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Defence chiefs plan to slash Army size and lend one of Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers to the US

Defence chiefs plan to slash Army to its smallest size in a century and lend one of Royal Navy’s flagship new aircraft carriers to the US amid fears of further budget cuts

  • Military top brass are considering cutting the army down to 60,000 to 65,000
  • Sources said the army is pressing for an aircraft carrier to be leased to the US 
  • Navy chiefs are understood to be furious and want RAF numbers cut instead
  • Tories pledged in 2015 to maintain force of 82,000 but it is already at 73,000 

By Ross Ibbetson For Mailonline

Published: | Updated:

Defence chiefs are planning to slash the Army to its smallest size in a century and lend one of the Royal Navy’s flagship new aircraft carriers to the US, military sources have revealed.

The Tory manifesto’s removal of a commitment to ‘maintain the overall size of the armed forces’ made two years ago by Theresa May has forced the top brass to consider its spending, The Sunday Times reports.

High-ranking officers are considering an army of just 60,000 to 65,000, shrinking it to the smallest force in centuries.

Despite a 2015 manifesto pledge the Army would maintain at least 82,000 soldiers, it has already shrunk to 73,000. 

Top military officers are considering leasing one of the Royal Navy’s flagship new aircraft carriers to the Americans, sourced told The Times 

Top naval officers are understood to be furious that army bosses are looking at leasing one of their new aircraft carriers to the Americans. In response they are urging the RAF should see their numbers cut.

One source told The Times: ‘The army hates the aircraft carriers, which they have always seen as white elephants, but the Americans love them. They’re cutting-edge because they can operate with far fewer crew than the US carriers.

‘The army can’t recruit or retain the people it needs. Both the army and the navy think that the job of the RAF will soon be done by drones.’

Soldiers in action as the British Army demonstrate the latest and future technology used on operations across the globe on Salisbury plain training area on October 29, 2019. The army is looking to bring its numbers down to somewhere between 60,000 and 65,000 defence sources told The Sunday Times 

The army numbered 3.1million men at the end of World War Two and then shrank to 159,000 in 1980 and was at 102,120 in 2003, during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Defence sources told the Times, the direction and scope of the cuts would be down in large part to who takes the helm when General Sir Nick Carter steps down as the chief of defence staff next year.

Admiral Tony Radakin, the first sea lord, is most likely to cut back the army’s numbers, while Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, chief of the general staff, would be more likely to flog the carriers.

At the White-hall spending review earlier this year Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to pump £2.2billion in to the UK military. Pictured with Ben Wallace during a visit to Salisbury plain training area on Thursday, September 19

Considerations for military cuts remain at an early stage but have followed a directive by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace that they must ‘cut their cloth’ according to the budget.

He has secured another £2.2billion for the military but said he wants better kit rather than an expanded fighting force.

In September, Mr Wallace revealed the money would go towards ‘dilapidated not fit for purpose accommodation.’

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