Boris Johnson to boost UK's cyber military capability

14 March 2021, 11:14 | Updated: 14 March 2021, 15:33

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce the outcome of the government's Integrated Review on foreign and defence policy this week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce the outcome of the government's Integrated Review on foreign and defence policy this week. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Britain's cyber capability is expected to be bolstered this week as part of plans for the most significant overhaul of the UK's strategic posture since the Cold War.

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson will announce the outcome of the government's far-ranging Integrated Review on foreign and defence policy to Parliament.

Part of its remit has been to consider how the armed forces need to adapt to the changing face of warfare, with a new focus on cyber and military.

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The prime minister is expected to commit to take a "full-spectrum" approach to cyber, including plans for a "cyber corridor" across the north of England - where the headquarters of the new National Cyber Force (NCF) will be based.

The NCF, created last year to transform the UK's capacity to conduct targeted offensive cyber operations, brings together personnel from defence and intelligence agencies under a unified command.

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The government says it hopes the cyber proposal will drive growth in the digital, defence and technology sectors outside London and create new partnerships between the state, cyber sector and universities in the region.

Ahead of his commons statement, Mr Johnson said: "Cyber power is revolutionising the way we live our lives and fight our wars, just as air power did 100 years ago.

"We need to build up our cyber capability so we can grasp the opportunities it presents while ensuring those who seek to use its powers to attack us and our way of life are thwarted at every turn.

"Our new, full-spectrum approach to cyber will transform our ability to protect our people, promote our interests around the world and make the lives of British people better every day."

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However, ahead of Tuesday's announcement, the Commons Defence Committee have warned a series of botched tank procurement programmes mean the army has been left with an armoured fighting vehicle fleet facing "mass obsolescence".

In a scathing report - entitled "Obsolescent and outgunned - the MPs said any "artillery duel" between a modern British and Russian division is "likely to end one way - and not necessarily to the British Army's advantage".

The committee said whatever the outcome of the Integrated Review, the army needs to regain its "credibility" as it currently lacks sufficient armoured capability to make an "effective contribution" to Nato deterrence.

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The British Army's ageing tanks and armoured vehicles are likely to find themselves outgunned and overmatched in any conflict with Russian forces, MPs have warned.
The British Army's ageing tanks and armoured vehicles are likely to find themselves outgunned and overmatched in any conflict with Russian forces, MPs have warned. Picture: PA

Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said the MoD has allowed the Army's armoured fighting vehicles capability "to atrophy at an astounding and alarming rate".

He added: "A mixture of bureaucratic procrastination, military indecision, financial mismanagement and general ineptitude has led to a severe and sustained erosion of our military capabilities.

"This will have a profound and potentially devastating impact on our ability to respond to threats from adversaries.

"Whilst the defence landscape is certainly shifting, traditional warfare remains a very real and frightening possibility, and one for which we must be fully prepared."