Army plans cuts to its infantry that could see up to a third of troops

Revealed: Army plans huge cuts to its infantry that could see up to a third of troops axed as critics fear UK won’t be able to fight lengthy wars like in Iraq

  • Army will make cuts to infantry, with smaller forces going on shorter missions
  • Critics fear the move will leave the UK unable to fight long military campaigns
  • It will be overseen by new Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin
  • The Rifles Regiment is set to lose more than 900 troops, falling to 1,600 by 2025

The Army is to make huge cuts to its infantry – its main body of fighting troops – in a move that critics fear will leave the UK unable to fight lengthy military campaigns.

Reductions in personnel will see the military send smaller-sized forces on shorter missions, rather than bigger and longer deployments such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

The controversial move will be overseen by the new Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin.

In one case the Rifles Regiment is expected to lose more than 900 troops, falling in strength from around 2,500 regular soldiers to 1,600 by 2025.

The plans are set out in a memo circulated among Rifles officers that has been obtained by the Daily Mail.

Reductions in personnel will see the military send smaller-sized forces on shorter missions, rather than bigger and longer deployments such as Iraq and Afghanistan (file photo)

The proposals are yet to be confirmed but, if approved, could see the infantry shrink by as much as one regular soldier in three, from around 16,500 to 11,000. 

These full-time troops would either be reassigned to more specialised units or not replaced after retiring or accepting voluntary redundancy packages. No sackings are anticipated.

Last night the Ministry of Defence said details of plans for the infantry’s reorganisation would be submitted to ministers later this autumn and final decisions would then be made public. 

The Rifles officer who wrote the memo urged colleagues to be cautious sharing its contents. 

He said: ‘The Commanding Officer has passed on information of interest to you all. Not all is universally positive and I implore you to communicate it with compassion and a bit of common sense. 

‘There is a leadership responsibility on us to ensure we lead our people through this process.

‘We, the Army, will evolve from a capability-based force to a threat-based force optimised to counter VEOs (Violent Extremist Organisations) and HSAs (Hostile State Actors).

‘Speed of response is key so we are substituting mass for speed and technology. The plan envisages a big reduction in size and a modernisation.

The controversial move will be overseen by the new Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin (pictured)

‘The infantry will shrink by 32 per cent. The Rifles will lose 921 [troops] by 2025, which is a very short timeline. Regimentally this is a huge challenge.’

The organisation of the Army’s 30 full-time infantry battalions will also be overhauled, with seven ‘divisions’ of infantry shrinking to four.

Each of these divisions will be aligned to a battalion from the Army’s new £120million overseas training force known as the Rangers.

The 1,000-strong unit will train, advise and accompany indigenous troops in high-risk states, with Somalia mooted as its first deployment later this year.

While he backs the creation of the Rangers, Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, last night urged the MoD to ‘retain resilience in our conventional capability’ and to protect the infantry. 

He added: ‘This is based on wider complex threats that loom over the horizon, such as Russia and China, and our recent experience in tackling Covid and the Afghan evacuation. Troop numbers need to be maintained.’ 

Defence sources insisted last night that the Army is still committed to retaining 72,500 troops overall – a reduction from 82,000 confirmed in this year’s Integrated Review. 

Last night an Army spokesman said: ‘Plans for structural reform are not yet finalised so speculation is unhelpful. Detailed plans will be submitted to ministers later this autumn.’

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