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Ministers must prepare ‘seabed warfare’ strategy to defend the UK from attacks on undersea cables, report warns


Ministers must draw up a ‘seabed warfare’ strategy to defend Britain from attacks by hostile states on its undersea cables, a report warns.

The call comes in a report backed by a former defence secretary and other ex-military chiefs who warn the UK’s undersea cables are ‘extremely vulnerable’ to attack from countries such as Russia, Iran and China.

The UK relies considerably on subterranean cabling, particularly under the Atlantic, for running critical financial systems, data exchanges and energy supplies.

All of these could be thrown into chaos by an attack, the report by think tank Policy Exchange warns.

It is backed by former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon, Air Chief Marshal Lord Peach, former Chief of the Defence Staff, and Admiral Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord and security minister.

In a foreword to the report, Lord Peach wrote: ‘Regular sightings of suspicious Russian activity in nearby waters, mysterious cable-cutting incidents, and the growing concern amongst our friends and allies about undersea infrastructure vulnerabilities, all signal that we have arrived in a new era of undersea warfare.

Ministers must draw up a 'seabed warfare' strategy to defend Britain from attacks by hostile states on its undersea cables, a report warns

Ministers must draw up a ‘seabed warfare’ strategy to defend Britain from attacks by hostile states on its undersea cables, a report warns

The call comes in a report backed by a former defence secretary and other ex-military chiefs who warn the UK's undersea cables are 'extremely vulnerable' to attack from countries such as Russia, Iran and China

The call comes in a report backed by a former defence secretary and other ex-military chiefs who warn the UK’s undersea cables are ‘extremely vulnerable’ to attack from countries such as Russia, Iran and China

‘Novel strategic thinking is required, not least on how we conceptualise maritime defence in the modern day.’ 

Sir Michael said: ‘Britain’s economy and security are heavily dependent on its subsea connections with North America, Europe and the Middle and Far East.

‘These are valuable targets for our global competitors: we have already seen Russian attempts to interfere with Atlantic cables.

‘By sounding the alarm over our extreme vulnerability, this compelling report demands that the government urgently adopt a robust strategic response across multiple theatres.’ 

The report calls for a ‘space-to-seabed’ strategy which ‘fully appreciates’ the growing ‘undersea threat landscape’.

This includes drawing up clearer guidance for military chiefs and undersea cable owners about where responsibility lies for protecting them.

More money for ocean surveillance vessels and the Joint Maritime Security Centre, founded to help coordinate maritime defence, should also be found, it says.



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