U.K. To Establish Fund For Development Of Next Generation Military Equipment

12 August 2016

The U.K. government on Friday said it would set up an £800 million ($1 billion) fund aimed at fostering the swift development of next generation military equipment for its armed forces in a strategy that echoes a similar drive for innovation by the U.S. military.

The U.K. Defense Ministry’s plan includes the establishment of a research unit to study technological trends and their possible military applications. The ministry would then invite private sector companies to pitch for investments from the fund of about £800 million over 10 years. The ministry plans to launch the initiative in September.

The ministry hopes to develop technologies such as surveillance drones inspired by dragonflies, laser weapons, mobile robots that can investigate incidents involving chemical materials, sensors to survey underground structures in minutes and virtual-reality helmets that can help in training for calling in airstrikes, it said. It added that the aim is to improve the way the government collaborates with industry, academia and its allies.

The initiative comes after the British government last year announced plans for a 7% increase in the country’s defense-equipment budget to £178 billion ($222.5 billion) for the next decade—including investment in Lockheed Martin Corp. F-35 jet fighters and U.S.-made maritime-patrol aircraft. The increase was seen as an attempt to reverse capability gaps left by sharp cuts in military spending and manpower in the previous major defense review in 2010.

The U.K. innovation initiative echoes the U.S.’s so-called third offset strategy, which aims to boost military innovation in the coming years to maintain an advantage over adversaries such as China and Russia.

“This new approach will help to keep Britain safe while supporting our economy, with our brightest brains keeping us ahead of our adversaries,” Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in the statement.

Trevor Taylor, an expert in military procurement and management at the Royal United Services Institute, a British defense and security think tank, said numerous countries were looking to develop their own defense industrial capabilities to reduce their dependence on foreign suppliers and boost their own economies.


Source : wsj.com