UK

UK defence cuts 'manageable risk'

The UK's armed forces chief has said losing military capability as a result of defence budget cuts will pose risks - but insisted they will be manageable.

Harrier jump jets and HMS Ark Royal are being scrapped, while aircraft carriers will be without planes for 10 years.

Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Sir David Richards, said this was less risky than losing other capabilities.

Meanwhile, he warned MPs that military morale would plummet if the UK's mission in Afghanistan failed.

Gen Sir David said the most important thing for forces was the knowledge they had done "a good job", although he was "certain" they would succeed.

The strength of UK forces could eventually come down from about 10,000 to nearer 1,000, who would stay on to support Afghan troops once UK combat operations end, he told the Commons Defence Select Committee.

Gen Sir David, promoted from head of the Army in October, accepted some people considered the loss of planes from aircraft carriers - announced in last month's strategic review - "a big risk".

'Risk, not gamble'

But he argued: "It's certainly a risk but it's less of a risk than doing away with certain other capabilities."

It was "nice to know" that Britain would have a carrier strike capability by 2020, he said.

Image caption The general also admitted scrapping the Nimrod was a risk

Gen Sir David also told the MPs that losing the Nimrod spy planes was "a risk but not a gamble".

And he added that insuring against every threat would have left the country broke.

One of Gen Sir David's predecessors, Admiral Lord Boyce, has previously described the decision to cut the carrier force as "a desperate expression of hope over experience".

And the Marshall of the RAF Lord Craig of Radley, who was chief of the defence staff from 1988 to 1991, attacked the "savage savings" during a debate in the Lords.

Cutting the number of frigates and destroyers to 19 and scrapping the Nimrods had "collectively blown an enormous hole in national maritime capability", he argued.

Ministers have insisted the review was guided by military priorities rather than just cost savings, resulting in "tough but fair" budgeting.

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