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Aircraft carrier sent to boost cyber fight with US in face of ‘perilous risk’, Defence Secretary announces

20 October 2018
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson will tonight announce that Britain’s new aircraft carrier will host a joint drive between the UK and US to outpace adversaries on the cyber battlefield.

Speaking at the Trafalgar night dinner on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Defence Secretary will announce that the new Atlantic Future Forum will take place on Monday, bringing US and UK industry and military together in the face of changing warfare and the fight against growing cyber threats, both at home and abroad.

Taking place in New York harbour, it is the first example of the four acres of sovereign territory being able to deploy into global seas to promote British interests on the world stage, as well as acting as a world-class warship.

The forum comes after the UK has exposed the reckless attacks by the likes of the Russian intelligence services not just in the UK but around the world, and revealed the country is fending off more than ten cyber-attacks a week.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson will say: “Some believe it is not the place of our Armed Forces to operate outside deployed conflict zones many thousands of miles from the UK mainland.

“They are wrong. Against a threat seeking to subvert and destabilise the very fabric of our society such capabilities are critical.

“So I am convinced cyber, information warfare and intelligence must be fully integrated into our military power, that they are fundamental to a modernised defence and our warfighting successes, and that without them we put our nation’s security at perilous risk.

“That’s why our defence cyber forces are commanded by four-star military leadership.

“That’s why we are launching our new forum. And that’s why on Monday we’ll sign an accord to ensure our nations dominate the cyber commons.

“A future in which our military and national power is irrevocably diminished, a future in which our way of life is irretrievably endangered, cannot be contemplated.

“If we’re to ensure a darker future does not come to pass we must engage with this fight now with determination innovation relentless focus and when necessary with military ruthlessness.”

The Atlantic Future Forum will combine the brightest minds, innovators and tech entrepreneurs from across government and industry to collaborate on the changing cyber landscape Britain and its allies now face.

The Forum will also be the backdrop for the signing of an Accord, a commitment from the UK and US to work with a new committee of firms in cyber and artificial intelligence to ensure that the ‘special relationship’ remains the world leading partnership for cyber security, defence and artificial intelligence amid a climate of rapidly changing threats.

It comes just months before HMS Queen Elizabeth prepares to have her systems rigorously tested against the evolving cyber danger next year, when she forms part of Information Warrior 2019.

The Royal Navy-led exercise simulates attempts to bring down networks and jam satellite communications to ensure the fleet remains able to combat these threats as hostile states become more technologically advanced.

At the dinner, the Defence Secretary will add: “Aggressor nations still respect our hard-won military expertise on sea, land and air. But they can now use technology to do us harm in ways once thought impossible.

“Already the UK is acting, combining our technical excellence, our professionalism, our war fighter ethos to design and increasingly use our offensive cyber capability.

“Capability that can counter and deter malign cyber-attacks and that allows us to strike swiftly and strategically as Daesh have found to their cost with their evil propaganda machine wiped from the online battlespace.”

Britain has been leading the way in offensive cyber, using ground-breaking technology as part of the military’s arsenal and integrating it into all operations, including in the fight against Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

The Forum - a meeting of innovators and tech entrepreneurs from across government and industry, together with business leaders - will be an opportunity to explore the emerging trends and technologies that will dominate the world ahead and to cement the leading role that the UK and US will jointly play in shaping them. They will be joined by political leaders, policy makers and sector specialists.

At the end of the Forum, which will be attended by International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox and First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones, the Accord will be signed by both Government and industry experts, providing a future framework for cooperation between UK and US industry and military on cyber and artificial intelligence.

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