Boris Johnson promised an end to the ‘era of retreat’ (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Boris Johnson promised rockets and lasers for the Armed Forces as he vowed to end the Tories' own 'era of retreat' on Defence spending.

The Armed Forces will be stripped of some “capabilities” despite a £16.5billion cash injection, Boris Johnson admitted today.

The Prime Minister unveiled the funding boost as he declared the “era of cutting our defence budget must end” – firing a broadside at previous Tory regimes which slashed military spending, made troops redundant and axed equipment.

He vowed to “restore Britain’s position as the foremost naval power in Europe”, with plans for new frigates and supply vessels.

The extra cash comes over four years, which is on top of the Ministry of Defence's £41.4bn annual budget.

Hardware orders made possible by the new money will create 40,000 jobs and protect "hundreds of thousands" of posts, Mr Johnson said.

Unions called for the extra cash unveiled to be pumped into buying British equipment.

Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “We must make sure that this funding supports defence industrial jobs here in the UK.

“This means fully funding and getting on with programs like the Fleet Solid Support Ship and Type 31 frigate to support UK shipyards.”

Despite the multi-billion splurge, the Armed Forces will lose some capabilities
(Image: Getty Images)

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Delivering today's virtual Commons statement, the PM triggered fears for the future of the foreign aid budget – repeatedly sidestepping questions over whether he could guarantee an election manifesto pledge to keep spending 0.7% of national income on overseas development.

Unveiling money for new fighter jets, warships and a 2022 space rocket mission, Mr Johnson told MPs: "For decades, British governments have trimmed and cheese-pared our defence budget and if we go on like this, we risk waking up to discover that our Armed Forces, the pride of Britain, have fallen below the minimum threshold of viability – and once lost, they can never be regained.

“That outcome would not only be craven, it would jeopardise the security of the British people, amounting to a dereliction of duty for any Prime Minister.”

But in modernising the military, he confirmed some equipment would be axed.

“We will need to act speedily to remove or reduce less relevant capabilities – and this will allow our new investment to be focused on the technologies that will revolutionise warfare,” he said.

Warships and combat vehicles could be equipped with "inexhaustible" lasers to take on opposing forces, Mr Johnson suggested, with no prospect of them running out of ammunition.

Mr Johnson promised "Inexhaustible" lasers
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Labour welcomed the extra cash but leader Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson's “statement shows the Government still lacks a clear strategy or a coherent vision for Britain in the world, or any idea how the promises the Prime Minister makes will actually be delivered”.

The statement, part of an Integrated Review of defence, security, aid and foreign police which will be published next year, came ahead of Wednesday's spending review which will outline one-year budgets for other Whitehall ministries.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce the Government will temporarily suspend an election promise, which is written into law, to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid.

Conservative leader Mr Johnson refused to rule out slashing the £15bn budget by more than £4bn as the Treasury looks to raise money to pay for the Government's borrowing during the coronavirus crisis.

Swerving invitations to renew the commitment, the PM claimed: "This statement is about our defence and security, and there is no read across to any other issue."

Conservative former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said the 0.7% pledge helped “promote the important values of global Britain.”

Andrew Smith, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said announcing extra funds for the Armed Forces “is a totally inappropriate response to the pandemic”.

He added: “Only a matter of days ago the Government was telling us that there wasn’t enough money to feed hungry school students during the holidays, but now it has found an extra £16bn to add to what was already one of the biggest military budgets in the world.”