British armed forces have been “hollowed out by spending cuts,” General Richard Barrons has said FILE PHOTO: British soldiers stand in front of a military vehicle during a press conference of the Polish and Lithuanian president following a joint visit of the NATO Multinational Division North East mobile command center. © Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP

The UK could deplete its ammunition stocks in mere hours should it be drawn into large-scale fighting, a former British general warned on Thursday. This and other issues make the UK military unfit to be regarded as a “top tier” NATO member, he said.

Retired General Richard Barrons, who formerly headed the UK’s Joint Forces Command, sounded the alarm in an op-ed published by The Sun in which he said the fighting force has been “hollowed out by spending cuts.”

Barrons claimed that the British armed forces “are smaller and less ready to fight than at any time in living memory.” He also warned that the UK Army is on course to slip below 76,000 troops. However, even these service members often do not receive inadequate training, Barrons noted.

British tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery pieces mostly date to the previous century, while “years of cuts to ammunition production mean that, for some types of key weapons, the army would run out in a busy afternoon,” the general said.

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Barrons added that the Royal Navy and Air Force are “in better shape” and boast some “outstanding modern equipment,” but cautioned that without experienced personnel, ammunition, and spare parts they might turn out to be just a “glittering shop window” without much to show for it on the actual battlefield.

The former commander said the UK should focus on Europe, arguing that the “tilt to Asia can wait.” He urged London to invest in modern capabilities, including drones, missiles, and cyber and electronic warfare capabilities. Britain should also double its reserves to 60,000 troops, he said.

Regarding Russia, Barrons estimated that to be able to handle a “surprise attack,” the British Army will need to spend “£3 billion ($3.67 billion) this year, and every year for the next ten years.”

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace admitted in the House of Commons on Monday that the military has been “hollowed out and underfunded.” His comments followed a Sky News report alleging that a top US general had told Wallace that British forces are “barely tier two” in terms of fighting capabilities. (RT)