According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, RAF chiefs fear that the “cream” of the air force is leaving after a dozen group captains resigned or asked for voluntary redundancy in the past month:
One of the officers had been earmarked to become a future head of the RAF and three others were in line to become at least air vice-marshals.
The news comes as the second-in-command of the RAF warned that morale was becoming “fragile” as the Service faced deep cuts that include 5,000 redundancies. Senior RAF sources have said that the officers decided to quit after they had “seen the writing on the wall” with reductions in equipment and personnel.
The resignations will add further pressure on the Government to reverse the cuts made in last year’s defence review.
At least one of the officers is serving on the staff of the head of the RAF and is known to be privy to future plans for the Service that will see it shrink drastically in size and influence.
The Telegraph reported last week that Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant, Commander-in-Chief Air Command, had privately told MPs that the RAF would struggle to continue combat operations in Afghanistan and Libya if operations continued beyond September. It is understood that the group captains – the equivalent of a colonel in the Army – have resigned not because of poor morale but because they see far fewer opportunities in a weakened RAF, defence sources said.
The officers, a number of whom have recently experienced marital problems, are also fed up with being on constant deployment so have decided to get out “while the going is good” and they are at their most marketable.
There are 330 group captains in the RAF and it is understood that up to 50 of them will be made compulsorily redundant in September. The Armed Forces are to make 17,000 personnel redundant over the next three years as part of budget cuts from the Strategic Defence and Security Review. Officers who reach the rank of group captain have had a substantial amount of money and education invested in them.
An RAF officer said yesterday that they were a “critical rank who have had a lot of money invested in them preparing them for higher command”.
The RAF source said: “These are the guys who will handle policy for years to come, they are the future leaders of the RAF but the reason that they are bailing out is because they have had direct briefings from senior officer in the air staff about the future of the RAF. Clearly, they don’t like what they see and don’t see a role for themselves as they see a narrowing of the career structure. These are very intelligent men and they can see the writing on the wall.
“They are young enough to look elsewhere and they will get picked up with very, very good jobs.”
Andrew Robathan, the Defence Minister, said: “Unpalatable but necessary decisions had to be taken at the MoD to deal with the financial black hole left behind by Labour. We have to get the defence programme back in step with the budget to ensure we can properly plan for future threats.”
- Source story, by Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent: Cream of officers bail out of Telegraph