In an announcement at Lancaster House, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps MP outlined the UK’s commitment to bolstering NATO’s strength by deploying 20,000 service personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force. 

The move comes in response to an evolving geopolitical landscape marked by recent RAF strikes and a support package for Ukraine.

Shapps MP the imperative for the UK to adapt to a new era of global challenges. Against the backdrop of targeted Royal Air Force strikes in Yemen and an aid package to Ukraine, Shapps unveiled plans for a military deployment in the first half of 2024.

Dubbed Exercise Steadfast Defender 24, the deployment will witness 20,000 service personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force joining forces with 31 NATO allies and Sweden. The exercises, spanning multiple countries, coincide with NATO’s 75th anniversary, making it one of the alliance’s largest deployments since the end of the Cold War.

Shapps emphasised the need to deter adversaries, lead allies, and defend the nation during geopolitical shifts. He stated, “Today, our adversaries are busily rebuilding their barriers. Old enemies are reanimated. Battle lines are being redrawn. The tanks are literally on Ukraine’s lawn. And the foundations of the world order are being shaken to their core. We stand at a crossroads.”

The deployment includes the Royal Navy’s eight warships and submarines, a Carrier Strike Group centred around a Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier, and an allied amphibious task group with over 400 Royal Marines Commandos in the Arctic Circle.

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As a keystone member of NATO, the UK will be driven to ensure high readiness levels across its fleet and troops whilst maintaining an active participant in NATO operations in Eastern Europe, according to GlobalData’s intelligence on the UK Defense Market 2023-2028

The British Army, contributing 16,000 troops, will execute live fire manoeuvres, parachute jumps, joint helicopter forces, and deploy Army Special Operations Forces. This aims to test and strengthen the readiness of the UK’s land forces in defending NATO and enhance interoperability with allied armed forces.

The Royal Air Force will showcase its capabilities, including F35B Lightning attack aircraft and Poseidon P8 surveillance aircraft. The RAF’s participation will focus on simulated conflict scenarios against near-peer adversaries, showcasing its ability to defend against evolving threats.

This move aligns with the commitment made at the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius, further solidifying the coalition between the UK and its NATO allies. As Shapps concluded, “I can announce Today that the UK will be sending some 20,000 personnel to take part in one of NATO’s largest deployments since the end of the Cold War. Exercise Steadfast Defender will see our military joining forces with counterparts from 30 NATO countries plus Sweden, providing vital reassurance against the Putin menace.”

In other Nato developments this year, NATO sealed a $5.6bn deal with COMLOG, a joint venture between Raytheon and MBDA, to acquire 1,000 Patriot Guidance Enhanced Missiles (GEM-Ts) under the European Sky Shield Initiative. 

The GEM-T missiles, capable of intercepting ballistic, cruise, and enemy aircraft, will bolster Europe’s air defence. Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, and Spain, the beneficiaries of this deal, contribute to the European Sky Shield Initiative.