Boris Johnson will pledge £16.5 for our armed forces

‘The era of retreat is over!’ Boris Johnson will announce the biggest cash injection for our armed forces in three decades as he pledges to spend £16.5bn more on defence

  • Prime Minister to promise to spend £16.5billion more on defence over four years
  • Will be spent on ‘space command’ that could launch Britain’s first rocket in 2022
  • Billions will go on artificial intelligence and creation of a National Cyber Force 

Boris Johnson vowed to end the military’s ‘era of retreat’ last night with the largest investment in the armed forces for three decades.

In a speech to the Commons today, the Prime Minister will promise to spend £16.5billion more on defence over four years.

It is understood that the announcement comes after Mr Johnson overruled Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who wanted to give defence a 12-month increase worth just £1.9billion. The bigger settlement will be spent on a ‘space command’ that could launch Britain’s first rocket in 2022, research on ‘blue-skies’ projects and investment in a new Tempest fighter.

Billions will also go on artificial intelligence and the creation of a National Cyber Force of hackers trained to tackle online threats from Britain’s enemies.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will promise to spend £16.5billion more on defence over four years. Pictured: Illustration of a laser weapon destroying satellite in outer space

The cash pledge came a day after Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the head of the RAF, warned that wars of the future may be lost or won in space.

Air Marshal Mike Wigston CBE, who warned that wars of the future may be lost or won in space

The cash boost takes the total defence budget to £45billion this year, meaning Britain will continue to be the largest defence spender in Europe and the second-largest in Nato.

Mr Johnson’s spending announcement came as he warned that Britain faced a ‘more perilous’ situation than at any time since the Cold War.

He added yesterday: ‘I have taken this decision in the teeth of the pandemic because the defence of the realm must come first. 

‘The international situation is more perilous and more intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War and Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies. To achieve this we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board.

‘This is our chance to end the era of retreat, transform our armed forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level up our country, pioneer new technology and defend our people and way of life.’

Johnson on a large screen as he takes part virtually in the Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons at Parliament Wednesday. He is due to speak on Thursday

What’s in Boris’s war chest? 

  • An extra £1.5billion will go on military research and development. Experts will be encouraged to come up with innovative ideas to shape the future of the armed forces.
  • Investment in the Tempest fighter planned to replace the Typhoon. Expected by 2035, it will be capable of being operated by a pilot or flying unmanned.
  • A ‘space command’ staffed by all three Armed Forces will tackle the threat from nations developing anti- satellite weapons such as China and Russia. It will also use a rocket to ferry military satellites into orbit.
  • A National Cyber Force of 500 specialists from the MoD and GCHQ will defend Britain against hostile states and terror groups online.
  • An artificial intelligence agency specialising in autonomous machines.

No 10 warned that threats to the nation would no longer be confined to distant battlefields. Instead, Britain’s enemies could reach people ‘through the mobile phones in their pockets or the computers in their homes’. It added: ‘UK defence therefore needs to operate at all times with cutting-edge technology. This reverses the systematic decline in this crucial area in the last 30 years.’

Whitehall sources claimed the Mr Johnson wanted to show US president-elect Joe Biden the UK was a dependable ally, and No 10 said the money would ‘demonstrate to our allies they can always count on the UK’.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has spent a year on an ‘integrated review’ of the threats facing Britain and how the Government plans to tackle them. Mr Johnson had told Mr Sunak that the armed forces needed an extra £15billion, but Mr Wallace fought for more over fears that the Ministry of Defence could end up with barely enough to fill its funding deficit. Insiders claimed it needed £20billion to modernise.

In a victory for Mr Wallace, the MoD will now receive £16.5billion above the Tories’ manifesto commitment over four years.

The Government had pledged to raise spending by 0.5 per cent above inflation for every year of this Parliament. The total amounts to £24.1billion more.

Mr Wallace said: ‘This provides us with the financial certainty we need to modernise, plan for the future and adapt to the threats we face.’ He said the settlement would lead to investment ‘in our fantastic shipyards and aerospace industry’.

No 10 estimates it will help to create 10,000 jobs annually.

But the news comes amid a row over Government plans for a temporary cut in the foreign aid budget to help repair the nation’s finances. Senior Tory MPs, including former prime minister David Cameron, are opposed to plans to slash the spending target of 0.7 per cent of GDP to 0.5 per cent.

MoD will now receive £16.5billion above the Tories’ manifesto commitment over four years. Pictured: Boris Johnson takes part in PMQ’s at the House of Commons virtually over zoom

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