CDR Salamander: What budget cuts look like
"Phibian Salamander" commented on this report from the UK;
"RAF Dropping to 6 Fast-Jet Units - Defense News"
Large military units, like capital ships and aircraft squadrons, operate under a Rule of Three. One is deployed. One is in predeployment training. One is in refit. The unit in training can surge rapidly but the unit in refit, reorganization and repair takes weeks at best to be combat ready. That is why in a world where the minimum number of combat ready aircraft carriers needed by the US Navy is 5, two by the Persian Gulf, two in North East Asia and one in the Mediterranean, we should not let the number of active duty carriers fall below 15. By cutting the number of squadrons the UK is guaranteeing that a future conflict will start when their sole JSF squadron is off line.
Will individual components be able to fight? Yes but that is not the same as having a trained combat ready organization that functions as a team. For a navy a task force is the smallest coherent unit capable of deploying and conducting a combat mission. In naval parlance there is a distinction between operational units, Task Element, Task Force and Task Group, and administrative components, Ships, Squadrons, and Type Groups. Combat effectiveness is greatly improved by minimizing the distinction between the administrative command that trains and the operational command that fights. At the level of the ship they are identical. In building complex structures, like a Task Force, elements such as a destroyer or a submarine or an aircraft may be assigned. If they can be held together in a larger unit, a whole DESRON or aircraft squadron then combat effectiveness will improve. Otherwise they will be, even if technically proficient, in the same role as replacements, who always suffer higher loses and achieve less than long term members of a team.
In aviation the smallest coherent unit that can function independently in both administrative and operational roles is the Squadron. By reducing the RAF to 6 combat squadrons, with only one JSF squadron planned, the ability to respond in a crisis will be reduced below the minimal level needed to deter threats. No matter how capable each aircraft and pilot is they will lack the flexibility to respond where three fully operational squadrons, one always alert ready as a unit, can.