Home » Foreign Forces » U.K. Defence Secretary: ‘Never Underestimate My Nation’

U.K. Defence Secretary: ‘Never Underestimate My Nation’

U.K. Secretary of State for Defense Gavin Williamson meeting U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in London on Nov. 10, 2017. DoD Photo

The United Kingdom is set to its maintain its position as a global power by sea power investments in its new class of Dreadnought nuclear ballistic missile submarine and its new class of frigates, the U.K. Secretary of State for Defence said on Tuesday.

The U.K. has a commitment to act when its interests or its allies’ are at stake, and it is investing in platforms to meet those missions on the high-end of conflict to the low said Gavin Williamson speaking at The Atlantic Council.

“You need to have that blend of exquisite capability” found in the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, soon to be joined by Prince of Wales, the Type 45 destroyer and other high-end weapons systems including the F-35 strike fighter; “and we need to have mass in our air, land and sea forces,” he said in answer to a question at the Washington, D.C., appearance.

Williamson, saying even with London’s imminent departure from the European Union, Great Britain is not pulling back from neither its commitments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nor its role in the world. He termed Great Britain’s role on the continent as the glue that attracts other nations there to commit more resources to their own security and to the alliance to counter an aggressive Russia from the northern reaches of Norway to the Black Sea.

On a broader international front, by spending on a variety of platforms, Great Britain plays a critical role in preserving international norms. “The Royal Navy was the first to enforce U.N. sanctions against North Korea” by intercepting its ships and other vessels suspected of trying to trade with Pyongyang. The Security Council sanctions were imposed in response to North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons and longer-range ballistic missiles.

Great Britain “needs the ability to have presence around the globe.” He added, “Soft power is important” in having a global presence, but his task is “making sure we get the hard power right” to meet different challenges “wherever they arise at a moment’s notice.”

That hard power now, Williamson said, means, providing airlift to the French in Mali for their operations against terrorists; to operating from overseas naval bases including Bahrain, Singapore, Diego Garcia and Cyprus; supporting land operations against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq; advising Afghan security forces in their struggle against the Taliban; and training security forces in Africa.

“Please never, never underestimate my nation,” he said in answer to another question.

That also includes Great Britain’s technology for the future, he said.

“The U.K. has always brought something special to the table” from radar and the turbo jet data that it shared with the United States in World War II to today’s sharing of nuclear data in the Dreadnought/Ohio class ballistic missile sub programs.

“The next phase is all about delivery” in Britain’s modernization strategy to meet the new threats coming from nation states, like Russia and China. Noting that in 2010 when London reassessed its defense-spending program, it downplayed that kind of challenge. But the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine, including the seizure of Crimea in 2014, and its use of chemical weapons in Britain in an attempted assassination attempt has prompted a top-to-bottom review of its security needs — including cyber for itself and NATO.

Composite CGI (Computer Generated Image) image, showing what the Dreadnought project submarine may look like once completed. Royal Navy Image

At the same time “we have our eyes wide open” when it comes to China’s assertiveness, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. Its “militarization of artificial features of the South China Sea is a backward step and puts them on the wrong side of the line of what people expect of great powers.”

Williamson said that means respect for the rule of law, not threatening force or using force to have its way in the territorial disputes that mark that region.

When asked about the implication for London with the United States walking away from the Iran nuclear deal and Monday’s re-imposition of sanctions, he said Washington needed to resume talks with the other signatories to find a way forward.

Williamson said he is looking forward to 2021 when “the United States Marine Corps [will] embark a fifth generation fighter flying from fifth generation carrier.” The reference was to a squadron of Marine F-35B’s operating from carrier Queen Elizabeth.

Saying London was “your most reliable partner” internationally, he reminded the audience that defense equipment buying “is a two-way street” and the United States could do more spending in Great Britain, a nation that thousands of Americans in its security programs.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    I wanted to laugh, but groaned instead.

  • omegatalon

    England’s Defense capability is not unlike that belonging to other countries in NATO as they’re a paper tiger and while they will have F-35 fighter jets, the problem is like the rest of Europe is the fact that England won’t have enough hardware to be an effective force and will ‘need’ the United States to survive any military assault by the Russians.

  • muzzleloader

    The Japanese Maritime Defense Force fleet is twice the size of the Royal Navy at this time, Mr.Secretary. In just what confidence is the US supposed to have regarding your fleet?

    • NavySubNuke

      And that doesn’t even begin to cover the dismal readiness of the few ships they actually do have in their fleet. The one thing you can always count on when it comes to UK ships participating in exercises is that they will be broken. If you just go ahead and plan from the start for them to be so broken they won’t show up or will quit after 48 hours than you will save yourself a lot of trouble later.

