The National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 was published by the British government during the second Cameron ministry on 23 November 2015 to outline the United Kingdom's defence strategy up to 2025. It identified key threats to the UK and the capabilities it required to address them.
The National Security Risk Assessment 2015 found the threats faced by the UK, including its Overseas Territories and overseas interests, have "increased in scale, diversity and complexity" since 2010. It highlighted four particular threats that are likely to be priorities for UK security in the coming decade::15
- The increasing threat posed by terrorism, extremism and instability.
- The resurgence of state-based threats; and intensifying wider state competition.
- The impact of technology, especially cyber threats; and wider technological developments.
- The erosion of the rules-based international order, making it harder to build consensus and tackle global threats.
The commitments in the paper for equipment and support for the three services amounted to £178 billion up to 2025. This is roughly 20% of the 10 year budget period.
The government reaffirmed its commitment to spending 2% of national GDP on defence.:27
- The largest deployable expeditionary force to be increased from 30,000 to 50,000 by 2025. This includes a maritime task group headed by an aircraft carrier, a land division consisting of three brigades, an air group of combat, surveillance and transport aircraft, and a Special Forces task group.
- Planned investment in Special Forces equipment doubled and advanced communications equipment and weapons will be purchased.
- British Defence Staffs headquarters will be established in the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Africa in 2016.:49
- £1.9 billion investment in cyber capabilities and development of satellite communications and space-based surveillance capabilities.:40, 46
- The Ministry of Defence would purchase at least 2 Airbus Zephyr high-altitude UAVs.
- The number of nuclear warheads will be reduced to no more than 180 by the mid-2020s.
Both Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will now enter service.
- Personnel will be increased by 400.
- Both Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will be brought into service and fully crewed, one of which will be modified to better support amphibious operations and one carrier to be available at all times.
- The Royal Navy will continue to maintain 19 frigates and destroyers, but with the long-term goal of ultimately increasing the fleet.
- Procurement of the Type 26 frigate reduced from 13 to 8. A new class of "at least five" lighter, flexible, general purpose frigates will be designed and built to ensure the Royal Navy has "at least" 13 frigates in service. These will be more affordable than the Type 26s in order to allow the Royal Navy to buy more of them and further expand its fleet of frigates and destroyers by the 2030s. This second variant will be known as the Type 31 frigate.
- A new class of ballistic missile submarines, now known as the Dreadnought class, will be built to replace all four Vanguard-class submarines, the first of which will enter service in the early 2030s. Ballistic missile submarines will carry no more than 40 warheads across only eight operational Trident D5 missiles:34, 35
- A further two River-class patrol vessels were to be ordered for a fleet of "up to 6" by 2025. The three Batch 2 River-Class ships will replace the earlier 3 Batch 1 River-Class ships. Later, during a Defence Select Committee in July 2016, the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Andrew Jones indicated that the option for a fleet of 'up to six' offshore patrol vessels had been reduced to five, with Clyde being replaced by one of the new Batch 2 ships. The First Sea Lord also elaborated on the potential uses for the Batch 2 ships overseas, including the possibility of forward basing an extra ship at the Falklands Islands, or forward basing it elsewhere. Subsequently, post-Brexit, it was decided to retain three Batch I vessels to operate in UK waters.
- Four Tide-class tankers were to continue to be built as originally planned, along with three Solid Support Ship.
- Both Albion-class landing platform docks and all three Bay-class landing ship docks will remain in service. The previously planned decommissioning of HMS Ocean was confirmed.
- 12 mine countermeasures vessels will exist in Joint Force 2025. The three oldest Sandown-class minehunters will be decommissioned.
- The manning levels for the Gibraltar Squadron will increase.
- The role of Type 45 destroyers in ballistic missile defence will be further investigated.
- A parliamentary reply noted that "The consideration of options to deliver the capabilities provided by RFA Diligence and RFA Argus remains ongoing" although this policy was vague and, as of 2020, had not been acted upon.
Royal Air Force
Commitment to order 9 P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was made in the paper.
- Personnel will be increased by 300.
- Two additional Eurofighter Typhoon squadrons will be formed by postponing plans to retire Tranche 1 Typhoons. This will bring the total number of frontline Typhoon squadrons to seven by 2025. The Typhoon aircraft will also receive upgrades to ensure they can be retained for an additional ten years (until 2040).
- There was a reaffirmed commitment to ordering 138 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIs, with a total of 24 available to be deployed on board the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers by 2023.
- The paper announced that the third Tornado GR4 Squadron (12 Squadron) would continue until 2018 while the remaining two squadrons, 9 and 31 Squadrons would have an out of service date of 2019.
- Nine Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will be ordered to plug the gap left by the retirement of the Nimrod in 2011 and the scrapping of its planned successor, the Nimrod MRA4. The aircraft will be based at RAF Lossiemouth.
- The RPAS fleet will be doubled with the current 10 General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers to be replaced by more than 20 new armed Protector Drones (program formerly known as Scavenger).
- 14 C-130J Hercules aircraft will remain in service alongside 22 Airbus A400M Atlas and 8 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.
- 14 Voyager air-to-air refuelling aircraft will be in service by 2025, with one fitted for transport of the Prime Minister, senior cabinet officials and the Royal Family.
- Continued investment will be made in the development of new precision weapons.
- Around four Sentinel R1 will be extended in service "into the next decade", but will leave service by 2025.
- Shadow R1 will remain in service until "at least" 2030 and two more aircraft will be procured.
- Sentry AEW1 and Rivet Joint R1 will remain in service until 2035.
The Ajax armoured vehicle, of which 589 are to be ordered.
- The size of the Army will not fall below 82,000 regulars and 35,000 reservists.
- Increased investment will be put into training and equipment for the reserves.
- 589 Ajax armoured vehicles will be ordered.
- Two rapid-reaction "Strike Brigades" will be formed by 2025, comprising 5,000 personnel each, equipped with Ajax and the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle. The Armoured Infantry Brigades will be reduced from three to two.
- Two innovative brigades will be established, comprising a mix of Regulars and specialist capabilities from the Reserves, that are able to contribute to strategic communications, tackle hybrid warfare and deliver better battlefield intelligence.
- Apache attack helicopters will be upgraded. Four squadrons will exist in 2025.
- Challenger 2 tanks will be upgraded by the Life Extension Project (LEP), which will extend the tank's out-of-service date.
- The 77th Brigade will be the core unit for counter-hybrid warfare.
- "Commander Land Forces" will become "Commander Field Army".
- There will be an increase of 1,900 security and intelligence staff across all intelligence agencies to respond to terrorism, cyber and other threats.:24
The government outlined a range of foreign policy initiatives. These included:
- A permanent UK military presence will be maintained in the Persian Gulf, including a new naval base in Bahrain, named HMS Juffair, and the establishment of a new British Defence Staff in the Middle East, as well as in the Asia Pacific and Africa.:55
- There will be a doubling of the number of military personnel contributed to United Nations peacekeeping operations.:60
- The UK will work with the rule-based international order and help strengthen multilateral institutions.:60
- UK Official Development Assistance expenditure will be maintained at 0.7% of GNI, with 50% of the DFID's spending going towards fragile states.