back to article UK reveals new 'National Cyber Force', announces Space Command and mysterious AI agency

The United Kingdom has announced £16.5 billion ($22bn) of new defence spending, some of which has gone towards a newly revealed National Cyber Force and some earmarked to create a Space Command and agency dedicated to AI. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's statement to the house about the new spending revealed that the nation has …

  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Policy-based evidence making

    All of the above announcements were made in the context of a prime ministerial update on the nation’s Integrated Review of foreign, defence, security, and development policy. The full review will be delivered in early 2021.

    I find it odd how a figure of billions can be decided upon before the review is completed.

    1. Brian Scott

      Re: Policy-based evidence making

      Upvoted for the title alone.

      (the comment was good as well)

      1. Hairy Wolf

        Re: Policy-based evidence making

        Thanks for pointing that out. My Friday morning brain had "auto-corrected" the phrase. Is it beer o'clock yet?

        1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
          Pint

          Re: Policy-based evidence making

          'Tis always beer O' clock somewhere.

    2. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Policy-based evidence making

      @Dan 55

      The military need money spending on them as their kit is getting a bit old and worn. Apparently a large portion of our tanks need replacement but every time they try the requirements keep changing and nothing gets delivered at great cost.

      The aircraft carriers being a similar issue which were designed for catapults but then would cost a vastly inflated price above cost to retrofit some catapults and buy cheaper aircraft (not the vertical take off).

      Getting the requirements together first would probably save the taxpayer vast sums.

      1. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Bronze badge

        Re: Policy-based evidence making

        It would be good to have a big defence procurement that had fixed requirements from start to finish. But the reality of the world is that things like aircraft carriers take so long to design and build that the military requirements change over that time, hence frequent redesigns. It doesn't change when they get into service either. Every few years they'll be refitted and upgraded as capability requirements change - and new tech is invented.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Policy-based evidence making

        @codejunky

        Quote: "....the requirements keep changing...."

        *

        You have forgotten that "requirements" are just so.o.o.o. twentieth century.......

        *

        Get with the program.....agile......devops.......

        - Everything changes after every "sprint"

        - The "product owner" knows almost nothing

        - You only test the last sprint......not the whole product

        *

        What could possibly go wrong?

      3. Robert D Bank

        Re: Policy-based evidence making

        getting the corruption out of the system first would save even more.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: Policy-based evidence making

          @Robert D Bank

          Easier said than done. A good way to reduce it would be to reduce the power and size of the organisation.

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Policy-based evidence making

      I find it odd how a figure of billions can be decided upon before the review is completed.

      You have, I take it, read about the exploits of Baroness Dido Harding on here?

      1. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: Policy-based evidence making

        2nd place at Cheltenham, wasn't it?

    4. PerlyKing Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Policy-based evidence making

      I find it odd how a figure of billions can be decided upon before the review is completed.

      Think of it as a starting figure, adjustable upwards....

    5. Robert D Bank

      Re: Policy-based evidence making

      I guess it's not that different to giving your mates £12 billion to create a Track&Trace system and other 'Covid' related activity without public tender, or announcement in advance. It worked so well that on £150m contract delivered nothing at all and they get to keep the money. That's what I call an agile delivery!

  2. Mike 137 Silver badge

    A new Artificial Intelligence Agency?

    We seem to have several already - at least one at Westminster, judging by the randomness of recent covid management diktats.

    But seriously, given the currently abysmal quality of code I have serious reservations about applying it to surrogate thinking - particularly where the results matter. We need to improve the real thing, rather than replacing it with demonstrably less versatile and probably less reliable machinery.

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: A new Artificial Intelligence Agency?

      Perhaps not choosing a London First mentality for this and putting the new agency new HQ somewhere else in the UK.

      Sutherland Spaceport, Spaceport Cornwall??... tie in OneWeb perhaps too but not London. Alighted to a University in this field, EADS Astrium ??

      Not like NASA is based in New York, Washington or Los Angeles.

  3. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    The MOD is still allowed to get away with woolly thinking and 'investments' in big chunks of metal that are not in keeping with the reality of Britain's diminished role as an ex imperial power.

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Britain's diminished role as a nuclear power, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a provider of support when natural disasters strike, a political and military ally to the US, a member of NATO and a keeper of international promises.

