Army Promised 'Unrelenting Transformation' In Vision For Future

General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith says Special Operations and Intelligence will be prioritised in the coming years.

The head of the British Army has promised a future of "unrelenting transformation" for the service.

In a prepared speech about the military's approach to the Integrated Review on defence, security and foreign policy, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith stressed the importance of growing "Special Operations and intelligence", cyber and "unconventional warfare" capabilities, while also being "ready to fight and win because a conventional war in the future cannot be ruled out".

He also looked ahead to a future where humans and machines working together is the norm within five years.

"We will further develop our expertise in orchestrating intelligence and counter-intelligence; information operations; and unconventional warfare," he said in the prepared speech.

"Mastering non-lethal effects and stabilisation to deliver soft power in hard places."

A "boots and bots" approach will help to tackle competitors "who operate so freely on the seams and blurred boundaries of our security and legal frameworks", while committing to greater land capability – including Special Operations.

He added that the 'new' Army would be "fit for the demands of the digital age: more lethal, more agile and more expeditionary, more of the time". 

Warrior upgrade at Bovington in Dorset 221119 CREDIT BFBS
Could armoured vehicles one day be a command post for robots and drones?

Gen Carleton-Smith pledged to "enhance our persistent presence around the world alongside the RAF, Navy, Government departments and private sector", providing what he called "lily pads".

Despite stating that "the current system for fielding new technologies is simply not good enough", the Army chief set his sights on human-machine teaming being "common place" by 2025.

A detailed vision of on-the-ground capability followed: "In time, Armoured Fighting Vehicles will be command hubs – 'motherships' – commanding teams of robots and, thereby, generating a new form of combat mass," the he said.

"They will be supported by longer range and more powerful artillery than the Army has ever used, firing on targets identified by swarms of drones."

The Army chief added: "The first robotic vehicles will be in the hands of 2 PARA and School of Infantry this month."

As well as causing the Integrated Review to be postponed, the coronavirus pandemic has influenced the Army’s response to it.

Emerging challenges which the UK was "only just beginning to grasp" have now been compounded by the strategic impact of the virus, the Army chief said.

Gen Carleton-Smith said the intention behind the briefing was not to "prejudge the results" of what Downing Street has labelled the biggest review of its kind "since the end of the Cold War", but to share the Army’s plan to tackle "Great Power competition" in the coming years.