Analysis: Defence review sees a leaner, nimbler but hi-tech future for British forces

Britain’s long-awaited defence review – described as the most significant since the Cold War – sees a smaller, nimbler military that can tackle modern roles such as protecting undersea cables or combat weaponised satellites in space.

Forces will be better equipped, but smaller in number. Much of the existing kit will be replaced by upgraded substitutes, but there is apprehension about delay which often occurs in the procurement process.

The size of the army will be reduced by around 10,000 to 72,500, making it the smallest since 1714 War of Spanish Succession. Seven divisions will be reduced to four. More than 70 Challenger 2 mainline battle tanks will be mothballed. The squadron of 600 Warrior armoured vehicles will be retired while its replacement, Boxer, is still being developed.

The number of royal navy frigates and destroyers will be reduced by two to 17 until the end of the decade when it rises to 20, with the eventual aim of reaching 24 by the mid-2030s.

In the RAF, all 14 C-130 Hercules transport aircraft will go by 2023, to be replaced by the A400Ms.  Nine ageing Chinook helicopters and 20 Pumas will go, albeit with upgrades promised. Twenty-four Typhoon aircraft will leave service, with F-35s coming in and a new aircraft being developed in the UK as part of Project Tempest.

But while other conventional weaponry is being cut, the UK will increase its stockpile of nuclear warheads by 40 per cent, reversing the policy of seeking reduction to the nuclear arsenal.

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