Airborne elite force to lose a third of its troops

Discussion in 'Europe and Russia' started by AVERAGE INDIAN, May 27, 2014.



    Sep 22, 2012
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    Detroit MI
    Britain's elite rapid reaction defence force is to lose around a third of its troops as part of the Government’s drive to cut Army numbers.

    16 Air Assault Brigade, which is built around soldiers from the Parachute Regiment, will see half of its regular infantry battalions removed, as well as losing air power, artillery and armoured vehicles.

    The move means the brigade, which spearheaded British operations in Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan, will be stripped of nearly 3,000 of its 8,000 troops by the end of the year, insiders estimate.

    One of its former senior officers warned that the cuts to the brigade would leave the British Army as little more than a “defence force”.

    Details of the cuts, first outlined in Army reforms last year, have emerged in the latest issue of the Parachute Regiment’s journal and in an internal briefing seen by The Sunday Telegraph.

    They are part of a Coalition drive to reduce the Army from 102,000 regulars to 82,000 by the end of the decade, helping to save around £10 billion from the Ministry of Defence budget.

    The specific cuts to 16 Air Assault Brigade will see several infantry units – 1st and 2nd Bns the Royal Irish Regiment – leaving the brigade and being transferred to a lower readiness force by the end of the year. Fifth Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, which was also part of the brigade, has been disbanded apart from one company that has been put on ceremonial duties.

    A squadron of armoured reconnaissance vehicles from the Household Cavalry Regiment, where Prince Harry is an officer, is also being reassigned. The brigade will also lose artillery, engineers and helicopters.

    Dan Jarvis MP, a former Parachute Regiment officer who served with the brigade in Iraq, said the cuts would undermine the brigade and were “baffling”.

    “It seems strange that what is essentially a very important part of our military capability is being undermined in this way,” he said.

    “The drawdown in Afghanistan means our focus now pivots towards contingency operations with 16 Air Assault set to play a lead role within that.

    “It’s therefore baffling why, just at the point where we start to focus on contingency operations, cuts are being made that will undermine the deployability and combat effectiveness of the brigade.”

    As well as the Army losing 20,000 regulars, the Navy is losing 5,500 sailors and the RAF 8,000 airmen. Defence chiefs fear the cuts could deepen even further.

    Gen Sir Nick Houghton, Chief of Defence Staff, last year warned the military risked becoming a “hollow force” with state-of-the-art equipment but no one to operate it unless manpower budgets increase.

    Col Tim Collins, whose 1st Bn the Royal Irish Regiment was part of 16 Air Assault Brigade during the Iraq invasion, said the cuts were driven by government money-saving, rather than any strategy, adding: “We are in a bad place. The Army is now of a size where it’s hard to call it an army. It’s more of a defence force.”

    An Army spokesman said: “Difficult decisions were taken in the 2010 SDSR [Strategic Defence and Security Review] to ensure we can properly equip the Army for the future.

    “Changes to the structure and size of 16 Air Assault Brigade were announced in 2013 and implemented as part of wider changes that will ensure the Army is more flexible and better able to meet future threats.

    “It will remain the Army’s premier high readiness formation and will be able to draw on support from other divisions and support units should this be required. This is at the heart of creating a more adaptable force and will have no impact on our operational effectiveness.”

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