Territorial Army to be renamed Army Reserve and expanded from 19,000 to 30,000 in latest series of measures following defence cuts
The government will fill the gap in army numbers after the most severe cuts in a generation with a sharp rise in the number of reservists.
During a visit to Helmand province, David Cameron announced that the number of reserve forces, who will be given a special £42m equipment budget, would increase from 19,000 to 30,000 by 2018.
The government said at the time of the strategic defence and security review in 2010, when plans were laid out to reduce army numbers from around 100,000 to 80,000, that it would turn to reservists to help make up the difference.
The prime minister, who said the Territorial Army will be renamed the Army Reserve, said measures would be unveiled in a white paper on Wednesday to allow reservists to take on more operations alongside regular members of the armed forces.
Defence secretary Philip Hammond will propose improved equipment for reservists from a £42m budget, including night vision systems mounted on helmets and imaging night sights. There will also be improved training exercises for reservists, including a trebling of the number overseas and financial incentives to be given to small and medium sized enterprises to encourage them to let staff join the reserve.
Cameron paid tribute to the armed forces after meeting reservists and full-time troops day in Helmand province. He said: “I think Armed Forces Day is just an opportunity to say a very big thank you but also to say how proud we are of our armed forces. I’m pleased to be here in Afghanistan to make that point: so many men and women have served in Afghanistan and so many still here today. Obviously the numbers are coming down, we are bringing our forces home. They have done a magnificent job. “
Critics of the defence review in 2010 said it was wrong to try to make up army numbers by turning to reservists. The white paper is designed to show that their role will be enhanced and will allow reservists to work more closely with “regular”, full time members of the army.
Cameron also announced £3.8m in support for charities that support members of the armed forces with a particular focus on mental health. He said: “These charities are doing important and innovative work to help veterans who are battling mental health problems. We owe these men and women a great debt of gratitude and this is exactly the kind of help we should give to those who have given so much for our country.”