David Cameron’s Conservative government is to announce the formation of two new 5,000 troop-strong strike brigades, as the UK’s first defence review since 2010 is revealed today. It’s just one element of a major new defence push by the UK’s top brass.
Adding £12bn to the UK’s military equipment budget (bringing total defence equipment spending up to £178 billion over the next decade), the strike brigades will be ready by 2025, and have the capability to deploy thousands of miles away from central operations. The brigades will have access to the new Scout fleet of vehicles, as well as 600 armoured tanks, jeeps and troop carriers.
In addition, new aircraft will be commissioned to fly from two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, currently being built by a consortium of contractors including BAE.
HMS Queen Elizabeth from Wikipedia
“At [the strategy’s] heart is an understanding that we cannot choose between conventional defences against state-based threats and the need to counter threats that do not recognise national borders,” reads Cameron’s words in the foreward to the budget review.
“Today we face both and we must respond to both.”
The budget raise comes in part in response to the growing presence of terrorist threats – the government has already pledged a 30 per cent increase to the counter terrorism budget, as it looks to improve MI5’s reaction times.
To aid surveillance, nine new Boeing P8 maritime patrol aircraft will be deployed, capable of anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare. These will be intended to protect Trident and the new BAE-build aircraft carriers, replacing the decommissioned, torpedo-carrying Nimrod aircraft that left a significant hole in the UK military’s ability to spot submarines.
Boeing P8 Poseidon from Wikipedia
Two new Typhoon aircraft squadrons will be established, bringing the total squadron count up to seven, each containing around 12 aircraft each. The Typhoon jet fleet will have its life extended by 10 years, keeping them in service until 2040, and will be upgraded with new equipment. This includes new active electronically scanned array radars.
RAF Typhoon FGR4 from Wikipedia
Finally, both increases to Britain’s special forces troop numbers and the Navy’s sailor count are expected, while the Reaper drone fleet will double by 2020.
MQ-9 Reaper from Wikipedia
If all this sounds like overkill, the Prime Minister has pointed out that it in fact counts for only 2 per cent of the UK’s GDP – the bare minimum that Nato countries are supposed to pledge to defence (though few ever meet that number).
“This is vital at a time when the threats to our country are growing,” Cameron says in a foreword to the review.
“From the rise of Isil [Islamic State] and greater instability in the Middle East, to the crisis in Ukraine, the threat of cyber attacks and the risk of pandemics, the world is more dangerous and uncertain today than five years ago.
“So while every government must choose how to spend the money it has available, every penny of which is hard-earned by taxpayers, this government has taken a clear decision to invest in our security and safeguard our prosperity.”