UK Air Defences 'Negligible' Due to Under-Investment, Warns Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman UK warns that Britain's air defence capabilities are "very limited, to the point of being negligible" due to long-term under-investment. The company's concerns are echoed by a report from the Royal United Services Institute, highlighting the need for increased investment in defence infrastructure.

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Bijay Laxmi
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UK Air Defences 'Negligible' Due to Under-Investment, Warns Northrop Grumman

UK Air Defences 'Negligible' Due to Under-Investment, Warns Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman UK, a leading defence contractor, has sounded the alarm over Britain's air defence capabilities, warning that they are "very limited, to the point of being negligible" as a result of long-term under-investment. The company's stark assessment, made in response to a parliamentary committee examining lessons from the war in Ukraine, highlights the significant risk this capability gap poses to national security.

Why this matters: The vulnerability of Britain's air defence systems has far-reaching implications for national security, potentially leaving the country open to aerial attacks that could have devastating consequences. Moreover, this capability gap underscores the need for increased investment in defence infrastructure to ensure the nation's readiness to respond to emerging threats.

Northrop Grumman UK, which supports key pillars of Britain's air defence such as the RAF's F-35 Lightning II and the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers and submarine fleet, contrasted the UK's capacity to deal with an air salvo to that of Poland. The Eastern European nation recently signed a $2.5bn deal with the US government to acquire a system that will synchronise its air defence weapons.

The company's concerns are echoed by a report from the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), which found that the UK's ground-to-air systems are "not currently equipped to be able to defeat many kinds of air threat." The report also warned that Russian submarines are within range to strike the UK without warning and that the number of personnel with expertise in air defences is "very small."

Northrop Grumman UK emphasized the urgent need for action, stating, "Put simply, the UK must strengthen investment in IAMD... This will require an investment in the architecture that delivers true integration, as Poland has done, alongside an investment in sensors and effectors." The company warned that the current capabilities are "very limited, to the point of being negligible, which is the result of long-term under-investment and an over-reliance on Nato partners' capabilities."

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) acknowledged that the challenge of protecting the UK against attack from the skies is at its most acute for over 30 years. Officials said they are exploring how to improve air defences, including discussions about building an Iron Dome similar to that used by Israel. A MoD spokesperson stated that the UK is well prepared for any event and defence of the UK would be taken alongside Nato allies.

The stark warning from Northrop Grumman UK and the Rusi report underscore the critical need for the UK to bolster its air defence capabilities. As the war in Ukraine continues and the risk of aerial attacks remains high, addressing this capability gap will be crucial in ensuring the nation's security and readiness to face potential threats from the skies.

Key Takeaways

  • Northrop Grumman UK warns Britain's air defence capabilities are "very limited, to the point of being negligible".
  • Long-term under-investment has left the UK vulnerable to aerial attacks.
  • Poland has invested $2.5bn in a system to synchronise its air defence weapons, outpacing the UK.
  • Rusi report finds UK's ground-to-air systems can't defeat many air threats, and personnel with air defence expertise are scarce.
  • MoD acknowledges the challenge and is exploring ways to improve air defences, including an Iron Dome-like system.