Britain’s armed forces may lack the “modern capabilities to win in combat” they need to meet the demands of future warfare, MPs have warned.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that while other countries are developing new capabilities such as hypersonic weapons, the Department of Defense (MoD) was forced to fill “capacity gaps”.
He said the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a reminder of the “risks and responsibilities” that come with UK membership of NATO.
Despite a budget increase of £16.5billion over the four years to 2024-25, he expressed frustration with ‘complacency’ within the Ministry of Defense over the affordability of his equipment blueprint.
The government’s integrated review of foreign and defense policy last year identified Russia as “the most acute threat” to national security.
However, the committee said it fears recent events mean it further “downplays” the scale of the threat Moscow poses to UK interests.
He also noted that the new radar for the RAF’s Typhoon fighter jets was not expected to enter service until 2030, although it was first announced in 2015 and development work had started much earlier. .
“We are concerned that the department has not identified all of the modern combat victory capabilities that our armed forces need, and also that it is not expanding its existing major programs with sufficient urgency,” he said. .
“The invasion of Ukraine highlights the rapid technological advancements of other potential adversaries and raises serious questions about the pace, scope and ambition of the department’s equipment plan.”
Write a blank check?
The committee said that as the Department of Defense began to develop next-generation systems, there was “relatively little money” to exploit promising research over the next decade and a lack of clarity about whether they would really be “winners”.
The committee also questioned the overall affordability of the equipment plan which depended on achieving billions of pounds in future cost reductions, but with no plan as to how they would be achieved.
He expressed concern that a Treasury ‘contingency’ for new Dreadnought submarines – which will carry Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent – was seen as a ‘blank cheque’ by the MoD ‘the freeing from the need to control costs”.
Committee chair Dame Meg Hillier said: “The Ministry of Defense has trumpeted a radical change to this year’s equipment plan after the integrated review, with new priorities and a huge injection of funds – but the invasion of Ukraine has thrown into sharp relief the realities of present and future warfare.
“Senior officials seem unable to acknowledge the poor state of affairs in MoD procurement or the deep-seated issues that undermine our confidence that it will actually get the situation under control.
“A diminished role in global security and an increased risk to our national security and the service personnel who defend it are the unacceptable costs of the department’s continued and repeated failures.”
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However, a defense source told the PA news agency that they “entirely reject the observations” made in the PAC report.
“It is wrong to say that we have not identified the modern victory capabilities that our armed forces need.
“This report appears to be blind to the Integrated Review, the Defense Command Document and our latest spending commitments.”
A Ministry of Defense spokesman said: ‘Our Affordable Defense Plan provides £238bn of investment over the next 10 years, including a £24bn increase in the spending cycle current.
“We are making continuous fundamental changes to drive value in defense procurement, including improved project management and greater agility.
“The speed of response and depth of leadership provided by the UK in response to the invasion of Ukraine has been widely recognized by the international community.”