Gavin Williamson: Drone 'swarm squadrons' to be deployed by military

BBC Technology 11 Feb 2019 04:35
RAF Reaper drone in 2013Image copyright MOD

"Swarm squadrons" of drones are to be deployed by British armed forces to overwhelm enemy air defences, the defence secretary has said.

Gavin Williamson said the specially-adapted drones could be in operation by the end of 2019.

He also warned in a speech that the UK needs a bolder and stronger armed forces prepared to use "hard power".

Labour has said the military's role on the international stage had been "completely undermined" by Tory cuts.

South China Sea

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute, Mr Williamson said Britain must stand up to those who "flout international law".

There was an extra £1.8bn for defence in the last budget and Mr Williamson said Brexit had brought the UK its "greatest opportunity" to strengthen its global presence.

He said the military's cyber capabilities will be reinforced to defend and launch attacks.

Image copyright AFP/Getty

Gavin Williamson will struggle to match his global ambitions with the realities of an already overstretched defence budget and a smaller British armed forces.

But instead of making cuts, Mr Williamson is adding more to his shopping list.

This he believes could be done cheaply by converting civilian cargo ships but there is still no costs or mention of who will crew them - the Royal Navy certainly does not have the manpower.

The MoD believes the technology could be bought "off the shelf" but, in truth, the concept is still untried and untested.

He said they would be able to respond "at a moment's notice" to support the Royal Marines.

The defence secretary also confirmed the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is being deployed to the Pacific region, where China has been involved in a dispute over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Image copyright Reuters

He told those gathered for his speech that "state-on-state competition was reviving".

He said: "We have to be ready to show the high price of aggressive behaviour. Ready to strengthen our resilience."

Defending interventionist policy, he said the cost of failing to act in global crises had often been "unacceptably high", and that Western powers cannot "walk on by when others are in need".

Mr Williamson said Brexit brought an "unparalleled opportunity" to consider how the UK could maximise its influence around the world.

But shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said the UK's ability to play such a role had been "completely undermined by eight years of Tory defence cuts".

"Instead of simply engaging in yet more sabre-rattling, Gavin Williamson should get to grips with the crisis in defence funding that is happening on his watch," she said.

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Gavin WilliamsonMr WilliamsonUKRoyal NavySouth China Sea
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