In Brief

British army to see number of troops slashed

Defence chiefs discussing plans to cut number of combat personnel

Defence chiefs are considering plans to slash the size of the British army and lend out one of the Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carriers amid fears they could be forced into further spending cuts.

The Conservative manifesto unveiled yesterday ditched a promise made in 2017 by Theresa May to “maintain the overall size of the armed forces”.

The party's 2015 manifesto pledge to keep the army’s strength above 82,000 has already been dropped, with the number of fighting personnel currently standing at just 73,000.

Despite a future Tory government vowing to maintain defence spending at more than 2% of GDP, The Sunday Times says service chiefs “are already in conflict over plans that would refocus Britain’s war-fighting capability and cut the number of personnel”.

The paper says senior officers are discussing an army of between 60,000 and 65,000, the smallest for centuries, and “in a move that will cause uproar in the navy, army chiefs are pressing to mothball one of Britain’s new aircraft carriers — or lease it to the Americans”.

One source told the newspaper: “The army hates the aircraft carriers, which they have always seen as white elephants, but the Americans love them. They’re cutting-edge because they can operate with far fewer crew than the US carriers.

“The army can’t recruit or retain the people it needs. Both the army and the navy think that the job of the RAF will soon be done by drones”, they added.

Last year, the former commander of the UK's Maritime Forces, Rear Admiral Alex Burton told the BBC that Britain was in danger of losing its status as a “credible military power”.

Budget cuts and rising military threats meant the ability to “fight and win on the front line” was being affected and if fresh spending was not announced, the UK would be morally poorer on the world stage, Burton warned.

The Daily Mail reports that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has secured a further £2.2bn for the military but has said he would prefer to cut capabilities and do a smaller number of things better, prioritising improved kit rather than an expanded fighting force.

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