The head of the Armed Forces is expected to step down later this year, starting a firing gun on the race to replace him.
General Sir Nick Carter, 61, is due to retire as Chief of the Defence Staff at the end of a three-year term in June unless a surprise extension to his tenure is agreed.
A report in The Sunday Times suggested that the Prime Minister wanted him out of the post early and had “tired” of him.
Downing Street reached out to Sir Nick to reassure him that this was not the case, The Telegraph understands.
No 10 is thought to have been impressed with his performance during the “Integrated Review”, a major overhaul of foreign, defence and security policy that is due to report in coming months.
The review will underscore Mr Johnson’s post-Brexit “Global Britain” vision and comes after he awarded the Ministry of Defence the biggest cash injection since the end of the Cold War.
The £16.5 billion in extra funding will pay for a once-in-a-generation modernisation of the Armed Forces, further gilding the prize that is the Chief of the Defence Staff role.
Sir Nick could be replaced by another Old Etonian: General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, 56, the head of the Army and a former director of Special Forces, is among the leading contenders for the role.
General Sir Patrick Sanders, 54, Commander of Strategic Command is the favourite, however, and is thought to have the backing of Sir Nick.
The focus of his current role, which includes overseeing offensive cyber and other cutting-edge technologies, complements the Prime Minister’s tech-focussed agenda for the military.
Admiral Tony Radakin, 55, the First Sea Lord, is also in the running. In his favour is the maritime theme of Mr Johnson’s foreign policy.
The other lead contender is Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, 52, the head of the Royal Air Force who in 2019 led a hard-hitting review into sexual harassment and discrimination in the Armed Forces.