Further cuts to defence cannot be ruled out

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THOUSANDS more sailors, soldiers and airmen could face the axe no matter who wins the general election, a defence think-tank has warned.

A report by the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) said it was inevitable that Britain’s defence spending would drop below the Nato target of two per cent of Gross Domestic Product, in the face of continuing austerity cuts.

It warned that up to 30,000 service personnel could go – with the army likely to bear the heaviest cuts – leaving the armed forces with a combined strength of just 115,000 by the end of the decade.

The report said that if Royal Navy numbers were protected because of the need to crew the new aircraft carriers, the army could find itself taking 80 per cent of the total reduction.

The Rusi paper, written by research director Professor Malcolm Chalmers, said that to keep up with the Nato target an extra £3bn of spending is needed in 2016-17.

He said: ‘In the context of wider austerity in public spending, such an increase is not plausible.’