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Drones can make up for shrinking army, defence secretary claims

Technology like swarms of drones can make up for the shrinking size of Britain’s armed forces, Grant Shapps has suggested.

The defence secretary, speaking to the BBC, said Britain’s defence technology was “moving on very fast” as well as levels of investment.

Challenged on the armed forces capabilities, he said: “I would say the Ukraine war shows conventional things do matter.

“But [it’s] also new things like drones and swarms of drones and the UK has announced a £200m programme which will make us the biggest drone provider and development partner for Ukraine in the world.”

He stressed: “People often conflate our armed forces with one specific part of it and that’s wrong to do… you’ve got new areas like cyber and space as well.

“It’s not the number of people alone that matters its the lethality. It’s how capable our systems are of defence.”

Shapps said a new “laser weapon called Dragonfire” would soon be capable of doing what the navy is with the “Seaviper missile system… with a laser to bring down the incoming”.

He also argued the UK could still “turn them out when we need to”, highlighting that Britain was providing 40 per cent of NATO troops for an operation in Europe out of 32 countries. 

But he could not say when UK defence spending will hit 2.5 per cent of GDP, despite warning about rising global threat levels. 

He told Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg: “There is a trajectory upwards. I can’t give you the exact date because we’ve always said it’s as the economic conditions allow. But the point is we’re working to a plan.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper would not commit to Labour spending three per cent of GDP a year on defence if elected. She told Trevor Phillips On Sky News: “Decisions for future spending if Labour wins the election would be for a Labour chancellor.

“National security is the bedrock on which everything else in the country and everybody’s wellbeing is built and so of course that includes supporting our Armed Forces and making sure that they have the investment and the support that they need.”

She added: “We have been very clear about the importance of setting out how we will fund everything that we make a commitment for, how we will pay for everything. It is really important that people have value for money.”

Source: City A.M