RAF to cut back on a quarter of trainee pilots

RAF Typhoon fighter jet in flight
Image caption All three military services are facing cuts following last year's strategic defence review

The RAF is to reduce its number of trainee pilots by a quarter because of defence cuts.

The BBC's Jonathan Beale said up to 100 recruits will be told on Tuesday that they will have to leave the service.

The Daily Telegraph said with some just a few flying hours away from gaining their wings, the move would cost £300m in completed training and redundancy.

The Ministry of Defence would not comment directly on the report but said all three services were facing cuts.

'Priority areas'

The MoD said last year's strategic defence and security review (SDSR) had already outlined cost-cutting measures in the forces.

A spokesman said: "The SDSR has already made clear there will be a reduction in the number of assets and airframes across all three services, and that the RAF would be reduced by around 5,000 personnel to a total of about 33,000 by 2015.

"However, any reductions in the RAF will not affect operations in Afghanistan and priority areas of capability will not be compromised."

Defence Secretary Liam Fox told MPs "no cuts" had been, adding that the reports were merely due to "some newspapers catching up" with announcements already revealed in the SDSR last autumn.

And Defence Minister Gerald Howarth said the government was not to blame for the job cuts.

'Alarm bells'

He said reductions had been necessary because "Gordon Brown destroyed the British economy and we have had, therefore, to rein back in public expenditure".

The Telegraph said head of training Air Vice Marshal Mark Green would visit each of the RAF's three flying schools to pass on the news.

Up to 20 fast jet pilots, 30 helicopter pilots and 50 transport aircraft pilots are said to face the axe.

Captain Mark Searle, who chairs the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), said news of the cuts should ring "alarm bells".

And Balpa said it will step up help it gives to its military members.

Meanwhile, the Times has reported that the cost of scrapping military equipment as a result of the SDSR was £12bn.

The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and the Harrier jump jet fleet were among the casualties of the cuts.

The figure will be revealed to Parliament by Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander on Monday, the paper said.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said this "staggering figure" shows that the defence review was a "shambolic and rushed process".

He said: "It comes on top of news of the harmful way in which redundancies of trainee pilots has been handled. The Tory-led government must explain their actions."

The latest cuts follow the government's decision last November to scrap the entire fleet of Harrier jets and the Nimrod reconnaissance planes.

Former Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon said there are far fewer cockpits available as a result of the SDSR.

He said: "The RAF had anticipated this problem, by reducing recruiting considerably over the last 18 months, by actually slowing down the training system.

"What I don't think it had anticipated was that overnight they'd lose the Harrier force and the Nimrod force and those are massive cockpits that have gone."

The government's SDSR, in October, outlined cuts of £4.7bn over four years.

Unveiling the review, Prime Minister David Cameron said defence spending would fall by 8% in that period.

Mr Cameron denied it was a "cost saving exercise", saying it was a "step change in the way we protect this country's security interests".

Some 42,000 defence jobs will be cut by 2015 - including 25,000 civilian staff at the MoD, 7,000 in the Army and 5,000 each at the Navy and RAF.

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