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House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee published HSC evidence on the implications of the War in Ukraine for UK Defence

21 May, 2024

The House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee has published the HSC’s evidence on the implications of the war in Ukraine for UK defense. The full submission can be read here. The inquiry comes as the conflict enters its third summer and Russia has intensified its offensive operations.

Our evidences notes that:

  • The trends observed in relation to how the Russia-Ukraine War has been conducted have so far been ones of continued evolutionary rather than revolutionary change. Most notable has been the high intensity of the utilisation of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) and attack role.

  • The increasingly pervasive presence of air, ground, sea, cyber, electromagnetic and space-based surveillance systems together with the ability to rapidly gather, process and distribute the data they generate to improve situational awareness has made the concealment and movement of assets and personnel more difficult and their targeting easier.

  • The ability to strike targets with accuracy at an extended range is now available to any country (and indeed some non-state actors) with a reasonable industrial base and/or access to the relevant (often commercially available) components.

  • There is a significant likelihood that the Russia-Ukraine War will be the last occasion in the near future in which the US can take the leading role in a major European security crisis even as an equipment and munitions provider.

  • The potential lessons to be learned need to be caveated with regard to the unique circumstances in which they take place, and it is important for the UK not to take lessons unquestioningly.

  • UK air and missile defence capabilities are undergoing some modest enhancements, although resource challenges are likely to limit their effectiveness, and additional investment would be desirable.

  • Given the admission of the inadequacy of stockpiles by the Government, transfers to Ukraine and the historic trend of wartime munitions expenditure being higher than anticipated, the UK does not appear to be positioned to sustain prolonged high-intensity warfare through either existing stockpiles or new production, but options exist to address these issues should resources be made available.

  • Consideration should be given to establishing a high-low procurement mix that would see the ‘gold plated’ systems acquired for the military largely in peacetime, while ‘good enough’ easier-to-produce counterparts are identified that could be put into variable rates of production in peacetime and war. Civilian industry should also be studied for its wartime potential in the same way that a list of militarily useful British-registered vessels is maintained by the Government.

Image: Ukrainian T-72AV tanks (Source:  Mil.gov.ua/Wikimedia via CC BY 4.0 DEED)

About Rowan Allport

Dr Rowan Allport is a Deputy Director who leads the HSC's Security and Defence team. Rowan holds a PhD in Politics and a MA in Conflict, Governance and Development from the University of York, as well as a BA (Hons) in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Hull. Specialising in strategic analysis and international security, Rowan's primary areas of interest lie in the defence issues in and around the NATO region, interstate conflict and US foreign policy discourse. He is also the lead author of HSC's recent ‘Fire and Ice: A New Maritime Strategy for NATO’s Northern Flank’ report. Rowan's publication credits include articles and commentary in Foreign Policy, The Diplomat, The Hill, DefenseOne, RealClearDefense, The Strategist, UK Defence Journal, Politics.co.uk and The National Interest. He has previously worked as a lobbyist for the Whitehouse Consultancy in Westminster, and as a Senior Analyst for RAND Europe's Security, Defence and Infrastructure team.