01 February 2012 Thales UK
In an era when Government funding is in decline, technologies are evolving at record speeds and Britain aspires to maintain its leading international role, it’s clear that the UK approach to acquisition and technology needs to be brought up to date.
We therefore welcome the clarity that the White Paper brings, and support the use of competition and ‘off the shelf’ acquisition, which is a pragmatic recognition of the approach that Thales has taken on many of its UK programmes. Critical to the delivery of this approach is the Government’s recognition of the importance of UK-based systems integration skills and key technologies that provide the battle-winning edge.
On the ground in Afghanistan, both the military and the Exchequer have benefited from Thales UK’s ability to fit ‘military off the shelf’ solutions to UK forces’ needs. Whether in Armoured Vehicles such as Mastiff or UAVs like the Hermes 450 (which has flown over 50,000 hours in support of operations in theatre) recent experience demonstrates the feasibility of combining an international supply chain with domestic integration skills to deliver battle-winning capability. What matters to the soldier on the ground is not where a piece of kit was manufactured, but whether it delivers the capability he needs.
UK Armed Forces must have unique capabilities which give them an edge in the field, on the seas, in the air and in cyberspace. The challenge going forward, however, is that the specific circumstances of each capability area vary wildly, frustrating one-size-fits-all approaches. We therefore look forward to working with Government to understand how the high level strategy laid out in this Paper will carefully be put into effect in a timely manner in each case.
The Paper also confirms the need to make special arrangements for a specific set of ‘strategic’ technologies, and the inclusion of capabilities like electronic warfare and cryptography highlights how C4ISR technologies are central to delivering ‘operational advantage’ in the 21st century.
Research and Technology underpins all of the UK’s Defence goals – responding to fast-changing threats in an agile way, improving export market share and performance, convergence with Security capabilities, and reorienting the economy towards advanced technology skills and manufacturing. Whilst the White Paper’s commitment to a consistent level of funding provides certainty, it is clear that this level will need to rise significantly above current levels if the UK is to achieve its broader goals.
Exports and strategic relationships are clearly critical in developing future capability and creating economies of scale, and Thales welcomes the commitment to Anglo-French collaboration as a key contributor in realising the UK’s ambitions at a time of constrained budgets.
Similarly, Government’s emphasis on the use of service-based solutions is an effective and pragmatic response to the decline in military headcount. This recognises the benefits generated through Contractor Support to Operations in recent years, and looks forward to the emerging Whole Force Concept where reservists and industry play greater roles supporting the military force.