The British Ministry of Defense has announced a plan for restructuring the armed forces over the next four years. In order to fund new technology and future platforms, the Army, Navy, and Air Force are all going to take cuts, with a total loss of 20,000 military and civil service positions. By March 2007, the army will withdraw seven Challenger 2 main battle tank squadrons around 90 tanks and six 155mm self-propelled howitzer batteries. Some of the howitzer batteries will be re-equipped with a mobile 105mm system. Heavy armor systems will be replaced with the "Future Rapid Effects System" (FRES), the British kin to the U.S. Army's medium weight Future Combat System (FCS) family of vehicles.
Perhaps the most controversial move in the army is reorganizing the infantry from 40 to 36 battalions, removing one of the legendary Scottish battalions off the UK rolls (along with three of the English ones) a sore point with many traditionalists. The Army is reorganizing its infantry battalions due to the "normalization" of Northern Ireland situation. Total personnel will drop from 103,500 to 102,000.
The RAF will disband one Tornado F3 air-defense squadron and retire its Jaguar fighter/ground attack fleet by 2007. In addition, the current fleet of 21 Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol aircraft will be cut to 16 planes, with only 12 plans scheduled to be fully upgraded. One airfield (Cottishall) will be closed and personnel staffing will be reduced from 48,500 to 41,000.
Perhaps the hardest hit in some respects in the Royal Navy. It is taking cuts in nuclear attack submarines (SSNs), destroyer/frigates, and mine-countermeasure ships. Total manpower will fall from 37,500, to 36,000. The Royal Navy had intended to operate 10 SSNs, but will be cut to 8 by the end of 2008. Destroyer/frigate numbers will drop from 31 to 25 by 2006 due to a belief the navy needs less specialized anti-submarine assets. The navy will only add 8 Type 45 destroyers and those won't come with a long-range land-attack missile like the Tactical Tomahawk; originally the Navy had planned for 12 ships. The first of the anti-air destroyers is expected to enter into service in 2007. Mine countermeasure ships will go down from 22 to 16 vessels. Some are worried that there won't be enough surface combatants to support the pair of aircraft carriers the UK has committed to build. Doug Mohney