The UK Ministry of Defence will purchase almost 600 cutting edge armoured vehicles for the UK army, leading by example as the UK plans to urge Nato member states to step up defence spending.
The decision to buy the 589 Scout Specialist Vehicles, equipped with advanced technology including acoustic detectors and systems for laser warning, local situational awareness, electronic counter-measures and route marking, has been announced ahead of a two-day Nato summit in Wales.
"I'm delighted that on the eve of the Nato summit, we can announce the biggest single contract for armoured fighting vehicles for the British Army since the 1980s,” said UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron.
"These new vehicles are testament to the world-class engineering skills in south Wales and across the UK, helping to create the Army's first fully-digitalised armoured vehicles.”
The nearly 600 vehicles, part of a £3.5bn contract, will be manufactured by General Dynamics in its Oakdale facilities in south Wales. According to Cameron, the deal will help secure 1,300 jobs across the UK.
The first of the hi tech vehicles, described by the MoD as the Army’s future 'eyes and ears', are expected to be delivered in 2017 with a training establishment and first squadron due to be equipped by mid-2019. First deployment should take place by the end of 2020.
"The Scout family is a transformational programme that will refresh our armoured capability and ensure the Army remains a first-tier manoeuvre force,” said Chief of the General Staff Sir Peter Wall, the Army's most senior officer.
"It provides advanced intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities and will be the 'eyes and ears' of commanders on the battlefields of the future. With digital links to all of our other systems it will be able to fulfil a wide range of combat roles."
The UK, the second biggest defence spender of the 28 Nato member states, is expected to urge its partners to follow its example and increase their investment in new military technology in order to deal with emerging threats but also to boost economy and innovation.
In a pre-summit speech to the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) think-tank in London, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will say that Britain's European allies in Nato must increase their defence investment to prove that the alliance "means business", warning that the USA will not go on "picking up the cheque" if Europe chooses to prioritise social welfare spending when "threats are on our doorstep".
The Defence Secretary is expected to say: "Defence offers us more than just a comprehensive insurance policy. It brings jobs and exports. The UK defence industry employs more than 160,000 people, with a turnover of £22bn, and exports worth £9.8bn in 2013.
"People often think of defence spending in terms of such vehicles, or aircraft or ships. But there is a wider dynamic impact for long-term economic performance. Defence incubates the innovation that has ensured our economy remains among the strongest in the world.
"Since Nato was formed, UK defence has delivered the first computers, thermal imaging, liquid crystal displays. Today medical breakthroughs learnt from operations in Afghanistan - such as blood stemming dressings
- have been introduced into NHS practice.
"And technologies designed to protect soldiers' clothing from chemical attack are providing splash proof technology for tens of millions of devices - everything from smartphones to hearing aids.
"Investment in defence drives a strong economy and a strong economy provides confidence to invest in strong defence. It is a virtuous circle."