Britain’s Special Forces will be tasked alongside MI6 to counter activities of Russian military intelligence in a major defence shake up, the head of the Army has said.
General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith suggested the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) would be put on a ‘different trajectory’ in a major overhaul of the armed forces to be announced on Monday.
The overhaul could see Special Forces soldiers operating alongside MI6 to mount surveillance operations against Russian intelligence and military units.
The Army chief said some of their traditional roles would now be taken over by a new Ranger Regiment announced on Friday ahead of the publication of the Defence Command Paper.
He said that in future Special Forces ‘will be tracking the changing and accelerating nature of the threat.
It comes as, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said armed forces needed to adapt to counter threats which had ‘changed beyond recognition’ in the past 30 years.
He pledged additional investment for ‘intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance’ as well as for electronic warfare.
The National Cyber Force will be expanded, there will be a new Space Command to co-ordinate military and commercial operation and the Royal Navy will get a new Multi Role Ocean Surveillance ship (MROSS) protect vital undersea cables.
General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith suggested the SAS and SBS would be put on a ‘different trajectory’
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) said armed forces needed to adapt to counter threats which had ‘changed beyond recognition’ in the past 30 years
What will be announced in the upcoming Defence Command Paper?
Changes are set to include:
- Additional investment for ‘intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance’ as well as for electronic warfare
- Additional £3billion funding for the British Army
- The National Cyber Force will be expanded
- New Space Command to co-ordinate military and commercial operation
- Royal Navy will get a new Multi Role Ocean Surveillance ship (MROSS) protect vital undersea cables that are at ‘risk of sabotage’ by enemy submarines
However, while the Army would get an additional £3billion, there are also understood to be cuts with a reduction of around 10,000 troops expected.
There will also likely be cuts to armoured fighting vehicles and the last remaining C-130J Hercules transport aircraft.
General Carleton-Smith told The Sunday Telegraph: ‘The most persistent and lethal threats are those associated with hostile state actors.
‘So they’re tracking a different trajectory and what they leave behind is a vacuum where they need to hand off tasks, missions and responsibilities to a second echelon force.
‘The Rangers will fit neatly into that.’
It is likely that Special Forces units will be tasked alongside MI6 with uncovering the activities of Russian military intelligence – the GRU – thought to be responsible for the Salisbury nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, The Telegraph reports.
Elite units could also be charged with countering the activities of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organisation widely thought to act as proxies for the Kremlin.
Also writing in the paper, Mr Wallace added: ‘We can no longer take for granted the superiority of Western capabilities. Our enemies have infinitely more options,’ he said.
‘Encryption, precision, and information operations complicate the threat picture. We find ourselves constantly confronted in the ‘grey zone’ – aggressive actions below the threshold of open conflict.’
While the Army would get an additional £3billion, there are also understood to be cuts with a reduction of around 10,000 troops expected as well as cuts to armoured fighting vehicles and the last remaining C-130J Hercules transport aircraft.
The Army chief said some of their traditional roles would now be taken over by a new Ranger Regiment. (Stock image)
The move could see Special Forces soldiers operating alongside MI6 to counter operations Russian intelligence. Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian envoy says UK nuclear arms plan is illegal
Russia’s ambassador to Britain has accused the UK government of breaking its international treaty commitments with a plan to increase the country’s nuclear arsenal and said the political relationship between Moscow and London is ‘nearly dead’.
In a foreign and defence policy review published on Tuesday and endorsed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Britain said it needed to increase its nuclear arsenal in the face of evolving global security threats.
Britain said it would raise the upper limit on its nuclear warhead stock to 260 from 180. The same report also classified Russia as ‘the most acute threat to our security’ in the Euro-Atlantic region.
The Kremlin said at the time that it regretted the British nuclear decision, which it suggested would harm international stability, while the Russian foreign ministry described the move as a serious blow to international arms control.
Andrei Kelin, Russia’s ambassador to Britain, went further in an interview due to be broadcast on the London-based LBC radio station on Sunday, saying the plan looked illegal.
‘You are increasing the number of warheads by 40 per cent. This is a violation of the treaty of non-proliferation and many, many other agreements that are saying only a decline or a reduction in the number of nukes,’ Kelin told LBC, according to a partial transcript on the radio station’s website.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which Britain has ratified, came into force in 1970. The UK government has said its plans do not violate the pact.
Russian news agencies cited Kelin as saying that political relations between London and Moscow, which have become strained from events from Russia’s jailing of opposition politician Alexei Navalny to the poisoning in 2018 of a Russian double agent and his daughter, were ‘nearly dead’.
They cited Kelin as saying that only cultural and economic ties remained, while LBC cited him as saying that the last time he had spoken to British foreign minister Dominic Raab was in December 2019.