UK armed forces are to receive new network-centric warfare capabilities as part of a defence review instigated as a result of the 11 September terrorist attacks. To help pay for the developments, the Ministry of Defence's budget for the next three years has been increased by £3.5 billion ($5.4 billion) as part of a UK government spending review.

Defence secretary Geoffrey Hoon says: "We must be able to get the right forces quickly to where we need them, make better use of intelligence to identify the threat, decide how to deal with it, and then strike - decisively. This is known as network centric capability, but it can be summarised as 'detect, decide and destroy'."

The changes, included in the New Chapter to the Strategic Defence Review (SDR), include plans to reduce sensor-to-shooter time which, says Hoon, will require investment in airborne and other sensors. "We will be upgrading the [Boeing] E-3D [airborne early warning and control system]," he adds. The SDR was published in 1998.

The UK also will invest in data networks to pass information quickly to allow strikes with sea- or air-launched weapons, artillery or by ground forces, says Hoon.

Unmanned air vehicles (UAV) will play a key role, and the Watchkeeper UAV acquisition programme will be accelerated, he says. A joint service trials unit will also be formed to begin testing Watchkeeper prototypes next year.

Hoon says changes to the UK's air defences have been implemented to respond to rogue aircraft threats and further enhancements to the radar network are in hand. Three airfields - RAF Marham in eastern England and RAF St Mawgan and RNAS Yeovilton in the south-west - will be upgraded.

Hoon says the MoD is "examining enhancements" to the support helicopter force as part of plans to use more rapidly deployable and sustainable light forces with better mobility and firepower. This will be supported by air-transportable, medium-weight armoured vehicles.

Other proposals include increased use of reserve forces and better links between UK regional military planning and command structures and the civil authorities.

The MoD budget will rise from this year's £29.3 billion to £32.8 billion in 2005-06. The capital budget portion will rise from £5.5 billion to £6.9 billion over the same period. The MoD says the increase is a 1.2% rise in real terms.

Around £1.5 billion of the additional money will be used for new equipment and capabilities while £578 million will be used to modernise business information systems across the defence sector, particularly in the Defence Logistics Organisation, says the MoD.

Source: Flight International