The shortage of planes for a mass parachute drop to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day shows why more money needs to be spent on defence, Grant Shapps has said.

Defence chiefs are scrambling to secure more aircraft as crises in Ukraine and the Middle East have left the RAF’s transport fleet stretched.

Hundreds of paratroopers had been expected to jump into Normandy to honour the actions of their predecessors in the Second World War, but plans have been scaled back due to a shortage of aircraft.

The Mail on Sunday reported that just one plane had been left for the Parachute Regiment to use but Defence Secretary Mr Shapps said he expected more would be found.

Paratroopers from 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team will jump from an RAF A400M and the Red Devils Parachute Display Team will also jump into Normandy.

Resources have been stretched by Nato operations at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased activity by the alliance and the RAF’s transport aircraft have also played a crucial role dropping aid into Gaza.

Mr Shapps told BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “This was only brought to me very recently and I certainly do want to see that properly covered.

“So, I’ve no doubt at all we’ll have additional planes there.

“It is actually the case that the A400, which is the aircraft we use, are being used in operations at the moment.

“It’s one of the reasons why I have argued, and successfully argued, to get £75 billion more in cash terms into our armed forces because I think you do need to be doing more of these things.”

On GB News, he said: “It’s important that D-Day is remembered properly here. It will be, by the way, both in Portsmouth and in France. I want to make sure it’s done properly and come back to the decisions that pre-date my time.

“It is the case that we do have some very, very good A400 heavy lift aircraft with about 1.4 million tonnes of lift ability. So, we actually have a lot of lift ability in the RAF.

“We know there are several live wars going on and they are being used for those purposes, but I’m quite sure to commemorate something as significant as D-Day we can do a bit better than that, and I’ve undertaken to make sure we do.”

Israel-Hamas conflict
Humanitarian aid being air-dropped over Gaza from an RAF A400M Atlas aircraft (Cpl Tim Laurence RAF/PA)

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “D-Day 80 will offer a comprehensive programme of tributes from today’s armed forces to their forebears with a significant amount of activity in both France and the UK, involving thousands of personnel, Royal Air Force flypasts and Royal Navy vessels.

“This will include a commemorative jump by UK paratroopers from an A400M aircraft on June 5 alongside Allied counterparts.”

The event involving paratroopers takes place a day before the anniversary of D-Day itself, echoing the way airborne forces were sent to France in advance of the landings on the Normandy beaches.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, former defence minister Tobias Ellwood said the pared-back memorial jump is indicative of the MoD’s modern funding approach.

“As things stand, the Paras’ hopes of putting on a large-scale multi-plane parachute drop has been limited to a single aircraft and just 100 of them jumping out,” he said.

“The issue demonstrates a sad and simple truth – today’s RAF lacks heavy lift transport capacity after all Hercules transport fleet, which served our nation so well for more than 50 years, was scrapped to save money.”

Labour MP and former defence minister Kevan Jones called on Mr Shapps to resolve the issue out of respect for those who fought for Britain.

“Veterans who took part in the historic operation on the blood-soaked Normandy beaches and the Nazi-infested territory beyond it will rightly be furious that 80 years on, the MoD can’t provide enough planes,” he said.

“Grant Shapps should pull his finger out and sort this immediately.”