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Laurie Clarke

Reporter

UK army plans to scrap tanks in favour of cyber warfare tech

The British army is thinking about scrapping its greying fleet of 227 Challenger 2 tanks in a push to modernise its arsenal for the dystopian future of warfare, according to a report from the Times.

Given the eye-watering cost of upgrading the “obsolete” tanks and the armoured fighting vehicles that support them on the battlefield, the army is considering ditching them and investing in cyber, space and other “cutting-edge” technologies instead.

The MoD is preparing for its funding to be slashed in the wake of massive public spending during the coronavirus crisis, and this has been proposed as a better use of money. The proposal is part of the government’s integrated foreign policy, defence and security review, which is due to be finished in November.

Apparently, the UK is already testing the waters with Nato allies about taking its emphasis off heavy armour.

The Times reports that some defence sources say the move will contribute to a diminished leadership role for the UK in Nato. But wider debate argues that the future of warfare is likely technological – covering autonomous or remotely controlled weapons such as drones, cyber attacks and information warfare.

Reports in July said that a leaked spending plan from the defence and security review proposed slashing the army by 20,000 troops in order to make way for increased cyber warfare spending. Dominic Cummings is apparently leading the charge for more cyber warfare, space and artificial intelligence projects.

In a blog post from last year, Cummings called the military procurement process a “farce”, saying the military “continued to squander billions of pounds, enriching some of the worst corporate looters and corrupting public life via the revolving door of officials/lobbyists”.

The British army is already doubling down on its cyber arsenal. It invested more than £40m on developing a new Cyber Security Operations Capability (CSOC) in 2019.

In June, it set up a new cyber regiment tasked with taking charge of its in-house security operations centre.

Another cyber unit currently in action is the 77th Brigade, an information operations unit that uses “targeted information activity” as a way “to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries”.

The government also has a National Offensive Cyber Programme, which aims for the UK to become a “world leader in offensive cyber capability”. The programme is run in partnership by the MoD and GCHQ, and is reportedly furnished with a budget of £250m and 2,000 staff.