Britain's armed forces need a significant hike in funding to meet the resurgent threat from states like Russia and fill existing "black holes" in their finances, a new parliamentary report has said.
The Commons Defence Committee say the Government should start the process of moving the level of defence spending up from two to three per cent of total GDP.
A cash injection on this scale would equate to additional funding of around £20 billion a year and bring investment in defence to levels similar to those seen between the end of the Cold War and the mid-1990s.
In its report, called Beyond Two Per Cent, the committee warned that failure to finance the military on a sustainable basis makes it "very difficult" to implement a long-term strategy for Britain's defence needs.
A new settlement providing long-term strategic and financial stability is the "only solution" at a time when the UK faces a renewed threat from Russia, as well as increasing challenges from terrorism, extremism, cyber-warfare and the erosion of the rules-based international order, said the cross-party committee.
The report comes weeks ahead of the expected release of the Ministry of Defence's Modernising Defence Programme (MDP).
Committee chairman, Julian Lewis, said: "The Government now needs to look beyond the two per cent minimum on defence spending, and begin moving towards a figure of three per cent to place our defence policy on a sustainable basis to meet new threats and fill existing financial 'black holes'.
"Defence is constantly described as the first duty of government. The MDP is the Government's opportunity to show that it means what it says."
The report warned of "serious deficiencies in the quantities of armour, armoured vehicles and artillery available to the British Army".
The lack of vehicle-mounted anti-tank weapons and self-propelled artillery, as well as the need for modernisation of rocket artillery left the Army "at serious risk of being outgunned by its Russian counterpart", it said.
Other defence needs identified by the committee included:
- Greater anti-submarine warfare capacity.
- The creation of a Royal Navy carrier group capable of protecting the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers without depending on other states.
- The maintenance of the target strength of the regular Army at a minimum of 82,000 personnel.
- A layered air defence system to protect the war-fighting division.
A MoD spokesman said:
"The UK maintains the biggest defence budget in Europe, we have been clear we will continue to exceed NATO's two per cent spending target.
"The Defence Secretary launched the Modernising Defence Programme to strengthen our armed forces in the face of intensifying threats and, while we welcome the Defence Committee's preliminary report, we will not speculate on the outcome of the programme before we share our headline conclusions."