Major investment in UK defence

On 19 November 2020, the Prime Minister announced a huge boost to Defence spending and presented important parts of the vision for the future of the UK’s Armed Forces. Headlining the list of announcements was an investment of £24.1bn over the next 4 years from the Government for national defence and security. This is £16.5bn more than the Conservative manifesto commitment of raising defence spending by 0.5%. The rise equates to 2.2% of GDP.

The announcements also included the following:

  • The Navy will order 8 new Type 26 and 5 Type 31e Frigates.
  • Fleet Support Ships and the next generation of Type 32 warships and research vessels which will be built in Britain.
  • £1.5bn was announced in defence R&D, with a commitment to invest further in the Future Combat Air System.
  • The RAF will receive a new fighter system, harnessing AI and drone technology.
  • A new RAF Space Command will be established and plans to begin launching British satellites and rockets in 2022 from Scotland.
  • The creation of a new National Cyber Force to transform the UK’s cyber capabilities.
  • A new agency dedicated to Artificial Intelligence.
  • An estimate that up to 10,000 British jobs a year will be created, with thousands more supported across the UK defence sector.

Further details on the announcements can be found in the Government press release here. ADS has issued a media statement welcoming this major announcement on investment for the UK defence and security capabilities and the support it will give to ADS members. The commitment to a multi-year funding settlement should provide the clarity and certainty industry needs to undertake long-term planning and investment decisions. The full statement from Paul Everitt, Chief Executive of ADS can be found here.

The Prime Minister’s commitment to a ‘renaissance in UK shipbuilding’ is a very welcome indication of the Government’s support to UK industry. A greater focus on UK shipbuilding in the UK could have a multitude of spill-over benefits to adjacent maritime sectors, as well as digital and security sectors needed for the complex task of modern maritime operations. Similarly, the communities and regions of the UK in which this work may be placed could hugely benefit from the economic boost.

UK Defence has been dogged by fiscal challenges for a number of years, so industry and commentators look forward to further information about how this fiscal boost will be used to address this issue. The Integrated Review and associated Defence & Security Industrial Strategy is likely to shed light on how this money will be spent in shaping the UK’s future defence and security capabilities. ADS understands these strategies will be released in early 2021 and looks forward to working with the Government on their implementation.

Written by Andy Johnston, ADS Defence Policy Advisor