Saturday, 25 April 2009

Bleak future for FRES

Although Chancellor Darling has so far left the Defence Budget for 2009-10 more or less intact (it shouldn't be too hard for the MoD to find the £315million in efficiency savings it's offered up), the Treasury has made it clear that purchases under the Urgent Operational Requirement scheme will be limited to £635million this year, £265million less than 2008-09.

The real bad news comes in 2010-11 when the Treasury has already revealed that the Defence Budget will be slashed by £2billion from £38.7bn to £36.7bn, a cut of over 5%.

Major RAF procurement programmes are likely to face the brunt of the cuts:
  • It now appears likely that the planned purchase of Airbus A400M military transport planes will be ditched and the far cheaper Lockheed C-130 Hercules will be ordered instead. This switch alone would save £1billion over the 25 aircraft being purchased.
  • The long awaited, much over budget Nimrod MRA4 replacement programme may also face the axe with a cheaper, off-the-shelf US model being purchased instead.
  • Defence analysts also believe that the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters being ordered will be halved from 150 to 75-80.

Although Defence Secretary John Hutton says he is adamant that current operations will not be jeopardised by a shortage of cash, the Army is unlikely to escape the cuts with the ill-fated Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) likely once again to be kicked into touch.
This is just the first round in what is sure to be a long drawn out, bloody battle over dwindling public funds.