Cutbacks to Britain's fast jet capability could leave the country vulnerable to a Sept. 11-style attack, according to a senior Royal Air Force official.
Air Marshal Timo Anderson told parliamentarians that high-end aircraft such as Tornados and Typhoons _ which face reductions as Britain prepares for a high-stakes budget review _ are critical to the nation's air defense, The Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday.
"Without such air defense capabilities, the U.K. will not be able to guarantee the security of its sovereign air space and we would be unable to respond effectively to a 9/11-style terrorist attack from the air," the paper quoted him as having said Monday.
Britain's Ministry of Defense confirmed that the quotes were accurate, but offered no immediate comment.
The military faces deep cuts as the government struggles to contain the country's ballooning deficit, and a multi-pronged struggle has broken out between top brass from various services _ who are fighting to protect their budgets _ and government ministers, who are eager to bring the country's debt under control.
Top officials from the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, and the Army have all made the rounds of think tanks to publicly stress the importance of their particular service. In private, dire warnings about the possible fate of each service are routinely leaked to the press.
Big reductions to all three services seem likely, although the air force's expensive fighter jets appear particularly vulnerable. Last week Prime Minister David Cameron seemed to suggest that many were in line for the chop.
"We've got airplanes that are ready to do dog fights with the Soviet Union air force," he said. "That's not right."
Cameron's office has declined to detail planned cuts ahead of the budget review.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects that speech was Monday, not Tuesday. Adds detail, quotes, byline.)