Senior Officer Says British Army Has Been So Degraded by Cuts UK Is No Longer Capable of Fighting A War on Its Own
Story Code : 1046387
Major General Charles Collins, Assistant Chief of the General Staff, said the Government needed to accept the "humiliation" that the Army’s days of independently fighting wars such as in the Falklands were over and that Britain’s future role was merely to "complement" other nations’ troops.
Gen Collins, who is widely tipped to be a future head of the Army, said, "While once we assumed that others would fill the gaps in our order of battle, we must now have the strategic humility to prepare to complement another nation’s force."
He also said that if Britain were fighting the Ukraine war alone, it would have already run out of ammunition and equipment, and questioned whether the UK could still claim to be one of the leading members of NATO.
The officer made the outspoken comments in a wide-ranging article on the future of the Army for the British Army Review magazine, which was cleared for publication by both Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, and General Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of the General Staff.
Wallace has made an impassioned plea for an increase in defence spending as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt prepares his Budget this week. Wallace has called for an extra £11 billion over the next two years to keep pace with inflation, but is likely to have to settle for about £5 billion.
Gen Collins, who has been a soldier for 28 years, said the war in Ukraine had clearly demonstrated the need for land forces such as tanks, troops and mechanised artillery.
But he said the reality was that the war had also exposed what he called the "current shortcomings of the British Army".
Gen Collins is a highly experienced infantry commander who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
He said the Ukraine conflict had exposed the "outdated" notion that large-scale wars were over, adding, "Influenced by years of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism, we have been resting on the assumption that we would not be required to fight at scale."
"This assumption has been challenged by rates of fire seen in Ukraine and the British Army’s rate of granting munitions, both of which would be unsustainable at our current rates of production," he added.
He also said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had contradicted the received wisdom among military strategists who believed that future conflicts would be fought only in cyberspace.
He said the requirement for boots on the ground had been "vindicated" as well as negating arguments that the UK should "prioritise war by cyber, space, air and maritime instead of messy, grinding land warfare".
The general also said that Britain could only claim to be one of NATO’s leaders if it could muster a military capable of fighting anywhere around the world and under any circumstances.
He wrote, "It is impossible to lead by example in NATO or internationally unless we are combat-credible in all domains.
"To fight wars solely via proxy is a risk. Proxy forces are not your own and will have their own political ends that cannot be expected to align exactly with those of the British Army," he said.
He added, "To expect otherwise would demonstrate dangerous hubris."
Gen Collins said that the Armed Forces needed to rapidly modernise so that by 2030, the first contact with any enemy would be by robot.
He is the latest senior officer to voice concerns about the future of the Army. Last month, The Mail on Sunday revealed that friends of Gen Sanders feared he might resign as head of the Army if planned defence cuts went ahead.
He previously warned that the war in Ukraine had left the Army weaker and called future military cuts "perverse", saying that plans to reduce the Army to just 73,000 troops needed to be reversed.