Britain’s military will be the ‘right size’ to face modern threats, says Defence Secretary Ben Wallace as he refuses to be drawn on claims the Army will be cut by 10,000 troops
- Defence Secretary Ben Wallace refused to be drawn on rumoured Army cuts
- Reports 10,000 troops could be cut but Mr Wallace said Army will be ‘right size’
- Came as it emerged special forces will be used to counter hostile state activity
- General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith said SAS and SBS taking a ‘different trajectory’
- Chief said some of traditional roles now be taken over by new Ranger Regiment
Ben Wallace today refused to be drawn on claims the size of the Army will be cut by 10,000 as he insisted Britain’s armed forces will be the ‘right size’ to counter modern threats.
The Defence Secretary said he was not willing to ‘get into the speculation’ on the issue after reports suggested soldier numbers could be slashed from 82,000 to 72,500 over the next decade.
Mr Wallace will tomorrow publish the Government’s long-awaited Defence Command Paper which will set out how ministers intend to modernise the UK’s capabilities.
Any cut in the size of the armed forces is likely to spark a furious backlash from some Tory MPs.
Mr Wallace’s comments came after it emerged that Britain’s Special Forces will be tasked with countering hostile state activity by the likes of Russia.
The head of the Army, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, said the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) will be put on a ‘different trajectory’ as part of tomorrow’s major shake-up.
Ben Wallace today refused to be drawn on claims the size of the Army will be cut by 10,000 as he insisted Britain’s armed forces will be the ‘right size’ to counter modern threats
Mr Wallace’s comments came after it emerged that Britain’s Special Forces will be tasked with countering hostile state activity by the likes of Russia. Royal Marine Commandos are pictured during an exercise in Dorset on March 19
Changes are set to include:
- Additional investment for ‘intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance’ as well as for electronic warfare
- Additional £3billion funding for the British Army
- The National Cyber Force will be expanded
- New Space Command to co-ordinate military and commercial operation
- Royal Navy will get a new Multi Role Ocean Surveillance ship (MROSS) protect vital undersea cables that are at ‘risk of sabotage’ by enemy submarines
However, while the Army would get an additional £3billion, there are also understood to be cuts with a reduction of around 10,000 troops expected.
There will also likely be cuts to armoured fighting vehicles and the last remaining C-130J Hercules transport aircraft.
The overhaul could see Special Forces soldiers operating alongside MI6 to mount surveillance operations against Russian intelligence and military units.
The Army chief said some of the traditional roles fulfilled by the Special Forces would now be taken over by a new Ranger Regiment.
Speaking ahead of the publication of the Command Paper, Mr Wallace the UK’s Armed Forces must adapt to counter threats which have ‘changed beyond recognition’ in the past 30 years.
He has pledged additional investment for ‘intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance’ as well as for electronic warfare.
The National Cyber Force will be expanded, there will be a new Space Command to co-ordinate military and commercial operation and the Royal Navy will get a new Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance ship (MROSS) to protect vital undersea cables.
Responding to the reports that the Army is set to see troop numbers reduced by 10,000, Mr Wallace told Sophy Ridge on Sky News: ‘Well look, I am not going to reveal on the media before Parliament the details of numbers of our men and women in our armed forces.
‘It is important that I deliver the Command Paper. Parliament establishes the armed forces, that is my obligation to Parliament.
‘I am not going to get into the speculation. We had in November a speculative story I remember in the BBC about cutting the Army to 65,000 – I have seen lots of numbers used.
‘I think the assurance I can give the viewers is that what I will be doing is making sure we have an Armed Forces that is the right size to meet the threat and the right size to meet the Government’s ambition of having a global Britain that can uphold values and support its allies.’
General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, the head of the Army, said the SAS and SBS will be put on a ‘different trajectory’ as part of a wider defence shake-up
The Army chief said some traditional Special Forces roles will now be taken over by a new Ranger Regiment. (Stock image)
Russia blasts UK over nuclear weapons decision
Russia’s ambassador to the UK has accused the Government of violating its international treaty obligations by raising the cap on its stockpile of nuclear warheads.
Andrei Kelin said the announcement in the Integrated Review of foreign and defence policy that it was raising the limit from 180 warheads to 260 had come as a ‘big surprise’.
In an interview with LBC’s Swarbrick On Sunday programme, he said the review had offered no justification for its description of Russia as an ‘acute threat’ and that the political relationship between London and Moscow was now ‘nearly dead’.
Mr Kelin expressed bafflement at the decision to lift the cap on the nuclear stockpile, saying it violated the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty – a claim which the Government has denied.
‘If UK is going to continue to raise a number of nuclear warheads, and this was a big surprise for the whole world, I will say even for the American experts. So they think ‘UK, what are you doing?” he said.
‘You are increasing a number of warheads by 40%. This is a violation of the treaty of non-proliferation and many, many other agreements that are saying only a decline or a reduction in the number of nukes.’
General Carleton-Smith set out the planned changes to the role of Special Forces to The Sunday Telegraph overnight, telling the newspaper: ‘The most persistent and lethal threats are those associated with hostile state actors.
‘So they’re tracking a different trajectory and what they leave behind is a vacuum where they need to hand off tasks, missions and responsibilities to a second echelon force. The Rangers will fit neatly into that.’
It is likely that Special Forces units will be tasked alongside MI6 with uncovering the activities of Russian military intelligence – the GRU – thought to be responsible for the Salisbury nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Elite units could also be charged with countering the activities of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organisation widely thought to act as proxies for the Kremlin.
Also writing in the newspaper, Mr Wallace added: ‘We can no longer take for granted the superiority of Western capabilities. Our enemies have infinitely more options.
‘Encryption, precision, and information operations complicate the threat picture. We find ourselves constantly confronted in the ‘grey zone’ – aggressive actions below the threshold of open conflict.’
While reports suggest the Army will receive an additional £3billion in funding as part of the Command Paper shake-up, cuts to armoured fighting vehicles and the last remaining C-130J Hercules transport aircraft are also expected.
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