|Hutton to boost our Special Forces Posted by Ian at 8 50 PM on Saturday, April 25|
BRITAIN’S special forces are to be massively expanded in a major overhaul of the British Army.
Defence Secretary John Hutton will tomorrow spell out the plans to recruit hundreds more special forces, set up new units and invest in a new generation of kit for them.
Defence chiefs believe the SAS and SBS could be increased by a quarter, and support units doubled in strength.
Lessons learned from Afghanistan and Iraq have shown small, highly mobile and well armed teams of special forces can do far more damage than conventional infantry battalions.
The SBS have been taking out key Taliban commanders in Afghanistan and the SAS have been operating against al Qaeda’s leaders in Iraq.
Both units have scored massive successes.
And other British units in Afghanistan have adopted their tactics - using small very mobile units in surgical strikes.
Large scale wars involving tanks, naval squadrons or huge occupying armies happen once a decade, while special forces are in action across the world every day.
Mr Hutton will say: “The next decade must see a major rebalancing of our Armed Forces.
“Greater investment in types of battle winning capabilities like our special forces that get deep behind enemy lines to disrupt networks of terror that threaten our national security.
“UK special forces are amongst the best in the world. Capable, effective, respected and contributing massively to the defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Mr Hutton held talks in Washington with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month.
Gates has also unveiled plans to expand America’s special forces units by up to 10,000.
Mr Hutton will add: “Change has already come to America.
“Earlier this month we saw real leadership from President Obama and Secretary Gates in their ambition to set the US military policy on a new course, rebalancing and reprioritising investment effort on a huge scale.
“We need to see a similar readjustment here in the UK in the years ahead.”
That would take the total strength of its elite units to over 30,000.
In Britain there are thought to be just over 500 full-time SAS and SBS troops.
They are backed up by 300 reserves and Territorial soldiers, and another 400 support troops.
There are also specialist communications and transport units, taking the total Special Forces strength to around 2,000.
And Defence chiefs are thought to want to increase Britain’s special forces by up to 25%. They support units would be doubled in size.
A senior Ministry of Defence source said: “There is no way you can drop the bar and allow more people in.
“But what you can do is increase investment, so anyone who could reach the standards and is made of the right stuff can be recruited.
“You can also increase the support structures so we can make the best use of the best of the best.”
In the past ten years the SAS and SBS have stared the same size, but new support units - the Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group - have been formed.
Mr Hutton will stress that the changes are vital because the wars being fought by the British army are changing.
He will explain: “When we commit our troops to battle to preserve our national security, there is only one outcome we can countenance. Winning.
“And in Afghanistan we are witnessing new threats that tear up the rule book of traditional conflict. 9/11 and 7/7 are proof that traditional deterrents do not work against violent Islamist extremism.
“Sixty years of theory are confined to the history books by those who use despicable methods to attack our values and way of life. The female suicide bomber. The boy tricked into killing himself and British soldiers by pushing a wheelbarrow of explosives.
“Such threats strike a challenge to the core of how we operate in the field. It tests everything about us.
“Our people, their equipment, our interaction with communities in which we are fighting.
“It demands a comprehensive approach. A joining of political, military and economic effort.
“These are new challenges for our Armed Forces, but ones that I have seen at first hand in Afghanistan, that we are already rising.
“But we will need to go further.”