Britain is decommissioning its flagship navy aircraft carrier "Ark Royal" under a wide-ranging defense review. The iconic Harrier "jump jet" combat plane will also be retired and service personnel will be reduced by 17,000.
Britain’s maritime-launched warplane strike force for nearly a decade is to be scrapped under a defense review. The existing flagship aircraft carrier, the Ark Royal and The Harrier 'jump jet' warplane, will both be retired.
Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday announced sweeping cuts of around eight percent to Britain’s military resources.
[David Cameron, British Prime Minister]:
"The Royal Air Force will also to take some tough measures in the coming years to ensure a strong future. We have decided to retire the Harrier, which has served this country so well for forty years."
The raft of changes is expected to help reduce a record deficit in the economy, but critics say this will yield financial savings rather than good security strategy.
The army would lose some 7,000 troops while the Navy and the air force would lose 5,000 personnel each.
The prime minister said that the government would push ahead with the approximately 8 billion U.S. dollar order of two new aircraft carriers, but one of them would be held "in extended readiness," that is, mothballed.
The loss of the British-designed Harrier jet will mean the loss of vertical, short take-off, and landing capability in the short term. The Harrier first saw serious operational deployment in wartime during Britain's 1982 war with Argentina over sovereignty of the Falklands Islands.
[Peter Square, Former Harrier Pilot]:
"So it certainly will be a sad loss. It will be unfortunate that we don't have the ability to launch fast jet aircraft from a maritime platform for some years at least."
Cameron reassured U.S. President Barack Obama by phone on Monday that Britain would remain a first rate military power and ally of the United States, according to his office.