With RAF Tornados undertaking airstrikes over key ISIL targets in Iraq, decisions made back in the Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010 are being put under the spotlight.
The debate by MPs in Westminster took for granted the Royal Air Force’s capacity to deliver substantial airpower for several years despite the country having less than a third of the number of fast jet squadrons than it had in 1991, at the start of the first Gulf War.
And with the shift in Armed Forces personnel towards a smaller core unit in the Army, Navy and RAF and a large scale recruitment campaign for ‘reservists’ it is not just the number of aircraft which may prove a problem for the Ministry of Defence.
Former RAF Flight Lieutenant turned MP Steve Baker has told Breitbart London that there is “a severe risk of overusing RAF personnel” if the mission in Iraq continues for any length of time.
Latest statistics for the RAF show that its total strength was reported at being 5.7 percent below the stated requirement.
In addition, II(AC) Sqn, currently a Tornado squadron, is due to disband on 31st March 2015 and re-equip with Typhoons. With the Typhoons currently without the capability for Stormshadow and Brimstone weapons systems, Mr Baker says it is “inevitable that [II(AC)] will continue as a GR4 Squadron given what is going on in Iraq”.
In a further blow to Defence Ministers, the experienced aerospace engineer also said there were tensions over the ongoing strategy of the RAF with regards to the technological capability of the aeroplane and the numbers of aircraft.
“If we only have small numbers of aeroplanes then I think that is an implicit admission that we only ever expect to fight alongside the Americans,” he said.
“Part of what is going on is that we need aircraft capable of operating with the Americans technically and precisely because we are operating with the Americans we don’t need very many of them.
“If we are fighting asymmetric warfare against people with only very simple weapons systems it’s pretty clear we don’t need the most advanced weaponry. The reason to have that is in order to be flexible to deal with whatever comes but it is an admission that we are not expecting to go to war alone.
“The Falklands is fairly well fortified but the idea that [for example] you’d attack the Falklands from the Ascension Islands using Typhoons and F35s is fairly laughable.”
A MoD Spokesperson said: “With the largest Defence budget in Europe and with £160 billion being spent on equipment and equipment support over the next ten years our forces are more than capable of responding to threats now and in the future.”