Options for Change
Until this point, UK military strategy had been almost entirely focused on defending Western Europe against the Soviet Armed Forces, with the Royal Marines in Scandinavia, the Royal Air Force (RAF) in West Germany and over the North Sea, the Royal Navy in the Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic, and the British Army in Germany.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact in 1989, a Soviet invasion of Western Europe no longer seemed likely. While the restructuring was criticised by several British politicians, it was an exercise mirrored by governments in almost every major Western military power: the so-called peace dividend.
Total manpower was cut by approximately 18 per cent to around 255,000 (120,000 army; 60,000 navy; 75,000 air force).
Other casualties of the restructuring were the UK's nuclear civil defence organisations, the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation, and its field force, the Royal Observer Corps (a part-time volunteer branch of the RAF), both disbanded between September 1991 and December 1995.
- Halving the troop strength in Germany by replacing the British Army of the Rhine with British Forces Germany in 1994.
- Several British Army regiments amalgamated:
- The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) - one battalion
- The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires) two battalions
- The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment - one battalion
- The Royal Gurkha Rifles - three battalions (later reduced to two)
- The Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling), 83rd, 87th and Ulster Defence Regiment) - two general service battalions (later reduced to one)
- In addition, seven regiments each lost a battalion:
The amalgamation of the Royal Scots and King's Own Scottish Borderers into the Royal Scots Borderers (one battalion) and the Cheshire Regiment and Staffordshire Regiment into the Cheshire and Staffordshire Regiment (one battalion) was suspended in 1994.
- The Household Cavalry Regiment (each retained regimental identity)
Royal Armoured Corps
- The King's Royal Hussars
- The Light Dragoons
- The Queen's Royal Hussars (Queen's Own and Royal Irish)
- The Queen's Royal Lancers
- The Royal Dragoon Guards
- 1st Royal Tank Regiment
- 2nd Royal Tank Regiment
- Royal Logistic Corps
- Adjutant General's Corps
Royal Air Force
- Closing RAF Wildenrath in April 1992 and RAF Gutersloh in March 1993, halving the number of RAF bases in Germany.
- Withdrawing the F-4 Phantom II squadrons.
- Cancelling the Brimstone air-to-surface missile project (later restarted).
- A small reduction in Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft.
A dramatisation of the effects that Options for Change had on the ordinary men and women serving in the armed forces came in the ITV series Soldier Soldier. The fictional infantry regiment portrayed in the series, the King's Fusiliers, was one of those selected for amalgamation. It showed the whole process of negotiation over traditions, embellishments, etc. between the two regiments involved, and the uncertainty that many of those serving felt for their jobs in the light of two separate battalions merging into one, with the resulting loss of manpower.
- List of British Army regiments (1994) - British Army regiments after the restructuring
- Front Line First (1994)
- Strategic Defence Review (1998)
- Delivering Security in a Changing World (2004)
- Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010
- "Defence (Options for Change)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 25 July 1990. col. 468–486.
- Freedman, Lawrence (18 August 1999). The Politics of British Defence, 1979–97. Macmillan Press. ISBN 0-333746-67-8.
- Clements, Benedict J.; Schiff, Jerald Alan; Debaere, Peter; Davoodi, Hamid Reza (1 July 1999). Military Spending, the Peace Dividend, and Fiscal Adjustment. International Monetary Fund. ISBN 978-1-4518-9700-5.
- "End of the Long Lookout". The Herald. Glasgow. 29 December 1995. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
- "RAF Timeline 1990–99". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 9 November 2015.