In a Commons speech on Thursday, the Prime Minister will promise an extra £16.5billion for the country’s defence budget over the next four years. Part of the cash will set up a new Space Command to oversee the development of military satellites and other cutting-edge defence technology projects including the launch of the country’s first rocket into orbit. Ahead of his address to MPs, he said on Wednesday night: “I have taken this decision in the teeth of the pandemic because the defence of the realm must come first.
“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.
“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.”
Mr Johnson will set out the defence spending plans to the Commons by video link from Downing Street while continuing his self isolation following a meeting with a Tory MP who later tested positive for coronavirus.
He was beamed onto screens in the chamber on Wednesday for an historic first “virtual” Prime Minister’s Questions as a result of the quarantine.
The £16.5billion announced on Thursday will come on top of the commitment in last year’s Tory general election manifesto to increase defence spending by 0.5% every year of the current parliamentary term.
In total, UK defence spending will increase by £24.1 billion over four years compared to last year’s budget.
The investment is expected to confirm the UK’s position as the biggest defence spender in Europe and the second largest in NATO.
Mr Johnson will also announce a new agency dedicated to developing Artificial Intelligence and the creation of a National Cyber Force.
And he is to give the go ahead to the rocket project to launch satellites for civilian and military use.
The rocket is expected to blast off from Scotland in 2021.
He will promise £5.8 billion in spending on military research and development and commit the Government to invest further in a planned new fighter aircraft.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “This is excellent news for Defence, and provides us with the financial certainty we need to modernise, plan for the future and adapt to the threats we face. It demonstrates the Prime Minister’s recognition of how important Defence is to our resilience and to the reputation of the United Kingdom.
“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.
“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.
“Over the next few months I will set out in more detail our ambitious agenda for Defence.”
Full conclusions of the Government’s Integrated Review of defence and foreign policy will be announced next year.