      • PolicyWonk

        The UK’s military budget has been cutting into the bone to the point that they cannot deploy their new carriers with an appropriate number of escorts. There is such a thing as going too far, and the UK definitely surpassed that point.

        It’ll take them years to bail themselves out of the problem they created, and the only question is will they have enough assets if/when the time comes they really need them.

        • Jack D Ripper

          And the old grey lady dislikes trump

      • waveshaper1

        IMHO, the UK Subs are reliable. I know the UK Subs always seem to launch their Tomahawk cruise missiles during operational flight test on schedule/with no “reported issues”. The Royal Navy Subs have been launching and flying their batch of US Tomahawks over the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama, and Florida ever since they launched the first 3 Tomahawks in November 1998. I imagine we will have another UK sub launched Tomahawk flying over my Florida AO before the end of 2018.

        • NavySubNuke

          Well I am glad to hear some parts are working well. They, both the SSNs and the escorts, haven’t shown quite the same level of readiness when it comes to supporting exercises out in EUCOM AOR that I have participated in.

    • Kim Chul Soo

      I’m sure we will be seeing them when they get their teat in a wringer.

    • Sir Bateman

      It appears that Japan and the UK spend comparable amounts on their respective military’s but from a cursory look it seems as if the Japanese get substantially more bang for their buck.

      Granted the Japanese Navy doesn’t have SSBNs or SSNs and I suspect that the JASDF doesn’t have near the heavy lift or aerial refueling assets that the RAF possess.

      • Ed L

        The Japanese have great AIP submarines.

      • muzzleloader

        The UK Defense Review of 2010
        was devestating, with massive cut across the board for all thier branches. The Royal Navy is the service where the effects are most evident. The one CV they had, the Ark Royal was scrapped, along with 4 frigates and 5 destroyers.
        In one fell swoop, the RN lost 1/3 of thier surface fleet, along with what was left of the fleet air arm
        and Maritime patrol.
        The Brits are working hard to reverse the decline, but the recovery will be a long process.

  • .Hugo.

    i have serious doubt that the royal navy can really challenge the chinese navy nowadays in the south china sea.
    as talking about island militarization, the u.k. has long done that on the ascension island and diego garcia. china has to enhance its defense in its scs territory as it is other “great powers” and their vassels are actually threatening its sovereignty there.

    • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

      So far this year the PLAN have launched 100,000 tonnes of combat vessels….. in 7 months!

      Britain has launched an unarmed polar research vessel.

      The Royal Navy couldn’t challenge the Taiwanese navy nowadays, let alone the PLAN

      • PolicyWonk

        “Britain has launched an unarmed polar research vessel.”
        Thats “Boaty McBoatface” to you!

        • muzzleloader

          You are referring to HMS Magpie.

  • Never have so few… To all you nay sayers do not underestimate the Brits. Quality vs. quanity and a tradition of staying the course and no matter the odds winning. SCPO USN Ret.

    • DaSaint


  • Western

    If I was a British sailor I would be very concerned about the social unrest in my country, particularly London. I wonder where are my SAS and soldier buddies when my auntie and uncle are being knifed in the streets.
    As a nation, Britain is falling to the 10th Crusade. Their Navy will cease to exist.

    • UKExpat

      Do you actually believe the rubbish you write. I live in the UK and you are talking absolute nonsense!

  • DaSaint

    Always love the spirit of the Brits, if not the realities. The reality is they’re quality fighters in any conflict, but they need to allocate much more resources to the Royal Navy and to all their armed forces. If the RN is the tip of the spear, then they need to build at least 12 Type 26 Frigates. Stop fooling around with the Type 31e. Just design it for export, and export it! That’s what the French and Dutch do. They build the higher capability vessels for their navies, and export similar but smaller less-capable designs.

    I also sense a subtle nudge here for the US to purchase more UK defense equipment. That could include missiles and sensors, but since this is a naval forum, I’m sensing that he’s also plugging the Type 26. A licensing agreement to build them here would probably earn BAE 10% on the construction contract, or close to $100M per vessel. Nice trade off for the F-35 purchases. Watch this space…

  • Ed L

    The Royal Navy needs a half a dozen Crusiers, another dozen Destroyers and a dozen more Frigates

  • Jack D Ripper

    Hopefully you aren’t telling yourself that gave

  • katzkiner

    England is well on it’s way to becoming the Islamic Republic of Englandstan-
    there’s no England anymore.
    The worlds’ loss.

    • UKExpat

      You are talking absolute stupid bullshit!