The UK will have committed as much in the value of military support to Ukraine from 2022-2024 as it aims to increase defence spending over the next 24 months, with an expectation that Kyiv will have received assistance valued at £4.6bn by the end of the coming financial year.
Setting out the new Integrated Review (IR) refresh on 13 March, the UK Government stated that UK military support to Ukraine was valued at £2.3bn in 2022/23, with a commitment to maintain ‘at least the same level of support in 2023/24’.
At the same time, the UK Government stated that it would provide a further £5bn in defence spending, which would be spent on ‘nuclear resilience and conventional stockpiles’.
Broken down, approximately £3bn of the £5bn will be dedicated to nuclear programmes, which could indicate further investment into the Dreadnought-class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines or the upgrade of the Trident D5 Mark 4 to Mark 4A standard. Alternatively, it could be committed to the AUKUS endeavour, which will see the UK and US assist Australia in developing a nuclear-powered attack submarine capability.
Conventional stockpiles have also been pressurised by the need to sustain Ukraine’s ammunition use, with the UK providing a range of systems including the Starstreak High Velocity Missile and NLAW anti-tank missile, among others.
However, UK Secretary of State Ben Wallace, speaking in 2022, outlined inflationary pressures of up to £8bn over the following two years, as a result of the country’s, and the world’s, ongoing difficult financial environment.
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UK support to Ukraine
The refresh of the IR, brought about primarily by Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, has been greatly influenced by the conflict, referencing Ukraine on 57 separate occasions. Other key states mentioned were China (39 times) and Russia (48 times).
The UK’s ongoing granting of equipment and financial support to Ukraine has seen the provision of virtually every land platform available in the British military. This includes the Challenger 2 main battle tank, AS90 155mm self-propelled howitzer, the M270 guided multiple launch rocket system, as well as the Stormer, Bulldog, and Mastiff protected or armoured vehicles.
In addition, the UK hosts an international training programme along with the Joint Expeditionary Forces structure, under Operation Interflex, which has seen more than 10,000 Ukrainian personnel undertake a condensed infantry training course. Ukrainian forces are also undergoing more complex section or platoon level training to provide tactical battlefield leadership skills, and providing Ukraine’s tank crews with combined arms manoeuvre training in advance of a likely spring push by Kyiv against Russia.
At the same time, key UK military programmes have floundered, particularly in the land domain, while the granting of equipment to Ukraine has opened up significant gaps in the UK’s inventory. Programmes such as the interim land fires effort are planned to temporarily plug some of the gaps, although the upcoming removal of the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle from service, and the ongoing delays to the Ajax programme, leave a British Army at a significantly reduced strength.
Earlier, it was revealed that the British Army has just 157 Challenger 2 tanks available either immediately or at 30-day notice to undertake operations, out of a paper fleet of 227 vehicles. A total of 14 active Challenger 2 tanks will be granted to Ukraine, along with associated support vehicles.