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Former military chief expects UK to defer Trident replacement


London : Former military chief Sir Richard Dannatt suggested Wednesday that the UK government was likely to delay controversial plans to renew the country’s Trident nuclear missile system when it announces its defence review later this month.

Dannatt believed that a consensus is emerging over vital decisions to be made about our overall defence and security policy, and the size and shape of the Armed Forces and said it was clear there is no real appetite to reduce further Britain’s role on the world stage.

“However, the expensive decision to commit to a replacement for our nuclear deterrent is likely to be deferred, as a pragmatic response to the current funding crisis,” he said.

The former chief of the general staff said it was also widely accepted that “there will be no credible conventional threat to our territorial integrity for the foreseeable future.”

“Instead, it is the consequences of failed and failing states that threaten our security – so complex operations such as Afghanistan represent not just a current challenge, but are likely to characterise our immediate future as well,” he said.

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Dannatt suggested that other conclusions drawn from the defence review included that there is “no strict military necessity for air power to be deployed from platforms at sea in support of British operations.”

He believed that only the first of two new super aircraft carriers would be completed as it was already being built but that it should be mothballed, allowing a matched reduction in the number of US Joint Strike Fighters acquired to fly off it from 135 to 50.

The guiding principle of the defence review must be that of “graduated readiness” in the only units that can be retained at that level are those which we are actually using on operations, or are likely to need in the near future, the former army chief said.

Land forces, including the Royal Marines, the bulk of the Army less about half of our main battle tanks and heavy artillery, and the helicopter and transport elements of the RAF – should stay at their current levels, at least until after the Afghan war, he suggested.

Within the discipline of graduated readiness, Britain’s holdings of fast jets would also be shrunk significantly, including the veteran Harriers and cutting the ageing Tornado fleet cut by half, with the other half going when Typhoons are fully in service.

“This will significantly reduce our need for air-to-air refuelling, enabling the outrageously expensive contract (£10.5 billion for 14 tanker aircraft) to be torn up in favour of an affordable, off-the-shelf replacement,” Dannatt said.

The plan, he believed, would also free up two or three airbases into which Army units from Germany can move, reducing another expensive overhead.

In the age of austerity, would be a defence programme, built on the consensus, that is “affordable, coherent and, above all, serves our national needs,” he argued.