‘critical’ Undersea Cables To Be Protected By New Royal Navy Ship

A new Royal Navy surveillance ship is to be built to guard “critical” undersea cables.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned “the lights could go out” if the national infrastructure was lost, and the cables were “incredibly important”.

He also told that Russia had “taken a deep interest” in the cables and the UK would be “deeply exposed” without further measures.

Some parts were already announced in the week, including the lifting of the cap on the number of nuclear warheads the United Kingdom holds in its stockpile.

The government had previously committed to reducing the extent to a maximum of 180 by the centre of the 2020s, but the move would allow the amount to succeed in 260.

Mr Wallace said it might make sure the country’s nuclear deterrent was “credible”, and would still be less than other nations – pointing to France, which has 300.

But Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said the proposal had “baffled” opposition parties and that they wouldn’t support it until the measure had been justified by the govt.

Hundreds of thousands of miles of undersea cables circle the world, providing internet and communications links between nations and continents.

The Ministry of Defence said they are “vital to the global economy and communications between governments” and are at “risk of sabotage” due to “submarine warfare”.

The new Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance ship is going to be fitted “with advanced sensors and can carry a variety of remotely operated and autonomous undersea drones which can collect data”.

The vessel, staffed by 15 people and thanks to inheriting service in 2024, will perform operations in both the United Kingdom and the high sea.

The MoD added it’ll also “be ready to support with other defence tasks, including exercises and operations within the Arctic which can become an increasingly contested area”.

Mr Wallace said: “The lights could leave if we lose our critical national infrastructure across the board. Cables are one part of that critical national infrastructure and incredibly important.

“Russia has certainly taken a deep interest in those cables, not only to the UK but obviously to the continent of Europe.

“[The vessel’s] job is going to be to protect not only critical national infrastructure but other things. It will be able to do other surveillance functions around the sea and everything else and I think it is really important that we invest in that because otherwise we are deeply exposed.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised his plan for modernising the soldiers and policy will help make the United Kingdom “match-fit”.

The Integrated Review, first announced in 2019, will begin the UK’s defence and foreign affairs priorities for subsequent decade approximately, during which cyber warfare, especially, is expected to become a greater threat.

Broader policy from the review was announced in the week, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab pledging to spice up alliances within the Indo-Pacific region, describing it as “increasingly the geopolitical centre of the world”.

But more on how the soldiers might be overhauled are going to be announced on Monday, following a lift in funding late last year.

The defence secretary was pushed by Andrew Marr on what the new command paper would mean for the size of the forces, but Mr Wallace said that was a decision for Parliament.

He added: “What I can give you is the assurance that we have had a record settlement, so I am making decisions, not in an environment of falling tide-like in previous cuts, but in an environment where I am going to decide to have the right Armed Forces to match our ambition and meet the threat.”

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