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Previously the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review indicated that the required number of full-time trained UK Armed Forces personnel by 2020 would be 144,200. The 2015 SDSR also re-affirmed the Government’s commitment to increase the number of trained personnel in the reserve forces (Future Reserves 2020) to 35,600. 

The Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, announced on March 22 2021 that the army will be reduced to 72,500 by 2025. This is set out in the Defence in a Competitive Age command paper. This means that the target of 82,000 trained personnel in army set by the 2015 SDSR has been scrapped. 

There was no change in the targeted size of trained personnel in the Royal Navy/Marines or the Royal Air Force. There has been no change in the targeted size of the reserves.

Size of the UK Armed Forces

The total size of the full-time UK Armed Forces (trained and untrained) at 1 April 2021 was just under 159,000. Most personnel were within the Army (56%) with the remainder being equally split between the Royal Navy/Marines and the RAF.

Across all services there were 30,400 officers (19%) and 128,600 personnel with other ranks (81%). The distribution of officers to other ranks varied across each service: a quarter of all RAF personnel were an officer (25%) compared to less than a fifth (16%) in the Army.

At 1 April 2021 the number of trained personnel in the UK Armed Forces (those who have completed both phase 1 and phase 2 of training) were: 77,200 in the army, 29,458 in the Royal Navy/Marines, and 29,941 in the RAF. The size of the trained element of the army was 6% over the new 72,500 target, although the Royal Navy/Marines and RAF were both under the old SDSR targeted size (3% and 6% respectively).


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