The UK has recently published the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy document titled “Global Britain in a competitive age”. Following the integrated review, future vision for the UK Armed Forces has been outlined in the Defence Command Paper titled “Defence in a competitive age”. Colonel Piers Strudwick, Defence & Military Attaché of United Kingdom, answered MSI TDR’s questions about the highlighted subjects on these documents, regarding relations with allies, R&D activities and future weapons systems of UK.
MSI TDR: We would like to start with a question concerning the allies of the UK. How should UK’s allies interpret these documents?
Colonel Piers Strudwick: The Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper carry a clear message for our Allies – that the UK will continue to act as a force for good in the world and will be open to close cooperation to tackling the global challenges impact all of us such as climate change, Covid-19, organised crime and terrorism.
The IR makes clear that the UK will be an innovative nation that will embrace new technologies and modernisation.
And our Allies can see from the Defence Command Paper that the UK will be persistently engaged and present around the world, on a footing of constant campaigning.
The Defence Command Paper clearly states that Turkey is a crucial NATO Ally, with whom we will work closely together on many aspects of wider regional security, including the fight against terrorism.
MSI TDR: Both Integrated Review and Command Paper emphasizes importance of R&D. When compared to previous years, what will be new for R&D activities, as outlined in these documents?
Colonel Piers Strudwick: What’s new from Defence is the scale and nature of the investment. Over the next four years, the UK will invest more than £6.6bn in R&D in order to support our Integrated Review’s objective of sustaining strategic advantage through science and technology.
This reverses the decline in R&D across recent decades, and will see next generation technology and capabilities put into the hands of our Armed Forces – enabling them to the defend the UK and our interests and support our allies and partners.
We will focus on areas such as directed energy and hypersonic weapons, swarms of drones, AI, automation and machine-learning, and the new domains of space and cyber. This will promote the UK as a Global Science Power and create new, high skilled jobs.
Space Command to be Established
MSI TDR: Regarding R&D activities, can you provide details about AI, cyber and space domains?
Colonel Piers Strudwick: The MOD is pivoting towards the new technologies and industrial capability needed to ensure our forces maintain a strategic advantage, including the digital backbone, cyber and space capabilities, novel weapons, and artificial intelligence.
When it comes to AI, cyber and space specifically, we are making significant investments and upgrades beyond the £6.6bn R&D budget I mentioned earlier.
We will be spending an additional £1.4bn over the next 10 years in the Space Domain. Our investment in space will see us establish Space Command – a new joint command made up of personnel from all three services, our civil service and key members of the commercial sector. We will also be establishing a National Space Operations Centre, with new sensors for Space Domain Awareness.
On cyber, our ambition is to remain as one of the world’s Cyber powers. We have established a National Cyber Force to conduct cyber operations and contest our adversaries in cyber space and we will expand our Defence Cyber School to ensure the UK has the highest-skilled people to compete in cyberspace. We are also seeking to invest in and develop a common suite of virtual training environments to support mission rehearsal and international exercises.
Type 32 Frigate and Type 83 Destroyer will Empower the Future Fleet
MSI TDR: The Command Paper mentions two new ship classes for Royal Navy, named as Type 32 frigate and Type 83 destroyer. What will be the general characteristics of these ships?
Colonel Piers Strudwick: It is envisioned that the Type 32 frigate will be a platform for autonomous systems adding to the Navy’s capabilities for missions such as anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures. However, the roles and capabilities for the Type 32 will be decided following the concept phase which has not yet been launched.
Similarly, the concept phase for Type 83 is anticipated to begin in the next few years. They will replace our Type 45 destroyers when they go out of service in the late 2030s.
MSI TDR: The Command Paper mentions successful utilization of OPVs in a range of operations. In the future, what will be the role of OPVs for Royal Navy?
Colonel Piers Strudwick: Batch 1 OPVs TYNE, SEVERN and MERSEY will continue to operate in UK waters, supporting the integrity of the UK EEZ both military and economically, through support to the Marine Management Organisation marine enforcement functions.
Batch 2 OPVs FORTH and MEDWAY have been deployed to the South Atlantic and Caribbean for over a year in support of our Overseas Territories and international partners. MEDWAY in particular will focus on delivering humanitarian and disaster relief at very high readiness during the hurricane season.
Additionally, we will deploy the Batch 2 OPVs TRENT, TAMAR and SPEY to operate in the Mediterranean and West Africa, and Indo-Asia Pacific regions. The will work closely with NATO and our other global allies in support of the UK’s global agenda
Restructuring the Army
MSI TDR: The Command Paper states that the restructuring of the Army means fewer units will be required. Can you provide more detail on the restructuring and its effects on force size?
Colonel Piers Strudwick: This has received a lot of press attention, understandably. What’s important is that the British Army will be leaner, lighter, faster to respond and more effectively matched to current and future threats. Unfortunately, I can’t provide more specifics as the detailed work to design the new Army structure is ongoing and more details will be announced later in 2021.
MSI TDR: In the next decade, Army’s main battle tank will be Challenger III. What will be the differences between Challenger II and Challenger III?
Colonel Piers Strudwick: That’s right. In order to ensure our modernised heavy brigades are more mobile, more lethal and better protected, we will be upgrading 148 tanks to Challenger III. Work is ongoing on that project so I can’t provide specific details.
FCAS Moves Forward
MSI TDR: What is the position of Future Combat Air System (FCAS) in the Integrated Review and Command Paper?
Colonel Piers Strudwick: It’s a crucial part of it and our contribution to global security. The Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper launched the next phase of our ambitious programme to design and deliver Tempest, a next-generation combat air system being developed by us and our international partners to keep us safe for the rest of the century. This is a major national and international endeavour, and the Command Paper set out our plans to make a strategic investment of more than £2bn in the programme over the next four years.
MSI TDR: The Command Paper mentions establishment of Secretary of State’s Office for Net Assessment and Challenge (SONAC). What will SONAC bring to MOD and how will it affect MOD’s way of operation?
Colonel Piers Strudwick: SONAC will challenge the accepted wisdom and way of doing things. The unit will provide a central hub for strategic analysis in MOD’s Head Office, ensuring that our strategy and force development remains threat focused and evidence-led.
The team will improve the use of challenge and drive innovative new thinking in the department. SONAC will work with external experts to bring their expertise, and cutting-edge analytical techniques, to explore innovative strategic options and offer alternative perspectives.
MSI TDR: The Command Paper mentions enhancing the network of defence attaches a number of times. Can you elaborate on this goal?
Colonel Piers Strudwick: The UK is enlarging its global defence network of Defence Attaches to boost our international influence and integration with Allies. This is about supporting a more persistently engaged Armed Forces to compete against our adversaries and to build upon our defence relationships with allies and partners across the world.
MSI TDR: In light of the Integrated Review and the Command Paper, what are the cooperation opportunities between UK and Turkey, both for armed forces and defence and aerospace industries?
Colonel Piers Strudwick: As you’ll have seen, the Defence Command Paper clearly states that Turkey is a crucial NATO Ally, with whom we will work closely together on many aspects of wider regional security, including the fight against terrorism. We’ll look to cement long-term close cooperation on industry. This featured as part of discussions earlier this month when Minister Akar visited Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in London.
On behalf of our readers, we would like to thank Colonel Piers Strudwick, Defence & Military Attaché of United Kingdom, for taking the time to answer our questions and for providing us with such valuable information.