back to article UK Army chief: Russia could totally pwn us with cable-cutting and hax0rs

The UK needs to invest in up-to-date army tech, including protection from cyber attacks, the Ministry of Defence's chief of general staff will warn today. In a speech to be given today at defence think tank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), General Sir Nick Carter will warn of the military capabilities of Putin's …

  1. Korev Silver badge

    Senior service

    I know he's from the Army; but why is there no mention of the UK barely having enough warships & submarines to track Russian vessels as they sail around the Britain?

    1. Warm Braw

      Re: Senior service

      why is there no mention...

      Presumably because the secretary for defence thinks there's a chance he can still save what's left of the army but has already written off the navy as a lost cause (which, given its mission is presently to pay for a seemingly unrelated assortment of factory preservation projects, it probably is).

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Senior service

        I fear you're correct, but for a minister of an island and a bit that is a very odd thing for him to think.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Senior service

          Ah yes, but an island with a chunnel!

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Senior service

      know he's from the Army; but why is there no mention of the UK barely having enough warships & submarines to track Russian vessels as they sail around the Britain?

      Because the RN and RAF with their vastly expensive carriers and F35s are why we are in this financial hole, and everyone knows it.

      1. fukwit

        Re: Senior service

        Trident ?

    4. Nick Kew

      Re: Senior service

      having enough warships & submarines to track Russian vessels

      If you want to track Russian (or any other) ships, you just use the very ample capacity provided by satellites.

      Warships serve a different purpose. Unless you have a regular export market, anything bigger than police/coastguard is basically ceremonial.

      1. David Shaw

        Re: Senior service

        but we apparently dont even have anything bigger than police/coastguard - basically ceremonial

        some study {or DailyWail article} showed UK RN having three boats to cover inshore water, compared to Italy RN having hundreds (for an approximately similar coastline)

        I wouldnt be surprised if the Swiss actually have more water craft

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Please sir, can I have some more?

    > This comes after calls from MPs to increase defence spending

    Have the heads of Britain's armed forces every taken a different view?

    When was the last time they said "thanks, but we've got enough money".

    As for threats to internet traffic from undersea cables being cut - surely the sensible thing is to route all traffic through cables running through the Channel Tunnel. From there the only places that can't be reached by land are the americas, Australia and other Pacific islands.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Please sir, can I have some more?

      Sometimes the Channel Tunnel gets warmer than desired...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Please sir, can I have some more?

      From there the only places that can't be reached by land are the americas, Australia and other Pacific islands.

      Great. We'll have uninterrupted access to Russia Today, with its totally unbiased coverage.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MoD mandarin tells Think Tank what it should be thinking - we dont have enough expensive American tat.

  4. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Modern defence thinking...

    ...and the cutting of the main comms line in the Crimean peninsula during its annexation of the region shows precedence....

    Actually, the most obvious precedence was the Royal Navy cutting of German cables in August 1914 -

    If the UK defence community have only just woken up to the practice of cutting your opponents undersea communications, then may I also suggest that it might be a wise move to develop some sort of armoured tracked vehicle which can move over country safely under machine-gun fire to support infantry? And we should pay attention to the possibility that new-fangled flying machines might be able to deliver Whitehead torpedoes onto our heavily-armoured battleships...

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: a wise move to develop some sort of armoured tracked vehicle

      I would like to propose Lincolnshire as a venue for such a research and development effort. I just have this feeling they might have (had) the right skills...

    2. disgruntled yank

      Re: Modern defence thinking...

      Well, three can play at that game. I think that a German cruiser cut the cable to Australia in 1914, and I know that the US cut the (Spanish) cable at Manila in 1898. And the US and perhaps the UK did a lot of tapping of Soviet cables during the later days of the Cold War.

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Modern defence thinking...

      I think this fellow, H.G. Wells, wrote something about that.

      Let's use his blueprints!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It actually get very farcical.

    He warns of "Cyber" as being a huge threat and how the army etc should protect against it, but then he doesn't want "cyber" to come out of the military budget.

    We need to buy a thousand more expensive warships and reconnaissance planes to protect the cables, but apparently fuck all on getting far more laid, negating the need for such expensive toys.

    Oooh look Russia have more guns and bombs and planes and things than us...they could beat us in war.

    Err yes, that has been the case for a very long time.

    Here a great idea.

