UK Armed Forces May Lack ‘Battle-Winning Capabilities’: Lawmakers

UK Armed Forces May Lack ‘Battle-Winning Capabilities’: Lawmakers
An RAF Typhoon combat aircraft refuels from an RAF Voyager aircraft in flight over the North Sea, on Oct. 8, 2020. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Alexander Zhang

Britain’s armed forces may lack the “modern battle-winning capabilities” they need to meet the demands of future warfare, a Parliamentary committee has warned.

In its latest report published on May 11, the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons said the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) equipment plan faces “serious questions” in view of the “rapid technological advances” by Britain’s potential adversaries.

The report argues that the Russian invasion of Ukraine raises concerns that the MoD has not “identified the modern battle-winning capabilities our armed forces need” in the face of “a number of potential adversaries rapidly developing new military technology.”

The UK government’s Integrated Review of foreign and defence policies last year identified Russia as “the most acute threat” to national security. But the committee said it was concerned that recent events meant it still “downplays” the scale of the threat Moscow poses to the UK’s interests.

The committee expressed frustration that the MoD is still “focussing on filling the capability gaps that currently exist,” while other countries are “rapidly developing new capabilities such as hypersonic weapons.”

It acknowledged the MoD is “starting to spend money on developing next-generation capabilities,” but said it is not clear “if it is doing so with sufficient urgency” and “whether the capabilities will be battle-winning.”

The report cited the example of the new radar for the Typhoon aircraft of the Royal Air Force (RAF), which will not enter service until 2030 even though “it was first announced in 2015 and development work had started much earlier.”

The committee chair, Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier, said: “The MoD trumpeted a step change in this year’s equipment plan after the Integrated Review, with new priorities and a huge cash injection—but the invasion of Ukraine has cast in stark relief the realities of current and future warfare.

“Senior officials appear unable to recognise the poor state of affairs in MoD’s procurement or the deep-rooted issues that undermine our confidence that it will actually get a grip on the situation.

“A diminished role in global security, and enhanced risk to our national security and the service personnel defending it, are the unacceptable costs of the ministry’s ongoing and repeated failures.”

But the MoD rejected the committee’s findings.

A spokesman for the ministry said: “We are delivering ongoing fundamental change to drive value in defence procurement, including enhanced management of projects and greater agility.

“The speed of response and depth of leadership being provided by the UK in response to the invasion of Ukraine has been widely recognised by the international community.”

PA Media contributed to this report.