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The 2003 Defence White Paper, titled Delivering Security in a Changing World, set out the future structure of the British military, and was preceded by the 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR) and the 2002 SDR New Chapter, which responded to the immediate challenges to security in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001. Published under the then Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, the report effectively introduced a series of cutbacks to core equipment and manpower and the scaling back of a series of future capital procurement projects. This was justified due to the implementation of a policy termed Network Enabled Capability. The review also outlined a major restructuring and consolidation of British Army Infantry regiments.
The White Paper, scaling back to an extent from the previous Strategic Defence Review, outlined the following posture for the UK armed forces:
- The ability to support three simultaneous small (e.g. Operation Palliser in Sierra Leone) to medium scale (e.g. Operation Veritas in Afghanistan) operations, where at least one is an enduring peace-keeping mission (e.g. Kosovo). These forces must be capable of acting as lead nation in any coalition operations.
- The ability, at longer notice, to deploy forces in a large scale operation (e.g. Operation Telic in Iraq or Operation Herrick in Afghanistan) while running a concurrent small scale operation.
Most of the reforms listed below were announced as part of the Delivering Security in a Changing World: Future Capabilities review, published on 21 July 2004.
- Manpower reduced by 1,000.
- Restructuring will cut four infantry battalions otherwise tasked to Northern Ireland, and the manpower redistributed elsewhere.
- Army High Velocity Missile fire units to be halved, which would lead to the re-role of two TA Royal Artillery regiments.
- The re-role of a Challenger 2 regiment into an armoured reconnaissance regiment and several AS-90 batteries to a light gun regiment, into what would become 19 Light Brigade (see Future Army Structure).
- Withdrawal of seven Challenger 2 squadrons and six AS-90 self-propelled gun batteries (approx. 84 tanks and 48 AS90s).
- Infantry battalions to be incorporated into new, large, multi-battalion regiments.
- Creation of three light armoured squadrons that will support development of the next generation of armoured vehicles, the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES).
- Manpower reduced by 7,000.
- Early withdrawal of the 41-strong SEPECAT Jaguar force by 2007 and closure of Jaguar's operating base, RAF Coltishall, Norfolk.
- Current Nimrod MR.2 maritime patrol aircraft fleet to be reduced from 21 to 16.
- Reduction in the purchase of re-manufactured Nimrod MRA.4s from 18 to 16 (eventually 9) aircraft.
- Reduction of Tornado F3 force by one squadron (16 aircraft) in preparation for replacement with Typhoon.
- Reduction of 6 Puma helicopters of No. 230 Squadron RAF based in Northern Ireland.
- Reduction in Rapier missile launchers from 48 to 24 and transfer to the Army Royal Artillery, and the disbandment of four RAF Regiment squadrons which operated Rapier.
- Additional procurement numbers of Hawk 128 training aircraft above an initial batch of 20 to be decided upon in 2005.
- Typhoon purchase confirmed, Tranche 2 contract delayed until December 2004 when cost/capability issues were resolved.
- Purchase of 4 Boeing C-17s operated by the RAF at the end of their lease period including one additional aircraft for a total fleet of 5.
- Manpower reduced by 1,500.
- Reduced purchase of Type 45 destroyers from 12 to 8 (eventually 6) vessels.
- Reduced force of Type 23 frigates from 16 to 13 vessels by March 2006.
- Reduced force of nuclear attack submarine fleet (SSNs) from 12 to 8 boats by December 2008.
- Reduced force of mine countermeasure vessels from 19 to 16 by April 2005.
- Northern Ireland patrol fleet of three reconfigured Hunt class mine hunters to be decommissioned by April 2007.
- Early retirement of the three oldest Type 42 destroyers.
- Royal Navy Future Carrier (CVF) purchase confirmed.
- A summary of warships to be paid off, as planned or early, without replacement as detailed in the review:
- HMS Cardiff Type 42 destroyer.
- HMS Newcastle Type 42 destroyer.
- HMS Glasgow Type 42 destroyer.
- HMS Norfolk Type 23 frigate.
- HMS Marlborough Type 23 frigate.
- HMS Grafton Type 23 frigate.
- HMS Superb Swiftsure class nuclear attack submarine.
- HMS Trafalgar Trafalgar class nuclear attack submarine.
- HMS Brecon Hunt class minehunter.
- HMS Cottesmore Hunt class minehunter.
- HMS Dulverton Hunt class minehunter.
- HMS Bridport Sandown class minehunter.
- HMS Inverness Sandown class minehunter.
- HMS Sandown Sandown class minehunter.
The review also mentioned "significant" classified enhancements of British special forces, including strength increases and investment in new equipment.
Financially, in a Treasury spending review announced the week before, the budget would rise by £3.7bn from £29.7bn in 2004/2005 to £33.4bn in 2007/2008. The review also mentions £3bn to be invested into procuring new helicopters over the next ten years.
Future army structure
The future regimental structure of the British Army, after changes were outlined in the review was announced in December 2004. Significant changes included:
- Conversion of an armoured regiment to formation reconnaissance
- All single-battalion infantry regiments to be merged into existing or new regiments. This measure met with some opposition, especially in Scotland, amongst former soldiers and nationalist groups .
- Conversion of 4th Armoured Brigade to a mechanised brigade
- Conversion of 19 Mechanised Brigade to a light brigade (19 Light Brigade).
- Conversion of a single battalion of the Parachute Regiment to a tri-service specialist special forces support battalion (see Special Forces Support Group)
- Reorganisation of the Territorial Army infantry into 14 battalions that are attached to regular infantry regiments of the British Army.
- Reduction in number of British infantry battalions from 40 to 36.
- Reduction in number and size of regular military bands in the Corps of Army Music from 29 to 23.
- Reduction in numbers of Army Air Corps helicopters based in Northern Ireland.
- Creation of the Defence HUMINT Unit
- Creation of a new commando engineer regiment.
- Creation of a new signals regiment.
- Structure of the British Army
- Options for Change (1990)
- Front Line First (1994)
- Strategic Defence Review (1998)
- Strategic Defence and Security Review (2010)
- European defence procurement