British Army to be cut by 10,000 troops amid Russia and China warnings

22 March 2021, 16:14 | Updated: 22 March 2021, 20:00

The British Army is set to be cut by 10,000 troops. (PA)
The British Army is set to be cut by 10,000 troops. (PA). Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

The British Army is expected to be cut by 10,000 troops despite warnings over the threat posed by Russia and China.

The changes, set out in a newly-published defence paper, also see the military's older tanks, ships and warplanes get scrapped or phased out and a bigger focus on cyber warfare and drones.

Cuts to the army's manpower will leave it with around 72,500, reduced from the previous target of 82,000. It follows a decade of the service shrinking.

The new defence review aims to shed the force's "industrial age" capabilities and prepare it for future conflicts.

Other announced changes include a Royal Navy ship designed to protect vital undersea cables and the deployment of a newly-designed Royal Marine Future Commando Force.

A new Royal Marine unit will be deployed as part of the defence review. (PA)
A new Royal Marine unit will be deployed as part of the defence review. (PA). Picture: PA

Boris Johnson said the changes will deter the UK's "foes" and could prevent wars breaking out.

Speaking during a trip to defence giant BAE Systems in Preston, the Prime Minister said: "What we are doing is giving them the kit now that they will need to make themselves all the more useful, all the more, I'm afraid, lethal, and effective around the world.

"Therefore, all the more valuable to our allies, and all the more deterring to our foes.

Read more: MoD criticised over £17bn equipment 'funding black hole' ahead of Integrated Review

"We don't want to fight wars, we want to deter them, and we want to be useful around the world in partnership with our friends to keep the peace.

"To do that, you need strong, robust armed services of the kind that we are investing in, investing in for the long-term, not just for military purposes, although that's absolutely crucial, but for very, very good economic reasons as well."

However, former general Sir Mike Jackson warned on LBC the forces could be "found wanting" if they ridded themselves of too many conventional capabilities as it aims to fighter better in the cyber and space domains.

The cuts have caused concern about whether they would affect how the military fights future conflicts as states like Russia and China become more assertive on the world stage.

Former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers told LBC previously that Islamist extremism, Northern Ireland-related terror and the extreme right remain threats.

But he added: "I don't think any of them are the biggest threat we face – I think the biggest threats we face are from state actors like China and Russia."

Speaking to LBC's Tom Swarbrick on Sunday, Russian ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin said there was no description for the defence review's description of his country as an "acute threat".

He also expressed bafflement at the decision to lift the cap on how many nuclear warheads are stockpiled to 260.