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House of Commons report on UK defence readiness quotes HSC evidence

6 January, 2024

The House of Commons Defence Committee has published its ‘Ready for war?‘ report. The inquiry sought to ascertain whether the UK Armed Forces are capable and adequately resourced to defend Britain and its allies; highlight any capability gaps and readiness shortfalls; identify whether it still meets the definition of a ‘tier one fighting force’ (and whether this was a valid requirement); and assess the Government’s plans to address any inadequacies.

The HSC provided evidence to the inquiry centred upon a breakdown of key capability shortfalls.

  • For the British Army, this included the planned deletion of its infantry fighting vehicle capability; inadequate funding to procure sufficient Boxer armoured personnel carriers; a reduction in the number of Challenger tanks; shortfalls in ground-based air and missile defences; low numbers of artillery pieces; and bottlenecks in the procurement of munitions.
  • For the Royal Navy, these included difficulties in sustaining the Type 23 frigate fleet due to delays in the Type 26 programme; poor availability of the Astute-class attack submarines; reliance on a single stores ship that the Royal Fleet Auxiliary struggles to crew; an overstretched Merlin helicopter fleet; and cuts to the Royal Marines.
  • For the RAF, these include a shortfall in combat aircraft (Typhoon and F-35B) numbers; insufficient pilots; delays to helicopter procurement; aircraft incompatible with the current in-flight refueling tanker type in service; the absence of ground-based air and missile defenses; and shortfalls in the number of transport aircraft.

Amongst the inquiry’s recommendations were that:

  • A “wholesale shift in approach towards warfighting resilience both in the UK and Allies” in light of the threat from Russia.
  • Greater transparency over the readiness of the Armed Forces
  • Measurable and timetabled efforts to improve recruitment and retention
  • Either a budget uplift or the clear prioritisation of taskings

Image: Royal Marines of a training exercise (Source: Defense Imagery/UK Ministry of Defence via Open Government Licences v.1.0)

About Rowan Allport

Dr Rowan Allport is a Deputy Director who leads the HSC's Security and Defence team. Rowan holds a PhD in Politics and a MA in Conflict, Governance and Development from the University of York, as well as a BA (Hons) in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Hull. Specialising in strategic analysis and international security, Rowan's primary areas of interest lie in the defence issues in and around the NATO region, interstate conflict and US foreign policy discourse. He is also the lead author of HSC's recent ‘Fire and Ice: A New Maritime Strategy for NATO’s Northern Flank’ report. Rowan's publication credits include articles and commentary in Foreign Policy, The Diplomat, The Hill, DefenseOne, RealClearDefense, The Strategist, UK Defence Journal, Politics.co.uk and The National Interest. He has previously worked as a lobbyist for the Whitehouse Consultancy in Westminster, and as a Senior Analyst for RAND Europe's Security, Defence and Infrastructure team.