Army to lose 17 units amid job cuts

The Army will lose 17 major units as it cuts 20,000 regular soldiers by 2020, the defence secretary has said.

Philip Hammond told MPs that the units to go included four infantry battalions and two sections in the Armoured Corps.

But he said the Army that emerged from the process would be a "forward-looking, modern fighting machine" and "the best of its class".

The number of regular soldiers is set to fall from 102,000 to 82,000, while reservists will double to 30,000.

The Army will be about half the size of the Cold War era - it had more than 163,000 troops in 1978.

In the infantry, Mr Hammond said, no current regiments or cap badges would be lost.

He said: "After inheriting a massive overspend from the last government, we have had to make tough decisions to implement our vision of a formidable, adaptable and flexible armed forces.

"After a decade of enduring operations, we need to transform the Army and build a balanced, capable and adaptable force ready to face the future.

"Army 2020 will create a more flexible and agile Army. Unlike the past, it will be set on a firm foundation of men and material, well trained, well equipped and fully funded.

"The regimental system will remain the bedrock of the Army's fighting future."

The four infantry battalions to disappear are the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards), the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment and the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh.

A fifth infantry battalion, the 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders), will become a single company to carry out public duties in Scotland.

The Armoured Corps will be reduced by two units with the mergers of the Queen's Royal Lancers and the 9th/12th Royal Lancers and the 1st and 2nd Tank Regiments.

The Royal Artillery, the Royal Engineers, the Army Air Corps, the Royal Logistic Corps, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the Royal Military Police will also be affected.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said the reduction in numbers was short-sighted and could put the UK at risk.

"New threats are emerging and weak and failing states outnumber strong by two to one," he said.

"There's an arc of instability from west African states to central and south-east Asia. Non-state actors are on the rise, climate and population change are new sources of tension. The United States is pivoting towards the Pacific, while the European end of Nato will take greater strain."

David Cameron's official spokesman said ahead of the Commons announcement that the prime minister had taken a close interest in the details of the announcement.

The spokesman said: "This is all consistent with what we have said previously on total numbers.

"Clearly, some people will be disappointed with some of the decisions but we have to take these decisions in the light of the financial circumstances and in particular the problems that the government inherited in the MoD.

"We think this has been a good process and a fair process."

Also ahead of the announcement, the former head of the Army, Lord Dannatt, said there could be as many as 11,000 compulsory redundancies.