Home » News & Analysis » Official: NATO Heart of U.K. Defense Strategy Post European Union Exit

Official: NATO Heart of U.K. Defense Strategy Post European Union Exit

Two F-35B Lightning II fighter successfully landed onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 25, 2018. Lockheed Martin Photo

The U.K. will remain committed to NATO and to being a high-end defense partner even after it withdraws from the European Union in March, the British defense acquisition chief predicted on Tuesday.

“NATO is at the heart of our defense strategy,” Stuart Andrew said while at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. Tuesday. Noting London already is well above the 2-percent threshold on security spending, he added, “I can’t see any of that changing,” even as the government tightens its belt in other areas to prepare for Brexit.

With the exit deadline approaching, he said Britain is stressing to its European allies their need to meet the 2-percent commitment to NATO to deter further aggression by Russia. He also said the U.K. was willing to work with members of the E.U. who are not NATO members on security matters.

“If someone hurts one partner, we are there,” Andrew said, especially to the frontline countries bordering Russia. He cited Royal Air Force deployments to the Baltic nations and Poland as examples of providing reassurance and bolstering deterrence. “We have to show … we have the capability to stop Russian aggression.”

Stuart Andrew

More than 20 percent of London’s defense budget is going into modernization – including carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth now operating off the U.S. East Coast, buying and manufacturing its full complement of 138 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, funding the Type 26 frigate for its own use and for sale to allies like Australia and possibly Canada, and its next generation of Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarines.

He added the prime minister and the chancellor of the exchequer, who handles the United Kingdom’s spending, put 1 billion more pounds “into key capabilities – naval, anti-submarine warfare, cyber.”

While defense industrial cooperation between Washington and London is “closer and broader” than it has even been, Andrew warned, no longer “does NATO and the West have a monopoly on technological reach.”

That challenge across all domains not only comes from Russia and China or lesser powers like Iran and North Korea, but also terrorists like al Qaeda and the Islamic State and lone wolves.

Andrew also added a note of caution to an “America First” policy in defense procurement.

“Our challenge now is to make sure trading traffic moves in both directions,” he said, pointedly reminding the audience that Great Britain willingly shared its expertise in “the jet turbine and bouncing bomb” in World War II.

Andrew a number of times in his remarks stressed the role of interoperability to meet today’s threats and new ones over the horizon.

Looking at London’s pursuit of a follow-on to the F-35B, called the Tempest, he said, “this is about where we go next.” He added it was important “to keep the skills we got” in aircraft development and production, as well as in shipbuilding and for land forces.

Remarking that the Type 26 frigate was the first warship Britain was making for export since the 1970s, the Tempest venture “is also looking at our allies across the globe [and] where we go in the future.”

Likewise in Europe, London wants “to be careful not to duplicate” efforts in defense modernization with nations in or out of NATO. The goal “is work collaboratively with our allies” and partners.

  • j James

    Thank you for the bouncing bombs, and yes you did share. However the credit should go to Sir Newton.

    • El_Sid

      Bouncing bombs are a weird one to mention in this context – although they have a special place in the British histories of WWII, less than two dozen were ever deployed, and none went to the US.

      The gift of “radar” (more accurately the cavity magnetron) is the usual one that gets mentioned, although the Tizard Mission brought all sorts of goodies to the US, from proximity fuses to the Frisch–Peierls memorandum which was one step on the road to atom bombs.

      As far as bouncing bombs go, Barnes Wallis deserves more credit than Newton I’d say.

  • RunningBear

    The 70 year old NATO (29 members) began 8 years before the EU (28 members), with 22 common countries in each organization. Common associations and common goals, make common allies. The 6&7 different countries are well influenced by these allies.

    As NATO progresses in developing common aircraft and weapons in common squadrons, airforces, armies and navys. The common ships that are being developed are being provided with common systems and weapons, further integrating these allies with tactics for offense and defense.

    As the F-35 becomes more common, perhaps the Type 26 frigate should also be a more common design even for the new US frigate (ASW). The LCS hulls should be used to test out the ASW and MCM modules and these tested systems could be a basis for the systems to be integrated into the new frigate hulls. SSDS, CEC and NIFC-CA are all integration of ship systems that must be expanded to include all US ships that float and fight.

    Fly Navy

    • El_Sid

      I’m not sure that the USN is particularly relevant to NATO MCM – having gone for moonshots that failed, they’re now some way behind where the Europeans are. See eg www thinkdefence co uk/ship-to-shore-logistics/naval-mine-countermeasures/ – it’s a little out of date, but gives a reasonable overview, see also the link at the bottom to an account of the clearance of Umm Qasr in 2003, where the USN turned up without ammunition or explosives.

      • RunningBear

        USN MCM is not their strong suit, but the NATO allies bring to the table programs which thru their diversity have evolved the current technologies to match their individual system requirements. Simple point, NATO members have a MCM program, USN is “up in the air”.

        The LCS MCM module was a way forward for the USN to test a consolidated program to define strengths and weaknesses and to provide a path forward for the MCM module/ warfare and MCM dis-aggregate for non-LCS applications.

        MCM is definitely a joint program being led by the USN/USMC (off-shore, near-shore) and followed by the USAF (aerial mining) and US Army (to disembark for maritime invasion); establishing and maintaining a beachhead.
        Fly Navy

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Sent there to head off any questions as to why the pro-EU Prime Minister has agreed to sign up to the European Military Alliance, including associate membership of PESCO!

  • El_Sid

    @John – Canada selected the Type 26 two weeks ago for their next frigate,

    The extra billion in the Budget won’t go far, it’s just covering some of the cost overruns on Dreadnought and P-8, in part thanks to the Brexit-induced hit to exchange rates and the messed-up welding on the missile tubes. The equipment budget still has some severe challenges to manage.

    General consensus here is that we’ll believe 138xF-35 when we see it, we may end up buying that number over its lifetime but won’t have 138 operational at any one time, some will retire before the last are delivered.

    • Marauder 2048

      The UK bought P-8 through FMS which unlike direct commercial doesn’t really permit Boeing to currency hedge and then the UK didn’t sufficiently hedge themselves.

  • Marauder 2048

    “Great Britain willingly shared its expertise”

    Willingly? The US insisted on something other than IOUs after the UK defaulted on her WWI debt during the interwar years.