In the most dramatic defense realignment of a major power since the end of the Cold War, the British government appears poised to scrap a 24-year commitment to buying a replacement for the Harrier jump jet and to push money from conventional forces to special operations troops.
The biggest weapons decisions affect the Royal Navy. The nuclear Trident submarine will be delayed for a year to save £750 million, the Daily Telegraph reports from London. And in what sounds like a classic example of a service compromise, Britain will buy its two aircraft carriers, the most expensive ships in British history. But the country will supposedly scrap one of the ships after only three years, the Telegraph says. Scrapping one of the carriers, which the current government wanted to do. would have cost "the taxpayer more than going ahead with both. As a result, the two carriers will enter service, but one will be mothballed as soon as possible."
Also, the F-35B, the VSTOL version of the Joint Strike Fighter, will not be bought. The carriers will instead be modified with arresting cables and catapults to handle F-35Cs. And the carriers will only launch helicopters for as much as eight years before getting the F-35Cs, according to the Telegraph and the Financial Times.
Here are the other major changes as outlined by the Telegraph's political correspondent:
"The Army will lose 7,000 soldiers, more than 100 tanks and 200 armored vehicles." One armored brigade will be cut.
The RAF will lose some 5,000 people and two air bases will close.
The Navy’s war fleet will drop from 24 to 19 and it will lose 4,000 sailors. The Harriers will be scrapped next year.
Special operations troops such as the SAS should win "a significant increase" in their funding so they can buy better gear. "Recruitment is also likely to rise," the paper says.
One of the most politically interesting details is that British forces will begin to leave Germany soon, after almost 65 years there. If Britain really does do this, how far behind the Conservative government will be American liberals such as Rep. Barney Frank, saying the British left Germany, why can't we?