      You may not like the role that the UK plays on the world stage and it's certainly not as dominant as the late 19th century but the UK has a very strong international reputation and a recognised military capability.

      If you want an example of why we need a strong military consider Hong Kong. We can't send troops in there to protect its citizens against Chinese oppression but we can project force into the South China Sea to protect the interests of other countries there, and we must protect ourselves against Chinese retaliation for upsetting them through our diplomatic work in both locations, along with any military involvement in support of (e.g.) India, Malaysia or Taiwan.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Trials?

        Project force? With what exactly, our aircraft carrier and its air wing and support ships?

        Compared to the aggressor in that area, we are nothing, a fly in their ointment and nothing else. In that geo, they have all the advantages, including economics.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "keeper of international promises" - err, no, we _were_ viewed that way but BoJo and Chums have just burned that one. And don't think the incoming US administration hasn't noticed that. So you can also cross off "ally to the US".

        So we can correct your second para. to "the UK _had_ a very strong international reputation".

        Now, let's consider the "recognised military capability". Ah yes, we are recognised as the only country dumb enough to buy two new aircraft carriers and completely forget to buy any planes for them. Oh, except maybe one type that hasn't finished development yet, we won't be able to afford and relies on being a strong US ally. Oh, whoops! About that...

        1. Commswonk

          Ah yes, we are recognised as the only country dumb enough to buy two new aircraft carriers and completely forget to buy any planes for them. Oh, except maybe one type that hasn't finished development yet, we won't be able to afford and relies on being a strong US ally.

          I would certainly agree that the indecent haste with which the UK's VTOL / STOL capability was ditched was a huge blunder that I could not understand at the time and still don't. Having said that would be Harrier still be a viable concept 10 years on from that decision? I doubt if the actual aircraft would have been, although I would like to be wrong about that.

          Trying to regain some of the capability doesn't seem to be too bad a plan, although I share your concerns about the F35 and everything that it entails.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            We could have installed catapults on it and then bought any of a very wide variety of existing planes and/or planes in development (including the much cheaper F35C). But, we messed up the contract (as usual) so that when we asked BAE to install them they were able to quote an eye watering large number. So we decided not to. And now we are stuck with an aircraft carrier that can only fly one specific type of aircraft that isn't in mass production yet. So the US has had to kindly lend us some (for now, at least - see above) so that it is a bit more that just a massive sitting duck as it sails around. Of course there were some conditions attached that that loan ...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              we have form for this type of mess up. I think it was the type 21 or 22 frigate that, to save money, had the hull length shortened (despite the hull cost being minimal compared to the cost of the kit on the ship) So a bit of a saving on a few m of steel meant they then had trouble fitting new kit on to the vessel!

            2. EvilDrSmith

              The wide variety of existing planes was in fact a choice of three: F35C, Rafale or F/A18 Hornet.

              Hornet while upgraded and still good today, is ~40 years old design, and not a sensible choice for something expected to be in service for another 20-30 years.

              So actually a choice of 2, and one of those is variant of the F35.

              The QEII carriers are still working up, so arguably, not having a full complement of F35B is not a major issue. In the meantime, they can do the same role as HMS Ocean did (retired, and was always supposed to be a short term measure) as a helicopter carrier: the Wildcats, Merlins and Chinooks work just fine.

              So good enough for 'show the flag', counter narcotics/counter piracy and disaster relief. i.e. all the things that the Royal Navy actually does day in and day out (Wars being thankfully somewhat rarer).

              The new carriers of course replace the old Invincible carriers. Which were designed to operate the Sea harrier.. so could fly only one specific type of aircraft.

              It's just possible that the RN may have some idea of what it's doing when it comes to naval aviation: without looking anything up:

              First to take off a fixed wing aircraft from a ship

              First to land ditto

              First to kill a pilot in the attempt

              First full length aviation deck

              (First to install steam catapults? note sure on that one)

              Invented the mirror landing system

              Invented and proved concept of angled flight deck (USN first to build a carrier with one)

              First to land a jet on a carrier

              Invented the rubber flight deck (yup, really, Didn't work out)

              First to take a carrier into a shooting war

              First to lose a carrier to torpedo, ditto gunfire, ditto air attack

              First to use carrier air power for air to air interception, ditto land attack, ditto attack of ship at sea, ditto attack of ship in harbour

              First to launch a heli-borne amphibious landing (Nope, it wasn't the USN)

              First to deploy V/STOL to sea

              First to use V/STOL at sea 'in anger'.

