'No change' likely for Norfolk bases in defence review, says former army head

Norfolk peer Lord Dannatt is a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy. P

Lord Richard Dannatt said the review should not affect Swanton Morley and RAF Marham. - Credit: Archant

Military bases in Norfolk should be unaffected by a review which will see troop numbers shrink by around 10,000 nationally by 2025, the former head of the British Army said.

On Monday, defence secretary Ben Wallace set out a major overhaul of the military aimed at boosting drones and cyber capability.

Mr Wallace said the army has not been at its "established strength" of 82,000 since the middle of last decade, but that it would reduce from 76,500 "trade trained personnel" to 72,500 by 2025.

He said: "The Army's increased deployability and technological advantage will mean that greater effect can be delivered by fewer people.

"These changes will not require redundancies and we wish to build on the work already done on utilising our reserves to make sure the whole force is better integrated and more productive."

Former head of the British Army, Lord Richard Dannatt, who lives in Keswick, just south of Norwich, said the announcement should not affect the region's bases at Swanton Morley and RAF Marham.

Lord Dannatt said: “Even though the strength of the Army is to be reduced to 72,500, the Royal Anglian Regiment will retain two regular battalions and an Army reserve battalion.

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"There will be no change for The Queens Dragoon Guards at Swanton Morley. And after all the investment at RAF Marham, the future of the F-35Bs which fly off the two new aircraft carriers is secure. Whether the UK will be able to afford more than 48 F-35Bs remains to be seen.

"Overall an increase in defence spending is to be welcomed but the challenge for the government is to make sure it makes the right investments to protect the country from the threats of the future.”

In papers published on Monday, the government set out how forces will spend more time deployed overseas to support allies and deter hostile powers.

It also includes £3bn for new vehicles, long range rocket systems, drones, electronic warfare and cyber capabilities.

Ageing RAF planes will be retired, as will the oldest Chinook helicopters, while Navy frigates and destroyers drop from 19 to 17 in the coming years.

A third of the 227 Challenger tanks will be scrapped, with the rest of the fleet being upgraded at a cost of £1.3bn.

In its 2019 manifesto, the government promised to maintain the size of armed services.

Defence committee chairman Tobias Ellwood warned against the "dramatic cuts" to conventional military strength as Labour criticised the plan "for fewer troops, fewer ships, fewer planes".