Despite cutbacks in UK defence spending since the global financial crash of 2008, Britain remains on course to be one of the top five biggest spenders in the world for at least the next decade, in spite of comments by senior military personnel that it lacks the capability it had ten years ago.
A day after British RAF Typhoons escorted two Russian bombers in international airspace off south-west England, Sir Michael Graydon, former head of the RAF, told the Daily Mail:
"I very much doubt whether the UK could sustain a shooting war against Russia. We are at half the capabilities we had previously."
"They fly in these regions to check our air defences and have probably worked out we are not as sharp as we were. They know it is provocative and they are doing it at a time when defence in the west is pretty wet compared to where they are."
Whilst not absolving our NATO allies, one way to show the UK's enemies our resolve is undimmed is to increase defence budget in The Budget!— Mark Pritchard (@MPritchardMP) February 20, 2015
However, his comments are not borne out by the statistics. After 2010, the British Government undertook a Strategic Defence Review to realign its defence capabilities within a tight budget. However, its decision to mothball one of two new aircraft carriers has been reversed and it is on course to take delivery of a next-generation fighter aircraft.
Tories should stop cutting the defence budget, there are growing threats to UK sovereignty— Dennis Orji (@DennisOrji) February 19, 2015
According to the latest study by the Royal United services Institute (RUSI), "even on the worst case scenario outlined above (five more years of austerity), the UK could still maintain its position as the world's fourth-or fifth-largest defence spender (much emphasised by the current government) for the rest of this decade".
In its defence briefing in September 2014, RUSI said the UK's defence spending is due to fall below the NATO target of 2% of GDP in 2015. However, statistics from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) show the UK as still being the world's fifth biggest spender in the sector.
Up, Up and Away
On February 19, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that more than £300m is to be invested at RAF Marham, in the East of England, to help prepare for the arrival of the UK's first F-35B Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter).
The East of England will also become the heart of US European Joint Strike Fighter operations. Alongside the UK F-35s based at RAF Marham, nearby RAF Lakenheath will become home to the first two US F-35 squadrons in Europe, with the first aircraft due to arrive in 2020.
The ministry announced that "the move means that for the first time in decades the US Air Force and the RAF will operate the same type of aircraft from the UK. This highlights the strength of our shared commitment to transatlantic security and paves the way for the next generation of continued close collaboration between our respective forces."
The F-35 will not only operate from RAF Marham, but will also be deployed on board the Royal Navy's two brand new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers from 2018.