10th May 2012 Washington DC, USA

Keeping Britain’s Armed Forces versatile, effective and capable

At this month’s NATO summit in Chicago, the UK, US and our allies will have a hard look at how we are equipped to confront threats in the twenty-first century.

Recent NATO missions have shown the benefit of modern capabilities and Smart Defence. Unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and smart munitions were crucial to the air campaign in Libya that protected civilian lives and led to the removal of Muammar Qaddhafi. These same technologies have been crucial to protecting and assisting our Armed Forces on the ground in Afghanistan.

But we also need to be ready for the full spectrum of security challenges we may face in the future. With allies on both sides of the Atlantic facing the reality of reducing budgets during difficult economic times, this requires rigorous prioritisation of defence spending.

It’s a process with which the UK is already familiar. In 2010, the UK conducted a thorough review of its national security strategy and the resources required to deliver it – the Strategic Defence and Security Review. This prioritised the national security risks we expect to face in the future, and made decisions about the type of military force the UK will need in the next ten years.  It began the process of transformation towards Future Force 2020: a vision for the UK’s armed forces over the next decade describing a military which is versatile, effective and capable.

A major element of Future Force 2020 is a carrier-strike capability, based around new Queen Elizabeth class carriers and the new Joint Strike Fighter.  This week, the Defence Secretary announced this capability will now be delivered using the more developed short take-off and vertical landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter, in order to avoid delay and extra expense.

Afterburner blazes as a short take-off and vertical landing B-Variant of the Joint Strike Fighter practises full-power take-offs. Picture: Lockheed Martin

Work on the aircraft is progressing – the UK’s first production Joint Strike Fighter made its inaugural flight last month. Construction of the carriers is also well underway; HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to be handed over to the Royal Navy for sea trials in 2017 and flight trials the following year.

This powerful carrier-strike group will sit within a broader military force that includes new attack submarines and Type 45 Frigates, a fleet of Typhoon aircraft, world class cyber capabilities, special forces, a continuous at sea nuclear deterrent and a full spectrum Army capable of deploying either a brigade sized force for long term operations or a division sized force for one off contingencies.

The Future Force of 2020 will be a versatile, effective, capable force, meaning Britain is ready to play its part in ensuring collective readiness to respond to the security challenges of the 21st century.

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About Major General Buster Howes

Major General Buster Howes OBE is currently serving as the Defence Attaché at the British Embassy in Washington. Buster was educated at Christ’s Hospital and York and London Universities and…

Major General Buster Howes OBE is currently serving as the Defence Attaché at the British Embassy in Washington. Buster was educated at Christ’s Hospital and York and London Universities and was commissioned into the Royal Marines in 1982.

Initially Buster served as a troop commander in 42 Commando RM, deploying for the first time on operations, in Northern Ireland. After training a recruit troop, he qualified as a Mountain Leader and was then posted to Recce Troop, 45 Commando RM. After a stint as AdC to Major General Training, Reserve and Special Forces RM, he was appointed to the 2nd Division, USMC, as a Regimental Operations Officer (for the First Gulf War). He subsequently commanded Charlie Company, 40 Commando RM; Commando Training Wing at CTCRM; 42 Commando RM (for the Second Gulf War); and 3 Commando Brigade. Buster has worked in personnel policy, in the Fleet HQ; as a planner in the Rapid Reaction Force Operations Staff of UNPROFOR, in Bosnia; and as a strategist in the Naval Staff Directorate, in MOD. He has attended the Naval Staff College, the Higher Command and Staff Course, the Royal College of Defence Studies and the Pinnacle Course. He has served as a Divisional Director for ICSC(L) at the JSCSC, and as COS to Commander Amphibious Forces (CAF). He was Chief Joint Co-ordination and Effects, in HQ ISAD X in Kabul and then Director Naval Staff, in 2007.

In addition, he also served as Head of Overseas Operations in MOD before being appointed Commandant General Royal Marines/CAF in February 2010. Buster commanded Operation ATLANTA, the EU Counter Piracy Mission in the Indian Ocean for 15 months up to 1 August. He is also a member of the Navy Board, Captain of Deal Castle, President of the Royal Marines Mountaineering Club, and Vice President of the RNRM Children’s Charity.