How well trained the British military is

Fresh blood for the British Army

According to the latest statistics, Her British Majesty's government had 136,310 trained professional soldiers in mid-2018: 6.2 percent less than long-term planning. Within twelve months, almost 3,000 more men and women had left the armed forces than new ones came.

The decline in the air force and navy branches is less than in the army. This recently missed the target of 82,480 full-time employees, although the target number is lower than it has been in 200 years. In the year to the end of June, the total number of fully trained military personnel was 76,880.

The only bright spot in the latest annual balance sheet was the 5.4 percent increase in the number of Gurkhas. These are Nepalese mercenaries who have been fighting for the British crown for more than two centuries. Soldiers from up to 40 other nations have also been deployed under the Union Jack flag for years. These days, on the 100th anniversary of the armistice, the country remembers with gratitude those hundreds of thousands of Indians, Australians and Canadians who rushed to the aid of the motherland in the First World War.

More recently, there is a nice bon mot from the army chief Lord Richard Dannatt, who was in office until 2009: "I had around 2,500 soldiers from the Fiji Islands under my command - more than the Fiji colleague himself."

Simplified recruiting

However, as Dannatt reports in the "Daily Telegraph", the question of "how British the British Army" should be has always been debated. At that time, the rule of thumb applied: 88 percent recruiting from the British Isles, two percent from Gurkhas, the rest from the 52 Commonwealth countries and a few other foreigners. This week the government announced a rule change designed to simplify recruitment: In future, applicants from Commonwealth countries such as Kenya, India or New Zealand will no longer have to have lived in Great Britain for five years, but will be able to register directly from their home countries. "We're looking for well-trained, committed people," said Army Secretary of State Mark Lancaster.

The SA80 assault rifle will continue to come from the German armory, Heckler & Koch (H&K) - a welcome vote of confidence in the Black Forest armory, which recently hit the headlines due to management problems and operates a small factory with 20 employees in Nottingham in central England. There, the A2 model is upgraded to the A3 at a unit price of around 1,200 euros, with apparently astonishing results: In view of the significantly increased accuracy, the army says that the performance in target practice had to be upgraded. The extensive modernization process has made the SA80 A3 a "better, more deadly weapon than most comparable weapons," as experts rave.

Lucrative job

Gradually, all 200,000 A2 models in use are to be converted and then remain in use until beyond 2025: the total value of the order for H&K could reach 216 million pounds (247 million euros). The guards grenadiers received the souped-up weapon as the first unit. Since they were deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and South Sudan this year, the army's weapons specialists should be satisfied with the properties of the assault rifle.

The previous model had given rise to complaints several times during the first Gulf War in 1991: Angry squaddies (army jargon) only called their rifle the "official" because of its lame performance. (Sebastian Borger from London, November 6th, 2018)