Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced what the Ministry of Defence have called “the biggest investment in the UK’s Armed Forces since the end of the Cold War”, confirming an “injection of £16.5 billion” over four years.

Johnson confirmed that the Royal Navy acquire 8 Type 26 Frigates, 5 Type 31 frigates, the “next generation” Type 32 frigates, the new Fleet Solid Support Ships and a new multi-role research vessel.

Johnson said that the funding would allow for:

  • A new centre dedicated to artificial intelligence
  • A national cyber force
  • RAF space command launching British satellites from Scotland

“Our review will conclude early next year and set out the UK’s international agenda, but I want to inform the House of its first outcome. For decades, British Governments have trimmed and cheese-pared our defence budget. If we go on like this, we risk waking up to discover that our armed forces—the pride of Britain—have fallen below the minimum threshold of viability, and, once lost, they can never be regained. That outcome would not only be craven; it would jeopardise the security of the British people, amounting to a dereliction of duty for any Prime Minister.

I refuse to vindicate any pessimistic forecasters there may have been by taking up the scalpel yet again. Based on our assessment of the international situation and our foreign policy goals, I have decided that the era of cutting our defence budget must end, and it ends now. I am increasing defence spending by £24.1 billion over the next four years. That is £16.5 billion more than our manifesto commitment, raising it as a share of GDP to at least 2.2%, exceeding our NATO pledge, and investing £190 billion over the next four years—more than any other European country and more than any other NATO ally except the United States.

The Ministry of Defence has received a multi-year settlement because equipping our armed forces requires long-term investment, and our national security in 20 years’ time will depend on decisions we take today. I have done this in the teeth of the pandemic, amid every other demand on our resources, because the defence of the realm and the safety of the British people must come first. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Defence Secretary, who believe in this as fervently as I do. Reviving our armed forces is one pillar of the Government’s ambition to safeguard Britain’s interests and values by strengthening our global influence and reinforcing our ability to join the United States and our other allies to defend free and open societies.”

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Latch71

With the damage that Covid has done to the economy I was expecting another round of cuts to the Defence budget. I’m very pleased to be proved wrong!

Finney

This should fill the budget-hole but the lack of specifics on other capabilities and platforms “saved” shows there are still tough choices to be made, especially for the Army. Hopefully it will put programmes like Trident replacement, complex weapons, and Tempest on a sustainable footing and avoid any more go-slows and can-kicking that have bedeviled so many large projects in recent decades. This is probably the MoD’s last chance to show it can get a grip on costs and manage complex programmes competently.

Steve

If the money is going to new stuff, as stated, then the hole will remain unfilled.

Bill

Welcome news from the government about the real increase in defence spending over the next four years. How many ‘teeth’ will be extracted however to pay for ‘Space Command and the cybernauts’? Cuts in F35 jets. No Typhoon Tranche 1 replacement purchase. Armoured regiments, no upgrades to C2, Warrior or viable replacement for AS90? New frigates to be ‘fitted for’ and not ‘with’ state of the art life preserving weaponry? Good news indeed but smoke and mirrors comes to mind. Let’s see how much ‘boots on the ground’ means to the govt as part of their short to mid term… Read more »

Phil Chadwick

Let’s wait until the review is published. Then we can digest and analyse.

maurice10

Exactly Phil, I think it won’t be so dark as Bill’s forecast.

Robert Blay

More details about equipment will be in the Review. Never been any talk about replacing Tranche 1 Typhoons. Out of service date is 2030. Tranche 2/3 is 2040 and probably well beyond that.

Jonathan

I have to say I am actually very surprised ( as I suspect are a lot of Tory politicians). It turns out Boris is a Keynesian.

Defo the right way forward we can only build our way out of this covid created recession. The market will not ensure everyone has jobs and pays taxes at such times as these, only government can do that. Far better government borrows and them invests in capital funding to create jobs, than fritter it away on mass benefit payments when the economy truly tanks.

DRS

Good news indeed. Need to spend it wisely and ensure long term investment and a steady drumbeat. Good to see some long term thinking here. We need stimulus, italians are bolstering their Defense from their European stimulus package we should do the same. You see the same elsewhere. Some good ideas from this government be interesting to see how they lock it in long term.

Phil Chadwick

This is very welcome news indeed. So is the announcement of a new Class of Frigate, the Type 32. I wait with great eagerness the publication of the Integrated Review. What I do not wish to see however, is the rumoured removal from service of any of the oldest Type 23 Frigates before their replacements have started to join the Fleet. We must maintain the current level of 19 Destroyer and Frigate escorts as a matter of great priority.

RobW

Well some of them are sitting around in extended readiness or harbour training ships etc, so we are in practice down to 16 or so anyway. Cutting a few of the oldest T23 now isn’t such a bad idea, especially the GP variants that are yet to receive LIFEX. It would save tens if not hundreds of millions on upgrading ships that would be decommissioned a short time after. If it helps secure the build of all the promised T26 and T31 then let’s do it.

