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Boris Johnson unveils largest military spend for UK in 30 years

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LONDON (PTI): UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will lay out the biggest programme of investment in British defence since the end of the Cold War in Parliament on Thursday, pumping in an extra 4 billion pounds a year over the next four years.

The mega investment plan will fund space and cyber defence projects and is expected to create thousands of new jobs, Downing Street said.

A new agency dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, the creation of a National Cyber Force and a new "Space Command", capable of launching the first rocket in 2022, are among the areas for the investment focus.

"I Have Taken This Decision In The Teeth Of The Pandemic Because The Defence Of The Realm Must Come First," said Johnson.

"The international situation is more perilous and more intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War and Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies. To achieve this, we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board," he said.

"This is our chance to end the era of retreat, transform our armed forces, bolster our global influence, unite and level up our country, pioneer new technology and defend our people and way of life," he added.

In a speech to the House of Commons, he will set out a 16.5 billion-pound increase above the Conservative Party manifesto commitment over four years. Downing Street said the new plan takes into account the changing nature of adversaries since the Cold War era of tensions with Soviet Union in the 20th century.

"Rather than being confined to some distant battlefield, those that seek to do harm to our people can reach them through the mobile phones in their pockets or the computers in their homes. To protect our citizens, UK defence therefore needs to operate at all times with leading, cutting-edge technology," Downing Street said.

This will be underpinned by a "record investment" of at least 1.5 billion pounds extra and 5.8 billion pounds in total on military research and development and a commitment to invest further in the Future Combat Air System. These projects are expected to create up to 10,000 jobs annually across the UK.

"This settlement secures UK jobs and livelihoods, allows us to invest in our fantastic shipyards and aerospace industry, spreading prosperity to every corner of the UK," said UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

"Next year represents a huge opportunity for this country, and defence will be at the forefront of creating the jobs and business opportunities that will help us build back from the pandemic," he said.

The UK Government says the move reverses the systematic decline in the crucial area of R&D in the last 30 years, creating new advances which surmount the old limits of logistics and go beyond military use with a vast number of civilian applications such as autonomous vehicles and aviation.

The aim is to position the UK as a global leader in domains such as cyber and space and addressing weaknesses in defence arsenal.

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