Future Soldier: British army given £8 billion to modernise
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced a radical shake-up for the British army, earmarking an additional £8.6 billion ($11.5bn) for new training, equipment, and a brand-new ‘ranger regiment’ dedicated to tackling ‘extremist’ organisations and hostile state threats.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs on Wednesday that the Future Soldier programme aims to “to keep pace with the changing character of warfare our army must be forward-looking, adaptable and embracing of new ways of working as much as new weapons and technologies”.
The programme will transform the army into a more “deployable, lethal expeditionary force”, cutting the regular army personnel from its current level of 82,000 to 73,000 by 2025.
We have revealed the cap badge of The Ranger Regiment.— British Army (@BritishArmy) November 25, 2021
The Ranger Regiment is an important contribution to the future of the #BritishArmy. From 1 December, training for its four battalions will commence.
Read more: https://t.co/thx7Pq3vOy #FutureSoldier #BeTheBest pic.twitter.com/Fp4aq4YV0Z
An MoD handbook for the Future Soldier programme, published yesterday, said its “capabilities will be built around a digitally networked combination of Ajax, Boxer, Challenger 3, AH64E, long range precision fires and un-crewed aerial systems”.
It revealed that new training “will fundamentally improve the experience of all soldiers through the greater use of synthetics, instrumentation, as well as augmented and virtual reality”, and will include a virtual soldier training programme delivered by Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems.
Furthermore, in an apparent indication of the government’s post-Brexit global ambitions, the document said the army “will be deployed across the globe, more of the time” and emphasised the strategic importance of bases in “Germany, Kenya, and Oman”.
“Militarising the constitutional question”
More than creating a leaner force, however, the programme aims to place the army at “the heart of the [British] union” by integrating the regular force with reservists and civil servants. Controversially, the government also intends to devolve a greater proportion of army units to home nations Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.
In Scotland - which is currently locked in a renewed debate over independence - the announcement has been particularly controversial.
The Scottish National Party defence Spokesman Stewart McDonald labelled the devolution plan "desperate" and suggested the moves would “politicise serving personnel”. Alba MP Kenny MacAskill slammed the government for “militarising the constitutional question”.
For their part, the government said the plans would deliver "£1 billion of economic benefits to Scotland".
Meanwhile, Labour has criticised the programme saying it will leave the force "too small, too thinly stretched, too poorly equipped”.
The £8.6 billion funding boost will bring total military investment to £41.3 billion over the next ten years.