone say we should spend nothing on defense? You should go play with your strawmen in the backyard, they aren’t very helpful or informative in a debate about spending priorities.

    • Blight

      There’s a distinction between military r and d and having more tanks than enemies to fight them, or a military disproportionate to the task at hand.

  • Wild Bill

    You guys down in the Falklands you might want to start learning Spanish……

    • zilwiki

      Mat not be joke, Wild Bill. In 1982 the Brits announced defence cuts including selling a carrier to Australia. next thing you know Argentina invaded the Falklands. After these cuts, they may not be able to repeat that if the Argies invade again.

  • Drake1

    I read somewhere that it’s common in Britain to put out feelers like this to gauge public reaction. Cuts are coming across the board over there for social and welfare spending. It will be interesting to see how much they get on one side versus the other when government workers inevitably go on strike.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,

    I can’t argue much in what Tallyrand Corp. (I like the name) is saying. The times have changed for the UK and the EU. Historically for the UK security issues have come from the European Continent, especially since Crimean War (1854-56) in the mid 19th. Century. The countries of the EU have takes a definite turn away from militarism, how long will it last, who knows, but it would seem that the K doesn’t want to be the spark to reignite those latent European interests. I know everybody is going to say what about the Falklands in 1982?

    Well what about the Falkland? I would think that today a quite different response would be made by the UK towards Argentina’s actions. The odd couple of Ronnie and Margaret, have fallen into the abyss of the 20th. Century, and sanity is emerging. This daffy duet is best left to the history books and relegated as just a speed bump to post WW II recovery.

    ALLONS,
    Byron Skinner

  • Ross

    apparently Tallyrand Corp does not appreciate just how much of the domestic technology and industry development is generated by the defence sector.

    major industry capabilities and skills have already been lost under labour, shipbuilding was on the verge of utter collapse..

    now we’re going to utterly destroy all three arms and their remaining support, along with the tens of thousands of jobs that go with them.

    This cannot….just cannot happen. the UK armed forces were cut beyond the bone under labour, there is no conceivable way they can justify cutting to the extent outlined above. I seriously hope this is one horrendous joke.

    • Drake1

      This is all rumor and conjecture at this point.

    • Vitally important point. A majority of the technologies that we enjoy today all derived from military research at one point or another. Also, defense spending is a primary effect of government multiplier effect and industrial employment.

      I’m really curious what everyone thinks is stabilizing the U.S.’ credit rating right now, if not the military. The primary factor is the foundations for a unrivaled economy, and the rest is the capability to keep that economy safe and functional. Like it or not, the defense sector is a major part of the overall Western economy now.

    • Tallyrand Corp

      You could help my appreciation by furnishing some proof of your claims. “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” and all that…

  • Blight

    Voters will no longer vote for a respectable military machine. Bread and circuses please…?

  • Oblat

    >just how much of the domestic technology and industry development is generated by the defence sector.

    This is just a joke told to the tech rubes. The exact opposite is true. A $ spent in the defense industries is several times less effective than that spent directly on R&D. Every year we see more being invested in R&D by Americas competitors while the US with the largest expenditure in the military is falling behind them in field after field.

    It’s ironic that Americans don’t get that they are in a global competition now and that they cant just coast along on the fat the way they have over the last 100 years. They still have the mentality that they are rich enough not to bother. This is of course the same malady that wiped out the British empire.

  • A.Lentz

    it’s sad to see such a magnificent military force being degraded like that, i fear so much of those vital skills and force flexibility will be lost and only be returned in a dire moment of need when it will be too late. i can just see it being like Australia in 1939 having to call on old men and boys when the you know what hits the fan.

    @ John Moore, you might have a point, it might be the only way they can save the country from going under and then not being able to deploy any troops.

    @ Drake1, that’s a more than plausible reason to leak this kind of information. good call

    However I would just like to put this out there to any currently serving members of HM forces, if you are looking to stay in the forces (and this could apply to any US servicemen too) the Australian Defense Force is expanding over the next 10 years (very rapidly in the next four) the urgent need for skilled submariners, with two Landing Helicopter Docks, a massive new fleet of up too 100 F-35’s (we’ll see), the return of 4RAR much sooner then expected and the expansion of its existing forces there are sure to be opportunities for personnel with the right mix of skills. With the resources boom in Australia taking so many of the Australian Defense service, Members of the UK or US forces should consider themselves free agents and go to where they will be appreciated. http://www.defencejobs.gov.au/

  • DualityOfMan

    Their defense budget is only 2.5% of GDP which is almost half of ours. It’s not like they are overspending as it is.

  • William C.

    Anyway, that has got to be a record number of responses to a comment up there.

  • Europe’s defense posture will change quickly once China grabs an island chain, or Russia invades another fragmentistan for the heck of it.

    In all seriousness, though, this move would essentially cement asymmetric threats like terrorism and nearby (like, European) insurgencies as the only threats capable of being handled by the U.K. Please don’t do it. :(

  • Jay

    SLt, why not cut social services to sustainable levels? Or at least stop letting massive numbers of foreigners settle in Britain and share the generous handouts?

    That’s what a lot of Americans want to do, even though our government is against it.

    • Locarno

      Believe me, every damn thing is getting cut, as far as we can tell. Some benefits are already in the line of fire, civil service posts, funding for construction for schools, you name it….

      There are going to be whacking great chunks of the UK MoD – both civillian and military – that we lose. What nobody knows yet for definite is precisely what….

  • zilwiki

    In my opinion they should cut the army more, stay out of large land wars, and concentrate on maritime warfare, their historic strength. The army should concentrate on special operations, raiding, and being able to defend the UK and its overseas territories. All wars are not going to be like Afghanistan.
    I hope this is just being floated to gauge public reaction.

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