Defence cuts have left the British Army 20 years out of date and unable to deal with the battlefield threat from Russian forces, a recently retired senior general has warned MPs.
A lack of money and policy of denial have left the Armed Forces not fit for purpose and at risk of “institutional failure”, Gen Sir Richard Barrons said.
The former head of Joint Forces Command until 2016 said that the defence establishment is “close to breaking” and without more money “will fall over”.
Sir Richard made a stark assessment alongside two other former senior officers who have recently retired.
Adm Sir George Zambellas, First Sea Lord until last year, warned that the country’s ability to hunt Russian submarines was now “inadequate”.
Defence is close to breaking and unless you put more money in it, it will fall over
Gen Sir Richard Barrons
MPs questioned the former senior officers amid widespread fear of more defence cuts as the Ministry of Defence tries to find £20bn in savings over the next decade. A Cabinet Office security review is also redrawing defence priorities as threats from terrorism, Russia and cyber warfare increase.
Sir Richard told the Commons defence committee that “defence is close to breaking and unless you put more money in it, it will fall over”.
He said the Army was "20 years out of date" lacking air defences, unmanned drones and cyber warfare capabilities.
It cannot deal with modern battlefield threats, such as those used by the Russians in Ukraine.
For example the Army had no defence against Russian long range artillery and drones that had destroyed two Ukranian mechanised infantry battalions in the space of 15 minutes, he said.
"We can't deal with that. If we want an Army that can actually fight, we have got to acquire some modern capabilities. It is miles from being able to do that," he said.
He said the military was in denial.
He said: “They are never going to say, publically, or to themselves, or to their enemies, or to their allies, that we are broken. But when they fly, sail, deploy on the land and they look at their equipment, look at their sustainability, they look at the shortfalls in their training, and they look at their allies, they know they are not fit for purpose.”