Gavin Williamson criticised over latest defence plans
Gavin Williamson has defended his latest defence plans after being accused of "buying technology off the shelf".
The Defence Secretary is paying a company in Bedford £2.5 million to build a "swarm" of drones, while he is also pursuing plans to convert two commercial ferries into coastal strike ships for the Royal Marine commandos.
His plans have been met by ridicule by opponents, who have accused him of trying to do defence on the cheap, according to the Financial Times.
Critics allegedly argue that the UK’s heavyweight military status is being undermined by the need to make swingeing savings to pay for its existing equipment plan and that Mr Williamson is trying to cover this up with his outside-the-box ideas.
Alan West, a former first sea lord, described Mr Williamson's plans for drones and ferries as "a bit of smoke and mirrors".
But the South Staffordshire MP has defended his plans.
He told the FT: "Is it wrong to look at different ways of procuring? Is it wrong to look at if you can bring different technologies and put a military wrap around it? I don’t think it is.
"We are not walking away from major investments we are making, whether it’s the F35 or the Type 26 frigates or new military vehicles. We recognise we have got to be investing in that type of technology and that type of hardware.
“But we want to create innovation because we recognise the field of warfare is changing so rapidly.”
According to the National Audit Office, the UK’s government spending watchdog, Britain’s £180 billion defence equipment plan faces a £15bn black hole during the next 10 years.
But the MoD has recently announced £75m for the Royal Navy to deliver two autonomous mine-hunter vessels, £66m to fast-track army robotics equipment and £30m for digital military software development.
The question being asked of the Defence Secretary is where is the money coming from.
Labour MP Ruth Smeeth said: "The reality is we have a massive black hole in defence."