              First to deploy helicopter AEW (I think)

              First to have a carrier attacked by modern missiles

              There's probably some other stuff they came up with too.

              So if the RN wanted F35C and V/STOL carriers, I'm not going to argue.

          2. Binraider Bronze badge

            Late model Harriers are fantastic machines, even this far down the line. The USMC snapped up our fleet without even blinking an eye when they came available; with good reason.

            Medium range capabilities from AMRAAM, LDSD radar, extremely favourable power-to-weight ratios, and high maneuver capabilities mean apart from the lack of raw straight line speed; the Harrier is as capable as anything else out there.

            The F35 in large part exists out of the spec for a supersonic replacement for the Harrier; and while the project may be US-centred the UK made major contributions to it. Worth reading the excellent Harrier 809 by Rowland White for some insight into it.

            1. EvilDrSmith

              But the RAF Harriers that were the last to be scrapped, in 2010, didn't have air-to-air radar, so couldn't use AMRAAM.

              The Harrier is >50 years old. It was a very good aeroplane, but it's time had come and gone.

              Also, I believe USMC retired the last of their Harriers last month (October 2020)

        2. Cederic Silver badge

          "keeper of international promises" - err, no, we _were_ viewed that way but BoJo and Chums have just burned that one.

          Nonsense. The current Government has broken no treaties and breached no International law, and is indeed taking steps to assure that it doesn't break the international Good Friday Agreement should the EU continue to threaten Northern Ireland.

          This is why the UK has a great reputation on the world stage and, for example, the EU does not.

          1. Glen 1 Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            " taking steps to assure that it doesn't break the international Good Friday Agreement should the EU continue to threaten Northern Ireland."

            Are you getting some mirror universe news channels over there?

            1. Cederic Silver badge

              Probably - I make sure I don't just read and blindly accept what the BBC and Guardian tell me.

  4. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    ” Interfering with a mobile phone to prevent a terrorist from being able to communicate with their contacts”

    As someone who is well aware of the doublespeak the west is capable of, I have to wonder what they consider a “terrorist”. Anybody with a memory will remember how the definition of what constitutes an “enemy combatant” changed, during those hedonistic years of false flags and invading countries for oil.

    People have reported experiences of being gang stalked, I’ve had a look into these things and while they appear barmy, there is probably some truth to their claims. We live in a hyper connected world with all manner of tools to fuck with people.

    1. Commswonk

      As someone who is well aware of the doublespeak the west is capable of...

      Are you suggesting that doublespeak is a uniquely western phenomenon? I sincerely hope not, but at the moment - and writing as a "westerner" - I suspect that your loyalties might lie elsewhere.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nice try at diversion and putting words in his mouth.

        Try and stay OT.

        If you disagree with the message, attack that, not the messenger. It's a cheap trick.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    World beating!!!

    Apparently all of this new cyber technology stuff (5 photogenic warriors in a darkened room with dark net shopping site images as screensavers) and space command (vinyl Union jack sticker for the side of a US rocket) is going to be world beating! World beating! just like our world beating test and trace etc etc. I guess if your world view stops about 5 inches in front of your nose, blowing your nose is world beating.

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: World beating!!!

      Exclusive first images of the world beating Space Command delivered by Capita

    2. macjules Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: World beating!!!

      Á la Monty Python:

      "Can you use a computer?"

      "Yes"

      "Good, then you're hired."

      1. Dave_uk
        Facepalm

        Re: World beating!!!

        I remember that sketch - and yes it really was like that even by the end of 1999 to fill tech positions to help fix the millennium-bug. The numpty manager hired two who did not even know how to format a floppy, essential at that time, those were the days...

  6. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Consider this

    The prime minister recently said the defence budget was getting an increase to and I quote “have influence”

    You know what buddy, that’s exactly how a lot of black youths probably feel when they carry knives around in public, to have influence.

    Muppets

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Consider this

      You have to be prepared for the food riots next year...

