In Brief

What Boris Johnson has planned for his £16bn military spending spree

Space defence, cyber-offence and artificial intelligence to benefit from funding surge

Britain’s “era of retreat” is over, Boris Johnson has declared, as he announced plans to “transform our armed forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level up our country, pioneer new technology and defend our people and way of life”.

His ambitions will be funded by a £16.5bn rise in defence spending over the next four years, amounting to an increase of about 10% in the annual budget.

The settlement is “more generous than anticipated”, says The Times, after the prime minister overruled Treasury misgivings. “Upgrading the military will form a pillar of Mr Johnson’s plan to ‘build back better’ from coronavirus by creating jobs and will underpin a drive to defend free societies around the world.”

It marks a sudden about turn after the £8bn military cuts enacted by Conservative governments since 2010. The Ministry of Defence has a £13bn hole in its finances which, earlier this year, led to discussions about retiring the UK’s 600-strong fleet of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.

They may still be destined for the scrap heap, according to the BBC, which says “difficult decisions about cutting old equipment to fund the new are still to be made”. Britain will “let go of some older capabilities”, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed this morning.

In their place will rise a “National Cyber Force of hackers” to conduct offensive operations against enemy states, an agency dedicated to military artificial intelligence and a “new Space Command designed to protect orbiting satellites and launch its own rockets”, The Guardian reports.

The spending spree is designed to bring geopolitical advantage too, says The Times. By reinforcing “Britain’s status as the largest defence spender in Europe and the second largest in Nato”, it will raise “Britain’s chances of remaining the favoured military partner of the United States, ahead of France”.

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