Forces cuts ‘mean UK can’t go to war abroad’

Daily Mail - - News - By Larisa Brown and David Wil­liams

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.’

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