Britain Boosts Defense, Creates New Strike Brigades

Britain raises military spending and creates two new strike brigades to respond to diverse threats.

British armored fighting vehicles take part in a military exercise in Poland, November 13, 2014
British armored fighting vehicles take part in a military exercise in Poland, November 13, 2014 (MoD)

British prime minister David Cameron was expected to announce the creation of two 5,000-strong “strike brigades” on Monday that will allow the United Kingdom to quickly respond to “diverse” threats around the world by 2025.

The announcement would come on the heels of a visit to Paris where Cameron told President François Hollande the British would do “all in our power” to support France in the fight against the self-declared Islamic State.

The fanatical Islamist group, which controls territory in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in the French capital earlier this month that left more than 130 dead.

Cameron was due to inform the House of Commons he would boost defense spending by £12 billion under a comprehensive five-year security strategy, bringing total spending to £178 billion.

Air capabilities

The extra spending would allow Britain to acquire nine Boeing P8 maritime patrol aircraft, filling a gap left by Cameron’s decision five years ago to scrap a new generation of Nimrod spy planes.

As the Atlantic Sentinel has reported, the lack of maritime patrol aircraft has allowed Russia to sail submarines close to British naval bases without necessarily being detected, let alone intercepted.

The prime minister was also expected to announce a ten-year extension to the operation lifespan of Royal Air Force’s Typhoon fleet and unveil upgrades that would give the aging jets ground attack capabilities.

Chancellor George Osborne earlier said the purchase of new F-35 fighter jets will be accelerated, making 24 available for two new aircraft carriers by 2023 rather than the eight that were previously planned.

It is still unclear how many F-35s Britain will buy in total. The Lockheed Martin-made jets are now projected to cost around £100 million each.

The air force will see the size of its drone fleet double to twenty.

NATO target

The new strike brigades — which reflect a broader NATO preference for nimble, rapid reaction forces in the wake of Russia’s stealth invasion of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 — will be sourced from existing British Army numbers and equipped with brand-new Ajax armored vehicles. The first are planned to be delivered in 2017.

The number of regular troops is due to shrink from 102,000 in 2010 to 82,000 in 2020, the year of the next election.

After years of cuts, Britain is still committed to meeting NATO’s military spending target of 2 percent of national income. There will be modest increases in defense spending for the remainder of Cameron’s second term.

When he first came to power in 2010, the Conservative Party leader retired Britain’s HMS Ark Royal aircraft carrier as well as the Harrier jump jet under a comprehensive fiscal consolidation plan. 42,000 armed forces jobs were reduced.

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