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Elite units of paratroopers and Royal Marines could be MERGED to SAVE MONEY amid sweeping cuts to military

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Elite units of paratroopers and Royal Marines could be combined to save money as part of sweeping cuts to Britain’s military.

The mergers are said to be under consideration alongside plans to reduce the armed forces’ strength by more than 14,000.

The proposals will raise fresh concerns about the crisis facing UK forces – with fears about personnel shortages, rising costs of kit, and recruitment problems.

Royal Marines in action in Afganistan in 2007. Mergers are said to be under consideration alongside plans to reduce the armed forces' strength by more than 14,000

Royal Marines in action in Afganistan in 2007. Mergers are said to be under consideration alongside plans to reduce the armed forces’ strength by more than 14,000

The Times said one option being considered was a combined force comprising 3 Commando Brigade, which is predominately made up of Royal Marines, and 16 Air Assault Brigade, which includes the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the Parachute Regiment.

Another idea includes cutting the army by 11,000 soldiers and losing 2,000 Royal Marines and sailors and 1,250 airmen, the newspaper reported.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said final decisions had not been taken.

‘A whole range of options have been discussed as part of the cross-government review on how to best protect our country. No decisions have been taken and any talk of an outcome is pure speculation,’ a spokeswoman said.

A strategic defence and security review was announced last year looking at all aspects of the UK’s security capability, including defence.

There has been widespread speculation about possible cuts amid major pressure on the defence budget.

Conservative former defence minister Mark Francois voiced concerns over morale across the armed forces yesterday, saying he was alarmed by reports the regular army could be reduced from 82,500 to as low as 50,000.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said no final decisions had been taken. Pictured are Royal Marines in Kuwait in 2003

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said no final decisions had been taken. Pictured are Royal Marines in Kuwait in 2003

Tory, Labour and SNP MPs also raised concerns over the prospect of other cuts to the armed forces.

Defence minister Tobias Ellwood replied that there was ‘no intention of leaving the UK less safe’ and details of the review would be revealed shortly.

Speaking before The Times report was published, Mr Francois told the Commons: ‘At a time when we face a resurgent Russia, which has carried out the annexation of the Crimea and still has further territorial ambitions in the Ukraine as well as placing pressure on the Baltic states, reducing the army in this way would send entirely the wrong signals to the Russians about our commitments to Nato and willingness to uphold the territorial integrity of our allies.

‘It would be sheer folly.

‘I only have to hope that the pinstripe warriors in the Treasury, who daily live in fear that the air conditioning might malfunction or that the tea trolley might be late, have since abandoned such a daft suggestion as there’s no way that I and, as (Tory MP James Gray) intimated, many of my colleagues on these benches could possibly support a reduction of that magnitude in regular manpower.’