UK's top general admits troop numbers are not big enough

‘Our Army is too small’: UK’s top general admits troop numbers are not big enough to tackle security threats

  • General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith says he is uncomfortable with size of the Army
  • Former SAS commanded says a force of 73,000 full-time troops is ‘just too small’
  • Comes after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace criticised state of Army’s vehicles
  • Warnings will heap pressure on Treasury to find more funds for armed forces 

Britain’s top general has admitted the Army is simply not big enough to tackle threats to the UK’s security.

General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, a decorated former SAS commander, said he was ‘not comfortable’ when he learned the Ministry of Defence (MoD) intended to cut the size of the regular Army by 9,000 soldiers.

Sir Mark, who will soon step down as Chief of the General Staff, told Soldier magazine: ‘I’m not comfortable with an Army of just 73,000 [full-time troops]. 

‘It is too small.’

It comes as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace criticised the state of the Army’s vehicles yesterday, saying its ‘land fleet’ was ‘woefully behind its peers’.

He said: ‘You can lay the blame at all sorts of reasons, but fundamentally it needs definitely to modernise.’

General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, a decorated former SAS commander, told Soldier magazine he is ‘not comfortable’ with plans to cut the size of the Army by thousands of troops

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured during a Defence of Europe conference in London on Monday) has also criticised the state of Army vehicles, saying they are in need of modernisation 

The warnings by such senior members of the UK’s defence establishment will heap pressure on the Treasury to find more funds. 

The Army is at its smallest since the 1700s and has lost 30,000 troops in the past two decades.

Last night the MoD said: ‘We are investing an extra £24billion in defence – the biggest investment in the UK’s Armed Forces since the end of the Cold War.’

While advances in mechanisation and unmanned fighting systems can compensate for fighting with fewer soldiers, General Sir Mark is in no doubt manpower cuts have gone too far.

The latest cuts were made as part of the government’s Integrated Review of defence spending and priorities.

He suggested the cuts came as an unpleasant surprise.

He said: ‘I’m not comfortable with an Army of just 73,000. It is too small. That was never part of our proposition going into the review.

‘In fact, I was working to direction that we regrow the Army to 82,000 – as we have done that successfully over the past four years.

‘So being limited to 73,000 people was quite a surprise – and it is a bit of an arbitrary figure because it is just a price point.’

In a public address yesterday Mr Wallace admitted: ‘I mean, the Army’s land fleet is woefully behind its peers. You can lay the blame at all sorts of reasons, but fundamentally it needs definitely to modernise.’

The Army has invested £3.5 billion in the high-tech Ajax ‘light tank’ but it is yet to be introduced into service due to technical issues.

Troops testing the vehicle suffered such severe ear damage due to the noise created by Ajax they were forced to medically discharge from the armed forces.

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