SINCE Tony Blair came to power the British armed forces have been involved in at least five military conflicts, ranging from peace-keeping in Sierra Leone to all-out war in Iraq. But while Britain's military commitments have never been higher since the end of the Second World War, the military has been cut-back to the bone. The extent of the cuts are so severe that I doubt that Britain's armed services have ever been so weak. The Royal Navy will soon be left without any fixed-wing aircraft, because the Sea Harrier is being retired, the U.S. Air Force in Britain has almost more fighter planes than the Royal Air Force, and the British Army has fewer tanks than Spain. Any military annual will tell you that Britain has three aircraft carriers; one Invincible has been mothballed, Ark Royal is in refit and Illustrious, which is operational will soon have no RN planes. The Navy is being forced to abandon many of its long-term commitments including having a frigate based in the Carribean and the Senior Service may have to withdraw from NATO's force in the Atlantic because the frigate/destroyer fleet has been halved in less than 10 years, effectively meaning that the RN has just 25 ships of this type, much less than France. While Britain for many years has been punching far greater than its weight, these days its military might is that of a real lightweight. While military cuts to fund the National Health Service are obviously needed it is rather a slap in the face for the military that after all the sacrifices they have made over the last five years they are now facing the prospect of losing their jobs. The British military, with its long and hard-fought record is effectively being dismantled which is an enormous shame.
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