“Five infantry battalions are to be withdrawn and 17 major units in total axed from the Army in its biggest overhaul for decades.
Troop levels are to be slashed by a fifth from 102,000 to 82,000, while the Territorial Army will be expanded to give a combined force of 120,000.
The 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh will all go in the shake-up.
A fifth, the 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland will be reduced to a public duties company to carry out public duties in Scotland.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond admitted in the Commons that the reforms would be “unwelcome” but insisted they would create a “balanced, capable and adaptable force” for the future.
“After inheriting a massive overspend from the last Government, we have had to make tough decisions to implement our vision of a formidable, adaptable and flexible armed forces,” he said.
“After a decade of enduring operations, we need to transform the Army and build a balanced, capable and adaptable force ready to face the future.
“Army 2020 will create a more flexible and agile Army. Unlike the past, it will be set on a firm foundation of men and material, well trained, well equipped and fully funded.”
He insisted: “The regimental system will remain the bedrock of the Army’s fighting future.”
As part of the changes, the Armoured Corps will be reduced by two units with the merger of the Queen’s Royal Lancers and the 9th/12th Royal Lancers and the 1st and 2nd Tank Regiments amalgamating.
There will also be reductions in the number of units in the Royal Artillery, the Royal Engineers, the Army Air Corps, the Royal Logistic Corps, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the Royal Military Police.
The plan – known as Army 2020 – will see the military split into two, with a reaction force ready to respond to emergencies around the globe and an adaptable force capable of carrying out a range of tasks and commitments.
But the prospect of losing historic units has been the cause of intense anguish within the service.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed this week that one officer, Brigadier David Paterson of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, had written to the head of the Army expressing his bitter disappointment at plans to axe one of its two battalions.
In his letter to General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff, Brig Paterson said the proposal “cannot be presented as the best or most sensible military option”.
Mr Hammond has acknowledged that the plans, drawn up by Lieutenant General Nick Carter, have involved some “difficult” decisions.
But he said that cuts could not be avoided, with the demands for strict financial discipline under the Government’s 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
For the plans to be successful, reductions in regular Army strength will need to be offset by increases in part-time reservists, with the Territorial Army doubling in numbers from 15,000 to 30,000.
As well as providing specialist capabilities – such as medics and intelligence – reservists would be used to reinforce infantry battalions on deployment.
They will be expected to shoulder a third of the burden of long-term operations.
The Army will also be required to make greater use of civilian contractors in areas such as logistics support in order to concentrate military capability on the frontline.
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy told Sky News: “You can’t make cuts in the British army of this depth and at this speed without it having an impact on our ability to project power, our influence in the world and the ability of the British army to be deployed on a sustainable basis at points in the future.
“This isn’t without cost and without consequence. There will be an enormous blow to morale in the British army but there are also going to be consequences about what the army can do.”
Source : Sky news