Paul C

As RobW below suggests, the number of escorts may dip below 19 for a short time. Not necessarily a bad thing if the cost of upgrading outweighs the benefits for ships near the end of their operational lives.

Meirion X

I agree Paul!

Meirion X

At least one T23(Westminster) would need to be taken out of service prior to the first T26 frigate is operational, in order to provide a skiiled crew for this new type frigate.

Meirion X

Also HMS Iron Duke should be out of refit next year, so a crew will need to be found for it. Not sure a crew has been found for Portland, due out of refit soon? Maybe Sutherland’s crew, now laid up?

john melling

This is really good news. It was only a matter of time before something had to be done.
Glad to see the conservative party putting a foot in the door and giving the armed forces a boost

Geoffrey Roach

This is wonderful news. Well done Ben and Boris. Even the P.M.’s language was heartening and bodes well for the future. The only thing I really understand about cyber is the word and most of my awareness of space comes from Dan Dare! However I did submit a paper for consideration by the ISDR outlining my thoughts and ideas for the services over the next ten years. Others here may have done the same. The point is that whilst the money is hugely welcome we still have to make the difficult decisions necessary before this announcement. If we do not… Read more »

Peter S.

I suspect that most of the promised extra funding will be needed just to complete existing programmes and cover those, particularly for the army, that have been put off for too long. Other than space and cyber plus the surprise T32, there is as yet no detail of extra capabilities and there probably won’t be any. The ever rising cost of equipment programmes means spending more just to stand still. The USA with its huge budget is struggling to maintain its existing naval vessels and combat aircraft and many of its new programmes have been disastrous. But US kit is… Read more »

Mark B

I am certain that not many contributors here saw this coming. There were rumours that Boris was likely the initiate some rather bold moves once in power however thus far he has been fire fighting with Covid and implementing Brexit. I wonder if this is a sign of things to come.

We need some brave new decisive leadership in all areas. We may not all see eye to eye with Boris but anyone interested in the security of the UK should see this as a positive move. I suspect he might have liked to provide more.

T.S

So I listened to Ben Wallace being interviewed yesterday morning on the radio. He did say some capabilities would be trimmed, but money would be spent on the army in areas such as air defence and electronic warfare. He also talked about the need for new artillery and long ranged fires. All good stuff that is greatly needed.
He skirted around the heavy armer debate, but we may loose some or all but gain in other areas.

Graham Moore

Ben Wallace is not helping clarify the heavy armour picture. There were extensive stories in the summer that the army was scrapping its entire tank fleet and some senior army officers did little to dispel such stories, then Wallace finally poured cold water on such stories and now he does not wish to clarify. The best that we can hope for is LEP for 150 of the 227 CR2s, full speed ahead for WCSP for WR, at least some form of AS90 upgrade followed by urgent work on its replacement, commitment to full fielding of Ajax family and Boxer MIV.… Read more »

Pete

Fantasy plan for conventional capabilities :

Deliver T26/31 as planned.

Deliver Typhoon upgrades and additional F35 as intended.

Up arm T45 with contemporary anti ship capability.

Upgrade T45 / T26 to allow networked fire contol.

Upgrade Wildcat with datalink and/or dipping sonar (as originally designed)

Modernise heavy artillery

Add 10 Merlin

Add missile defence to key installations (risk is submarine launched cruise missiles performing a Pearl Harbour ). Lossie, Clyde, Marham, South Coast Naval bases.

Then add Type32

Then modify Type31

Stands back and awaits flack

RobW

Actually much of this seems likely now. There will be additional F35Bs above the 48 on order but likely to be capped at around 70 to 75 I’d say. That would plug half the £13bn black hole in an instant while still providing an effective air wing. I think the most likely T45 upgrades are datalink and ABM defence. It would seem to follow that we will order more helos given the increase in hulls. Ben Wallace has talked about increasing anti-air defences for the army (Sky Sabre presumably) so we can deploy these given threat levels, including at the… Read more »

Steve Martin

I’ve asked this elsewhere…

With the uptick in spending being in at least a small part a big fat hello to Mr. Biden, how much will a reduction in the F-35 buy mitigate any political gains from across the pond?

RobW

I think that will be less of an issue now that Japan has increased its order of the F35B and South Korea look set to follow. If our increased spending means we become a more reliable partner and take the pressure of the US in some areas then our reduced buy will not be such a problem. We may even buy some other kit from them, more P8s perhaps.

Robert Blay

I don’t think it was ever realistic we are going to buy 138 F35’s. But, they keep sticking to the buy as over the whole life of the project, which will be 40 plus years. So we could see another buy to take us up to maybe 70-80, then another batch post 2030 to replace T1 Typhoons. who knows 🤷‍♂️

Andrew

Would be a good idea to beef up the Type 45 weapons once there get engine problems sorted out could be a good platform as it already good AD vessel.Give the Type it’s full potential.

