By David Oliver
In his introduction to the UK Strategic and Security Review 2015, the Prime Minister David Cameron stated its objectives to Parliament on 23 November.
“Our national security depends on our economic security, and vice versa. So the first step in our National Security Strategy is to ensure our economy is, and remains, strong. Over the last five years we have taken the difficult decisions needed to bring down our deficit and restore our economy to strength. In 2010, the total black hole in the defence budget alone was bigger than the entire defence budget in that year. Now it is back in balance. By sticking to our long-term economic plan, Britain has become the fastest growing major advanced economy in the world for the last two years. Our renewed economic security means we can afford to invest further in our national security.
This is vital at a time when the threats to our country are growing. From the rise of ISIL 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.
As a result, the United Kingdom is the only major country in the world today which is simultaneously going to meet the NATO target of spending 2% of our GDP on defence and the UN target of spending 0.7% of our GNI on development, while also increasing investment in our security and intelligence agencies and in counter-terrorism.”
The main points of the SDSR included the strengthening of the UK’s Armed Forces and security and intelligence agencies that will fight and work alongside close allies, including the US and France, to deter or defeat adversaries.
Over the next five years the UK’s priorities will be to tackle terrorism at home and abroad, counter extremism and challenge the poisonous ideologies that feed it. The UK will remain a world leader in cyber security to deter state-based threats and respond to crises rapidly and effectively to build resilience at home and abroad.
Russia is mid-way through a programme of major investment to modernise and upgrade its military, including its nuclear forces. It has also increased its nuclear exercises and rhetoric, with threats to base nuclear forces in Kaliningrad and Crimea. Its military activity around the territory of Allies, and close to UK airspace and territorial waters, is designed to test our responses. Russia’s behaviour will continue to be hard to predict, and, though highly unlikely, the UK cannot rule out the possibility that it may feel tempted to act aggressively against NATO Allies.
The UK’s commitment to collective defence and security through NATO remains as strong as ever. The 2014 Wales Summit, under UK leadership, delivered an effective and united response to Russian behaviour. NATO’s commitments include the Allies’ defence investment pledge and the Readiness Action Plan, which respond to the challenges posed by Russia and their strategic implications, as well as to risks and threats to the south of Europe. With NATO Allies the UK has made the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force a reality and our contributions to the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltics will remain important to deter threats. We have reformed the MOD and Armed Forces, including by improving our procurement process, to ensure that we can maximise investment in the front line.
The UK will spend £178 billion over the next decade on equipment and equipment support. This will include the development of a new Joint Force 2025 which will increase our Armed Forces’ ability to work with the rest of government and internationally. By 2025, this will be an expeditionary force of around 50,000 troops.
The two new Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers will enter service from 2018, to form the core of a maritime task group, with one available at all times. Three new logistic ships to support the fleet, in addition to the four tankers, will enter service from 2016.
Eight new Type 26 Global Combat Ships, will start to replace our current Type 23 frigates in their anti-submarine role. Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade trained and equipped to provide specialist amphibious and Arctic warfare capabilities will enhance a Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier to support its amphibious capability.
The British Army will have a war-fighting division optimised for high intensity combat operations drawn on two armoured infantry brigades and two new Strike Brigades. Two Strike Brigades to be able to deploy rapidly over long distances using the new Ajax armoured vehicles and new mechanised infantry vehicles.
The Royal Air Force will be the big winner of the 2015 SDSR. As part of Joint Force 2025, it will have an additional F35 Lightning squadron and two additional Typhoon squadrons. Further investment in Typhoon’s capabilities, including ground attack and a new Active Electronically Scanned Array radar will ensure its continued operation until at least 2040. The SDSR also confirmed that the UK will maintain its plan to buy a total 138 F-35 Lightning aircraft over the life of the programme.
More than 20 new Protector armed remotely piloted aircraft will be acquired, more than doubling the number of RAF Reaper aircraft which they will replace.
The RAF’s Sentinel ISR aircraft will be extended in service into the next decade with Shadow until at least 2030, and Sentry and Rivet Joint until 2035. Nine new Boeing P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft will increase the protection of the UK nuclear deterrent and new aircraft carriers. These aircraft will be based in Scotland and will also have an overland surveillance capability.
The UK is also working closely with the US and France on nuclear matters, including nuclear policy which is underpinned by the recently renewed 1958 Mutual Defence Agreement and the 1963 Polaris Sales Agreement. Among other things, these allow the UK to reduce costs by procuring Trident missiles and other components from the US while maintaining full operational independence. The UK also collaborates with France under the 2010 Teutates Treaty to develop the technologies associated with the safe and effective maintenance of our respective nuclear stockpiles.
The 2015 SDSR commits to replacing the Vanguard Class of nuclear-armed submarines with a new class of four submarines, currently known as Successor. This will be a 20-year acquisition programme which is estimated to cost a total of £31 billion (including inflation over the lifetime of the programme), with the first submarine entering service in the early 2030s.
The UK will place more emphasis on being able to operate alongside its allies, including in the UK-France Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, and NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force that the UK will lead in 2017. The UK and France are the two European nations with the full range of military capabilities and the political will to protect our interests globally. We have built an exceptionally close defence and security relationship with France through the Lancaster House Treaty of 2010. The UK will work together to help build the rule of law, security and stability in the Middle East and Africa, to counter terrorism, extremism and organised crime, on aviation security, and on disaster relief and evacuation operations in areas of mutual interest.
It will further strengthen the UK-France defence and security relationship. Our Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, which will be operational in 2016, will provide a potent combined reaction force of up to 10,000 personnel available to plan for and respond to crises, including beyond Europe. We are working with the French Navy to ensure that we exploit the shared opportunities when the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers come into service. The British Army’s high readiness 16 Air Assault Brigade is developing strong links with its French counterparts. air forces work closely together on operations in the Middle East and North Africa. We are also working together on how our militaries can further contribute to domestic security in our respective countries.
We are also expanding our equipment collaboration, including through the development of a joint future Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) programme and Maritime Mine Counter Measure demonstrator, procurement and development of missiles, and maximising common supply chain efficiencies. The UK will continue developing its joint nuclear facilities in France and the UK.
Defence links with all NATO and EU partners will be strengthened, including Italy, and Spain, with whom the UK is working closely on the new NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. The Joint Expeditionary Force is a UK-led collaboration involving Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The UK is also working with partners in the Northern Group, notably Poland, Sweden and Finland, to promote more effective defence cooperation in northern Europe.
Prime Minister Cameron ended by saying that the UK is negotiating to agree EU reforms that will make it more competitive, flexible and democratically accountable, to benefit all 28 member states and to address the concerns of the British people. This would make the EU a stronger partner for economies around the world that want to invest. The UK government will hold a referendum on our membership of the EU by the end of 2017.