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.

55 COMMENTS

  1. Well, unexpected good news, more ships and associated gubbings.

    What would be really good is if they are to be built in the UK.

    What would also be good is if the powers that be pick good names, not HMS Member of the royal family.

  2. Oh.

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

    Intrigued about this new RAF Squadron.

      • 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 the reports from Korean is that it turns into a great little ASW cab for small ships, I believe the kit costs somewhere in the region of 2-3 million a pop. As far as I’m aware they did not make any major changes to the Korean wildcats over the RN wildcats to fit the kit.

      So 33 million could buy you something. Especially if you upgraded some present kit or added to the fitting out of a couple of type 31s.

    • 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 the Wildcats we have, as all the reports from Korean is that it turns into a great little ASW cab for small ships, I believe the kit costs somewhere in the region of 2-3 million a pop. As far as I’m aware they did not make any major changes to the Korean wildcats over the RN wildcats to fit the kit.

      So 33 million could buy you something. Especially if you upgraded some present kit or added to the fitting out of a couple of type 31s.

    • 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.

  3. 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 news and look forward to hearing more about each of the projects

  4. 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…

  5. 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 some good products we could export them and make money.

    • 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 to that stage HMG does have the courage, and the MoD maybe learned a few lessons about financial discipline and cost control, such that we do get a build program for at least 8.

      • 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 Astute/Astute replacements (or 6 Astute/replacements and 5 diesel electric subs), 8 x Type 45/replacements, 8 x Type 26, 8 x Type 31 and 10 x O.P.V.s.

        This is only an increase of 1 x Astute/replacement, 2 x Type 45/replacement, a second batch of 3 Type 31 and 2 x River class O.P.V.s, that isn’t too much to ask, and it is badly needed with the future roles World-wide the Royal Navy is expected to perform.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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……..

  10. 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 are now looking ahead, thinking of the future and not trying to live yesterday’s war and placate their future civilian employers by recommending large purchases of x or y.
    The announcement gives the minister political manoeuvre space as well, 2 new ships for the RN will need to be built somewhere and it will do the campaign to have the FSS vessels built in UK yards no harm knowing that the demand for ships is going up. Suddenly a sustainable UK shipping industry looks viable – those ships will be ordered, around election time I suspect.
    The speech also, more by accident than plan, the lack of manpower and rotary lift available to do all the things the SofS wishes to do, there is some good discussion above with regards Wildcat and I think that will be further explored in the future when the services are told to stop squabbling about who owns, runs and flies rotary lift.
    It also looks as though the army have settled on their strike brigade format and its subsequent ORBAT, they need to be given the time, space, authority and political support to carry out the changes needed.
    The RAF do not, in my opinion, come off as well as the other two services – this may be to do with the continual political noises being made with regards the A model F-35 and the disruption it is causing. The RAF are normally very good at articulating and playing the political game, this time they seemed to have taken a miss step, not helped by making the SofS look a bit silly when talking about deploying swarms of drones by 2019……
    The proof is in the pudding now, a new breed of single service chiefs are taking the helm, cyber is becoming the 4th military service and will need to be fully exploited – but as the SofS said this shouldn’t be at the detriment of the hard military power sometimes needed to get your message across.

    As an aside it will be interesting to see what the narrative of the NSA office will be, hard power wasn’t on their agenda…..

  11. 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 need to be looked into in five years time.
    As for the sqn of swarming drones, I like the idea and understand it but where have they been developing that one? I’ve heard nothing about it. Where will they be controlled from as I can’t imagine an F35 pilot having the time to control drones and fly fight his/her aircraft.

    • 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?

  12. 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.

    • 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.

  13. 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 better than to just keep cutting and ignoring the threats, not only Russia but the Treasury/government itself. Fingers crossed it keeps going this way. Hoping for more t31 and 1or 2 type 26 as well. Hopefully t31 will be able to give average asw I still like arrowhead 140 allows upgrades in the future and the over huitfields are shock tested as well as proven to work in NATO with crew numbers almost halved compare to type 23 it maybe the best way of increasing numbers. I still think strike needs to be sorted if not replacing ajax with boxer then maybe at least rubber composite tracks purchased?!

      • 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?

        • 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 for their big ships and even they couldn’t get the price down to T31 levels using eastern European yards.

        • 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……..

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