History books say the British Royal Navy once ruled the waves and built the largest empire the world has ever seen.
Those days will never come back but British PM Boris Johnson announced on Thursday a huge £24 billion (RM130 billion) war chest to make Britain Europe’s naval superpower once more, leaving continental navies trailing in its wake.
He was addressing Parliament by video link from Downing Street where he is self-isolating.
Johnson’s vision of what he calls a “freer and more independent global Britain” follows the UK’s protracted divorce from the European Union via Brexit.
It’s a radical rethink of how taxpayers’ money is spent and Johnson blasted former governments for reducing British armed forces to dangerously low levels, according to media sources.
“The era of cheese-paring our defence budget ends now,” he promised. “I have done this in the teeth of the pandemic because the international situation is now more perilous than at any time since the Cold War.”
He told Parliament that new warships will be built, spurring a renaissance of shipbuilding across the British Isles and bringing prosperity back to impoverished communities.
Johnson stressed that UK defence needs to operate at all times with cutting-edge technology. For example, ammunition will soon be redundant, meaning future warships will be able to destroy targets with inexhaustible lasers.
It’s not just the Royal Navy that will get a boost. The biggest investment in defence since the Cold War will also be used to create a new space command, a cyber force and an artificial intelligence agency.
He warned that threats to the country will in future no longer be confined to the battlefield as enemies can now attack people “through the mobile phones in their pockets”, so billions have also been earmarked for a National Cyber Force to tackle online threats.
Johnson’s vision is that the increased military budget will cement the UK’s position as the largest defence spender in Europe, and the second largest in Nato after the US.
The way the PM sees it, while Britannia may no longer rule the waves, the tide of defence cutbacks is finally turning and the Royal Navy is setting sail for a new era of sea-power.