Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to review the U.K.’s defence, security and foreign policy program, and now he has done so. The review, published on March 22, 2021, calls for a reduction in the number of personnel and aging equipment in favour of technological improvements to the armed forces and new military infrastructure.
One of the major areas of reshaping British defence would be intelligence. Indeed, by the time defense secretary Ben Wallace addressed Parliament to announce the outcome of the review, the fate of several key capabilities had already been leaked from the government for several weeks as it promoted the virtues that a data -and intelligence- driven military could bring to bear to compete with potential adversaries like Russia, particularly in the gray area war.
In the administration’s review, the Defense Department committed to buying more than the 48 F-35B fighter jets it has already ordered, but the timeline for getting more aircraft remains vague.
Also in an effort to improve the military’s intelligence arm, the government also unveiled a major shipbuilding program that calls for the construction of a multi-role ocean surveillance ship, equipped with drones and mini-submarines designed to inspect and protect undersea communications cables from potential Russian interference.
On the air force front, just over a month after Europe gave the green light to the next phase of its new fighter aircraft and support system, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has taken its own program to the next phase.
The Tempest is the cornerstone of the UK’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS). It is a sixth-generation fighter aircraft intended to replace many of the country’s current fighter aircraft in the 2040s. That’s still a long way off, but these complex systems often take decades of work. And today, the Ministry of Defense just awarded a contract worth about $347 million (£250 million) to a consortium including the U.K. Ministry of Defense, BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK and Rolls-Royce to advance the design and development of the FCAS.
Under the new contract, the consortium will create the tools and techniques needed to develop and evaluate the final design and capability specifications for the Tempest.
However, the UK FCAS is not intended to include only advanced combat aircraft. Given the rapid progression of drones in warfare in recent years, the FCAS is being developed as a system of systems (SoS) that includes the use of drones as well as a variety of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems.
When ready, the U.K.’s FCAS will work with systems developed by its allies to provide a first-class military capability, the BAE Systems press release said.
Special Forces and Marines:
The British government plans to strengthen its land and naval forces as part of an overhaul of its defense strategy, planning to be “more active” in fighting global threats.
Britain will deploy more ships and submarines and create a special operations “Ranger Regiment” for use in high-risk environments, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement Monday, ahead of the release of a command document on the U.K. defense strategy.
The focus on maritime security and counterinsurgency comes as the U.K. prepares to reduce its troop strength by 10,000 troops, reflecting a shift in priorities due to a perceived reduced risk of a conventional land war involving Britain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has presented a 100-page plan for the country’s diplomacy and defence, detailing ambitions to move into the Indo-Pacific region, strengthen Britain’s nuclear deterrent and fight terrorists.
The UK is also a major player in terms of technological innovations, and these will be showcased at the DSEI show, which will be held from 14 to 17 September 2021 in London.
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