The Defence Secretary today outlined his vision for the Armed Forces of a ‘Global Britain’ during a speech at the Royal United Services Institute. He said the UK must be ready “to use hard power” and not “walk on by when others are in need”.

Williamson warned of a “resurgent” Russia that is, alongside China, blurring “the boundaries between peace and war”. He said Brexit presents the “greatest opportunity in 50 years to redefine our role” and challenge those who “flout” the “rules-based international order”.

In light of Brexit, the UK must build on established relationships outside of Europe with the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Williamson also highlighted Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, India, Nigeria, and Kenya as nations with whom the UK must continue to work alongside.

“As a nation, we’ve never shied away from acting, even if that has meant standing alone”

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson 

Williamson reiterated a need for a “permanent presence” in the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific. A recent report from the Henry Jackson Society called on the MoD to establish a permanent naval base in the Pacific region.

The MoD established a ring-fenced £160m ‘Transformation Fund’  as part of its 2018 Modernising Defence Programme, with Williamson hoping to add a further £340m to it later this year. He announced today that the fund will be used to fast-track the development of two new Littoral Strike Ships. These will be permanently deployed as part of strike groups and carry an assault force of helicopters, fast boats, underwater autonomous vehicles, and hundreds of troops.

One strike group will be based east of Suez in the Indo-Pacific, and the other based west of Suez in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Baltic.

The Defence Select Committee described their procurement as “a profoundly welcome development”, particularly given just 12 months ago it appeared HMS Bulwark and Albion were going to be scrapped.

The transformation fund will also be spent on a new Royal Air Force squadron of “network-enabled swarm drones”, designed to confuse and overwhelm enemy air defences.

Williamson said he expects these to be ready by the end of 2019. The MoD have since told the UK Defence Journal however that the drones “will be developed over a 3-year programme”.

“Against adversaries upping their spending and investing in new technologies, we have to respond”

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson 

Williamson also described the increasing “threat from the Kremlin” in the North Atlantic, and so pledged to spend £33m to improve the Royal Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities. The MoD said this would be spent on “improvements in ships, sonar and weapons” to ensure the UK is prepared for the “ever-intensifying threats in the North Atlantic”.

With regard to land forces, troops in the Army, the Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment will now receive the same night vision equipment that Special Forces use.

“I want to see our armed forces enhancing our mass and increasing our lethality. We shouldn’t be shy about the ambition that we have for our forces”

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson 

New robotic Platoon Vehicles will be procured. The MoD say these “will be rapidly deployable and designed to help our troops dismount into complex terrain such as woods, forests, towns and cities. The vehicles will be able to carry the sensors, supplies and weapons currently only available for vehicle-borne troops”.

These will complement new robotic fighting vehicles that were tested on Exercise Autonomous Warrior last year. The MoD said “based on the lessons learnt there [Ex Autonomous Warrior] the army is now taking forward several unique, ground-breaking capabilities that will enhance the army’s fight on the ground”.

£100m will be spent “on a variety of initiatives to modernise how we do business in defence”.

Finally, Williamson confirmed that HMS Queen Elizabeth will deploy to the Pacific as a “show of strength” in 2021 alongside British and American F-35s. When asked whether the US jets would be piloted by British pilots, the MoD said they would “not be commenting on the exact details of the operational programme”.

The UK Defence Journal understands she will carry at least one F-35B squadron to offer air defence and support helicopter assault activities.

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Daniele Mandelli


I was wrong on the swarming drones…I’d assumed a weapon launched from a Fast Jet.

Intrigued about this new RAF Squadron.

Daniele Mandelli

£33 Million improving ASW.

Does that buy even a single Merlin HM2??

Some improvement to ASW.



Dippers for Wildcat?

Steve Taylor

That would be good.

Wildcat is a typical British programme. The Army gets too much helicopter for its need because commonality and so ‘cheaper’. >cough< And then RN get the same cab but 'semi-skinned' version, so they don't to use it to its full potential……….


I believe that would get you a number of 2087 tails, the batch 2 contract with Thales in 2005 was for two 2087 sets for £17million. So with inflation 33 million could get you 3 sets, but what platform would you put them on ? The type 31 is not going to be a hull ideal for ASW work. Regarding rotor, 34 million is pointless as it would get you one wildcat, which us useless as an ASW asset unless it had sensors. Although they could add the compact FLASH Thales dipping sonar to the Wildcats we have, as all… Read more »

Steve Taylor

T2087 is cheap for what we are getting. Yes there are further costs, but all T23 should have had TAS.


Sorry if this is a repeat I believe that would get you a number of 2087 tails, the batch 2 contract with Thales in 2005 was for two 2087 sets for £17million. So with inflation 33 million could get you 3 sets, but what platform would you put them on ? The type 31 is not going to be a hull ideal for ASW work. Regarding rotor, 34 million is pointless as it would get you one wildcat, which us useless as an ASW asset unless it had sensors. Although they could add the compact FLASH Thales dipping sonar to… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Thanks Jonathan.


I’d say put it into fitting data links to the helicopter fleet. That way, Merlin can light up targets for Wildcat both above and below the water, and they can all transfer data back to the vessel in real time. Helps with ASW and everything else.


