I was amused to see this week that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was calling on Europe to increase its defence spending in the light of the developments following September 11. Perhaps before he starts preaching to the rest of Europe he must look at the appalling state of the British armed services. Britain, thanks to defence cuts, will be unable to field any of its new state of the art attack helicopters because of the problems of training pilots. The two billion pound project, the cornerstone of the British Rapid Reaction Force, is now a shambles. The list goes on. Not even the army's rifles work, tanks cannot operate in desert conditions and army boots melt in the desert sun. The Royal Navy at this moment in time has no amphibious assault ships, its force of frigates and destroyers is being over-worked and the Fleet Air Arm will soon lose its Sea Harriers. The RAF is still waiting for the Eurofighter and once it finally enters service it will be redundant because its technology is ancient. Britain's armed forces are not capable of going into battle at the moment. The facts are that Britain's armed services have never been in a worse state and soon, I suspect, they will be asked to fight Saddam Hussein.

The difference between the two is that Saddam has attack helicopters which work, his tanks don't get stuck in the desert and his air force has state of the art equipment. The British armed forces have gone the same way as other public services in Britain. They are incapable of doing the job which they are asked to do because they have been starved of funding. Only the professionalism of the armed services will save the day.

Jason Moore

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