S T R A T E G I C    D E F E N C E    R E V I E W



Press Notice and Key Points of the Strategic Defence Review

Announcing the conclusions of the Strategic Defence Review to the House of Commons today Defence Secretary George Robertson said:

"The Strategic Defence Review has delivered on this Government’s promise to provide strong defence for the future. This radical review will modernise and re-shape our Armed Forces to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and give them the firm foundation which they need to plan for the long term.

"The Review has been grounded in foreign policy and sound military experience: it builds on the strengths of our people as well as Britain’s long and distinguished military history. It is a mixture of radical change and solid planning fused together through a process of unprecedented open and wide consultation both within and outside the Ministry of Defence. It has the wholehearted support of the Chiefs of Staff.

"We will transform the way in which the Armed Forces do business. New tri-service organisations will take the best from each of the Services and maximise their collective punch. We shall be taking major initiatives to ensure that we recruit the best people from all walks of life, that we get the best from them, and that they benefit from the best of modern employers. We shall ensure that they have the right equipment and training to enable them to do the difficult and dangerous jobs that the country requires of them. And all this while making every pound count.

"The Strategic Defence Review will result in a reduction in the size of our nuclear arsenal together with a re-affirmation of the importance of the nuclear deterrent to the country’s security. Our Trident submarines will remain on a continuous patrolling pattern but the number of warheads on each boat will be reduced to 48 from the maximum of 96 announced by the previous Government.

"The Strategic Defence Review will give the country the defence it needs, the Armed Forces the people they need, and our Service and civilian people the tools they need to do the job.

"This Government is committed to strong defence: and strong defence is sound foreign policy. The Strategic Defence Review will deliver the modern forces for the modern world that will enable Britain to be a force for good in the 21st century."



Making the world a safer place

Defence Diplomacy

Declaring additional forces as potentially available to UN

Further steps on international arms control

Reducing our nuclear deterrent capability to the minimum necessary

Increased openness about our nuclear holdings





* To enhance the ability of our forces to operate in circumstances where they may be threatened by the use of terrifying weapons of mass destruction, we will improve our NBC defences to provide our forces on operations with modern and effective nuclear, biological and chemical defences. These will include an additional buy of integrated biological detection systems and remote sensors; nuclear/chemical reconnaissance systems; building up vaccines and antibiotic packs and decontamination equipment packs. A 400 strong, mainly Regular joint Army/RAF NBC unit will be established to operate these capabilities, able therefore to be able to deploy sufficiently quickly to meet the range of possible operational requirements. We will be enhancing cooperation with allies such as the United States, to ensure we collectively exploit to maximum effect new research and medical breakthroughs.


In the post Cold-War world we must be prepared to go to the crisis, rather than having the crisis come to us. Capabilities and equipment will be modernised to provide highly flexible, well-equipped forces able to project power very rapidly to potential troublespots and crises. This means:


The emphasis will move from large scale open-ocean warfare to force projection and littoral operations in conjunction with the other two Services, with a premium on versatility and deployability. We will match the front line more closely to today's requirements so that manpower can be used to maximum effect where it is really needed. To that end, we are:


* Making all Trafalgar class submarines capable of firing our 1,000 mile range Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, thereby extending our ability to apply pressure, for example to coerce rogue regimes to comply with international and UN requirements. We have confirmed existing plans to modernise our attack submarine force by purchasing five Astute class; two more will be ordered early in the new century to join the three already on order.


* Reflecting changed requirements by making small reductions in the size of our attack submarine (12 to 10), surface escort (35 to 32) and mine countermeasure forces (18 to 22 instead of 25). Most of the manpower will be re-deployed to ease overstretch in the front line.


We will continue to need a full range of capabilities to guard against the spectrum of scenarios we might face. We will modernise the Army for the challenges of the future by focusing on mobility, precision firepower, and protection for our forces. We will:

* Restructure the front line to provide six, not five deployable armoured or mechanised brigades to help reduce overstretch, provide greater flexibility and, together with the formation of the JRRF, the ability to undertake two brigade size operations (one of which could be sustained indefinitely) simultaneously at short notice.

* To achieve this, convert 5 Airborne Brigade - a light brigade which has been shown not to have sufficient hitting power - into a mechanised brigade (12 Mechanised Brigade), by transferring in an armoured infantry and two mechanised infantry Battalions, and the AS90 self-propelled gun, whose awesome firepower has been demonstrated in Bosnia as essential in subduing the warring factions.

* Create a new, powerful air manoeuvre brigade by bringing together, in 24 Airmobile Brigade, the potent attack helicopter and the unique skills of the Parachute Brigade. One parachute battalion will continue to provide an airdrop capability. Three Army Air Corps regiments will be equipped with the formidable Apache attack helicopter from the year 2000.

* Create an additional armoured reconnaissance regiment by re-roling one of the existing Armoured Regiments brought back from Germany. Information gathering is vital on the battlefield and in peacekeeping operations. To do this better we are examining new technologies for future sensors, reconnaissance land vehicles and unmanned air vehicles. As part of this, we will collaborate with the US in the TRACER/Future Scout and Cavalry System programme.

