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Thousands of ‘robot soldiers’ could be fighting in British army in near future, UK military chief says

Top general says lack of clarity on armed forces budget is ‘challenging’

Conrad Duncan
Sunday 08 November 2020 21:37 GMT
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General Sir Nick Carter has predicted that the British armed forces will look ‘very different’ over the next 10 years
General Sir Nick Carter has predicted that the British armed forces will look ‘very different’ over the next 10 years (VIA REUTERS)
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The head of the UK’s armed forces has suggested that as many as 30,000 “robot soldiers” could be fighting alongside humans in the near future as the British army is forced to modernise.

General Sir Nick Carter told Sky News on Sunday that an armed forces that is “designed for the 2030s” could include large numbers of autonomous or remotely controlled machines in its work.

“I suspect we could have an army of 120,000, of which 30,000 might be robots, who knows?” Sir Nick said, while noting that the future of the army was still uncertain.

He later told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that robots would play a role on battlefields over the next 10 years as part of a “very different” looking armed forces.

“If I projected forward another 10 years, I think we should be in no doubt that warfare will look different, there will be robots on our battlefield in future — there already are today,” he said.

“Of course, that might change the manpower mix. I also think that reserves are very important as Covid has demonstrated, so I suspect it will be a very different mix of human beings and, for that matter, machines than it is today.”

Sir Nick also admitted that a lack of clarity over the armed forces budget was a “challenge” after the government scrapped plans for a long-term Comprehensive Spending Review due to uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic.

The armed forces chief said he understood why the Treasury had made its decision to produce only a one-year Spending Review later this month but added that the move was not helpful for plans to modernise the country’s defences.

Military chiefs had been expecting a three-year plan as part of an integrated defence and foreign policy review.

“I think the challenge for us is the threat is evolving the whole time, the threat is modernising in certain quarters and we need to modernise as well, so for us it is a challenge,” Sir Nick told the BBC.

He added that no decisions had been made yet when asked whether the review would recommend a smaller army in the future.

Additional reporting by PA

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