UK needs cut armed forces to 140,000, think-tank warns


London : Britain will be forced to reduce the strength of its armed forces by 15 per cent due to the economic recession, a leading military think-tank warned Wednesday.

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Cuts to the budget combined with growing costs would also mean that the country’s military capabilities in terms of ships, aircraft and tanks would also be reduced by a similar amount in the next six year, according to a report by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

The consequences are that Britain’s place at the “top table” for world security would likely be threatened with the economic downturn influencing Lodon’s ability to equip and pay for a premier military.

The report by RUSI, the world’s oldest defence institution, also added that the number of Britain’s trained military personnel could fall from 175,000 to little more than 140,000 by 2016.

Ground formations such as infantry, tank and artillery regiments would have to fall from 97 to 79, available aircraft would be reduced from 760 to 615, and major vessels would drop from 57 to 46, the author, Professor Malcolm Chalmers, suggested.

Chalmers warned that hard choices lay ahead and efficiency savings would not be enough to put Britain’s defences on a sustainable footing.

Even being “cautiously optimistic”, intense pressure on government finances meant the Ministry of Defence’s budget was likely to fall by 11 per cent in real terms by 2017, he said.

The projected cuts need to balance the budget came after Britain has already made dramatic reductions in the strength of its armed forces over the last two decades with the navy losing almost half of its warships and the air force losing one third of its planes.

The report was released as the government was carrying out a new defence review with questions being raised on whether Britain will be able to afford plans to build two huge aircraft carriers and replace the country’s submarine-based nuclear missile system.