    Combine all three forces and sack a huge amount of top brass and other duplicates like himself, or at the very least, half their pay.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh fffs...

    My high school CS teacher in the days before the political correctness pandemic used to say: "You cannot have your dick in both hands and your soul in paradise at the same time me lad". The equivalent for ladies was: "Darling, there is no such thing as a little bit pregnant". I believe the closest English translation is "You cannot have your cake and eat it too".

    The issue with UK is that it is trying to invest beyond what it is capable of. It is a constant: "have cake, eat cake" without anyone actually realizing that the result of that mental experiment is "no cake".

    At the PRICE it costs for UK to procure arms it cannot realistically invest into:

    1. Armament for local/limited conflicts

    2. Armament for the last war that there will be

    3. Armament for power projection.

    As a comparison, Russia invests only in 1 and 2 in exactly that priority order.

    1 - new set of tanks, new set of battlefield vehicles, continuous investment into multiple rocket launchers including guided multiple munitions packages and drone delivery piggy-backing on it, etc. These are now rolling off the production line and they are 10-15 years ahead of what UK has (at least). That is one point where the recent general rants are spot on - if UK armed forces are ever unfortunate to get into a conventional weapons scrap with Russia they will get creamed.

    2 - new short range, ICBM missiles and sub improvement.

    They have NOT invested in 3. They continue to drag around that smoking distraction (with minor upgrades) called Admiral Kuznetsov from time to time, but they have not tried to build anything which is by default an aggressor power projection technology - something you park off the coast of an enemy and bomb 'em into the stone age.

    Compared to that UK has gone in the completely opposite order: It is 3, 2, 1. Which begs the question - was any idiot in the general staff actually thinking. There is NO POINT in 3 if you do not have 1. There is no 1, because there is no money left for 1. There is no armament to actually fight conflicts. All the money went on 3 and 2. Leaving 2 out of the equation, what is the point of 3 (power projection) if you cannot actually fight a conflict because you have nothing to fight it with. Sure, you go somewhere, project power, have a massive w*nk off-shore, use up all of your munitions and flight resource and THEN what do you do?

    The other alternative is of course to find a way to reduce the procurement price, but that means disabling the revolving door between BAE, civil service and the army and this will happen only on a very cold day in hell.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Oh fffs...

      You're missing part of the reason behind the British armed forces (and of others around the world), and that is as a source of income and jobs for the so-called defence industries (I suppose 'attack industries' would be a bit much).

      If you look at MoD decisions from the angle of "how does this help British arms manufacturers" then they start to make a lot more sense.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh fffs...

        If you look at MoD decisions from the angle of "how does this help British arms manufacturers" then they start to make a lot more sense.

        Made. Up to the 70-es. Maybe early 80-es.

        From there on it has been gradually converted into "How does it help American arms manufacturers". Led by that most American of British arms companies. BAE.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Goto DEFCON 5

    We must not allow a Facebook Friend gap to develop, Mr President!

  8. Joe Harrison

    Step 3 - Profit!

    Step 1 - Proclaim loudly about imaginary threat, or at least one that's a hundred years old and everyone knows about

    Step 2 - Get bigger budget (or at least mitigate the cuts to your particular bit of the budget)

    Step 3 - as per title

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Step 3 - Profit!

      step 4 acquire suitably paid 'private' sector job when you leave the service. (yes it happens boys and grills)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Step 3 - Profit!

      Step 5

      Get the Sun to print a headline with "Our Boys" somewhere in it and get the knuckle draggers to sign a petition.

  9. wyatt

    Russia hasn't been trying to keep the peace over the last few years, it's been testing it's equipment/troops in conflict (Syria/Ukraine/etc). As a previous comment has said, you can't do everything. That's why there is NATO.

    Cyber warfare is an interesting one, should this be a military task or a government one (GCHQ, etc). I'd argue the latter with input from the first. It benefits everyone, the military like to think everything is a big secret and don't share what they know.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the military like to think everything is a big secret and don't share what they know.

      and GCHQ/NSA do not?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Russia hasn't been trying to keep the peace over the last few years, it's been testing it's equipment/troops in conflict

      So have we - Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. With rather abysmal results.

      One thing Russians are not even trying to hide and in fact, they openly advertise it when trying to sell their new equipment is that they have carefully observed our trials and tribulations. And learned from them.

