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RAF prepares to cut 10,000 staff

'huge cuts in planes, bases, and personnel'

The Sunday Times's defence correspondent reports that Royal Air Force chiefs are preparing to cut 10,000 staff — a quarter of their manpower — and close up to five large air bases. The plans will reduce the RAF’s strength to 31,000 personnel over the next five years.

The plans will reduce the RAF’s strength to 31,000 personnel over the next five years, little more than half the level during the recent Iraq conflict and seriously diminishing its capability of fighting another conventional war.

It also intends to retire the majority of its Harrier and Tornado jets early, leaving it with about 80 fewer aircraft by 2025. The cuts are part of a package prepared for the 2010 annual spending round.

They are designed to pre-empt the savage cuts expected as part of the strategic defence review promised by whichever party wins power in next year’s general election.

A senior RAF officer said the plans were designed to save “significant amounts of money, measured in billions of pounds a year” rather than having them forced on the service by the review...

The Sunday Times also reports that up to five of the RAF's present 19 flying bases are expected to close within the next five years:

The bases most at risk include RAF Cottesmore in Rutland and RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire, both of which will close when the Harrier fleet is retired.

One of either RAF Marham in Norfolk or RAF Lossiemouth in Morayshire is under threat because of planned cuts to joint strike fighter numbers. So, too, is RAF Kinloss in Morayshire, with the new Nimrod MRA4 expected to move to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

One plan under consideration would see all RAF fast jet training moving to RAF Valley in Anglesey, leading to the possible closure of RAF Linton-on-Ouse and RAF Leeming, both in North Yorkshire.

Other proposals would see all the RAF’s Merlin helicopters move from RAF Benson in Oxfordshire to a joint RAF-

Royal Navy station at what is currently Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall.

<hrdata-mce-alt="not just the F3s" class="system-pagebreak" title="Not just the F3s" />

Not just the F3s

Investigative journalist and former Intelligence Corps member Michael Smith is the British Press Awards specialist writer of the year. He writes on defence and intelligence for The Sunday Times and has broken many exclusives. As Mick Smith, he has an influential blog at Times Online. He has supplied the following additional detail in connection with this story:

The Tornados are not just the F3s. All the Harriers to go over the next five years and the Tornados to go as well over a longer period allowing for replacement by Tranche 2 & 3 Typhoons. By 2025, all the Tornados, bar nine, oddly to have gone. Interestingly the 2025 figure projects nine Tornados (why keep just nine?), 120 Typhoons (all Tranche 2/3) and 50-60 JSF which are now expected to be all that will be bought, so these proposals assume all fast jets to be under light blue control, which is not likely to be popular with naval chiefs.


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