UK to spend $3 billion on munitions, stockpiles as Ukraine war drains reserves

By Andrew MacAskill

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will announce on Tuesday plans to improve the combat readiness of its military, including spending 2.5 billion pounds ($3.3 billion) on replenishing munitions and stockpiles that have been depleted by the war in Ukraine.

The war has exposed weaknesses in the British military, including the dwindling reserves of some munitions and a lack of industrial capacity needed to ramp up production quickly as Britain has supplied Ukraine with weapons to use against Russia.

The government said the latest version of its Defence Command Paper would set out the strategy to reshape the size and strength of the armed forces to counter the more immediate threat posed by Russia and the longer-term challenge from China.

The new strategy would include plans for a new Global Response Force to enable forces to “get there first” and an improved “surge capacity” force made up of former soldiers, the government said in a statement before the full report was published.

The defence minister Ben Wallace, who announced at the weekend he will be stand down soon, said the strategy would ensure that Britain remained at the forefront of military capability, and a leading power in NATO.

“We must adapt and modernise to meet the threats we face, taking in the lessons from President Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

Britain announced earlier this year it would spend an extra 5 billion pounds on defence to take it to about 2.25% of gross domestic product this year and next, from about 2% previously.

As part of the new defence strategy, the government said it would prioritise investment in science and technology including the use of robotics and laser weapons.

After the United States, Britain has been the second-largest supplier of military aid to Ukraine, contributing 2.3 billion pounds worth of support last year.

Although this is well below what the United States has provided, Britain has in the past been the first country to supply more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine.

Britain sent the first shoulder-launched anti-air and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine in the run-up to the invasion and in February announced it would be the first country to begin training Ukrainian pilots on NATO fighter jets.

($1 = 0.7648 pound)

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Alex Richardson)