VOTE: Red Arrows safe amid cutbacks to our armed forces
PRIME Minister David Cameron has stepped in to save the Red Arrows from being axed as part of measures set to be announced today to cut back the country's armed forces, it has been claimed.
Axing the RAF's display team was considered a "high pain" option for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as it reviewed its budget ahead of today's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).
But a senior source at the MoD has confirmed that the aerobatics team is part of the "nation's fabric".
Both Defence Secretary Liam Fox and Mr Cameron have reportedly agreed to safeguard their future.
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This will be confirmed in the SDSR as Dr Fox outlines an eight per cent cut to the ministry's £37 billion budget over four years.
A ministry source told a newspaper: "They are a historic part of the armed forces and they are the ambassadors of the British armed forces and the British defence industry."
It costs £8.8 million a year to keep the Red Arrows in the air, which is a drop in the ocean compared with the £38 billion shortfall in the MoD budget.
However the RAF is expecting to be the big loser in today's SDSR with up to 9,000 airmen and women expected to be culled in the cuts.
Just months after the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the force faces the loss of almost a quarter of its 41,000 uniformed personnel. The Navy may lose 5,000 of its 35,760 sailors.
The move comes after Mr Cameron caved in to Army chiefs' objections to initial demands for cuts of more than 7,000 soldiers which they said would threaten Britain's mission in Afghanistan.
Up to 20,000 uniformed jobs will go from the 178,000 in the three services under the SDSR. Thousands of the MoD's 85,000 civilian staff will also be out.
The revelation has infuriated air force and naval officers who fear it will mean the closure of historic bases and put Britain's security at risk.
County bases which could be affected include Kirton, as well as RAF Coningsby, Cranwell, Waddington, Digby and Scampton, which combined employ 6,220 service personnel and 1,490 civilians.
It is also feared that Tornado jets – the backbone of the RAF – will be phased out earlier than planned as their role is gradually taken over by Eurofighter Typhoons. Britain's initial order for 138 US Joint Strike Fighters will be slashed to "around 40", said MoD sources.
Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said: "If these reports are true, this is extremely worrying. The RAF plays a critical role in maintaining Britain's defences at home and throughout the world."
Nic Dakin, Labour MP for Scunthorpe, said: "Like everybody else locally, I think the Red Arrows do a fantastic job.
"However, I don't think the Government is going about its review in the right way. They should look at everything and not rule things out one by one.
"While I welcome the announcement the Red Arrows will be saved, I think it's the wrong way to go about Government business."