Geoff

I’d add 6 more P-8s, and 3 more Astutes or get a few of the German Type 212A.

Robert Blay

Pretty sensible list, not sure T31 will need modifying until it’s been in service a few years, and air defence missiles at sites id also question the need, unless we face a serious threat of invasion. Deployable air defence missiles i could see the need for. Other than that, thumbs up 👍🇬🇧

Just my penny’s worth

I’d have to agree better realise the full potential of what we already have before procuring more half cooked projects, as demonstrated in warship, wildcat is in dire need of a data link to realise its potential along with securing a meaningful weapons fit for programmes already in service and planned such as surface to surface strike and land attack, perhaps expanding on procurement numbers of already in build classes over another platform. T26 numbers should be driven by operational requirements not cost I.e the minimum number required for carrier strike, commitments in the Atlantic and in protecting the SND… Read more »

Meirion X

There would be a limit to how much you could upgrade the Type 31 at a later date. E.g, too expensive to upgrade the diesel engines with gas turbines or electric drive etc. You might as well build a new ship with a new propulsion system!

Meirion X

I have thought of this idea to use decommissioned North Sea oil platforms for ABM systems to intercept cruise missiles well before they reach the main land.
Any thoughts anybody?

Geoff

Hoping the 5 E-7s are safe, and hoping for a few more P-8s. We are an island nation, and much as I regret it, if cuts need to be found elsewhere, it has to be the Army.

Pete

Yep. Agree on the wedgetails staying at 5 Geoff and agree with the 75ishhh ‘B airframes Steve.

DP

Some good suggestions on this site over past 24 hours and its great to see a boost to funding but all this talk of T32 is a long way off, we barely have plans for T4X. I’d like to see us bolster what we’ve already got first. Like to see some money spent on a SAM system on the QE carriers, appreciate there’ll be headaches in design around this but reliance on 2x T45 to cover provides only flimsy overlap IMHO. What if there is a Coventry/Sheffield predicament where one of our pickets is taken out in a peer conflict?… Read more »

Robert Blay

Carrier’s don’t need SAM’s. That’s why we have T45 and T23’s and later T26. Our Carrier’s are not going to be sent into full on war with only 2 escorts. It just doesn’t work like that.

Mark F

Smoke and mirrors with the odd laser pen thrown in. Unless the MOD are held to account we will have overspend after overspend and jobs for the boys and nothing to show for it. True we can’t have the best of both worlds but I can see this country ending up with nothing. Really!! shouldn’t we be sorting out the Navy’s carrier strike groups first and that is just for starters. When are the rifles going to be traded in for star wars blasters.

Adrian

Given Brexit, Covid etc. I’m doubting somewhat that the UK is any richer since last year. I wonder what areas got cut to provide this – as welcome as it is.

Derek

I’m pleased to hear this announcement. True leadership to end the argument. However, I’m confused by the mention of the type 32 frigate. With neither a T26 nor a T31 anywhere near the water, why would we need a third? Isn’t a new AAW Destroyer being placed on the drawing board (with a minimum of 8 hulls being the fixed baseline) a greater priority? I think the Army gets two upgraded C2 Brigades, with Warrior Upgrade maybe full fat numbers? Surface to air missile and artillery upgrades look highly likely. I do expect F35b to be set at around 70… Read more »

Graham Moore

Some odd things here. Why mention of Navy and Air Force (ie Space Command) projectsand not one mention of Army enhancements? Worrying when the army’s heavy equipment is all overdue upgrade or replacement and the medium kit for Strike brigades is being delivered all too slowly. Where did the T32 announcement come from? Seems odd to call it next generation frigate when T26 and T31are just that. So its clearly the generation after those which pitches it 25 years into the future. Why even mention this now when the army cannot even get current kit upgraded in a timely fashion?… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

From what I understand, the RN and RAF sides of ISDR are all agreed, while the army side is not decided. Be that in cuts or exact details of enhancements. No surprise given the total mess the army finds itself in with the Boxer, WCSP, Challenger and Ajax debacles. Thus ISDR is delayed until 2021. T32 is a mix of commitment to increase fleet size for the publicity value now, as HMG has had lots of stick over lack of escorts. It is also far in the future, and a subtle warning to the SNP that it may not go… Read more »

4th watch

In order to fulfil two present gaps in UK defence requirements I suggest we develop a UK 155mm gun picking up on the Army requirement and the Naval fire support role. At present UK is weak in both areas and although the two systems are not identical by any means there would be sense in a combined approach. We scrapped development of our Naval 155mm gun some years ago when half done. The high cost of the US made BAe 5″ Naval gun makes it even more attractive to restart as an in UK project and one that might be… Read more »