The Ready for War? study by the Commons Defence Committee calls for “rapidly accelerating reforms” to make sure that the UK can wage a prolonged and all-out war
Our armed forces are devastatingly short of weapons – and losing troops faster than they can recruit them.
A damning report by MPs out today warns they are so badly equipped and lacking in manpower and investment that they may be unprepared to fight.
The Ready for War? study by the Commons Defence Committee calls for “rapidly accelerating reforms” to make sure the military can wage “all-out, prolonged war”. It says the Army, Royal Navy and RAF are facing such high demands while stretched so thin that Britain relies on their “can do” dedication.
Being stretched too thin on deployments is prompting more personnel to resign – and a lack of replacements because of a recruitment crisis piles on more stress, causing a “vicious cycle” as yet more quit.
The Army is now down to around 73,000 soldiers, compared with 100,000 in 2010, following a decade of Tory cuts. It is believed the Marines are down to around 6,000 commandos, having lost more than a thousand in recent years through retention issues and poor recruitment.
The 3 Commando Brigade, responsible for major operations including the protecting UK’s northern flank, is “no longer able to deploy at brigade strength”.
At the same time, arms stockpiles have depleted because the UK has been sending tanks, missiles, drones and ammunition to Ukraine. Sir Jeremy Quin, chairman of the committee and Tory MP for Horsham, said our armed forces were a world-class force still able to deploy at short notice.
But he warned: “Our inquiry found that readiness for all-out, prolonged war has received insufficient attention and needs intense ongoing focus.”
Military operations and other commitments meant the services were unable to devote enough training and resources to high-intensity fighting, he said.
Sir Jeremy added: “The high tempo of operations and unrelenting pressure has led to a drop in retention, compounded by low recruitment and difficulties
maintaining capabilities, thereby creating a vicious cycle.
“Today’s report calls on Government to start making difficult choices: either invest fully in our military or recognise proper prioritisation of war-fighting will mean less availability for other tasks. We need to be strategic about resources, including how to maintain stockpiles, and consider how to ensure that equipment does not go to waste. ”
The crisis comes as Britain appears closer to conflict with Russia than at any time since the Cold War and faces threats from hostile states such as Iran. The Army has been hit by disastrous hiring drives, having outsourced to recruitment company Capita, leaving the service at its smallest since the 1850s.
Last week, we revealed top brass wasted £100,000 on a recruitment campaign using video game Fortnite that had to be scrapped after claims it was targeting children. And the head of the Army caused alarm by calling for a “citizens’ army” to be trained to fight a future land war.
General Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of the General Staff, said the number of soldiers had halved in 30 years.
Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey has blamed “13 years of failure” by the Tories. Commenting on a report which revealed a £17billion “black hole” in the defence budget in December, he said: “With war in Europe and a Middle East conflict, this risks leaving our forces without the equipment and troops they need to fight.”