Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant has told MPs that intense air operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East are placing a “huge” demand on equipment and personnel.
In a briefing paper delivered to senior politicians and obtained by The Daily Telegraph, the RAF’s second in command said morale among airmen was “fragile” and their fighting spirit was threatened by being overworked.
Many areas of the RAF were “running hot”, he warned, while the servicemen’s sense that the nation valued their efforts was being undermined by the Coalition’s defence cuts.
The air force was also now finding it difficult to recruit staff, he said, with many specialities understaffed by up to a quarter.
In his conclusion, Air Chief Marshal Bryant — whose full title is Commander in Chief (Air) — warned that the ability of the RAF to deal with unforeseen emergencies would be rapidly “eroded” if the Libyan campaign went beyond September. “Two concurrent operations are placing a huge demand on equipment and personnel,” he said
“Should Operation Ellamy (Libya) endure past defence planning assumptions the future contingent capability is likely to be eroded,” he addedThe failure of Nato’s mission to remove Col Muammar Gaddafi from power since air strikes began in March is a cause of growing concern among Downing Street and the military, who had initially hoped for a swift resolution to the mission.
Last week, Adml Sir Mark Stanhope, the head of the Royal Navy, warned that current operations were “unsustainable”. On Sunday, Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, admitted that the cost of the intervention could now run into hundreds of millions of pounds, far greater than the original budget estimates.