Forces cuts ‘mean UK can’t go to war abroad’
BRITAIN can no longer deploy a division overseas as it did during the Iraq War because of a ‘gutting’ of its military capabilities, a US report warns.
Defence chiefs will struggle to sustain much more than a brigade – around 6,500 troops – in a future war because of a significant slashing of numbers, it says.
The Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) said London will also face ‘severe constraints’ on its ability to engage in air warfare overseas.
Those constraints have ‘already been felt’ in the campaign against IS, to which the UK has only been able to make a ‘very modest contribution’, it says.
The report, ‘ Dealing with allies in decline’, says: ‘America’s most important NATO allies have been gutting their military capabilities over the past quarter century. Indeed, the decline of UK military capabilities offers a particularly stark national example of the overall
‘Gutting capabilities over quarter century’
European trend.’ There are just 78,407 regular soldiers in the Army, down from 102,000 in 2010. A division is typically between 25,000 and 50,000 troops, comprising of several brigades.
But the report warns: ‘ Significant reductions in mechanized capabilities and Army end strength mean that for the next several years, the UK will probably be able to deploy and sustain no more than a brigade (around 6,500 troops) in overseas combat missions.’
This month’s report also says it is unclear whether there will be enough jets to fly from the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers. On the RAF’s combat forces shrinking to the size of five US, Air Force squadrons, it says ‘ London will face severe constraints on its ability to engage in sustained air operations overseas’.
But an MoD spokesman yesterday insisted that the Army was ‘ ready and capable of deploying a potent, largescale, war fighting force at divisional level with sufficient notice.’