Since the beginning of the British Strategic Defence and Security Review there have been many stories about the wholesale scapping of large elements of the armed forces.
To understand the basis for such stories we must have a basic understanding of several factors.
Firstly,the British government is heavily in debt and desperately needs to reduce expenditure.
Many government departments face budget cuts of up to 40%.
It is believed that the Ministry of Defence will be treated more leniently with cuts of no more than 20%,many suggest it will be less than that.
Secondly the defence budget is already said to have a procurement overspend variously reported as £35,000 Million to £38,000 Million.
That subject was covered earlier in this post.
Lastly,the government has decided that the British army will not face cuts while British forces are engaged in combat in Afghanistan.
This is a problem for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force as the British Army consumes about half of the defence budget.
Which means any cuts will hit those two services twice as hard if army spending is ring-fenced.
The worst case scenario requires that a 10% cut is made to the defence budget for 10 years in order to eliminate the funding gap caused by the overspend in the equipment programme.
On top of that a further 20% cut is required to satisfy the Treasury's demand for reduced expenditure.
Those two cuts total 30% of the annual defence budget.
Because the army's budget is protected,that 30% has to be cut entirely from the budgets of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
As these two services spend only about half of the defence budget,to make a 30% overall saving their budgets will have to be cut by an average of 60%.
The Royal Navy's budget was about £8,000 Million.
The Royal Air Force budget was about £7,100 Million.
A 60% cut would require that the Royal Navy's budget be cut by £4,800 Million to £3,200 Million.
It would also require that the Royal Air Force's budget be cut by £4,260 Million to £2,840Million.
The magnitude of those cuts can be envisaged by playing a game of "Fantasy Defence Cuts" with the budgets which can be found in this post.
Hours of fun can be had trying to cut the above sums from the navy and air force budgets whilst still trying to retain a modicum of military capability.