Defence budget boost to fund cutting-edge tech

The government will fund a National Cyber Force (NCF), an Artificial Intelligence (AI) agency and a new Space Command as part of its largest military investment in 30 years.

Earlier this week Number 10 announced an increase of £16.5 billion for the UK defence budget.

The government said that the funding would enable the UK to position itself as a global leader in cyber and space.

In a statement the government said that enemies to Britain can do harm “through the mobile phones in their pockets or the computers in their homes” and that UK defence must operate at all times with leading, cutting-edge technology to tackle these kinds of threats.

“I have taken this decision in the teeth of the pandemic because the defence of the realm must come first,” the prime minister said. “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.”

The investment in defence will fund the NCF, a partnership between GCHQ and the Ministry of Defence that involves conducting cyber operations to disrupt hostile state activities, terrorists and criminals, which has been in the pipeline for a number of years.

The organisation will carry out a number of cyber operations including: interfering with a mobile phone to prevent a terrorist from being able to communicate with their contacts, helping to prevent the internet from being used as a global platform for serious crimes, including sexual abuse of children and fraud; and keeping UK military aircraft safe from targeting by hostile weapons systems.

Director GCHQ Jeremy Fleming said: “For over a century, GCHQ has worked to keep the UK safe. Cyber security has become an integral part of this mission as we strive to make the UK the safest place to live and do business online. We are a world-leading cyber power.

“Today the National Cyber Force builds out from that position of defensive strength. It brings together intelligence and defence capabilities to transform the UK’s ability to contest adversaries in cyber space, to protect the country, its people and our way of life.

“Working in close partnership with law enforcement and international partners, the National Cyber Force operates in a legal, ethical and proportionate way to help defend the nation and counter the full range of national security threats.”

The government also announced that it would fund a new ‘Space Command’ capable of launching a satellite rocket by 2022.

Alongside space and cyber security, the defence budget will fund a new AI agency, but the government did not give any further details about the investment.

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