LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said on Tuesday it would make around 11,000 of its armed forces redundant as it cuts defence spending under measures designed to help rein in a record budget deficit.
The redundancy figure fleshes out numbers announced last October, but the timing is politically sensitive with thousands of British troops in Afghanistan and Britain talking about air support for a no-fly zone to protect Libyans.
Britain is reducing the size of its army, navy and armed forces by a total of 17,000 by 2015 and the redundancies will be complemented by slowing down recruitment to get the forces down to the required level.
“There will be scope for individuals to volunteer to be considered for redundancy and where possible we will meet our manpower target through volunteers,” Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in a statement.
“But some difficult choices are sadly inevitable,” he added.
Fox said that no one who was deployed on operations would be made redundant unless they volunteered.
However, opposition Labour attacked the government.
“At the same time as planning a no-fly zone over Libya the Tory-led government chooses today of all days to sack RAF (Royal Air Force) personnel,” said Labour defence spokesman Jim Murphy.
“The pilots will be stunned and the country will be confused. These are the very same people who would help enforce no-fly zones. The government is losing its way on defence and should re-open its defence review,” he added.
The government announced last October that it would cut defence spending by eight percent in real terms over the next four years. Defence got off relatively lightly compared with 19 percent average cuts across other departments.
A parliamentary watchdog said last week that Britain would need to cancel more defence projects or renegotiate contracts to cut military spending to meet targets.
The coalition is front-loading spending cuts to try to wipe out most of the budget deficit by the end of the current parliament in 2015. The deficit is running at around 10 percent of national output.
The RAF said it would disband squadrons for Tornado jets based in Marham, eastern England, and the Scottish town of Lossiemouth. Tornado jets are currently being used in Afghanistan.
By 2015, army numbers will be cut by 7,000 to around 95,000. Royal Navy personnel will be cut by 5,000 to 30,000, and RAF personnel will be cut by 5,000 to about 33,000.