  7. DrStrangeLug

    Launching Rockets

    I hope the allegedly fiscally minded conservatives will make the first rocket launched from Scotland is also the first one to land in Scotland as well.

    Only a fool would design an expendable rocket system now.

    1. Commswonk

      Re: Launching Rockets

      I hope the allegedly fiscally minded conservatives will make the first rocket launched from Scotland is also the first one to land in Scotland as well.

      On Bute House, nose first?

      Downvotes likely...

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Launching Rockets

      Only a fool would design an expendable rocket system now.

      I think the clue is in the person making the announcement

  8. Christoph

    "the UK’s first satellite launched from a UK rocket "

    The UK's satellite Prospero was launched from a UK Black Arrow rocket in 1971. It is still in orbit. The UK government had already announced the cancellation of the project before the launch.

    1. ClockworkOwl
      Facepalm

      Yeah well, that's par for the course for UK engineering since WW2, ingloriously snatching defeat from the jaws of certain victory...

    2. AdamT

      "Backroom Boys" by Francis Spufford has a chapter on this. All round a good book (until you realise how much we just gave away or gave up on).

      Interestingly, given that it is now clear that economic/cheap spaceflight is only plausible with reusability, I wonder how the Black Arrow combo of RP-1/HTP would fair by modern standards...

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
  9. Binraider Bronze badge

    Does it also include finding a replacement for the Harpoon and Exocet surface-to-surface missiles? The RN's surface shipping are currently capable of AAW, ASW and anti-piracy roles; but lack significant ASuW capabilities. The F35 might offer that capability; whatever state that is in concerning loadout options. Building ships is all well and good; but without armament for all three major threat vectors they are at risk of being toothless tigers.

    The Navy is already screaming with personnel shortages to man the existing fleet let alone an expansion - the QE carrier being a somewhat mandraulic affair. Are we going to see significant expansion?

    The submarine fleet obviously is significantly more capable of ASuW and probably better at it than the surface fleet; but again with the withdrawal of Harpoon, the lack a standoff option might be missing a significant capability.

    Something competitive with the Russian/Indian Brahmos project is the sort of territory I'm thinking. There haven't been many modern naval engagements though the RN has more experience of it than most (Falklands). The overriding rule in naval warfare is to strike effectively first. Long range attack and early-warning capabilities are extremely important part of that equation. The QE class carrier is rather poor concerning EW... Even if the F35 is any good in a strike role (much rumour suggests it's pretty poor).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The RN want to include some anti ship capability to the T45, its been an on off project for a while

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      The QE class carrier is rather poor concerning EW

      Alas with the lack of catapults the EW is on a helicopter platform with the Crowsnest system. With fixed wing, there would have been the added advantage of extended range and loiter ability. That could still be an option were they to use drones with the requisite ability to be launched and recovered from the carrier, which may be a lower cost option (MOD: drones... let's not mention Watchkeeper)

      "Critics will doubtless bemoan that this is not the gold standard E-2D Hawkeye or speculate about non-existent V-22 Osprey-based AEW solutions but this is an affordable and attainable solution, given the RN’s resources.

      https://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/the-strike-carriers-eye-in-the-sky-update-on-the-crowsnest-project/

      Meanwhile over in the far east...

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/hisutton/2020/08/29/first-image-of-chinas-new-carrier-based-aew-plane/

  10. N2 Silver badge
    Trollface

    A government spokesman said:

    The new force will be responsible for distorting the facts, protecting the public from the truth and preventing anyone from posting anti governement memes on Facebook, because weve tried so hard to cover up everything over the last 8 months and failed dismally, never mind about Brexit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A government spokesman said:

      And blackmailing people we don't like, since we'll have access to their bank accounts, he added.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A government spokesman said:

      And erasing dissenting ElReg posts.

    3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: A government spokesman said:

      The new force will be responsible for distorting the facts, protecting the public from the truth and preventing anyone from posting anti governement memes on Facebook, because weve tried so hard to cover up everything over the last 8 months and failed dismally, never mind about Brexit. ...... N2

      And will those fascists be brown shirted too, N2, and be run from/for No10 ?

      Do they realise that is revolutionary ...... and will end in their being drowned in floods of their own tears ..... for such a proposal as the above is akin to official state actor terrorism, with a well defined enemy to be dealt with/taken care of, either publicly or private, militarily or paramilitary?

