UK defence strategy signals continued investment in Gibraltar

The UK will continue defence investment in its “global hubs” including Gibraltar, the UK Government said in a command paper published on Tuesday.

The new strategy was launched by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who said that lessons learned on the battlefields of Ukraine had triggered a wider shake-up of the UK’s approach to its defence.

The updated defence command paper set out plans to speed up the delivery of new kit, even if it is not a “100% solution”, in order to secure a military advantage.

Mr Wallace said the UK was spending “significantly more” than previously planned on research and development “to stay ahead in the technologies proving themselves vital” in Ukraine, including artificial intelligence, quantum and robotics.

The document published on Tuesday included a reference to Gibraltar in a section titled ‘Persistent Presence’, in which the UK left no doubt of the importance it assigns to its base on the Rock as a key element of a front-footed approach to global security.

“Our persistent presence is an integral aspect of our deterrence by denial and contributes to the UK’s ability to project soft power,” the document said.

“Our campaigning levers and activities outlined below will help us better to anticipate, prevent, reduce, and resolve conflicts.”

Looking ahead, the document added: “We will continue to invest in our Global Hubs in Cyprus, Gibraltar, Germany, Oman and Kenya.”

“We have dedicated naval facilities in Bahrain and are developing a defence strategic hub in Oman: these provide a platform from which we can project assets and increase training operations with partners across the Indian Ocean with greater frequency.”

“Our strategic hub in Kenya provides a regional anchor for training and capacity-building across the region, underpinning our commitment to tackling collective threats such as terrorism in the Horn of Africa region.”

“These hubs, and our other overseas bases and support facilities, provide a Defence presence in important parts of the world.”

“They act as a springboard for Defence to project globally, provide vital access for our own forces, Government partners and our allies, and are essential to our being able to combat current and future threats. Investment in our hubs will enable Defence to support next-generation capabilities across all five domains.”


Mr Wallace told MPs that “following in Ukraine’s footsteps” the UK was increasing the sourcing of “those £100 solutions that can stop 100 million threats in their tracks”.

And he said that a closer alliance with defence firms would get technology into the hands of troops quicker.

“Ukraine reminds us that time waits for no-one. It’s no good holding out for a 100% solution that is obsolete by the time it is launched, 80% is often good enough, especially if it mean swiftly putting kit into the hands of our service personnel,” he said.

That equipment could be “rapidly upgraded” in the course of a conflict, he suggested.

There would be five-year delivery periods for hardware and three years for digital programmes to avoid projects dragging on for years.

“As Defence Secretary, to import the lessons learned from this conflict to our own forces is important,” Mr Wallace told the Commons.

“While I wish such lessons were generated in a different way, this conflict has become an incubator for new ways of war.”

Warfare in the 2020s was a “whole-of-nation, internationally-partnered” situation which was “innovative, digitised”.

There was “a recognition that there is a trade-off between assurance levels and operational impact”, he added.

Mr Wallace also highlighted new measures to improve conditions for personnel, with great career flexibility, a rent freeze and new investment in service accommodation.

The command paper refresh updates a 2021 document which set out plans to cut the size of the trained army to 72,500, although this was later revised to 73,000.

The latest figures showed the full-time trade trained strength of the army was 75,710 in January this year.

Mr Wallace defended the cuts under questioning in the Commons, insisting there was “no point pretending we can have huge numbers” if they were not properly equipped.

“We think the lessons of Ukraine do show – yes, you need infantry and tanks – but you can also dominate the ground sometimes without even being there,” he said.

“The proliferation of cheap drones, the use of highly accurate artillery, allows fewer people to cover more area and to dominate more area.”

He added that while troops were needed to take ground, they had to be “properly protected and equipped so they can hold it, otherwise – as you see with the Russian forces – they take the ground and they are all killed”.

Measures included in the DCP23 command paper refresh include an additional £2.5 billion investment into stockpiles and munitions.

There was confirmation of a planned global response force to enable the UK to “get there first”, bringing together deployed and high-readiness forces.

PA contributed reporting for this article.