Though presented as a roadmap under which Britain's armed forces would be restructured to meet the requirements of a 'changing world', many servicemen see the Defence Review as a thinly veiled excuse for spending cuts.

The modest spending increase of £3.7 billion ($6.8 billion) in real terms after inflation over a three year period, represents a 1.4% increase - far less than was awarded to any other department - and is in any case dependent on the MoD finding annual 'efficiency savings' of £2.8 billion (or £8.4 billion over the whole period).

Though the review acknowledged an 'expanded regional focus', and a need to optimise force structure to support three concurrent small- and medium-scale operations - one more than in the Strategic Defence Review planning assumptions - and though it stressed the need for 'speed, precision, agility, deployability, reach and sustainability', it also judged that lower force levels and lighter forces were required. The RAF has been particularly hard hit, and its manpower will be slashed from 48,500 to 41,000 by April 2008.

With this in mind the RAF's fast jet force, which has already been heavily overstretched supporting operations in the Balkans and the Middle East, will be further reduced.

The Strategic Defence Review identified a need for five air defence squadrons and then promptly reduced the force to four, and the latest review will remove another, 11 Squadron at RAF Leeming, flying the Tornado F3, which will disband in October 2005.

More significantly, the RAF's Jaguar fighter-bomber force will be removed from service two years earlier than planned, long before Eurofighter Typhoon has any significant air-to-ground capability.

54(F) Squadron will now disband in April 2005, with 41(F) Squadron following in April 2006. RAF Coltishall will close in December 2006, and 6 Squadron, the final Jaguar unit, will stand down at RAF Coningsby in 2007.



Source: Flight Daily News