back to article British military spends more on computers than weapons and ammo

The Ministry of Defence has admitted that it spends more on computer services than it does on weapons and ammunition for the Armed Forces. The startling admission came in a statistical publication issued by the department, breaking down how much of the £35bn defence budget is spent with British industry. Spending on weapons …

  1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

    IT equipment and weaponry aren't mutually exclusive

    When some of the people in this office are p***ing me off, I can imagine plenty of ways I could use a keyboard / laptop / whatever as an effective weapon to beat someone to death.

    1. m0rt

      Re: IT equipment and weaponry aren't mutually exclusive

      Want a hug?

      1. CrazyOldCatMan

        Re: IT equipment and weaponry aren't mutually exclusive

        Want a hug?

        Eww. What are you - American?

        We don't do hugs dammit - we're British. Just tell them to keep a stiff upper lip and buck their ideas up - that'll do it.

    2. Aladdin Sane

      Re: IT equipment and weaponry aren't mutually exclusive

      Using your bare hands is more satisfying.

      So I've been told.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: IT equipment and weaponry aren't mutually exclusive

        An unfortunate accident involving a window and a potted plant involves less legal ramifications...or so I've been taught.

  2. Aladdin Sane

    Brimstone is an air-to-surface missile, not a guided bomb.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

      True...although if you're on the receiving end of one such distinctions are largely academic - it's going to disrupt your plans for the rest of the day regardless.

      1. Aladdin Sane

        I'd at least like accurate reporting on my death.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          reports of my death are greatly exaggerated!

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        The 12 pound warhead on the brimstone missile hits what it's aimed at and destroys or kills just that.

        A 2000 pound guided bomb landing close enough for a ton of high explosives to blow the target to bits tends to send those bits flying at high speed, which has a high risk of killing a lot of people in the immediate area.

        Hence why the Americans are a fan of the guided missile.

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Hence why the Americans are a fan of the guided missile.

          From my experience, I suspect the ability to get what you intend to hit, and kill them, is more important. Not to mention the fact that massive bombs just don't work on the drones they use.

  3. hplasm

    Shows where wars of the 21st century will really be fought...

    In the Accountancy Suite.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Shows where wars of the 21st century will really be fought...*

      And so it comes to pass ..... armchair warriors at last. Although whether they'll ever prove effective against any streams is something which time and intelligence will tell, for they are very late to the Great Game and in most every case may be ordered to try and defend the indefensible and attack the unmentionable.

      And adversaries/competition/enemies will surely engage to exploit the abiding catastrophic vulnerability which is PEBKAC.

      * Global Hearts and Minds Landscapes/Virtual Team Terrain .... where both Ignorance and Arrogance are Punished Remorselessly and Resourcefully.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shows where wars of the 21st century will really be fought...*

        This was all predicted is TOS -"A Taste of Armageddon"

  4. DavCrav Silver badge

    Doesn't this just tell you that bullets are cheap? I spend more on tech than on milk, but that's because milk is quite cheap, nothing else.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Yeah but your primary business isnt milk distribution.

      If a garage spends more on I.T than they do on tyres , oil ,exhausts , brakes shoes - somethings wrong.

      I guess you gotta weigh up if the forces need £1.45bn per year on "computer services" . Sounds a bit steep to me , but .. everything does , i'm a tightarse , also we don't know if it includes computing power for designing new fighter planes , hacking foreign governments , processing millions of face pics looking for ner-do-wells .....

      or if thats just for emailing each other porn and fail-of-the-week clips.

      1. lglethal Silver badge

        Just one thing to keep in mind. Unless you're doing a full on replacement of a weapon system, you dont need to be buying replacements constantly. Repairs and upgrades probably, but those expenses would be under a different cost category. So the fact that purchasing weapons and bullets isnt rated that highly doesnt suprise me. Bullets are pretty cheap, and you dont need significant numbers of new rifles each year. About the only significant expenditure in this line I can think of would be the aforementioned Brimstones. There's not that many other consumables I can think of for the UK MOD. Well maybe those Watchkeeper drones that keep crashing, but I dont think they were meant to be consumables...

        1. CrazyOldCatMan

          and you dont need significant numbers of new rifles each year

          Have you ever met any squaddies? Anything short of neutron-star levels of robustness *will* get destroyed..

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        The MoD employs between 100-200k people. You'd expect them to have a lot of IT to do that. And that's just the general stuff to do payroll, accounts, HR, email, spreadsheets and the like. Espeically as this bollocks number is for IT services - so includes the salaries and leccy to run the servers, as well as the replacements. Presumably we also have to include some computing for more nefarious uses - and expensive communications stuff.

        Meanwhile they only spend £1.2bn on weapons. And yet spend more than that on "shipbuilding". Excuse me, but doesn't spending £6bn on 2 aircraft carriers count as new weapons?

        Also they spend more on aircraft than IT or weapons. But what is a fighter plane?

        So we could say the MoD spend more on computing than ammo. But then we're not in a major war, only using limited airstrikes on ISIS.

        Were I feeling malicious I might describe the piece as a bit clickbaity, telling us little that's meaningful.

        1. Allan George Dyer

          @I ain't Spartacus - "But what is a fighter plane?"

          Nowadays? A computer network with wings stuck on, perhaps?

