Two Navy ships ‘to be axed’

Two Royal Navy ships are to be cut from the fleet and battlefield training is to be scrapped to save money from the defence budget, The Times has reported.

Defence bosses are also thinking about slowing down the purchase of warplanes from the United States, axing helicopters used by special forces and cutting back on training exercises for troops, in order to achieve £30 billion savings over the next 10 years.

The Ministry of Defence is battling to close a funding gap that emerged after the Strategic Defence Review in 2015.

Royal Navy minehunters are said to be the first to go with numbers being cut from 15 to 13. Cutting Hunt-class and Sundown-class ships, based on the Clyde and at Portsmouth, will free up sailors to man the rest of the fleet.

A study by former armed forces minister Mark Francois, which was commissioned by Downing Street says all three branches of the military are ‘running to stand still’ as they struggle to replace the numbers leaving.

The report says: “The Royal Navy and the RAF are now running at around 10 per cent short of their annual recruitment target, whilst for the army the shortfall is over 30 per cent.”

General Sir Richard Barrons told The Times: “There are potential risks to our homeland and our vital interests abroad that we can not address with our capability.”

An MOD spokesman responded to the announcement, saying: “In the face of intensifying threats we are looking at how we best spend a rising defence budget to support our national security.

“The National Security Capability Review will be published towards the end of the year and will focus on front line priorities and delivering value for money by maximising efficiencies.”

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