Furthermore, the Navy may lose its ability to put troops ashore in an amphibious assault.
The prospect of relying on allies for military hardware has emerged from talks about the extent of the defence cuts.
Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, has said that, instead of "salami-slicing", where pain is shared equally across the department, the cuts must be allocated strategically.
Defence sources have suggested this will result in the Forces giving up entire capabilities, like aerial surveillance and amphibious landing.
Britain would have to rely on allies until the defence budget recovered, when these operations could be resumed.
The cuts could also have serious implications for the Navy's two new aircraft carriers, which will cost £5 billion and are due to enter service in 2014 and 2016.
Defence sources said at least one of the carriers was almost certain to be completed, but questions hang over the second.
If the second carrier is built, it could be adapted to carry helicopters instead of jets. A more radical option would see the second carrier shared with another country, most likely France.
The Treasury is understood to be budgeting for the cost of the carriers as empty hulls, and balking at the additional cost of planes to fly from them. A military source said: "The Treasury seems to think it's quite normal to budget for aircraft carriers with no aircraft to carry. It's rather bizarre."
To ensure both carriers are built, Navy chiefs are considering making several sacrifices. These include retiring Britain's 45 Harrier jump jets ahead of schedule.
The Harriers, operated by both the Navy's Fleet Air Arm and the RAF, are due to retire in 2018 and be replaced with new Joint Strike Fighters. But the jets could be retired earlier, saving more than £1 billion. That in turn could mean that the first carrier enters service in 2014 with no British aircraft to carry.