A £1BILLION investment in the sharp end of the British armed forces will help ensure the SAS remain among the best in the world, said a military expert.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday that it is not tanks but “the latest in cyber warfare, unmanned aircraft technology and special forces capability” that is needed to combat modern threats.
And this investment, said Peter Roberts, a senior research fellow at leading defence think-tank The Royal United Services Institute, lays out a clear direction for military strategy in the near future.
Money will be directed towards flexible and highly-trained units like the SAS, who are capable of being “fast in, fast out”.
It will also target intelligence gathering and high-tech warfare – significant for the growing number of small specialist defence suppliers in Herefordshire.
Mr Roberts said: “British special forces remain in an enviable and world-leading position.
“But the face of modern warfare will change significantly over the next 10-15 years with the emergence of biotechnology, nano technology, drone warfare and changes to intelligence gathering.
“This money is continuing a policy of building up niche capabilities to create a small, specialised force when it comes to intervention.
“Man power is expensive, so there is a growing trend around Europe to invest in technology.
“However worldwide countries are still building large forces.
“The issue Britain will face is how to get their forces there.”
The favoured method is by air, and Mr Roberts said the special forces deployment in Nigeria to assist in the rescue of the girls abducted by Boko Haram earlier this year demonstrated how successful this can be.
However the former naval officer and NATO advisor sees the SAS reverting to a more traditional role on the front line.
He said: “In Afghanistan they were often deployed as a search and destroy force, rather than being used for intelligence gathering and covert operations.
“They may have to regain some lost skills, such as language skills and intelligence gathering.”
Speaking in Parliament Hereford and South Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman welcomed the extra investment invest in the special forces.
The funding is part of a total package of £1.1bn, and part of a ten-year equipment plan of up to £160bn, that Mr Cameron insisted will boost British defence companies as well as armed forces.
Mr Norman also praised the work of a volunteer service in Herefordshire that helps support military families and veterans in the county.
The military charities advice service – which operates from Herefordshire Council’s Franklin House offices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and in Ross-on-Wye library every Monday – was established in July 2013 and is supported by Herefordshire Council and the Herefordshire Armed Forces Community Covenant Task Group.
Mr Norman said: “The Herefordshire military charities advice service is an excellent example of charities working together with the local authority in order to provide real services to people in need. “