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Cameron defends forces jobs cuts

David Cameron has defended the decision to make 11,000 redundancies in the armed forces - potentially including some troops now on the front line in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister conceded that axing around 5,000 personnel from the Army, 3,300 from the Navy and 2,700 from the RAF would be "difficult" for those affected.

He insisted the losses were necessary to "modernise and update" Britain's forces for future challenges but Labour criticised the Government for announcing details of the cuts at the same time Mr Cameron has been suggesting the RAF could help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya.

Last autumn's Strategic Defence and Security Review set out plans for reducing the size of the armed forces by 17,000 in total.

Some of that number will be met by not replacing people who were retiring or leaving for other reasons. But defence officials disclosed that 11,000 personnel still face being redundant on a compulsory or voluntary basis.

The RAF became the first service to give details of its redundancy programme. The Army and Navy will spell out their approach over the coming weeks.

Some 1,020 RAF personnel will go in the first tranche, including up to 170 trainee pilots - but no qualified pilots. Up to 100 from the Weapons System Officers Branch and the same number from the Weapons System Operator Trade are under threat, along with 529 "ground tradesmen".

A further 121 officers up to the rank of Air Commodore could go, and numbers of top brass will be reduced - but those departures will be handled outside the normal redundancy scheme. The MoD also announced that two Tornado squadrons, 14 and XIII, were being disbanded.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "This is incredible. At the same time as planning a no-fly zone over Libya the Tory-led Government chooses today of all days to sack RAF personnel. The pilots will be stunned and the country will be confused. These are the very same people who would help enforce no-fly zones. The Government is losing its way on defence and should re-open its Defence Review."

However, speaking at a Downing Street press conference alongside Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Mr Cameron laid the blame on mismanagement by the former Labour government, saying: "These were incredibly difficult decisions, but we had an inheritance of a defence budget that was overspent by £38 billion and where decisions had been put off and put off and we were not modernising and updating our armed forces so they were able to cope with the modern challenges they were going to have to meet."


From Belfast Telegraph