      They claim to have used them as input to their new generation of tanks, rocket launchers, drones as well as upgrade packages for their older generation of planes which has been sold worldwide.

      This one is quite interesting too. Based on their analysis it was pointless to try to do anything to existing ground kit - for the era of IEDs and militias supplied with modern anti-tank weapons you need completely new gear. Otherwise you are toast. Similarly, you need new missiles, drones and other battlefield tech. IMHO, looking at our casualty rates from IEDs and ambushes in Iraq and Afghanistan, they may have a point here.

      The old aircraft, however and specifically close air support ones are (according to the Russians) perfectly fit for purpose in a 21st century local war once you give them a full revamp of the electronics and targeting. They have a point. THE LUNATICS AND BANANA REPUBLICS DO NOT YET HAVE MODERN AAA. Even if they do, a Tier 1 power can suppress it in minutes.

      Verrrry astute observation, one which we have missed and have gone full blast to retire our old aircraft and invest a ridiculous amount of money into a set of weapons which do not belong in this type of warfare like the F35 and the Series 3 Eurofighter. As a result we have no money to spend where it matters - on ground equipment.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Of course the Russians have been watching UK (and other) forces where they've been deployed. They wouldn't be doing their job if they weren't.

        And we've been watching them - in Chechnya/Dagestan, Georgia, Ukraine, Syria...

        I'm not worried about the Russian army. It's big, but it's crap. And you have to reckon that in any scenario where the Russian army is fighting the British army, the Russians will be distracted by the need to cover their arses against the French, other Europeans, the Chinese, the Americans, and worst of all, against their own central Asian republics (think Chechnya). The British have less to worry about on those lines, simply because they've got a lot more friends. (The Norwegians aren't about to invade Shetland, the French aren't going to seize Guernsey, the Irish won't try to reunify their island by force, even the Scots aren't going to unilaterally declare independence just because the British army happens to be busy elsewhere. The Russians can't be anything like so sanguine about the edges of their territory.)

        And that is why the Russian cyber force is a threat to be reckoned with: it's actually world class, unlike their armed forces - and it's playing offense, which is always way easier than defence.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @veti - you might try to get some thing correct.

          China and Russia are friendly, and Dagestan and Chechnya are Caucasian areas, not in Central Asia. There are Central Asian republics that were formerly in the Soviet Union - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan. They are more likely to have disputes between themselves rather than anyone else.

        2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          their own central Asian republics (think Chechnya).

          Their "own" central asian republics are independent and have been for a very long time. They have very little need to "watch" over them.

          You are also missing the primary "conflict" problem. It is not directly facing Russia in a "last war". It is running into it or into one of its proxies elsewhere. In that case Ireland, Norway or Germany will be of very little help.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    But seriously

    Squadies have no interest in cyber-weapons as they can't be used to open tins of bully-beef.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: But seriously

      Have you never heard of the internet-connected tin-opener? IoT is the future dontcherknow!

      1. lafnlab

        Re: But seriously

        You mean the ones pwned by the North Koreans to mine Bitcoins?

  11. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Hire lots of cyber security experts

    To lure them away from Amazon/Google etc you need to beat the salaries and not make them do all that extreme camping the Army is so fond of.

    Since salaries are fixed with rank you will have to hire these nerds at a rank that is commensurate with $300-500K industry salaries

    So that means a pay rise for Brigadier General (or whatever the highest rank is among the brown trousers)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Solution

      This is sounding just like the pitch the good general was giving - a plea for more money and toys.

      A better way to lure people away from Silicon Valley would be to pay the protesters attacking buses ferrying workers, and possibly encourage other forms of violence, then they will flee as refugees to elsewhere. The only problem then is convincing the great unwashed that these are "acceptable" refugees.

  12. Salestard

    Why would Russia want to fight us??

    Russian checklist for war with Britain, as of 5pm London time.

    Natural Resources - used most of it

    Industrial base - owned by the Germans and Japanese

    Banking Sector - mostly American

    Houses - already own most of the larger ones in London

    Football teams - ditto

    Which can only mean they're in it for regime change... and given the regime we're currently under, this would possibly count as a liberation.

    I for one welcome our new vodka fuelled nepotistic former communist overlords! May they succeed in overthrowing the old gin fuelled nepotistic former public school overlords!

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Why would Russia want to fight us??

