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The Strategic Defence and Security Review was announced by the newly formed Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of the United Kingdom in May 2010, and published on 19 October 2010.[1] The previous major review of United Kingdom defence posture was the Strategic Defence Review, published in 1998, updated in 2003 by the Delivering Security in a Changing World white paper.

As well as wishing to see an updated security policy, both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties wanted the £38 billion overspend in the Ministry of Defence's (MOD) procurement budget addressed.[2] Given that this coincided with the new government being committed to deficit reduction, the Treasury asked the MOD to prepare options for a 10–20% real terms reduction in its budget.[3] However, the final figure was an 7.7% reduction over four years.[4]


All three services would take cuts in manpower (see below). Overall, the largest overseas deployment was expected to number no more than 30,000 personnel, including maritime and air force units. This compares to the 45,000 involved in the invasion of Iraq.[5]

British Army

Challenger 2 tanks would be cut by 40%.

  • Personnel to be reduced by 7,000 to 95,500 by 2015.[6] The changes will take place with the overall mandate of reducing the army's size to 82,000 regular personnel and 30,000 reservists by 2018.[7]
  • The British Army presence in Germany to end by 2020.[8]
  • The number of Challenger 2 tanks to be cut by 40%[6] to an estimated number of just over 200.[9]
  • The number of AS-90 self-propelled heavy artillery guns to be cut by 35%[6] to an estimated 87.[9]

Royal Air Force

The Harrier would retire in order to maintain the Tornado as the RAF's main strike aircraft until the Typhoon matured. The latter and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II would constitute the RAF's fast jet fleet in the future.

  • Personnel to be reduced by 5,000 to 33,000.[6]
  • Nimrod MRA4 project, after spending £3.2 billion and the first aircraft being completed, to be scrapped.[10] RAF Kinloss, where the aircraft were to be based, to close.[11]
  • Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft procurement to go ahead, along with the Airbus A400M. These aircraft, along with the current C-17s, would form the future air transport fleet. The VC10 and TriStars were approaching the end of their service lives and the C-130 fleet were to be retired 10 years earlier than planned.[6][12]
  • 12 Boeing Chinooks to be added to the current fleet, a cut to the original order for 22.[6][13]
  • The Harrier GR9 to be withdrawn during 2011.[14]
  • The RAF's future fast jet fleet to be based on the Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The latter, which would also be flown by the Royal Navy.[1]
  • The Sentinel R1 would be retired once it is no longer required to support forces in Afghanistan.[1]

Royal Navy

  • Personnel to be reduced by 5,000 to 30,000.[1]
  • The Royal Navy flagship aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal, to be decommissioned "almost immediately" rather than in 2016. The Joint Force Harrier aircraft to be retired. Both of these measures would save money for the purchase of the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.[3]
  • One of the two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers currently under construction would be certain to be commissioned, with the fate of the other left undecided. It was suggested that only one carrier, routinely equipped with 12 fast jets, be in service at any one time, with the other carrier held in extended readiness. These plans to be reviewed in 2015.[1]
  • One of the Albion class landing platform dock ships will be in extended readiness at any given time. Later confirmed that HMS Albion would be put in to extended readiness till 2016 the HMS Bulwark will enter extended readiness after.[3]
  • Either HMS Ocean or HMS Illustrious to be decommissioned, whichever is least capable as a helicopter carrier. Later confirmed that HMS Illustrious would be decommissioned in 2014.[1]
  • One of the Bay class landing ship dock vessels would be decommissioned. Later confirmed that RFA Largs Bay (L3006) would be decommissioned and was later sold to Australia.[1]
  • The number of warheads carried on each Vanguard class submarine to be reduced from 48 to 40, and the number of operationally available nuclear warheads is to be reduced 'from fewer than 160 to no more than 120'.[1]
  • Replacement of the UK's nuclear deterrent, based on the Vanguard class ballistic missile submarines, to be delayed by four years, deferring £500 million in spending. Changes to the size of the missile tubes to save £250 million.[citation needed]
  • 7 Astute class submarines to be built as previously planned.[15]
  • The surface fleet of frigates and destroyers to be reduced to 19 ships; the current thirteen Type 23 frigates, the five active Type 45 destroyers, and the Duncan currently completing sea trials. The remaining four Type 22 frigates: Cornwall 2011, Cumberland 2011, Campbeltown 2011 and Chatham 2011 (all 4 have since been sold for scrap, Cornwall to Swansea and the other 3 to Leyal, Turkey) and five Type 42 destroyers: Manchester 2011, Gloucester 2011, Liverpool 2012, York 2012 and Edinburgh 2013 would be disposed of.[6] "As soon as possible after 2020", the Type 23 frigates would be replaced by new Global Combat Ships.[1]
  • The Wildcat (Super Lynx) to be the main helicopter in the future.[1]
  • A UK Response Force Task Group to be established.