Yes it would make the wildcats a far more potent asset. Cutting the data links was penny pinching to far.


Agreed, absolutely ridiculous level of short-sightedness. Even in 2008 data was king on the battlefield.

john melling

The transformation fund will also be spent on a new Royal Air Force squadron of “network-enabled swarm drones”, designed to confuse and overwhelm enemy air defences. I’m wondering what type of drones future Protector already has a role Watchkeeper …late and who knows ;P So are they for hacking into enemy only, with no kinetic aka bombs on target after spying? So overall ..Two new Littoral Strike Ships, a new Drone squadron with new type of Drone(?) New bases in Caribbean and Asia-Pacific area UGV being selected to help ground troops with logistics HMS QE off to the Pacific Good… Read more »

[…] Royal Air Force’s new squadron of “network-enabled swarm drones” may not be ready by the end of 2019, despite Gavin Williamson’s claim that they will […]

Cam Hunter

Thank god we have a half decent defence secretary for a change. But with all the previous cuts to defence they must have saved billions…


Some pretty good news. With Brexit we definitely need to spend more on defence, even the President of the U.S.A. has said European countries have to spend more on our own defence in future. With the tasks demanded of it World-wide in the future, I would like to see the Royal Navy grow to 8 x Astutes, 8 x Type 45/replacement based on Type 26, 8 x Type 31, 10 x River class O.P.V.s. We definitely need to invest in un-manned technology too, land, sea, sub sea and air, it is the future, and if we can come up with… Read more »

Steve Taylor

The door has closed on more Astutes now the bombers are in build. And when the seventh enters service I think Astute will go for technical reasons. I will be surprised if with 6 hulls we could keep 2 deployed, one here in the North Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean……..I suspect the latter will be first need met. Shame we got we rid of Diligence without a replacement.


Ah, you’re talking about first-in-class HMS Astute. You had me worried for a second there, before my brain finally engaged, that they might scrap the whole Astute fleet! Once the Barrow construction hall starts clearing out an SSN-sized space as Dreadnought build gets towards the end maybe they might run straight on to Astute successor. Perhaps some Dreadnought lessons could even be used such as incorporating a single 4-tube CMC module in TLAM mode (assuming that option made it through to the final CMC design) to give the next-gen SSN an enhanced land attack capability. Also hopefully once we get… Read more »


In the short term a second batch of 5 Type 31s for a total of 10 and 2 more River class O.P.V.s (which could be built at Appledore) would be an inexpensive way of increasing the size of the Royal Navy. We should also look at building 5 Wyvern class diesel electric submarines as an inexpensive way to increase submarine numbers. I think we would also have great success in the export market too with these especially if they were seen to be good enough for the Royal Navy. But in the long term the plan must be 8 x… Read more »

andy reeves

and, let’s face it, the u.k IS A ‘POODLE TO TRUMP’


Just remember our Gav is looking at the next Tory leadership battle, he will not be Minister of state for much longer, someone else will be actual implement (or not) what he is saying now. It’s all about the game at present, senior Tories are not thinking about what they will need to do in present jobs as they will not be in the same job in 6 months. It’s all about look good now, build your brand and let someone else cancel or change what you have said in six months.

Barry Larking

The Guardian took delight in mocking Williamson comparing him to Private Pike in Dad’s Army having ‘another’ stupid boy moment. He must be doing something right.

Geoffrey Roach

Taranis for swarming drone? About the right size, reported to have a decent range and it flies. Obviously I have ne idea about payload but electronic/radar suppression systems tend be fairly comparatively small. Just a thought.

Daniele Mandelli

Now you’re talking. All gone quiet with Taranis.

andy reeves

one astute 1.4 billion gotland class conventional type, 100 million each, the astute is a luxury, like drednaut comes and suck away resources, that could be better used elsewhere.the u.k has to decide quantity or quality, we can’t have both.

andy reeves

how much could a batch 2 type 21 cost?

andy reeves

we could put some cardboard ones on the q .e and pretend we’ve got an aircraft carrier!

captain P Wash.

About the size of a Hawk with the same engine, God only knows how much they would actually cost.

Daniele Mandelli

Nah yes you’re right. Too big surely and hardly inexpensive.


We should definitely design and build these drones ourselves, we could also market a small, inexpensive reconnaissance drone out of it, I think there would be demand World-wide for something like that.

Levi Goldsteinberg

Great news all round, dead impressed with Williamson’s complete reversal of MoD fortunes.

Shouldn’t this kind of news have been in the MDP instead of released all in one go at some innocuous conference?


Lost to lovely announcements but it sounds very much like Gavin Williams playing fantasyfleet’s it’s no Budget and all he cares about his taking a run at the PM’s job. When foreign press discuss UK armed forces the never ending Budget hole is generally their first point of discussion. Closing this is far more important than a fancy sounding container ship with a few RN in it., especially when we don’t even have the Budget to run both our existing LPD and CVF.

Steve Taylor

We are going from platforms without equipment, to plans without platforms and personnel.

