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A report by the Royal United Services Institute said Britain’s potential adversaries had acquired the surveillance and precision strike capabilities to put at “serious risk” its surface ships, large military aircraft and arguably any land system, “even the most heavily armoured”.
The report said the advancing capabilities of Russia and China should be a matter of “genuine concern” for the Ministry of Defence.
Developing technology to protect its warships, among other assets, has not been a priority for the MoD, the report warned as it called for a greater future emphasis on “protective capabilities”.
“The UK’s potential adversaries have also focused on developing relatively inexpensive weapons that can disable or destroy expensive assets,” it said.
“Missiles costing less than half a million pounds a unit could at least disable a British aircraft carrier that costs more than £3 billion. Indeed, a salvo of 10 such missiles would cost less than five million dollars.
“China and Russia appear to have focused many (but not all) their efforts on being able to put at risk the key Western assets that are large, few in number and expensive.”
The report said that potential adversaries of Britain, the US and their allies were also looking at ways to disrupt the West through the development of cyber and anti-satellite capabilities.
“Cyber is particularly appealing to the West’s rivals since the development of significant capabilities does not require a large capital investment or the wide-ranging knowledge base needed, for instance, for the development of a new combat aircraft,” it said.
However, it said the UK also made extensive military use of space for surveillance, communication, intelligence and navigation, including the control of missiles flying within the atmosphere, creating further vulnerabilities.
The Chinese carried out the test destruction of a satellite in 2007 and since then, there have been numerous reports of Russia seeking to acquire anti-satellite capabilities, including an airborne laser system.
“Space assets are vulnerable to electromagnetic and physical attack that could – for example – destroy or degrade navigation and communication systems,” the report said.
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