UK plans drone ‘swarm’ units

AFP, LONDON

Wed, Feb 13, 2019 - Page 6

Britain on Monday announced plans for “swarm squadrons” of drones that could overwhelm enemy air defenses as part of a series of plans to “enhance its lethality” after Brexit.

In a hawkish speech in London, British Minister of State for Defense Affairs Gavin Williamson said leaving the EU was an opportunity for Britain “when we must strengthen our global presence.”

Williamson announced plans to invest £7 million (US$9 million) in the drones, saying that he expected squadrons “capable of confusing and overwhelming enemy air defenses” to be ready by the end of this year.

Williamson also said Britain would spend £65 million in “offensive cyber,” and bring two new naval vessels into service for operations from crisis support to conflict.

Opposition parties criticized Williamson’s rhetoric.

“The idea that our membership of the European Union restricts us is the purest nonsense,” Labour MP Chris Leslie said.

“In fact, the economic damage that Brexit threatens is what will most quickly weaken our forces,” the anti-Brexit MP said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing Street office played down another of Williamson’s suggestions, to deploy Britain’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, in a challenge to China in the Pacific.

“The full details of her deployment will be agreed by the prime minister,” May’s spokesman said.