Armed forces must ‘fundamentally change’ to counter new threats

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The mindset of the UK’s armed forces must “fundamentally change” and troops must be prepared for “continuous operating” so that Britain isn’t “overwhelmed” in what will become the biggest shake up of Britain’s military in generations.

The proposal has been laid out by General Sir Nicholas Carter, the chief of the defence staff.

It is the latest in a series of briefings and speeches by senior military leaders, as the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office undergoes a massive security review.

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“Warfare is increasingly about a competition between hiding and finding,” General Carter told the Policy Exchange Think Tank in London.

General Carter added that old, industrial technology will have to be phased out, so new digital capabilities can be introduced.

Citing China and Russia in particular, General Carter said adversaries are using “political warfare designed to undermine cohesion, to erode economic, political and social resilience, and to compete for strategic advantage in key regions of the world.

“Their goal is to win without going to war: to achieve their objectives by breaking our willpower, using attacks below the threshold that would prompt a war-fighting response.

“These attacks on our way of life from authoritarian rivals and extremist ideologies are remarkably difficult to defeat without undermining the very freedoms we want to protect.

“In Ukraine and Syria, Russia has created battle laboratories from real life events to develop their tactics and battle harden a new generation of soldiers.”

“China’s new Strategic Support Force is designed to achieve dominance in the space and cyber domains.

“It commands satellite information attack and defence forces; electronic assault forces and internet assault forces; campaign information operations forces, which include conventional electronic warfare forces, anti-radiation assault forces, and battlefield cyber warfare forces.”

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General Carter said that Britain’s enemies have studied the “Western way of war” and identified vulnerabilities.

“They saw that air power could penetrate deep into hostile territory and learned that we preferred to fight and strike targets from afar.

“They saw that this enhanced our natural aversion to putting people in harm’s way.

“They watched how casualties, financial cost and length of time swayed domestic and public opinion and the effect that had on the legitimacy assuring the use of armed force.

“So they learned how to improve their own resilience to absorb strikes; they developed anti access denial systems; they improved their maritime undersea capabilities; they developed long range missile systems; they integrated electronic warfare, swarms of drones with multiple fires and used these to defeat armour; they invested in space and cyber, recognising the importance we attach to global positioning and digitisation.”

The “Integrated Review” is set to conclude in November.

Depending on the budget agreed by the Treasury, it is being seen as the most important security review since the Cold War.

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The expectation is that it will result in a wide re-balancing of the UK’s armed forces. Yesterday, the head of the army, General Mark Carleton-Smith, said he would expect his forces to have “a more persistent presence” in the Far East to counter the threat from China.

Speaking alongside General Carter at Policy Exchange, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned against rumours of equipment or personnel cuts.

“The problem with these reviews is they often boil down to numbers games and discussions about equipment bingo – who’s going to buy what and what are we going to cut?

“And often we forget to realise that our main task is to meet the threat. But also, just as important in this review will be how will we conduct warfare? How will we conduct the process of challenging both the competition and our adversaries?”