Defence experts in both the UK and abroad fear the British Armed Forces are now not capable of playing a leading role in combatting Russian aggression after years of cuts. As the UK prepares to take over leadership of NATO’s rapid-reaction force from Germany at the end of the year, reports in German media have highlighted big problems with the British military.
A source from the Ministry of Defence said: “There are serious problems with ammunition shortages and other kit which is partly due to underspending – but also because of the amount of ammo and other ordnance we are supplying to Ukraine.
“Our forces are also stretched because of the extent to which they are training Ukrainian forces.”
Cuts to the British Army have been consistent in recent years. Under current plans, the army is due to shrink to 73,000 full-time troops from 82,000. It is currently at below 76,000. This means the army is now smaller than it has been since the 1700s.
With the UK now preparing to lead NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), known as the “tip of the spear” and the West’s first line of defence, there could be calls for increased defence spending.
The UK will have to be ready to deploy 5,000 troops within two to five days. The agreement also says soldiers cannot be “double enabled”, meaning they are not meant to be working on other tasks while operating in the role.
MoD sources have admitted that it is unclear whether the UK will be able to meet this requirement.
On Sunday, defence analyst Francis Tusa wrote in the Mail on Sunday: “The British Army is broken. It doesn’t have the manpower to commit for a year to a mission such as VJTF.
“The resources, the numbers, the training, the equipment just aren’t there.
“To cover gaps, the British Army tries to pretend that a unit can somehow, simultaneously, be “committed” to multiple tasks or missions.
“People choose to accept this at Army Command and in Main Building [the MoD’s Whitehall HQ] – the UK’s allies are less convinced.”
This week, Express.co.uk also spoke to Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood about the UK’s defence capabilities.
He urged the Government to increase defence spending. Mr Ellwood said: “We have not upgraded our stockpiles since the war in Ukraine started. Ultimately, if we went into a peer-to-peer battle we’d last about seven or eight days before we ran out of ammunition, and that is a very dangerous place to be.
“In mock battles with the US, we run out of artillery shells in less than a week. Not only is it dangerous, but it also means we are not meeting our NATO commitments.