UK to Accelerate Armed Forces Access to Uncrewed Systems

The UK Defence Drone Strategy will enable the rapid experimentation, testing and evaluation of uncrewed platforms, unifying the British Army, Royal Navy, RAF, while working with the industry By Abi Wylie / 26 Feb 2024
UK to Accelerate Armed Forces Access to Uncrewed Systems
Follow DA

A new strategy backed by at least £4.5 billion of investment over the next decade will accelerate access to uncrewed systems for the UK Armed Forces, rapidly equipping them with innovative technology across air, sea, and land.

The UK Defence Drone Strategy will harness innovative capabilities across UK defense. It will enable the rapid experimentation, testing and evaluation of uncrewed platforms, unifying the approach of the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, integrated by UK Strategic Command, while crucially working in lockstep with industry.

Drones are a game-changing technology that are constantly evolving, and it is crucial that the UK continues to invest in and maintain its position on the cutting edge of drone development to stay one step ahead of its adversaries.

The new approach will see uncrewed systems delivered at pace into the hands of the British Armed Forces, equipping personnel with critical intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, strike and logistical capabilities. This will leave behind long development timelines and lengthy requirement discussions. 

Once operational, the systems will be able to be developed and upgraded – or ‘spiraled’ – to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology and changing threat picture. 

The initial priority remains the successful delivery of the Ukraine-UK uncrewed systems initiative, building on the UK’s donation of over 4,000 drones for Ukraine. 

The UK Defence Drone Strategy will help Armed Forces personnel meet the relentless cycle of battlefield adaptation, as has been repeatedly underpinned as Ukraine continues to successfully resist the Russian invasion. 

Of the £2.5 billion pounds to be spent on supporting Ukraine this coming financial year, more than £200 million will go towards supplying Ukraine with uncrewed systems. As the Defence Secretary announced last week, the UK will include work to scale up the Drone Capability Coalition’s provision of ‘first-person view’ (FPV) drones to Ukraine. 

This will help to scale the UK’s domestic drone industry across manufacturing and software development whilst giving Ukraine cutting-edge, battle-tested capabilities to defend their citizens and target the invading Russian forces. 

A comprehensive partnership with industry is at the core of the Drone Strategy, and building on the UK’s extensive industrial, robotics and digital heritage. Through regular, clear industry engagements, the UK will incentivize industry to support the rapid manufacture and adaptation at a scale and capability able to deliver operational advantage for the Armed Forces.

Today’s Strategy builds on the UK’s rich history of developing and operating uncrewed systems, including the use of Reaper MQ-9s by the Royal Air Force, and small to medium uncrewed aerial systems by the Army and particularly the Royal Navy who have developed a growing array of surface and sub-surface capabilities, including autonomous minehunters.

Commander of UK Strategic Command, General Jim Hockenhull, said; “This strategy, backed by significant investment, offers the opportunity to transform our approach to the acquisition, integration, and exploitation of uncrewed systems. The partnership with industry will be vital to ensure we harness innovation and generate world-leading capability. 

“Integrating advanced uncrewed systems into our suite of capabilities will protect the force, deter our adversaries and, when necessary, help us to fight and win. Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the procurement arm of the UK MOD, has played a key role in helping develop the new UK Defence Drone Strategy and will be pivotal in ensuring its successful ongoing delivery.”

Chief Executive at Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Andy Start said, “DE&S has supported the rapid procurement of large numbers of uncrewed aerial systems for Ukraine, and it is clearer than ever that unhindered access to battle-winning uncrewed systems is absolutely crucial in modern day combat.”

Posted by Abi Wylie Connect & Contact
Latest Articles