From today's Telegraph........... Five RAF bases to close in £1bn cuts By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent (Filed: 02/04/2004) The Ministry of Defence is planning the biggest cuts in Armed Forces' equipment for decades as part of attempts to save more than £1 billion from the defence budget. Five RAF bases are to go, with the scrapping of all the RAF's 62 ground-attack Jaguars, all its 79 ground-attack GR7 Harriers and all its 39 Puma helicopters. The Royal Navy will lose the two carriers Illustrious and Invincible, at least two frigates and its 88 Sea King helicopters, and close four naval storage bases. The Army will have to close a number of camps on the Salisbury Plain training area and axe at least 50 Challenger 2 tanks, 50 Warrior armoured personnel carriers and all 118 of its Gazelle helicopters. The cuts are so wide-reaching that ministers are planning to hold back the announcement of some until after a general election. At least three Scottish infantry battalions are in danger of being amalgamated, a move that could spark a widespread defection of Labour voters north of the border to the Nationalists. But the Government believes the suggestion by Oliver Letwin, shadow chancellor, that the Conservatives would cut the defence budget, now denied by the Tories, makes it impossible for them to challenge any cuts. The Royal Scots and the Black Watch, two of the most famous Scottish regiments but both with recruiting problems, are most likely to go. The overall cuts will lead to 2,000 officers being made redundant across all three services as well as a number of senior NCOs. The large-scale disposals come after the Treasury won its battle with the MoD over cash shortages caused by the adoption of a new accounting system, the cost of expensive new programmes and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Under the new Resource Account Budgeting system it costs government departments more money to keep open large numbers of bases. Working groups within the MoD were told to find ways to save money from current equipment to protect projects such as the Navy's two new carriers and the RAF's Eurofighter/Typhoon aircraft. The RAF bases to close include Coltishall in Norfolk, which houses all the RAF's Jaguar ground-attack aircraft, Wittering in Cambridgeshire, home of Joint Force Harrier, and Benson in Oxfordshire. Military commanders are furious at the long list. Nicholas Soames, shadow defence secretary, accused the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, of planning "to wreak havoc on the Forces". Seems like we're all getting reamed this time - right across the board. You, me, everybody.