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Options for Change was a restructuring of the British Armed Forces in 1990, aimed at cutting defence spending following the end of the Cold War.

Note. (There was a previous Options for Change Exercise in the late 70's when service personal if they had not reached a certain rank were made redundant) UK military strategy had until this point been almost entirely focused on defending the UK against the Soviet military; whether the Royal Marines in Scandinavia, the Royal Air Force in West Germany or over the North Sea, the Royal Navy in the Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic, or the British Army in Germany. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact these scenarios were no longer relevant. While criticised both before and after, it was an exercise mirrored by governments of almost every major western military power, the so-called "peace dividend".

Among the changes implemented was the cutting total manpower by approximately 18% to around 255,000 (120,000 British Army; 60,000 Royal Navy; 75,000 Royal Air Force). Another major casualty of options for change was the UK's combined nuclear civil defence organisations comprising of the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation and its fieldforce the Royal Observer Corps (a spare time volunteer branch of the RAF), both of which were wound down and disbanded between September 1991 and December 1995.

British Army


In addition, the amalgamation of the Royal Scots and King's Own Scottish Borderers into the Royal Scots Borderers (1 battalion) and the Cheshire Regiment and Staffordshire Regiment into the Cheshire and Staffordshire Regiment (1 battalion) was announced, but suspended in 1994.



Royal Air Force

  • Halving the number of RAF bases in Germany to two
  • Withdrawing the F-4 Phantom II squadrons from service
  • Cancellation of the Brimstone missile, although it was later reinstated.

Royal Navy

On television

A fictionalised portrayal of the effects of Options for Change on the ordinary men and women serving in the armed forces came in the ITV drama series Soldier Soldier. In this, the fictional infantry regiment portrayed in the series, the King's Fusiliers, was one of those selected for amalgamation. The series showed the whole process of negotiation regarding traditions, embellishments, etc. between the two regiments involved, and of the uncertainty that many of those serving felt for their jobs in the light of two separate battalions merging into one, with the resulting loss of manpower.

See also

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