        2. Mark Dempster

          >Excuse me, but doesn't spending £6bn on 2 aircraft carriers count as new weapons? Also they spend more on aircraft than IT or weapons. But what is a fighter plane?<

          I imagine that aircraft carriers, and fighter planes, would be more accurately thought of as weapon delivery systems rather than weapons in their own right.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Doesn't this just tell you that bullets are cheap?

      Bullets are cheap. You do not fight a war with just bullets you know.

      Artillery rounds are in the hundreds of pounds per shot range, maybe 1000s for large calibre or armour piercing rounds. An unguided missile is usually in the several grand zone. Guided missiles start at 10s of K and go into the millions for a cruise missile.

      I am not sure if this number includes missiles. If it does, the British Army should not have enough money to run basic readiness exercises for anything but infantry.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Huh? £1.2 billion still buys an awful lot of practice ammo.

      2. LeahroyNake

        old info

        15 years ago I was told that 5.56mm rounds were 12p each while a Milan was around 30k.

        Yeah bullets are cheap !

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      In my experience, nothing purchased by a military is cheap. Nothing.

      Many decades past I was a fly on the wall tuned in to a conversation between managers at a large American defense contractor about whether they could produce one aircraft toilet seat for $1000. They agreed. They probably couldn't

  5. adam payne

    The Reg asked the MoD for a fuller breakdown of the top-line figure but was told it will "not release contract detail for commercially sensitive reasons". We know, unsurprisingly, Microsoft features in there.

    A breakdown would give people a better understanding of MOD spending, obviously they don't want that.

  6. Korev Silver badge


    Of course their new Army recruitment system could be a way of lowering staffing costs as they can't get any new people in. Of course it means spending a tonne of money with Capita.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They have to spend more money on IT, those mines aren't going to sweep themselves.

  8. Anonymous Noel Coward

    This gives me a mental image of British soldiers just sitting around playing Counter Strike Source.

    1. Jediben

      ARMA 3 surely?

      1. Chloe Cresswell

        They looked into it, but couldn't afford the graphics cards? ;)

    2. Aladdin Sane

      Pretty sure that's a Bluestone 42 episode.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Pretty sure that's a Bluestone 42 episode.

        A very fine series - and it maintained quality (mainly) over the three series.

  9. Hairy Spod

    spent more on repairing space craft than IT!!

    That either means we spent nothing on IT or we have a black book squadron of x-wings at our disposal////

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: spent more on repairing space craft than IT!!

      Yeah, I was curious about that line too. I sometimes wonder if the el Reg journalists sometime write crap to see if anyone is actually reading their stuff.

      1. Aladdin Sane

        Re: spent more on repairing space craft than IT!!

        "Only shipbuilding and repairing, aircraft and spacecraft" - aircraft, spacecraft, and shipbuilding & repairing. The cost on spacecraft will be for spy and communications satellites.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: spent more on repairing space craft than IT!!

          That's what they want you to think.

  10. JaitcH

    And They Use Windows XP On Trident Submarines - As Do Americans

    I wonder if they change the hardware on the Navy's XP computers, whilst retaining the OS?

  11. kolkurtz

    Naive of me perhaps...

    But I'd hope a huge intelligence, data gathering and safeguarding effort went into even one shot fired in anger.

  12. PvtVoytek

    Interesting tactic. Potential adversaries hype (through demonstration) Cyber-Warfare. Potential targets prioritise cyber spending over conventional. Adversary launches conventional attack and overwhelms due to nothing in its way!

  13. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "where wars of the 21st century will really be fought"

    Well I think there's a quick and cheap defense if a cyber war is started : unplug the sea links.


    Who do I send my million dollar research invoice to ?

  14. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Spending more, eh?

    ..Shows where wars of the 21st century will really be fought.......

    So.... if they spend more on pensions and food, then the wars of the 21st century will be fought by overweight oldies, then?

  15. Egghead & Boffin

    Nothing new under the sun

    I was a pilot in the RAF in the 80s at the height of the cold war and I can remember the outrage when the annual internal audit report said that the RAF had spent more on paper than it had on aviation fuel.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can believe this, knowing something of the areas which are heavy MOD costs. Namely the large enterprise that supplies the MOD lan, the large enterprise that supplies the MOD->World secure gateway, the large enterprise that provides backbone and dedicated circuits etc.

    Security and dedicated connections/equipment costs. And given its attack surface and the amount of people that would like to compromise it, a very rapidly moving iterative target, all of which has to be built and subject to extended scrutiny.

  17. Zwuramunga

    But the Russians can't hack a dumb bullet.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A country that I know...

    They can arrange the installation of a brand new box onto the military aircraft in a month flat. But if anyone ever needed to update the software on that box, it might take years. YEARS!

    It would be better, faster, cheaper to remove the original box from the airplane, take it out behind the wood shed (and then load the new software, change the PN decal, and paint it a different colour to confuse them), and then reinstall the "brand new" box (move along, nothing to see here) back into the same spot on the airplane. Might take five weeks.

    Because software is such an impediment, it would actually be better to design military avionics relying on miniaturized mechanisms (gears, levers, Johnson rods) to perform and control all the complicated functions. Just to avoid The Nightmare That Is Software.

  19. Potemkine! Silver badge


    Militarily speaking, UK army is an auxiliary force for the US Army. It is used only when the Big Brother asks for it. Throwing so much money in it is quite unbelievable, I suspect a lot of that money is diverted for other hidden uses.

  20. Handle123456

    It just shows where the politicians think the wars will be fought

    In reality the next wars will be fought in the streets.

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