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Defence: Investment

Volume 590: debated on Monday 12 January 2015

13. What recent investment he has made in (a) cyber-security and (b) unmanned aerial vehicles for the armed forces. (906907)

In addition to the sums identified by my right hon. Friend the Armed Forces Minister, in July of last year the Prime Minister announced a further investment in equipment for our armed forces, which included £75 million specifically for cyber-defence. The total recent investment in unmanned aerial vehicles for the armed forces in the current year is £233.5 million.

On unmanned aerial vehicles, will my hon. Friend provide more information about the Watchkeeper tactical remotely piloted air system and when it will be available to our British Army units?

I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. and learned Friend that the Watchkeeper achieved its first initial operating capability last summer and was deployed with the Royal Artillery to Afghanistan between August and October last year. It immediately demonstrated its excellent, and potentially game-changing, tactical capability over Helmand. We expect Watchkeeper to be at full operating capability in April 2016.

As well as investing in unmanned aerial vehicles, is the Department responding to reports that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is developing counter-measures designed to diminish the effectiveness of these drones in current operations?

We are always alert to intelligence reports of evolving threats, from wherever they emerge. We take a very keen interest in the development of unmanned systems across the armed forces and will continue to do so.