* Add 3,300 Regular troops to the Army’s numbers, particularly to enhance those trades, such as signals, engineer, medical and logistic troops, which are most heavily committed on operations. This will improve our ability to conduct operations simultaneously, as well as improving quality of life for our most hard-pressed personnel.

* Make our armoured capability more deployable and effective as a fighting force, by restructuring into 6 larger tank regiments rather than the 8 smaller regiments, with more manpower and tanks in each regiment (58 tanks and 600 personnel by comparison with figures of 38 and 470).

* Make better use of the tank fleet by keeping only those tanks in the front line that the regiments can use on a day to day basis - 30 out of the 58. As a result our soldiers will spend more time training and less on routine vehicle maintenance.

* Modernise and enhance the TA to make it more readily deployable and usable - by increasing readiness for operations, including through creating an Army Mobilisation Centre. The TA will be brought to the standard required to undertake demanding and operationally vital tasks at short notice, by enhancing its training and equipment. We will make it more usable through greater use of the powers available under the 1996 Reserve Forces Act: for example to meet a divisional sized warfighting deployment (eg an operation the size of our contribution to the Gulf War) we would plan compulsorily to call out a significant proportion of the TA. The TA will as a result be able to stand proud in the contribution it can make as a force for good in the world. But, because of the vastly reduced threat to the UK, numbers of lightly equipped infantry and yeomanry will be reduced. The size of the TA will reduce from some 57,000 to around 40,000. The implications for TA centres have yet to be determined, and will be done very carefully, in consultation, to ensure that we do not damage, but as far as possible build on existing strong links with society and the community across the country. We are very aware, for example, of the importance that many attach to the historic traditions and ethos of our regiments. We will need to consider very carefully how to ensure that necessary evolution to meet the challenges of the future does not mean that the benefits of tradition are lost to future generations of soldiers. We also want to take into account the availability of training facilities; and the need for close working between Territorial units and the Regular Armed Forces.


Air power will be an ever more crucial ingredient in both warfighting and peace support operations. We shall adjust the emphasis of the Royal Air Force further from defence of the UK airspace against a largely redundant threat, to deploying our aircraft to crises - whether it be for warfighting or a coercive instrument to support political aims. We will also match the size of our front line more closely to today's requirements so that the manpower can be used to maximum effect where it is really needed. We are:


* Procuring a range of new missiles for the Tornado and Eurofighter to enhance capabilities, such as the BVRAAM (Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile), more AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), the Brimstone advanced anti armour missile, and the Storm Shadow stand off air to surface long range cruise missile.

* Improving the Tornado GR4 bomber and its deployability - deployment packs to assist rapid deployment on operations, additional support manpower, engine and avionics spares packages; portable engineering and hangar accommodation; and a collision warning system to improve safety for man and machine.


* Developing the successor to the Tornado GR4: studies continue into a Future Offensive Air System to replace the Tornado GR4 in about 20 years time, looking at cruise missiles and remotely piloted/unmanned air vehicles as well as manned aircraft.



This Government is determined to be a force for good - to do all it can to help make the world a safer place, through deterring and preventing conflict and crisis:

* Defence Diplomacy - preventing the conditions which lead to conflict - has been a key theme of the SDR. In recognition of its importance we have made Defence Diplomacy one of the 8 defence missions.


* We will continue to press hard for international progress on arms control. We intend, for example, to develop our capability to verify reductions in nuclear weapons, using AWE expertise.

* For our own part we will maintain only the minimum nuclear deterrence required to deter threats to our vital interests. We have decided:

* to have only one submarine on patrol at any time carrying a reduced load of 48 warheads; half the previous Government's announced ceiling of 96.

* the submarine on patrol will be at a reduced alert state and will carry out a range of secondary tasks. Its missiles will be detargeted and at several days 'notice to fire', rather than minutes as during the Cold War.

* we will maintain fewer than 200 operationally available warheads; a one third reduction from the previous Government's plans.

* we do not need any more than the 58 Trident missile bodies already purchased or ordered. The Royal Navy will not have the final seven missiles planned by the previous Government.

* As a result:

* the total explosive power of our operationally available weapons will have reduced by over 70% since the end of the Cold War.

* the explosive power of each Trident submarine will be one third less than that of our Polaris submarines [armed with Chevaline] in recent years.

* our nuclear holdings will be considerably lower than any other member of the Permanent Five;

* we are reducing defence holdings of fissile material available for use in nuclear weapons.

* We will be as open as possible about nuclear issues, including our holdings of nuclear materials. We are the first Nuclear Weapons State to declare the size of our defence fissile material stocks:

* 7.6 tonnes of plutonium, 21.9 tonnes of highly enriched uranium, and

* 15,000 tonnes of other forms of uranium, of which just over 9,000 tonnes is no longer required for defence purposes and will be placed under EURATOM safeguards and liable to IAEA inspections, as will 4.4 tonnes of plutonium (including 0.3 tonnes of weapons grade material).