Defence chief says merger of Armed Forces is possible

Sir Jock Stirrup says merger of the three services should be debated

The Army, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy could be merged into a single force, it emerged last night. Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said that a merger should be "debated" as part of a radical reordering of the country's defences.

He made his comments at the unveiling of the government's green paper on military reform, which conceded that Britain cannot afford all of its current defence commitments, and will in future become more reliant on allies like the US and France.

Stirrup said it was "plausible" that the three services would exist separately in ten years' time but he added: "there are interesting issues to be debated here".

"Any very large organisation has to be broken down into certain elements. So there are separate issues here. There is the issue of the organisation and the way you do that, but then also the issue of making sure that, despite the fact that you need different bits in your organisation, they work together seamlessly to one end," he said.