British military unfit to fight as Russians ‘laugh at us’ and Americans ‘shake heads’

A former Army chief warns that cuts have made our military unfit to fight – and a joke to threats like Russia.

Lord Dannatt fears we would now struggle to support the US in conflicts like Afghanistan and Iraq.

And he added of our combat readiness: “The Russians are laughing at us, the Americans shake their heads.”

Lord Dannatt said the Ministry of Defence is being bankrupted by the RAF’s F-35B stealth fighters – £80million each and costing up to £90,000 an hour to run.

The costs are now so high that even the US air force is beginning to look for a cheaper combat jet.

Lord Dannatt, who was Chief of the General Staff from 2006 to 2009, spoke out ahead of a major shake-up of the armed forces called the Integrated Review, to be published on Tuesday.

He said: “It is the capital cost and the running costs of the F-35B that is the real and ongoing worry.

“This will skew the Defence Budget for decades. Who is the loser? Well, I’d say this – it is the Army.”

Plans to buy 138 F-35Bs are likely to be cut to 48.

Lord Dannatt also said: “There is no serious money in the Challenger or Warrior [tank] upgrade programmes, our field artillery has a third of the ­capability of a Russian formation and we’ve no meaningful air ­defence against battlefield drones.”

Lord Dannatt added that the cuts posed a risk at a time the US wants a “capable ally to depend on”.

He said: “So the Russians are laughing at us and the Americans are shaking their heads. What price Global Britain?”

His comments came as figures revealed we are short of 10,000 troops.

And defence sources claim the Army could be cut to around 72,000 over the next 10 years.

General Dannatt said: “When the Army was at a strength of 101,800 until 2010 we were capable of conducting two operations simultaneously in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Today, that could not happen.

“Moreover, underfunding of the Army’s equipment programme means our capability to field a war-fighting division is between very low and non-existent.”

An MoD spokesman said: “Last November, the Prime Minister announced the biggest increase to defence spending since the Cold War.

“As threats change our forces must change and they are being redesigned to confront future threats.

“The armed forces will be fully staffed and equipped to confront those threats.

“But the Integrated Review is not yet published and any such reporting is merely speculation at this stage.”