1. Why do we need a defence industry? Does it need to be based in the UK?
In the last 15 years improved communications technology and travel links have meant that instability in one country can easily affect countries both near and far away. When this happens, the UK Armed Forces have proved to be a force for good – helping to bring stability to the Balkans and Sierra Leone for example. This force for good has also brought humanitarian relief to many, including the victims of the Asian tsunami of 2004.
As a trading nation, more than 90% of the UK’s imports and exports are transported by sea. This makes keeping the sea lanes open and free a priority, especially with growing piracy and international terrorism. Since the Falklands War, no country has directly invaded the UK or its dependencies, but the dispute between Russia and Georgia in 2008 demonstrates the potential for short, unexpected conflicts in close proximity to the UK. Diplomacy is rightly the first recourse but the UK must maintain its capability to deter aggression wherever it affects our interests at home and abroad.
For these reasons we need Armed Forces that can operate globally as part of international alliances and coalitions. And for all these reasons we need a defence industry that can provide the equipment and services they require. This is not to deny that equipment procured from other countries is irrelevant, rather that the UK defence industry has great experience working with our Armed Forces that enables us to serve them swiftly and efficiently – especially in an emergency where they, not a foreign military will be our priority.
2. What’s it like to work in the defence industry?
All sorts of people work in defence and with so many different types of jobs available in the industry, it’s hard to describe exactly what it is like. The roles we offer are both exciting and fulfilling and offer people, young and old, a fantastic opportunity to develop their career. And you can forget the factory floors of old – dirty and filled with oily rags. Working for a defence company today as an engineer or scientist you will often be at the forefront of technology, developing the latest piece of cutting-edge equipment to be supplied to the Armed Forces. To find out more about careers in the defence industry visit the careers page
3. What equipment does the UK defence industry make?
The UK defence industry makes equipment that is used by all three branches of the Armed Forces – the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the Army. We make aircraft (e.g. Lynx helicopters and Typhoon fighters), submarines (e.g. the Astute Class submarine), ships (e.g. Type 45 destroyers), and armoured fighting vehicles (e.g. the Warrior infantry carrier). Much more besides is manufactured by companies in the defence sector, to find out more about what a career in defence can bring, visit our careers section.
4. What will the next generation of military equipment be like?
Some of the next generation of equipment already exists and is in use. For instance, unmanned aerial systems allow the Armed Forces to carry out their ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) duties at a distance and increase their ability to enter dangerous and geographically inaccessible terrain.
Unmanned vehicles rely on satellites to guide them. This makes satellites a particularly useful asset. Fortunately the UK space industry has taken a lead in developing small powerful satellites.
With CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) threats remaining a concern, new methods are being developed to detect these lethal substances. For instance, we can now give machines an ‘electronic nose’ which uses chemical sensors to sniff out explosives.