'Withered' British forces unable to defend UK from full-scale attack - former head of Joint Forces Command

General Richard Barrons believes a Russian invasion could be one-sided

'Withered' British forces unable to defend UK from full-scale attack - former head of Joint Forces Command

A sniper team (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

A 10 page memo sent to the UK's Defence Minister has criticised the cuts in British defence spending and outlined the precarious position Britain would find itself in if it were attacked.

A copy of the correspondence was seen by the Financial Times which set out a wide range of deficiencies from poorly planned strategies if the UK was attacked to the continual decrease in the defence budget. 

General Richard Barrons, who retired in April, said that civil servants are focused on "skinning" budgets rather than tackling "profoundly difficult" strategic challenges.

In a memo to Defence Minister Michael Fallon, he added that the Ministry of Defence has worked to "preserve the shop window" but the Armed Forces' capability had been "withered by design".

The warning comes despite the Government's decision to increase spending by nearly £5bn by 2020/21 and to meet NATO's target to spend 2% of GDP on defence for the rest of the decade.

General Barron said: "There is a sense that modern conflict is ordained to be only as small and as short term as we want to afford - and that is absurd.

"The failure to come to terms with this will not matter at all if we are lucky in the way the world happens to turn out but it could matter a very great deal if even a few of the risks now at large conspire against the UK."

The memo singles out Russia as a possible threat to British defences. General Barron said: "UK air defence now consists of the (working) Type 45 (destroyers), enough ground-based air defence to protect roughly Whitehall only, and RAF fast jets".

"Neither the UK homeland nor a deployed force - let alone both concurrently - could be protected from a concerted Russian air effort."

The former Joint Forces Command chief also raised concerns that Britain's Armed Forces are reliant on small numbers of expensive equipment, such as new aircraft carriers, which "we cannot afford to use fully, damage or lose".

The warning comes a day after the Ministry of Defence announced that it is finalising a £30m deal to develop a hi-tech laser weapon.