The Daily Telegraph
‘We need Q rather than Bond to fight future wars’ says top general
‘China and Russia will gain a decisive advantage if the UK neglects to compete in a concerted and urgent way’
THE military needs “more Qs than 007s”, one of the UK’S most senior military commanders has said.
General Sir Patrick Sanders said future warfare needed to focus less on traditional methods of fighting, such as warships and RAF squadrons, and more on cyber skills, as he urged the Armed Forces “to place equal value and afford equal status to computer scientists, data engineers and cyber operators as we do to the traditional warrior elite. I have more need of Q, than I do 007,” Sir Patrick said.
Speaking at the opening of the DESI arms fair organised by UK Defence and Security Exports, the Head of Strategic Command issued a stark warning to the military, stating that if it failed to adapt to the digital age, “we will at best become exquisite but irrelevant, and at worst we will die.
“Fundamentally, the source of battlefield advantage will not come from platforms,” he said.
“If we focus, as some commentary has done, on the number of grey hulls the Navy has, the number of Fighter Squadrons in the RAF and the strength of the regular Army, we will simply perpetuate a traditional, industrial age force that is costly, exquisite and vulnerable to being defeated in detail.”
Instead, he said, the “true source” of battlefield advantage will come from a digital force that is “software defined, hardware enabled”.
Sir Patrick added that such a force will be more about drones and missiles, than manned platforms. However, he acknowledged that in order to adapt, soldiers would need to be trained in the skills required to compete in this field.
He said: “We will have to address the skills gap by attracting far more diverse talent, by inward investment so that coding and data literacy are seen as being as much a core skill as weapons handling, by much greater use of a larger and more diverse reserve, and by enabling a much more porous and flexible flow of talent between Defence, Industry and Academia.”
He cautioned against the “predominant image” of defence being “aircraft carriers and jet fighters”.
“As important as these are, in a world in which capabilities are moving to the cloud, and software and data can be as ‘real’ as any physical assets for a modern military, this image is dated,” he said.
Sir Patrick warned that Russia and China would inevitably gain a “decisive advantage” if the UK neglected to compete in a more “concerted and urgent way in AI technology”.
He added that investment in AI, such as autonomous systems, swarming, cyber defence, decision support and intelligence processing, would have to be at “the heart” of the UK’S defence policy if it was to become a science and technology superpower.