The paper, published by the Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research, blasts years of slashed budgets for the “hollowing out or deletion of the army’s deployed capabilities” – and warns of the British military’s single remaining fighting division being “wiped out in an afternoon”.
The report argues that although the UK’s armed forces “might not be facing an immediate risk of a direct attack by a foreign state”, there were “a few plausible scenarios” in which it could be dragged into conflict following an attack on another country.
The report warns that Britain would be unprepared for war with Russia.
It reads: “This raises an important question: is the British Army ready for such a possibility? If one merely sees preparedness through net manpower and kinetic force capacity, the answer might be a simple ‘no’: the British Army is at its smallest and has faced years of budget cuts.”
Under the Government’s defence review in 2015, the army’s only “war-fighting division” will be made up of 50,000 troops – more than half the army’s total of 82,000 regular soldier.
And the CHACR notes in the report how there would be “political pressures” to protect the division in the event of war.
Britain transported five tanks this week to France via the Channel Tunnel as part of a drill.
It says: “The ‘prospect of losing the division in an afternoon’ will weigh heavily on the chain of command, as politicians appreciate the stakes involved in committing the division to battle.”
The report also raises questions over Britain’s capacity to transport a large ground force to the front line – with warnings of a “consensus” that the army did not have enough big aircraft to do so.
It adds that without more aircraft, the military would rely on allies or commercial companies to get its troops to battle.
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Russian Marines show their individual combat skills during a public capability demonstration at the Luneta National Park in Metro Manila
Last week Britain’s armed forces sent tanks through the Channel Tunnel in a drill designed to test whether heavily armoured vehicles could be transported to mainland Europe via the tunnel railway.
The exercise was successful, giving the army an extra mode of transport in the event of conventional warfare on the continent.
Former brigadier Ben Barry, now employed by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, warned of a “clear and present” threat of a “military miscalculation” with Russia, and subsequent conflict.
The Ministry of Defence told the Sunday Times: “The army is ready and capable of deploying a potent, large-scale, war-fighting force at divisional level with sufficient notice.”
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