Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed this week the British Army will be reduced by almost 10,000 soldiers by 2025, stating that “increased deployability and technological advantage” will mean fewer troops will be able to deliver the same results. He announced the cuts amid a major overhaul of the Armed Forces with plans to introduce new capabilities with a focus on artificial intelligence and cyber warfare. The size of the Army will be at its smallest since 1714 – with just 72,500 regular soldiers and the number of tanks will be cut from 227 to 148 upgraded ones.
But former British Army officer and defence advisor to the Government Nicholas Drummond believes there could be a U-turn on some of these plans.
He told Express.co.uk: “The first thing to say is that the plans are still not finalised yet.
“There was political pressure to publish the review because it has been hanging over everyone’s head for a long time.
“But given the pandemic and the restrictions, there was a lot more work that needed to be done.
“It was a real barrier to completing it and so I don’t think we have finally seen how the Army will be.”
The number of navy frigates and destroyers will drop from 19 to 17 in the next 18 months and a string of ageing RAF planes will be retired in the next couple of years, too.
The plan is said to be to concentrate investment in replacing Trident and other hi-tech rearmament – something Mr Drummond has previously stated is vital to combatting growing threats like China.
But he would like to see more focus shifted back towards the Army.
He said: “At the end of the day, armoured vehicles are still relevant.
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“There is no substitute for hard power and we do have a real affordability issue which has led to these hard choices to prioritise the Navy and Air Force.
“This will remain until such time that we have money to properly regenerate the Army.
“If a situation did evolve, where we ended up in a major conflict then we would have to invest heavily.”
According to the Financial Times, US military officials said privately that “while they value UK special forces and are impressed by Britain’s growing cyber expertise, troop numbers still matter”.
Michael Shurkin, a security expert at the Rand Corporation, stated that the US’s historical military cooperation with the British is based on a recognition of its quality.
He said: “It’s not just that we expect the British to show up when we call — we really want the British to show up when we call, because they’re good.”
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He added that “it becomes a real problem” if suddenly a trusted ally can no longer provide the troop numbers it once could.
And Mr Drummond said he had personally felt the shockwaves from Washington this week.
He continued: “I have a friend who is a senior US general and I asked him what he thought about the Integrated Review.
“He said that it was ‘deeply disappointing’.
“He thinks that the Army is not effective as it is and he wants the UK to have a deployable division that is equal to three Stryker brigades or three armoured infantry brigades.
“We don’t have that, at the moment.”