Lord Richard Dannatt, the former UK chief of staff between 2006 and 2009, has issued a dire warning to the UK authorities about the lack of competitiveness of the British armed forces after years of cuts, which have left them, he said in an interview, unequipped to deal with a hypothetical conflict with Russia. Dannatt added that the cuts pose a risk at a time when the United States wants an ally it can rely on.
Lord Dannatt’s analysis is so negative that he even suggests that the UK would find it difficult to support the US in conflicts such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq today. He added: “The Russians are laughing at us, the Americans are shaking their heads”.
Lord Dannatt said the MoD is bankrupt because of the high cost of the F-35B fighters, which cost $111 million each and up to $125,000 per flying hour. This price tag is so high that the US air force is starting to look for a cheaper fighter jet.
This Tuesday, the Ministry of Defence will announce a major reorganisation of the armed forces. In this context, the former top commander insisted that “the operating cost of the F-35B is the real concern”. He believes that this item will drain the defence budget for decades to come. “Who is the loser? Well, I would say this: it’s the army,” said Dannatt, who predicted that procurement plans for these aircraft will be changed from 138 F-35 fighters to just 48.
Lord Dannatt also said: “There is not much money in the Challenger or Warrior [tank] upgrade programmes, our field artillery has a third of the capability of a Russian formation and we don’t have significant air defence against drones on the battlefield.
There is currently an estimated 10,000 British troops short and defence sources say the army could be reduced to around 72,000 over the next ten years. Dannatt recalled that when the army had 101,800 troops in 2010, “we were able to run two operations simultaneously in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today that could not happen. He added: “The underfunding of the Army’s equipment programme means that our ability to deploy a warfare division is very low to non-existent”.
Recently, the chairman of the US House Armed Services Committee, Democrat Adam Smith, questioned the excessive spending associated with the development of the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and suggested “stop throwing money down that mousetrap”. “What does the F-35 give us, and is there a way to cut our losses, and is there a way to stop spending so much money on such a low capability?” asked Smith at a Brookings Institution think tank event.
In late 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed the deal to sell 50 Lockheed Martin F-35 “Lightning II” fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of a $23.37 billion package, a decision that was not to Israel’s liking, even though it recently reached an agreement with the UAE to resume diplomatic relations after decades of confrontation.