UK corporate report for defence in a competitive age sees major cuts as well as acquisitions
Britain’s Defence Secretary has set out the future vision for the UK Armed Forces, ensuring the military is prepared for new and emerging threats and challenges according to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (DoD).
Outlined in a corporate report titled “Defence in a competitive age”, the UK Armed Forces will become a threat-focussed integrated force with a continued shift in thinking across land, sea, air, space and cyber domains.
Defence will spend over £85 billion on equipment over the next four years allowing the United Kingdom armed forces to adapt, compete effectively and fight decisively when needed. This will support 400 000 jobs across all UK four nations.
Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace said: “This Defence Command Paper ensures our armed forces are threat focussed, modernised and financially sustainable. Our military will be ready to confront future challenges, seize new opportunities for Global Britain and lay the foundations of a more secure and prosperous Union”.
“We will continue to work with allied partners to address future global security threats while enhancing critical outputs in the battlespace domains.
“Our people and their expertise are at the heart of what we do and further investments in training, welfare and support facilities will reflect this and ensure our armed forces are well equipped to face tomorrow’s threats today.”
The British Army will receive significant investment to become more agile, integrated, lethal and expeditionary, the report says. The service will receive an additional £3 billion for new vehicles, long range rocket systems, air defence, drones, electronic warfare and cyber capabilities.
A hundred and 20 million pounds will create new Ranger Regiments. Four battalions will form the Regiment to support Special Forces in collective deterrence activity. This ranges from training to accompanying personnel on the ground. The Army will introduce a new warfighting experimentation battlegroup that draws on elements across the entire Army designed to fight prototype warfare, focussing on hybrid and conventional threats.
The Royal Navy will develop a new multi-role ocean surveillance ship to help protect vital underwater maritime infrastructure and protect from maritime threats, aiming to come into service by 2024. The fleet of frigates and destroyers will grow through this decade with shipbuilding investment doubling over the life of this Parliament rising to over £1.7-billion a year. The Royal Marines will also benefit from a £200-million investment over the next ten years to form the Future Command Force, a Commando force that is persistently forward deployed conducting specialist maritime security operations.
UK air capabilities will bolstered by an injection of over £2 billion in the Future Combat Air System which will deliver a pioneering mix of crewed, uncrewed and autonomous platforms including swarming drones and the Tempest fighter jet. This programme has created over 1 800 jobs in over 300 companies across the UK. The Typhoon fleet will be upgraded with a suite of new weapons and radar.
Commenting on the Corporate Report, Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter said: “For the first time I can remember we have an alignment of the ends, ways and means to modernise and transform the posture of our nation’s armed forces to meet the threats of a more uncertain and dangerous world.
“The ends were set out by the Prime Minister with the publication of the Integrated Review last week, the ways were confirmed by our new Integrated Operating Concept published in September and finally the means, confirmed last year when Defence was given a significant multi-year settlement of £24 billion.
“This gives us certainty to plan for the long term and deliver the Integrated Force Structure for 2030.”
Over six billion pounds will be invested in research and development projects, helping provide a strategic advantage that, facilitated with science, will lead to cutting edge equipment capabilities, the report said. £60 million over the next four years to develop a programme for novel weapons, artificial intelligence, synthetic/digital systems and space-based capabilities. Further to this, £500-million will be invested in capabilities to enable forces to respond in a growingly contested electromagnetic environment.
Space is fundamental to military operations, so the success of UK forces relies on control of that domain. We are investing £5 billion over the next decade in the Skynet 6 satellite communication programme. This will be complemented by £1.4 billion allocated to the new Space Command, National Space Operations Centre, Space Academy and a UK-built Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance satellite constellation. Space Command will officially launch on 1 April 2021.
Strategic Command will invest £1.5 billion over the next decade to build and sustain a ‘digital backbone’ to share and exploit vast amounts of data, through the cloud, and across secure networks resilient to cyberattacks from state, proxy and terrorist adversaries.
With its people at its forefront, Defence is set to invest £1.3 billion into improving Single Living Accommodation (SLA), part of an accommodation strategy, and £1.4 billion into wraparound childcare giving personnel more childcare options, part of a revised families strategy.
The UK will enhance its global outlook with investment in overseas training and add to its defence attaché network which supports integration with allies and overseas partners.
“The Integrated Review addresses the challenges and opportunities the UK faces in a more competitive world, where new powers are using all the tools at their disposal to redefine the international order and seeks to examine how the UK uses its capabilities to respond to these threats,” the MoD said.
On 22 March defence minister Ben Wallace said Britain will reduce the size of the army from 76 500 to 72 500 by 2025.
“The armed forces … must think and act differently, they will no longer held as a force of last resort but become a more present active force around the world,” Wallace told parliament.
“The army’s increased deployability and technological advantage will mean that greater effect can be delivered by fewer people. I therefore have taken the decision to reduce the size of the army from today’s current strength of 76 500 trained personnel to 72 500 by 2025.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Britain’s defence spending would remain above NATO’s target following the announcement of its new defence budget in a conversations with the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“The increased investment in defence brings the UK’s total spending to 2.2% of GDP – significantly above the NATO target,” Johnson told Stoltenberg, according to a readout from Johnson’s Downing Street office.
The number of tanks will be cut from 227 to 148 upgraded ones. The RAF will lose 24 of its older Typhoon jets and its fleet of Hercules transport aircraft. And the Royal Navy will be retiring two of its older frigates early before new ones come into service, the BBC reported.
“There will certainly be some pain before the armed forces experience the gains of extra investment. But there will be more money to invest in new technologies like robots and drones – and to compete in the domains of space and cyber,” the publication said.
Numerous ageing RAF planes will be retired, as will the oldest Chinook helicopters, while Navy frigates and destroyers drop from 19 to 17 in the coming years.
A third of the 227 Challenger tanks will be scrapped, with the rest of the fleet being upgraded at a cost of £1.3 billion.