      Having every mansion and football team in London owned by somebody closely linked to the Kremlin is probably the most effective missile defence shield ever invented.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why would Russia want to fight us??

        We hosted Berezovsky. The Yeltsin-kleptocrat-era billionaire openly seeking the violent overthrow of the Russian government. They had as good a reason to bomb us as the US ever had to go after Bin Laden.

        OK, he's dead now, but I suspect we might still host some less-than-desirable Russians.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why would Russia want to fight us??

      there's one good reason, our wee island is the main, and in the future possibly the only real foothold, should our US brothers (in arms) decide to fulfill the article 5, (should the Russians decide to test it) And yes, Poland would welcome the Yanks, but HOW will they get there? Not through the Baltic, they won't (consider a2/ad so conveniently provided by the largest Russian aircraft carrier, Kaliningrad area). And, quite possibly, the Americans couldn't get to Eastern Europe, not through French and / or German airspace, given what those NATO countries say and think about the Americans (never mind that you do not ship a brigade or two over air).

      So, a wee min-nuke or two over this or that base here would suddenly make our glorious leaders twice - should we welcome the Yanks as declared minutes ago by our PM? Should we fire our nukes towards the Ruskies in response? Trouble is, we don't have small nukes, so would we willingly escalate to lob a biggish one? And wait for them to respond with a still bigger one? And we do happen to be only a short few minutes away, as missile flies. So yes, Russia would want to "fight" us, to deny the US the foothold. Not to turn us into a glowing skate rink, but a slap to show us our place... quite possibly :(

  13. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Ring-fence budgets

    There has been some chatter in the media about ring-fencing the NHS budget. I reply that it is the smaller budgets that need to be ring-fenced, to protect them against raids from the big boys of the NHS and the Social Services.

    So ring-fence the defence budget and the roads budget.

  14. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    The Wire Cutter Gap!

    Yes madam! A Gap! That we must fill!!

    Can someone please help me with my wheelchair?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Defence mandarin meeting notes

    Oh noes the ISIS has been rumbled...what do we Baldrick? "I have a cunning plan..."

  16. Stig2k

    Fate worse than death

    If they cut those cables then please God just nuke me and get it over with. Life without Facebook and 9gag is no life at all!

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Fate worse than death

      Life without Facebook and 9gag is no life at all!

      Actually, it sounds pretty good to me.

      Life without reddit and LOLCats OTOH...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the military risk of the UK havings its cables cut?

    OK sure the citizens can't get their daily Facebook fix, but surely there's enough infrastructure that resides within the UK as well as satellite links for critical defense related stuff that it would be more of an attack on the business interests of the UK rather than something that's a military problem.

  18. FlamingDeath Silver badge
  19. Miss Lincolnshire

    If you know of a better 'ole go to it

    30 years ago I had a rifle whose cocking handle could open beer bottles and a newly issued bivvy bag and maggot that kept me warm and dry. The chicken curry in the 24 hour packs was packed with meat and I could overdose on Spangles at will. We also had twice as many troops as we have now. In the event of a Soviet invasion of Europe I'd have been dead in a German ditch within seven hours, most likely as a result of a blood agent based chemical attack. But we were ok and saw the Berlin Wall crumble.

    Race forward to 2018 and perhaps if we hadn't got complacent and then pissed several £billion up the wall on white elephant aircraft carriers to strut around the globe pretending we are still a world power then we'd be able to field a decent sized land force. It's all very well wondering how we combat cyber attacks but as it stands we haven't got enough troops to supply the three Corps you need to even call yourself an Army.

  20. Aodhhan


    Did this guy just wake up from a 30 year coma?

    Many of these risks existed in the 1980s and were worries then.

    So don't give us a left wing scare tactic... how about letting us know what you're going to do about it and how you will go about it.

  21. jms222

    What's the (military) risk of the UK havings its cables cut?

    Now we're sending NHS data across the pond this isn't so good.

  22. JaitcH

    First Things First

    Before you can defend anything, you must have something to defend.

    BT is on the job! It has been so slow in building out the UK InterNet, there is precious little worth defending and since most of the submarine cables have been built out by private commercial industry there is even less to defend in the name of Her Majesty.

    If the military wants more money - let them get it from the cable operators!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If Brexit happens...

    We'll be going to war with Iceland, not Russia.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If Brexit happens...

      And there's no guarantee we'll win, either!

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