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Just before summer recess the Government launched a review of national security capabilities, to be led by the National Security Advisor. The review is understood to include the defence capabilities of the armed forces. It is unclear when the review will be published or in what format.

The review comes at a time of heightened concern about the financial ability of the Ministry of Defence to deliver all of the equipment it has committed to. The current Defence Equipment Plan outlines a £178bn spend over the next decade on equipment. The National Audit Office warned at the beginning of the year “the risks to the affordability of the Ministry of Defence Equipment Plan are greater than at any point since reporting began in 2012”.

The NAO particularly highlighted concerns about the cost of additional commitments exceeding the increase in funding for the plan and the reliance on making efficiency savings to bridge the gap. The NAO warned “there is little room for unplanned cost growth” and expressed concern about the plan’s vulnerability to changes in foreign exchange rates, given that approximately £18.6bn is to be paid in US dollars. The UK is buying new combat aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft and Apache attack helicopters from the US.

Speculation about what may be cut has been rife in the media. The Navy’s amphibious capabilities have come under particular attention, with the potential retirement of its amphibious ships and cuts to the Royal Marines, and also to helicopter numbers.

Library briefing paper The defence capability review: equipment provides a simple introduction to the major front-line equipment of the armed forces.

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