UK unveils plans to modernize army in the face of new threats

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LONDON | The British government unveils its strategy on Monday for adapting its armed forces to changing threats, including plans to strengthen its naval capabilities, but also, according to media reports, to significantly reduce troops.

This plan will be detailed Monday afternoon in front of MPs by Defense Minister Ben Wallace, nearly a week after the UK’s decision to increase the ceiling on its nuclear arsenal, a first since the fall of the Soviet Union.

This controversial announcement came at the end of the government’s strategic review of security, defense and foreign policy, the first since the country’s complete exit from the European Union in early January.

“We do not want wars, we want to dissuade them and to be useful in the whole world, in partnership with our friends, to maintain the peace”, assured the Prime Minister Boris Johnson Monday on the sidelines of a visit on a site of the British defense giant BAE Systems, in the North West of England.

“For that, we need strong, robust armed forces”, he added, stressing wanting “to invest in the long term, not only for military purposes, but also for” good economic reasons “”.

However, according to British media, the plan foresees a further reduction in the size of the army from 10,000 soldiers down to around 70,000, alongside increased investment in technologies such as robots and drones as well as in aircraft. “Cyber ​​wars”.

In a statement, the Ministry of Defense announced plans to have “more ships, submarines, sailors” and the transformation of the Royal Marines into a new unit called “Future Commando Force (FCF)”.

The CWF will be responsible for “protecting shipping lanes and maintaining freedom of navigation” and will receive more than £ 200 million (€ 232 million) in direct investment over the next decade.

A new Royal Navy surveillance vessel will also enter service by 2024 with a crew of around 15, intended to protect UK submarine cables and other infrastructure.

“Unrecognizable” threats

According to the Ministry of Defense, on land will be deployed a special operations brigade “capable of operating discreetly in high-risk environments and being rapidly deployable across the world”.

Over the next four years, £ 120 million will be invested in this unit.

At the same time, another brigade will be created, the Security Forces Assistance Brigade, to provide advice and training to allied partner countries.

In the newspaper The Telegraph Defense Minister Ben Wallace wrote on Sunday that the military had to adapt to threats that had “changed to the point of being unrecognizable” over the past 30 years.

“We can no longer take the superiority of Western forces for granted. Our enemies have infinitely more options, ”he said. “We constantly find ourselves in a ‘gray area’ – aggressive actions below the threshold of open conflict.”

He announced additional investments for “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, for electronic warfare, for strike capabilities as well as for improved sensors and defensive measures.”

In November, Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an investment in defense of an unparalleled amount for 30 years, with the ambition of becoming “the leading naval power in Europe”.