Army to be cut by 10,000 soldiers - but experts fear it could leave UK vulnerable

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 10:52 am
Updated Monday, 22nd March 2021, 10:52 am
Army to be cut by 10,000 soldiers - but experts fear it could leave UK vulnerable (Photo: Shutterstock)

The number of troops in the British Army is set to be reduced by around 10,000 soldiers, as part of a broader move toward drones and other technology-based warfare solutions.

The Government will unveil the full defence review later today, but a significant cut to the number of troops is expected, alongside reductions to some tanks and aircraft.

The cuts to soldier numbers come despite a direct promise to the contrary in the Conservative manifesto, with Boris Johnson saying in November 2019 that “we will not be cutting our armed services in any form.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The cuts will leave the number of soldiers in the army at its lowest in around 200 years, according to experts.

Speaking to Times Radio, Defence Minister Ben Wallace said: “When the threat changes, we change with it. If we didn’t change with it, we would have an army like the First World War. It’s really important we’re driven by the threat not sentimentality.”

Despite claims by ministers that the changes in the review reflect the changing needs and requirements of the UK’s defence strategy, some experts have expressed concern about their potential impact.

‘We need numbers’

Speaking to Times Radio, former Chief of Defence staff, Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, said: “You’ve got to have some of the more traditional capability in case mass becomes an asymmetric attraction to one’s potential opponents. I’m thinking Russia and China.

“I don’t necessarily buy that they’re about to start World War Three with us, but, they still possess large numbers, and if all we’ve got is high-tech stuff, and they’ve got half a million troops that can come across the border at you, then these high-tech capabilities aren’t going to be much good.

“If your opponent senses that they are at a disadvantage, or their own capability is being neutered by one’s own possession of those capabilities, they will look for another way of achieving their goals, and that could suddenly become numbers again - mass. And we certainly won’t have it.”

Defence minister George Wallace will appear in the Commons to announce the defence review in full later today (22 Mar).