Defence review: UK's armed forces must be more 'nimble' as 'enemies study Britain's vulnerabilities'

The defence secretary has said Britain’s armed forces must be more “nimble, more forward-deployed” and “prepared for persistent global engagement and constant campaigning” as he set out his future vision for the military. Ben Wallace conceded that Britain’s enemies, including Russia and China, had been studying Britain’s “vulnerabilities” and been “quicker to adapt” to modern warfare. “The static concept of war versus peace no longer applies as we are contested on either side of the threshold of armed conflict on a regular basis,” Mr Wallace said, on-board the Royal Navy’s newest warship HMS Tamar, moored on the River Thames.

Image: Mr Wallace has denied the MoD is scrapping all tanks in favour of investing in cyber and space capabilities.

Pic: Royal Navy

“Our values and interests are being challenged in the grey zone all over the world.” The “grey zone” he referred to is the type of hybrid warfare which Russia has exploited in recent years, centred on disinformation campaigns to divide and create confusion. Advertisement

Defence review: UK's armed forces must be more 'nimble' as 'enemies study Britain's vulnerabilities'Image: A Slocum glider with oceanographic survey capability – one of the pieces of hardware on display on the HMS Tamar

Mr Wallace was speaking alongside the Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter at an event designed to outline the Ministry Of Defence’s vision for the ongoing Integrated Defence and Security Review.

Mr Carter spoke of the need for a “digital backbone” in the military but also addressed recent reports that tanks and other traditional equipment might be scrapped to make way for cyber capabilities.

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Defence review: UK's armed forces must be more 'nimble' as 'enemies study Britain's vulnerabilities'Image: A tactical precision strike weapon on deck

“The nature of war never changes,” he told journalists. “It will always be visceral and violent. At some point it will need to be fought at close combat.” The Integrated Review is an in-depth examination of Britain’s foreign policy, military framework and overall security strategy.

With growing threats from China and Russia, and in new domains such as space, this is being seen as the most important review since the Cold War. It is due to be published in November. The trick for the MOD will be matching its ambitions with the money available, which could be smaller after the vast costs incurred by the Treasury over the coronavirus pandemic.

Defence review: UK's armed forces must be more 'nimble' as 'enemies study Britain's vulnerabilities'Image: A Malloy quad copter robotic delivery system was on display

The defence secretary didn’t say whether that would be the case: “In the past, too many reviews were over-ambitious or underfunded or both.

“Too often the budget, not the threat, did the talking.

So we will pivot away from what we have become used to and instead reshape our armed forces to become a force fit for tomorrow’s battles, not fighting yesterday’s.

Defence review: UK's armed forces must be more 'nimble' as 'enemies study Britain's vulnerabilities'Image: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

“Instead of mass and mobilisation, this future force will be about speed, readiness and resilience, operating much more in the newest domains of space, cyber and sub-sea, and working to prevent conflict, as well as winning it.

At the weekend, Mr Wallace denied the MoD was scrapping all tanks[1] in favour of investing in cyber and space capabilities.

References

  1. ^ scrapping all tanks (news.sky.com)

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