The Prime Minister has asked the UK’s Defence Chiefs and officials to consider investing more in Special Forces and readily deployable counter-terrorist capabilities as part of the defence review. This would include future air surveillance (ISTAR) assets including more drones.
Following the commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence in last week’s Budget, the Prime Minister hopes the Strategic Defence and Security Review – due to conclude in the autumn – will prioritise resources that will help to protect the UK from evolving threats, be that terrorism, extremism, or an increasingly aggressive Russia and whether that threat is physical or in cyberspace.
The Prime Minister discussed his views with the Defence Chiefs last week, following the Budget. Together they agreed that the commitment to spend 2% – 1 of only 5 nations to do so – and to meet the NATO Wales Summit pledge strengthens the UK’s role as a leading player in the Transatlantic Alliance.
The Prime Minister visited RAF Waddington today – home to the UK’s ISTAR force from where Reaper missions are flown over Iraq and Syria. The UK is already a leading country in the counter-ISIL coalition of 60+ countries. With investment in high-end surveillance, such as Sentinel, Rivet Joint and RAPTOR pods on fast jets, the UK already has a significant advantage over most other countries’ capabilities.
Tornados and Reapers alone have flown over 1,000 missions and struck over 300 ISIL targets. But the UK is doing more than that. Air-to-air refuelling and other sophisticated airborne assets play a vital role in enabling other nations to conduct strikes that they would otherwise be unable to do on their own.
In order to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of the fight against extremism it is important to continue investing in this area.
This afternoon, the Prime Minister welcomed some of the ship’s company of the new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier to Downing St. The Prime Minister is keen for the defence review to explore how best to work with partners like the US to ensure these ships, which will be the largest British warships ever built, will be able to project drones, Special Forces and strike capabilities to wherever the terrorist threat is found.
The Prime Minister said:
As Prime Minister, I will always put the national security of our country first. That’s why it is right that we spend 2% of our GDP on defence because this investment helps to keep us safe. It has only been possible because of the difficult decisions we have made to ensure a strong and secure economy.
Now we know how much we will spend, what matters next is how we spend it. I have tasked the Defence and Security Chiefs to look specifically at how we do more to counter the threat posed by ISIL and Islamist extremism.
This could include more spy planes, drones and Special Forces. In the last 5 years, I have seen just how vital these assets are in keeping us safe.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) underway will look at the government’s defence and security investment priorities ensuring the UK has the military and other capabilities we need to tackle threats faster and better and that the UK is even more agile and adaptable when responding to threats.