As soon as somebody mentions drones I start hearing 1957…….unmanned doesn’t mean cheaper, smaller, or indeed fewer personnel………..

Buy another T26, buy Boxers and Ajax to get the Army mounted, bring 42 back to strength, some Merlin and some more Crowsnest (desperately needed unlike swarm), a few extra P8, keep the training budget healthy, and push on with the FJs programmes, then jog on……..

Lee H

Morning all The challenge with all of these speeches is the proof reading by the private office before your minister goes out and reads it, stating dates for example is an important one to fact check before it is broadcast. Within a few hours of making the speech the department were already making corrections. What confidence does that generate in the statement as a whole when key points like dates of delivery cannot be accurately stated. On a broader theme however it looks as though the minister and his team are starting to listen to those within the service who… Read more »


Well if the SoD can pull this of I can only say well done. I also agree with Lee H it looks like we can put British shipbuilding on a stable footing, with 5 T31s to be announced at the end of the year, two possible hospital ships, two-three FSS ships and now two Littoral Strike Ships which to fulfill the requirements would need to be in the 25,000 ton range should keep all the dockyards in work for the next ten years. If they can be built in the UK. This does not include the Albion/Bulwark replacements that would… Read more »


Hms Fearless and HMS Intrepid would be good names I feel

Steve Taylor

I still want Gibraltar and San Carlos……..:)


How to p**s of two nations with a simple pen stroke, Author Steve Taylor Lolz

Daniele Mandelli

French have an “Austerlitz” station in Paris.

It is history. Too many PC luvvies want to change history.

Personally I loved it when the French arrived at Waterloo International! Where is the Gallic SOH?

HMS Overlord. HMS Gibraltar. My offerings.


Why not ? We got Agincourt as an Astute. Would prefer Goose Green to San Carlos though. And how about El Alamein ?

Steve Taylor

Goose Green? For a landing ship?


Might be confused with a request Steve!


Cant see how this is all going to pan out with 19 escorts….


Good Day Geoff. This is geoff with a small G from Durban-just to distinguish myself from you in case you say anything nasty or offensive? Jokes aside-anyone know how to edit user names on this site?

Daniele Mandelli

The LSS are forward deployed and I doubt would have a constant escort.

If they do I’m delighted as that means we are getting more T31, hopefully.

captain P Wash.

Re, Swarming Drones and F35, Are we talking Carrier, or land Launch or are these drones so small they are carried on the F35 ? If so, I guess they will have no Weapons. If Carrier launched how do the recover ? If land Launched, what’s the useful range ?

So many questions.

Daniele Mandelli

Yes I’m confused Capn.

I originally thought small and launched from a Fast Jet. Then we hear the DS talking of “a new Squadron” which seems ridiculous that an F35 from 617 launches drones from XYZ Squadron! Why have a squadron numberplate if they are in effect weapons to be launched?

Another attempt by the RAF Board to make it look like we have for squadrons than we do!? After the precedent of giving OCU (R) Squadron status years ago.


I guess it is time to look at whom were the participants in unmanned warrior! To try and work out the swarming. Hopefully this will give some ideas. I do like Williamson he seems under stated and genuinely interested in his job. It may all be a smoke screen but I don’t think so and hope not. We’ve all been saying we need to get more out of the budget as well as an increase. He seems to be pushing the agenda so the Treasury cannot ignore it. There is a little brinkmanship if the Treasury won’t budge but its… Read more »

Steve Taylor

I still maintain T31 is a mistake. 5/6 Holland class OPV would be a better bet.


What no sonar, flexible mission bay? What would these give that batch river 2 doesn’t already? When the rn say they want a credible frigate? Not exactly great for military presence allies reassurance? You could add weapons but wouldn’t ever perform asw at any level. Wasn’t the idea to increase warship numbers not opv?

Steve Taylor

I think in 3750 ton design they could find space not only to add a sonar but raft the diesels and even add a Prairie-masker like system if needs be. Do you think a T31 will re-assure anybody more? A 3750 ton ship visually isn’t much smaller than a 5000 ton ship. And the key prescence is presence not systems. It has aviation facilities which B2 River doesn’t have. It is even built around EW and SIGNIT capabilities, the RN’s favourites toys……You are also assuming for the T31 price they will come fully equipped……..The Danes used hand me down weapons… Read more »


Type 31 is going to be a success,both for us and on the export market.

Daniele Mandelli

Interesting Steve. Not looked into them before.

Steve Taylor

They are built for exact security and presence role T31 is supposed to fulfil.

I laugh every time somebody mentions ‘mission bays’ ……….

ASW is important and it is the Hollands’ main flaw. But it could be corrected. Let’s face the RN are happy for T45 to troll about with a MOAS set…….so why should a ship built for presence have one……..


Does it mean we are buying one of the MALD versions off the shelf for Typhoon?


Are the robotic fighting vehicles likely to be the TITAN? I am guessing the platoon vehicles will be atmp type?

Tony L

They got it right with the Astute boats name-wise, more of that please.

andy reeves

;global britain?’ who came up with thatbo**ks?

andy reeves

aircraft carrier deploy in a show of strength with 1 poxy aircraft?why did we ever build them? in the first place?