Defence Drone Strategy The UK’s Approach to Defence Uncrewed Systems

UK defence drone stratedgy

Is this 10 years too late? Can the UK catch up? Marvel at all the non UK systems in the doc (ed)

The return of war to Europe has demonstrated the essential requirement for a resilient, robust and agile approach to Defence procurement. The Integrated Review Refresh and Defence Command Paper recognise this challenge and underlines the importance of overhauling our acquisition system to ensure operational advantage. The conflict in Ukraine has become a very visible representation of a ‘new way of war’, one characterised by innovation, the proliferation of technology, digitisation of the battlefield and the need to rapidly develop capability fit for the tempo of operations.

There is no clearer example than the development and employment of uncrewed systems, where low-cost solutions are increasingly defeating more exquisite capabilities and delivering disproportionate impact on the battlefield. The UK must learn from the Ukrainian experience, amongst other lessons, to position ourselves as a world leader in uncrewed systems. This will require changes in our processes, culture and relationship with industry. We will need to foster a culture of delivery-focused innovation across Defence, able to rapidly pull research & development (R&D) breakthroughs into the frontline.

The UK’s leading manufacturing, robotics and digital sectors will be vital in supporting Defence.

As this document’s case studies from today’s armed forces attest, the potential of uncrewed technology is far from confined to one area of capability. We are harnessing this new approach for use in naval mine clearance; one-way attack; heavy lift and Intelligence/Surveillance. Meanwhile, a concerted focus is underway to ensure we can counter such threats and provide the protection from uncrewed vehicles that our forces require.

Our approach to uncrewed systems will drive a more deliberate and coherent partnership with our industrial base, ensuring vital onshore resilience and component stockpiles. In close partnership with industry, we will spirally and collaboratively develop platforms and components to keep up with relentless cycles of battlefield adaptation, whilst driving sovereign industrial strength – and the export opportunities necessary to reinforce such resilience.

We will also work across Government to foster a pro-innovation regulatory environment, delivering the ability for uncrewed military platforms to be tested as effectively as possible on UK sites, and within our sovereign airspace.

Ultimately, to the perennial procurement question of mass, I am clear that looking ahead it is in the uncrewed space that we will increasingly drive the mass of our forces, whilst in parallel strengthening the lethality and survivability of all our platforms and personnel. If we can deliver the technological and industrial base to drive excellence in our performance and production of uncrewed systems, command and control and software, we will deliver a more potent total military effect in a way that truly strengthens our overall deterrence.

James Cartlidge MP
Minister for Defence Procurement