WARSAW, Poland — The United Kingdom’s involvement in a new trilateral deal involving the U.S. and Australia indicates the British government’s rising concern over Chinese activities in the Pacific and how they could harm freedom of navigation at sea. However, the chairman of a parliamentary defense panel insists London is not losing sight of its own backyard in Europe, and therefore should increase defense spending.
“We don’t have the luxury to work independently given the challenges we all face,” Tobias Ellwood told Defense News during the second day of the Warsaw Security Forum, an event organized by the Casimir Pulaski Foundation think tank.
Under the AUKUS framework, announced Sept. 15, the U.S. and U.K. will aid Australia in building a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, among other emerging technologies.
“Britain is only spending 2 percent of its [gross domestic product] on defense. But the threats ahead are collectively greater than the ones from the Cold War when we were spending 4 percent,” Ellwood said.
He added that, with these emerging threats in mind, London is intensifying efforts to boost its space and cyber capacities. “The cyber and space capacities are dealt with, and money has already gone there,” Ellwood said. “But we also need a bigger Navy, and we are investing in it.”
However, more funds are also required to expand the U.K.’s capabilities in other fields amid cuts to some programs. Budget cuts have already forced the country to reduce its initial F-35 fighter jet order from 138 to 48 aircraft, he noted, and the British-led effort for a sixth-generation combat jet, dubbed Tempest, is still in flux.
BAE Systems is developing the aircraft in partnership with Leonardo UK, Rolls-Royce and MBDA UK.
Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.