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As well as wanting an updated security policy, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats wanted the £38 billion overspend in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) procurement budget addressed. With the government committed to reducing the national budget deficit, the Treasury asked the MoD to draw up options for a 10–20% real-terms cut in its budget. The final amount was a 7.7% reduction over four years.
All three of Britain's armed forces would take cuts in manpower. Overall, the largest overseas deployment was expected to be not more than 30,000 personnel, including maritime and air force units. This compares to the 45,000 involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In November 2010, the MoD released its plan to implement the changes.
The number of warheads carried on each Vanguard-class submarine to be reduced from 48 to 40, and the number of operationally available nuclear warheads to be reduced from about 160 to no more than 120.
The decision on replacement of the UK's nuclear deterrent, based on the Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines, to be delayed by four years, deferring £500 million in spending. Changes to the size of the missile tubes to save £250 million.
The Harrier GR9 was retired in order to maintain the Tornado as the RAF's main strike aircraft until the Typhoon matured. The latter and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II would constitute the RAF's fast jet fleet in the future.
The SDSR called for the almost immediate decommissioning of the Royal Navy flagship aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal, rather than in 2016 as scheduled. This occurred on 11 March 2011.
The Report also announced the early retirement of the Joint Force Harrier aircraft, the Harrier GR7/GR9. Both of these measures were to save money for the purchase of the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. The Harrier fleet made its last operational flights in December 2010. In 2011 72 British Harriers were sold to the United States to be used for spares.
The SDSR proposed that one of the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers currently under construction would be certain to be commissioned, with the fate of the other left undecided. It had been suggested that only one carrier, routinely equipped with 12 fast jets, was to be in service at any one time, with the other carrier held in extended readiness. These plans were to be reviewed in 2015. However, in May 2014 it was announced by Prime MinisterDavid Cameron that the second carrier, Prince of Wales, would be brought into service alongside Queen Elizabeth. He confirmed the second vessel was already 40% built.
The SDSR announced the government's intention to switch its purchase of F-35Bs to the carrier-variant F-35C to allow for a wider range and weapons to be used. However, in May 2012 this decision was reversed, and the F-35B was chosen instead, as the previous government had intended. This was because the cost of converting the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers to accommodate the carrier-variant F-35C had risen to twice the original estimate.
Personnel to be reduced by 7,000 to 95,500 by 2015. To take place within the overall mandate of reducing the army's size to 82,000 regular personnel and 30,000 reservists by 2018.
After long delays, technical difficulties, and a total cost of £3.2 billion, the Nimrod MRA4 maritime patrol aircraft project was scrapped.RAF Kinloss, where the aircraft were to be based, ended its 73-year association with the RAF on 26 July 2012 when it was transferred to the Army.
The Sentinel R1 ground surveillance aircraft would be retired when it was no longer required to support forces in Afghanistan. The utility of the aircraft in deployments over Libya and Mali has led to some calls for the retention of the aircraft.
On 3 August 2011, the House of CommonsDefence Select Committee published a critical review of the SDSR. The review led to wide-ranging cuts to the Armed Forces, which were widely criticised for damaging the capabilities of the British military.