  11. Howard Sway

    UK reveals new Natonal Cyber Force

    "a new fighter system, harnessing Artificial Intelligence and drone technology to defeat any adversary in air-to-air combat."

    Basically, Fat Davros is dreaming of Daleks.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      A Taste of Armageddon

      One day it may end up like this...

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Taste_of_Armageddon

  12. M7S
    Coat

    Space agency badges

    Given that the US military allegedly copied one from their Nation's TV series involving a Federation centred on Earth, it would be a Travisty [sic] if the MOD didn't do something similar

    https://media.moddb.com/images/downloads/1/46/45736/federation_logo_t2_Custom.gif

    I wonder if they keep all their files on the Server-LAN

    The repurposed motorcycle leathers, thank you

    Sorry, I ran out of puns.

    1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Pint

      Re: Space agency badges

      "Sorry, I ran out of puns."

      Good effort - have one on the house or ship or something --------------->

  13. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Why Scotland?

    Launching rockets into space is easier closer to the equator, not further from the equator - I guess it's being done in Scotland because Boris doesn't want to piss off the South of England with all the pollution that rockets generate and the occasional launch failures Will Boris's rockets be World Beating like his NHS contact-tracing system?

    1. Julz Silver badge

      Re: Why Scotland?

      Polar orbit. Fly north from Scotland over the North Atlantic.

      1. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Bronze badge

        Re: Why Scotland?

        No need to consider anything other than polar orbits either, as that would mean flying big hot lumps of ballistic metal eastwards towards, err, Moscow. How are we going to explain that?

        Does anyone else think a launch by 2022 is just absolute hogwash? I mean, it's nearly 2021 already and the launch site is how ready yet? Why do you mean you haven't even started yet? Have you any idea how long building projects take these days?

        2025 maybe.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why Scotland?

          No - removing Huawei from the infrastructure in the next 6 years is too much of a challenge.

          Rocket science? We've heard of that.

  14. Paceman

    All I can think of is the recent Steve Carell/Netflix Space Force series...

  15. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Did anyone follow the link to BoJo's statement? He managed to avoid the phrase "world beating", perhaps wisely given the subject matter, but it was the same hubris and even more Boris guff than normal.

  16. charlie-charlie-tango-alpha
    Black Helicopters

    Shiny new battefield?

    Has anyone else noticed the disjoint between this announcement and Ciaran Martin's excellent speech to Kings College London (https://www.theregister.com/2020/11/11/ciaran_martin_speech_cyber_policy/) ?

    Maybe that's why he left.

  17. scrubber

    Keep people safe

    Know what would keep me safe? Not hoarding zero day exploits for as long as you find them useful. Not losing tools of hacking to the darkweb. Seeking to improve encryption rather than trying to backdoor it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Keep people safe

      Message to Joe Public: They don't work for you.

      :(

  18. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    A Universal Virtual Force with Immaculately Resourced Assets. Hard to believe, eh?

    The newly revealed National Cyber Force is nothing new to some pioneering volunteers with an inglorious history of resolving troubles baffling embattled defence forces.

    Northern Ireland will be one of the world’s leading cyber economies, delivering a thriving knowledge economy, due to exemplary talent; pioneering research and innovation; and the secure and resilient infrastructures needed to support businesses and safeguard the public.

    A Cyber Leadership Board will have strategic oversight over cyber planning and skills development in a coordinated way.

    I am very pleased to present this Framework for Action and look forward to seeing a local evolution into a world-wide centre of cyber excellence. ..... HUGH WIDDIS Permanent Secretary Department of Finance October 2017 ........https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/dfp/Cyber%20Security%20-%20A%20strategic%20Framework%20for%20Action.pdf

    And can you imagine and share how one would ever catch up on a three year head start in a field which some, which may be a vast gargantuan majority, have no idea even exists and leads their future existence from spaces and places both practically and virtually untouchable?

  19. spold

    AKA

    >>>

    Whatever the niceties of the agency, the plan for a 2022 launch of a domestic rocket from Scotland

    <<

    The High Altitude Gchq Group In Space (HAGGIS)

    ...or possibly the High Altitude Gchq Group in Sheep (I didn't say that, sorry, sorry, very baaad of me).

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