By Melissa Kite, Deputy Political Editor TDT 26 Feb 2011
The Defence Secretary said the situation in Libya demonstrated that the Government was right to radically restructure the Armed Forces, making them more adaptable to new security threats.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Dr Fox warned that the implications of the turmoil in Libyaand other countries in North Africa and the Middle East would be far-reaching and could resonate for many years. They also raised the question of how best British forces could respond to such incidents.
"The events over recent days may produce a strategic shock and change in how we view the world," he said.
"The speed of events in North Africa has shown how quickly circumstances can change and how quickly the UK can be drawn in.
"An island nation like Britain, with so many interests in so many parts of the world, including around 10 per cent of our citizens living abroad, is inevitably affected by global instability."
Dr Fox disclosed that as part of the defence reshaping, additional resources will include an expansion in Special Forces. He insisted that the forces would be capable of a "one-off intervention" once they have been restructured.
"If required we could field a force of 30,000, including maritime and air assets for a one-off intervention. Although I cannot go into detail, our internationally respected and battle-tested Special Forces will receive significantly enhanced capabilities."
It is understood that Dr Fox will step up the Strategic Defence and Security Review process in two weeks when an "implementation group" reports on restructuring to take place this summer.
In a defiant message, he urged critics of the review to accept that “radical” change was more necessary than ever. He has already made clear that he is determined to press ahead with controversial cuts and reordering of equipment and priorities.
The Defence Secretary is said to be frustrated by internal Ministry of Defence resistance to changes which will see the Harrier jump jet and Nimrod reconnaissance planes scrapped, the Ark Royal decommissioned, 5,000 Navy personnel lost along with 7,000 army personnel and 25,000 MoD civilian staff.
Instead there will be a new fleet of Astute-class nuclear-powered submarines, updated Typhoons, Type-45 destroyers and Type-26 Global Combat Ships. Queen Elizabeth carriers will host fast jets and helicopters. The Army will be remodelled into five multi-role brigades, with more powers devolved to the force’s chiefs.
Angered by the slow pace of change in Whitehall, Dr Fox has handed the business of seeing through the reforms to the implementation group. It will report in the next fortnight.
In his article, Dr Fox writes: “The events of 9/11 produced a strategic shock which immediately changed how we view the world. The events in North Africa over recent days may also produce a strategic shock and change in how we view the world.”