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Strategic Defence Review
The Strategic Defence Review (or SDR) was a policy document produced by the Labour Government that came to power in 1997. Then Secretary of State for Defence, George Robertson, set out the initial defence policy of the new government, with a series of key decisions designed to enhance the United Kingdom's armed forces.
To the surprise of many two of the largest defence procurment projects were exlcuded from the SDR, the Vanguard class Trident submarines and the Eurofighter. However the Trident system was essential to maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent, a policy adopted by Labour, and was already nearing completion. Likewise the Eurofighter was nearing production and withdrawal would lead to loss of considerable investment and severe penalties from the partner nations.
- Harrier Force
Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm to merge their Sea Harrier force with the RAF's Harrier GR7s to form "Joint Force Harrier." This joint force was to operate from Royal Navy Invincible class aircraft carriers or air bases as required. With the retirement of the Sea Harrier from 2004 to 2006 the Joint Force Harrier will operate the Harrier GR7 and the upgraded GR9 until the introduction of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
- Aircraft carriers
The current three Invincible class carriers are to be replaced by two new larger and more flexible aircraft carriers. These ships, designated Carrier Vessel Future (CVF) are to enter service in 2012 and 2015.
To increase strategic transport four ro-ro ferries and four C-17 Globemasters were leased. The SDR also reaffirmed the need for a permanent strategic transport force and the Airbus A400M was selected in 2000. Since that time, with operational tempo increasing the seven year C-17 lease has been extended and it is reported that the RAF will purchase them outright at the end of the lease and operate them alongside the A400M fleet.
- Royal Navy fleet
The surface fleet force was reduced from 35 to 32 frigates and destroyers, 25 to 22 minehunters and the attack submarine force was reduced from 12 to 10. The potency of the SSN force was increased by the decision to make all capable of firing the Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM.) The SDR confirmed the purchase an initial batch of three Astute class submarines.
- Nuclear deterrent
The maximum capacity of the Trident missile system will not be exploited. Approximately 200 warheads will be maintained, reduced from 300. Further the last batch of missile bodies will not be procured, with a total of 58 missiles. The patrols of the Vanguard class SSBNs will be limited to one vessel carrying a reduced warhead load of 48 (reduced from 96.)
The British Army was reorganised, with the establishment of two deployable divisions in the UK and Germany. Another important move was the establishment of the spearhead 16th Air Assault Brigade which includes the Army's WAH-64 Apache attack helicopter force. A Joint Rapid Reaction Force was also established to provide the capability to deploy a Bosnia-sized force at short notice. The Army's size in Germany was to be increase but numbers increased by 3,300 overall. The eight tank squadrons were to be reduced to six larger ones, fielding 58 rather than 38 Challenger 2 tanks each.
- Territorial Army
The TA was to be modernised and enhanced to make it more readily deployable and usable, primarily through greater integration with the regular Army. Total numbers were to be cut from 56,000 to 40,000.
- Support helicopters
All of the services battlefield support helicopters (around 400) were combined to form the Joint Helicopter Command .
- RAF fast jet force
The number of frontline aircraft was reduced by 36 (two squadrons) but the MoD reaffirmed their commitment to the Eurofighter. The SDR indentified the need for a replacement for the Tornado GR4 and initiated studies under the Future Offensive Air System project. The purchase of Meteor, Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles was confirmed.
- NBC defence
An integrated British Army and RAF force, comprising both regular and reservist elements would be formed to specialise in NBC defensive capabilities. This resulted in the formation of the Joint NBC Regiment in 1999.
SDR New Chapter
Following the September 11th attacks on New York and Washington the Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon announced that work would be undertaken on a New Chapter to the Strategic Defence Review. This reviewed again the UK's defence posture and plans to ensure that the country possessed the right capabilities and the right forces to meet the additional challenges faced after 9/11. The review concluded;
- "We need to look further into how we should allocate the investment which is needed, including, for example, to intelligence gathering, network-centric capability (including enhanced strike and Special Forces capabilities and Unmanned aerial vehicles), improved mobility and fire power for more rapidly deployable lighter forces, temporary deployed accommodation for troops, and night operations. The significant additional resources made available to Defence in Spending Review 2002 will enable us to take this forward with the urgency that the 11 September demands." †
- Options for Change (1993 restructuring)
- Delivering Security in a Changing World (2004 restructuring)
- Military of the United Kingdom
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