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MoD takes difficult decisions to prioritise the frontline  XML
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The MoD has today announced plans to re-prioritise spending to help achieve success in Afghanistan - the top military priority - and balance the books.

Like all Government departments, the MoD is facing challenging financial pressures. At the same time, our forces on operations remain the top priority and the department is committed to ensuring that our personnel in Afghanistan have the resources they need both now and in the future.

The MoD has therefore today announced a 900M package of enhancements for operations in Afghanistan. This package will be delivered from the core defence budget and the enhancements will improve troops' safety and operational capability over the next three years. The enhancements include:

- 22 new Chinook helicopters, with the first 10 arriving during 2012/13, as set out in with the Future Rotary Wing Strategy;

- an additional C-17 aircraft to strengthen the air bridge;

- further improvements to our Counter IED capabilities, particularly intelligence and analytical capability to target the networks;

- increased funding for our intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities, doubling REAPER capability;

- an improved Dismounted Close Combat equipment package - making equipment such as state of the art body armour and night vision goggles available to 50 per cent more troops so they can train with them before deploying to Afghanistan;

- more Bowman tactical radios and patrol satellite systems to improve communications between troops and their commanders and an additional 80M for communications facilities for our Special Forces.

- improvements to Defensive Aids Suites and support arrangements for the Hercules C130J fleet to maximise their use.

In addition to this package from the MoD, the Treasury will also provide a further 280M from the Reserve to pay for additional vehicles, weapons, communications and surveillance assets. This Treasury funding will deliver:

- more new vehicles such as a 31 per cent increase in Husky tactical support vehicles to be deployed to Afghanistan;

- a 40 per cent increase in Jackal vehicles deployed to Afghanistan;

- additional equipment to combat the IED threat including over 400 hand held detectors, robots, and other kit.

In order to deliver these vital resources for Afghanistan, the MoD has had to take difficult decisions about areas of defence that are not linked directly to operations.

There will be an independent review which will look at whether any further reductions can be made to the number of civilians working in defence. The number of service personnel, who are not critical to current operations will be reduced by 2,500. This will be achieved by slowing recruitment and preventing extensions to service rather than through redundancies. In addition, training for some Army units, who do not contribute to current operations, will be reduced.

The number of Harriers will be reduced and the remainder of the aircraft will be moved to RAF Wittering, resulting in the closure of RAF Cottesmore. In addition, the Nimrod MR2 will be taken out of service in March 2010, 12 months earlier than planned and the introduction of the Nimrod MRA4 will be delayed until 2012.

One survey ship and one minehunter will be withdrawn from service early. The Navy's older Lynx and Merlin Mk1 helicopters will be retired sooner than planned prior to the transition to the more capable Wildcat and Merlin Mk2 as part of the new helicopter strategy.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said:

"These decisions have not been taken lightly but these are tough times for everyone in defence and we must ensure we prioritise spending on operations to achieve success in Afghanistan. As we implement these changes, we will ensure that safety requirements are maintained and those people affected are supported."

Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said:

"We have all known for some time that living within our means while making improvements to the most critical areas of capability would involve difficult and unwelcome choices. It is also important to take a step or two back and to look at the wider picture; to reflect that we are still spending just over 35bn per year on Defence - (not including additional operational costs, UORs, etc) - which is some 2.5 per cent of our GDP. This is a significant investment, reflecting the seriousness of our task and the continuing importance of the Armed Forces to the security of our nation and its people."

Geoff Murray

'United We Conquer'
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