There was much criticism about the SDSR, for example, coming from the The Phoenix Think Tank. As of 3 August 2011, the House of Commons Defence Select Committee published a critical review of the SDSR.[16] The new Nimrod coastal protection aircraft were cancelled and scrapped after already spending £1 billion on them, criticism has come after the MOD is purchasing aircraft to replace the scalped Nimrod project from the USA.[citation needed] Criticism has come from the public and media due to the realisation of armed forces job cuts and how certain sections of the armed forces have been left weak.[citation needed] There is evermore pressure building for some of these decisions to be changed.[citation needed]


The measures set out in the SDSR were implemented as follows:

  • In December 2010, Liam Fox said that HMS Ocean would be retained to provide a landing platform helicopter capability for the longer term. This meant that HMS Illustrious would be withdrawn from service in 2014.[17]
  • The Harrier force was retired ahead of schedule in the same month, leaving the UK without a fixed-wing carrier strike force.[citation needed]
  • The Bay-class landing dock RFA Largs Bay was decommissioned and subsequently sold to the Royal Australian Navy in January 2011 for £65 million as an interim replacement until two proposed RAN Canberra Class Helicopter Landing Decks are commissioned.[18]

Some of the decisions made during the SDSR were later reversed or modified. These included:

  • The decision to purchase the F-35C fighter plane was reversed and the F-35B was chosen instead, as the previous government had intended. This was because the cost of converting the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers to accommodate the carrier-variant F-35C had risen to twice the original estimate.[19]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 "Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review". HM Government. 19 October 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  2. Taylor, Claire and Lunn, Jon (2010-10-13). "Strategic Defence and Security Review (House of Commons Library research note)". Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Q&A: Strategic defence and security review". BBC News. 2010-10-18. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  4. Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent (17 October 2010). "Next generation of Nimrod 'spy in the sky' surveillance planes to be scrapped". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  5. Mulholland, Helene (19 October 2010). "UK can no longer mount military operations like Iraq invasion, government decides". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 "Cameron reveals 42,000 job cuts in defence review". Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  8. "Defence review ends Iraq-sized ventures". Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  9. 9.0 9.1
  10. Christopher Hope, Whitehall Editor (19 October 2010). "Defence review: £3.6billion Nimrod programme scrapped". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  11. "RAF Kinloss to close as ministers cancel Nimrod order". 2010-08-16. Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  12. "U.K. Outlines Sweeping Cuts Under Defense Review".,land,naval,budget&s=TOP. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  13. "Defence review at-a-glance". 19 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  14. Wall, Robert."U.K. Cuts Aircraft Fleets in Strategic Review". Aviation Week, 19 October 2010.
  15. David Cameron to delay Trident replacement 19 October 2010
  18. Oakes, Dan (21 January 2011). "Navy eyes redundant UK vessel". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  19. Bentley, Matt (2012-05-11). "How do you solve a problem like an expensive aircraft carrier?". Retrieved 2013-06-29. 

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