General Sir Richard Barrons, former Commander of Joint Forces Command, warns that the defence budget must be increased so the UK can protect against potential attacks from China or Russia.
The General told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme:
“I’m sure I haven’t convinced him because I am sure nobody in government is at the minute having the profoundly important debate that we need to have about how the world has changed, how the UK is at greater risk and what we need to be prepared to do in the future because the future will not replicate the comfortable recent past.
The risk today and more so in the future is that countries like Russia and China already have capability that could hold the UK homeland at military risk at very short notice.
We can’t really deal with that and we also run the risk in the future that British citizens or friends abroad will be in great jeopardy, they would need military help and we would have removed the ability to help them and our place in the world would be much diminished and we would be at risk.”
Sir Barron also warned that the Army should not shrink in size any further:
“I think the army of 82,000 plus a strong reserve of 30,000 is a good place to start. I don’t believe it can be any smaller. Below 82,000 is a problem but it is not the core issue. The core issue is what equipment does that Army have and how do you get it to the places it needs to be to do the things it must do.”
Sir Richard concluded by remarking that the MoD needs to “think about defence in its historically normal context of being prepared for wars of necessity where public opinion demands action.”
Last year, General Sir Richard Barrons wrote a scathing 10 page assessment of Britain’s armed forces in a private memo to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. Below are excerpts from that memo.
● There is no military plan to defend the UK in a conventional conflict. “Counter-terrorism is the limit of up-to-date plans and preparations to secure our airspace, waters and territory . . . There is no top-to-bottom command and control mechanism, preparation or training in place for the UK armed forces [to defend home territory] . . . let alone to do so with Nato.”
● Navy ships and RAF planes are often deployed without adequate munitions or protections because they have grown used to depending on US forces to protect and support them. “Key capabilities such as radars, fire control systems and missile stocks are deficient.”
● Small numbers of hugely expensive pieces of military equipment make the UK’s capabilities “extremely fragile”. It is unlikely the UK’s two new aircraft carriers, which cost £2bn each, will ever be sent within 300km of the Chinese coast, for example. “We operate platforms that we cannot afford to use fully, damage or lose — industry would take years to repair or produce more.”
Read more about the memo here.