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General Outline of the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010

1. Military Tasks and Defence Planning Assumptions

The contribution of the UK Armed Forces to the national security effort is defined by a number of Military Tasks (MT) and Defence Planning Assumptions .

2. Military tasks

The seven military tasks are:

  • Defending the UK and its Overseas Territories

  • Providing strategic intelligence

  • Providing nuclear deterrence

  • Supporting civil emergency organisations in times of crisis

  • Defending the UK's interest by projecting power strategically and through expeditionary intervention

  • Providing a defence contribution to UK influence

  • Providing security for stabilisation

3. Defence planning assumptions

These assume that in the future the UK Armed Forces will have the following size and shape that will enable them to conduct operations of the following type:

  • An enduring stabilisation operation at around brigade level (possibly up to 6,500 personnel) with maritime and air support as required, while also conducting:

  • One non-enduring complex intervention (up to 2,000 personnel), and

  • One non-enduring simple intervention (up to 1,000 personnel)

or alternatively:

  • Three non-enduring operations if the UK Armed Forces are not already engaged in an enduring operation


  • For a limited time, and with sufficient warning, committing all the UK's effort to a one-off intervention of up to three brigades with air and maritime support at a level of about 30,000 personnel.

4. Future Force 2020

The planning framework provided by the Military Tasks and Defence Planning Assumptions provides an outline for structure which the UK Government aims to establish by 2020. Future Force 2020 as three main elements:

  • The Deployed Force

  • The High Readiness Force

  • The Lower Readiness Force

The Deployed Force

This will consist of those forces that are actually engaged in operations. Therefore aircraft engaged in operations (including the defence of the UK’s airspace), forces involved in operations in the South Atlantic, forces operating in Afghanistan and other expeditionary operations plus the nuclear deterrent will all form elements of The Deployed Force.

The High Readiness Force

This force will consist of a range of maritime, air and land based units capable of deploying at short notice to meet the requirements of the Defence Planning Assumptions. Such forces would enable the UK to react quickly to a range of scenarios that might threaten the UK’s national security interests. These force elements would be capable of operating with allies or where necessary on ‘stand-alone’ UK operations.

There will be a significant enhancement to the UK’s overall Special Forces capability.

The Lower Readiness Force

The Lower Readiness Force would consist of elements that have either recently returned from operations or those that are preparing and training for inclusion in The High Readiness Force. Many Lower Readiness Force units would be involved in supporting The Deployed Force.

5. Land Forces

Land force capabilities will be based around six brigades as follows:

Five multi-role brigades each consisting of around 6,500 personnel that are comprised of main battle tanks, armoured reconnaissance units, armoured, mechanised and light infantry elements, plus artillery, engineers, army aviation and a complete range of support units. One brigade would always be part of the High Readiness Force and where necessary these brigades could be Self supporting.

16 Air Assault Brigade would be the sixth brigade and would provide parachute and air assault units for rapid intervention operations at very short notice. This brigade would be self supporting for short duration operations.

All of the above could form part of a much larger organisation (possibly divisional size) under the command of a deployable UK divisional headquarters. For multinational operations the headquarters of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (HQ ARRC) would be available.

Challenger main battle tank numbers will reduce by about 40% and heavy artillery numbers such as the 155 mm AS90 will reduce by about 35%. There are currently no plans to reduce the number of Infantry Battalion's.

It is likely that Army units will have been withdrawn from their bases in Germany by 2020.

6. Air Forces

In the future the Royal Air Force will continue to provide the air defence of the United Kingdom and territories in the South Atlantic. To meet this requirement, in the longer term, a fast jet force of both Eurofighter Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighter aircraft will provide air defence, precision ground attack and combat ISTAR capabilities.

In the short term elements of the Tornado fleet will be retained to support operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere should the operational requirement arise.

The Royal Air Force will also provide a fleet of strategic and tactical airlift aircraft based around 7 x C-17, 22 x A400M and 14 x Airbus A330 tanker and transport aircraft. The Chinook helicopter fleet will be increased by 12 new aircraft and Merlin helicopters will be retained.

ISTAR capabilities will be enhanced to include a range of unmanned air systems that will complement existing manned aircraft. The UK may purchase 3 x KC-135 Joint Rivet signals intelligence aircraft to improve the existing ISTAR capability.

It is likely that the Royal Air Force will become the lead agency in the proposed UK Cyber Operations Group.

7. Naval Forces

Under the terms of the Future Force 2020 proposals the Royal Navy will provide a continuous nuclear deterrent system at sea, maritime defence of the United Kingdom and defence of territories in the South Atlantic. Forces assigned to these roles will include:

The Vanguard submarine force equipped with Trident submarine launched inter-continental ballistic missiles. Current plans are for the Vanguard class submarines to be replaced in the late 2020s (with the first submarine possibly being delivered in 2028).

Seven Astute class nuclear powered hunter killer submarines equipped with Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles . Astute class submarines are capable of operating at sea indefinitely.

Two new aircraft carriers, one of which will be kept at extended readiness. The aircraft carrier at sea will be equipped with Joint Strike Fighters and a range of helicopters that (depending on the operational requirement) could include Apache attack helicopters and possibly Chinook and Merlin support helicopters. It is expected that following the fitting of catapult and arrestor systems the first of these new carriers will be in-service from about 2020.

A balanced surface fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers.

Up to 14 mine counter- measures vessels to be based on the existing Hunt and Sandown class vessels. In addition there will be an ice patrol ship and an oceanographic survey capability.

The Royal Marine's 3 Commando Brigade will provide an important maritime response capability to the High Readiness Force. 3 Commando Brigade will be able to land significant forces anywhere in the world.

Strategic transport will be provided by a force of up to 6 roll-on,, roll-off ferries.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary will continue to supply and refuel Royal Naval vessels worldwide.

8. Personnel figures

By 2015 the three armed services will have reduced their personnel figures as follows:

Army: Reduced by about 7,000 to a final total of around 95,000.
Royal Air Force: Reduced by around 5,000 to a final total of about 33,000.
Royal Navy: Reduced by about 5,000 to a final total of about 30,000.

It is envisaged that the Civil Service element in the Ministry of Defence will reduce by about 25,000 to a final total of around 60,000.

9. Future defence and security reviews

A full defence and security review will take place every five years. This review will provide the mechanism to ensure that resources and commitment are in balance as the strategic context and operational requirement develops. The next review will be in 2015.


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