Royal Navy fleet to grow with warships armed with laser guns after £16.5bn defence boost by Boris Johnson

BORIS Johnson has vowed to grow the Royal Navy’s surface fleet and arm future warships with hi-tech laser guns after green-lighting the biggest surge in defence spending since the end of the Cold War.

Thursday, 19th November 2020, 4:14 pm

The prime minister unveiled the four-year financial deal for the Ministry of Defence (MoD), worth a huge £16.5bn, to MPs in the Commons today.

The windfall aims to ‘transform’ the military, developing cutting-edge capabilities in the future battlefield of cyber and space.

It includes the creation of an agency dedicated to artificial intelligence, and a ‘space command’ capable of launching the UK’s first rocket by 2022.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Artist's impression of the threats the laser could deal with on a Type 26 (courtesy MBDA)

The proposal guaranteed the construction of eight state-of-the-art Type 26 frigates and five general-purpose Type 31 frigates, which combined would replace the current fleet of Type 23 warships.

Read More

Read More
Navy deploys to Arctic Circle to counter Russian threat

And in a victory for naval campaigners, the government also announced it will ‘commit to the next generation Type 32’ frigate.

The new warships are expected to operate in a general purpose role, bolstering the navy’s ability to tackle drug smugglers, piracy and terrorism while offering more vessels to react to humanitarian disasters.

HMS Queen Elizabeth to deploy to east Asia on her maiden mission next year. Photo: Royal Navy

It’s understood the vessels could enter service in the late 2020s or early 2030s, joining the two other breeds of frigates and the Type 45 destroyers.

The news was welcomed by military top brass in Whitehall, with a defence source telling The News: ‘This is the first time that we have grown the frigate and destroyer force in my living memory...It’s great news for us.’

Mr Johnson said his defence modernisation package would ‘end the era of retreat’ and ‘upgrade our capabilities across the board’ when it came to the armed forces.

Speaking to MPs today, he said replacing traditional guns with energy weapons would help solve the problem of troops running out of ammo, and that lasers were among ‘technologies that will revolutionise warfare’.

‘Our warships and combat vehicles will carry directed energy weapons, destroying targets with inexhaustible lasers. For them, the phrase “out of ammunition” will become redundant,’ he told MPs.

Mr Johnson also confirmed that Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth would lead a task force to east Asia in a challenge to China.

Describing it as the most Britain’s ‘most ambitious deployment for two decades, the PM said: ‘We shall deploy more of our naval assets in the world’s most important regions, protecting the shipping lanes that supply our nation.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the news but said that under the Tory-led government, defence spending had plummeted by £8bn in real terms and that the MoD was still grappling to deal with a £13bn black hole in its equipment budget.

‘The additional funding today is on foundations that have been seriously weakened over the last 10 years,’ he said.

Looking for the latest Royal Navy updates from Portsmouth? Join our new Royal Navy news Facebook group to keep up to date.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

The News is more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism.

You can subscribe here for unlimited access to Portsmouth news online - as well as our new Puzzles section.