NEWS FROM DSEI: British Military Experiencing ‘Regeneration’

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP speaking at BAE Systems' shipyard in Govan, Scotland.

Photo: Ministry of Defence

LONDON — The United Kingdom is embarking on a major effort to field new equipment in a variety of warfighting domains, said the country’s minister for defense procurement Sept. 10.

“We are in the midst of a remarkable period of regeneration in defense and we are seeing the emergence of a fearful future force,” said Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP.

The British military is purchasing everything from new warships to unmanned systems to directed energy technology, she said during remarks on the opening day of the Defence Security Equipment International conference.

Last month, Trevelyan visited BAE Systems' shipyard in Govan, Scotland, to see personnel cut steel on the HMS Cardiff, the second of eight City-class frigates.

These “frigates will be built on the Clyde [River] sustaining 1,700 jobs in Scotland and 4,000 jobs across the wider U.K. maritime supply chain for decades to come,” she said.

Other vessels in the acquisition pipeline include new Dreadnought-class nuclear-armed submarines and Type 31 frigates, she said.

Additionally, the U.K. plans to award £177 million to five British companies to provide service support for small boats used by the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and British army through 2026, she said.

The United Kingdom is also investing in unmanned systems, Trevelyan noted.

“This afternoon on HMS Argyll, we'll be unveiling the next-generation maritime autonomy surface testbed,” she said. “For the very first time, we will have underwater drones able to scout ahead of a ship and detect threats beyond the visual line of sight.”

Funding is also going toward a secure satellite communication system, she said. The U.K. has awarded QinetiQ £17 million to develop an enhanced, cutting edge GPS receiver.

“That will incorporate anti-spoof and anti-jam features to stop our signals being disrupted,” she said.

The country is also looking at how it can leverage directed energy capabilities, Trevelyan said. It plans to open a new joint delivery office for the technology.

“We are investing £130 million pounds to create novel laser and radio frequency weapons, which powered by electricity and operating without ammunition, gives the warfighter unprecedented flexibility on the frontline,” she said.

Another deal announced included £31 million deal for the Israeli joint fires synthetic trainer, which will be used at multiple sites in the U.K., she noted. It will allow students from the British army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to train simultaneously together in realistic and complex warfighting scenarios, she said.

The contract — which was awarded to Elbit Systems UK’s subsidiary, Ferranti Technologies Ltd. — includes the delivery of multiple networked static and mobile training systems, according to a company press release.

The technology will support exercises for reserve forces and teams deployed at sea. The systems will be supplied over a period of two years, plus four years of maintenance, technical support and on-site training, according to the company.

The British government annually invests about £20 billion in its defense industry, which supports 260,000 jobs directly and indirectly across the United Kingdom, Trevelyan said. But the island nation also wants to increase its exports.

“Our approach to procurement is changing,” she said. “We are increasingly determined to do as much selling as buying. Our world class manufacturing base is well established and it's time we did more to open it up for business.”

The United Kingdom is currently the second largest exporter of defense equipment in the world, she said. Last year, it sold £20 billion in defense and security assets. The deals often include opportunities for maintenance, joint training and joint exercises, she noted. “It's the whole package.”

Topics: Global Defense Market, International