Category Archives: Defence

Underfunded & Underprepared: Is Britain’s Defence Broken?

GK Adviser Felix Griffin dives into the challenges facing the MoD, from funding shortfalls to sluggish decision-making, and explores potential paths forward.

Incoherent strategy and a lack of funding is hampering progress

The UK’s Ministry of Defence finds itself grappling with a yawning funding gap, a rapidly evolving global landscape demanding a more responsive military, and an uncertain political landscape.

The biggest hurdle? Money – not just the lack of it but also how its spent.

Having fallen down the pecking order in the Chancellor’s recent budget, defence spending is set to receive no additional funding under the current government’s remaining tenure.

Meanwhile rising costs, particularly in nuclear deterrence and ambitious naval programmes, have created a staggering £16.9 billion hole in the MoD’s Equipment Plan – a shortfall which effectively handcuffs the MoD’s ability to modernise its equipment and carry out crucial projects necessary to maintain a robust defence posture.

There’s more to this than just money. Recent warnings highlight long-standing and systemic inventory failures in all three categories of inventory across the UK armed forces: Capital Spares, Raw Material and Consumables, and Guided Weapons, Missiles and Bombs. This raises a critical question: even with increased funding, would the UK be able to effectively equip its armed forces? The current evidence suggests not, presenting a deeper problem that needs addressing.

These issues point not only to a lack of innovation in procurement and strategic thinking, but also to sluggish decision-making processes that hinder the MoD’s ability to react swiftly to emerging threats.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps’s stark assessment of the current situation – a transition from a “post-war world into a pre-war world” – rings all too true. The war in Ukraine serves as a stark reminder of the impact of large-scale conflict in Europe, while regional instability in the Middle East and the ever-growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific all demand a more agile and capable military from the UK. These diverse threats, which are by no means an exhaustive list, require a comprehensive and adaptable defence strategy from the MoD; something which the most recent Integrated Review (2021) failed to deliver, even after it was refreshed in 2023.

With the possibility of a new Labour government becoming increasingly likely, the party’s stance on defence policy and spending adds another layer of uncertainty.

I attended a Policy Exchange event on 28 February, which saw Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey, articulate his party’s vision for national defence. While recognising outdated practices and the imperative to modernise, Labour’s defence plans appear largely underdeveloped, or at least under-communicated.

Despite outlining some interesting plans, including a new national armaments director and the enhancement of the Chief of Defence Staff’s role, Healey’s speech fell victim to his party’s commitment to fiscal prudence, lacking significant substance and ambition. Though highlighting the state of defence when Labour left in 2010, with comparatively higher levels of defence spending (2.5% of GDP), as well as better troop numbers and satisfaction (over 100,000 soldiers and 60% approval), Healey emphasised the need to streamline existing processes before making financial commitments, underscoring a cautious approach. Nevertheless, Labour’s emphasis on reform and strategic preparedness offers a glimpse into their aspirations for bolstering the nation’s security in an increasingly uncertain world.

Artificial Intelligence: ‘The Future of Defence Capability’

What does the ongoing conflict in Ukraine mean for private equity investment in UK defence?

GK Senior Adviser Hugo Tuckett analyses the historical challenges for private equity investment into the defence sector, and takes a look at investment landscape in the years ahead. 

Defence has historically been a challenging area for private equity. The nature of contracts, cash flow models and high barriers to entry have often been cited as reasons for a lack of investment. This is alongside the perception that the industry is dominated by a relatively closed shop of actors.

However, has the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed the outlook for private equity in this space? Does an on-going war in the Europe open the door to investment in technologies with an offensive application?

ESG considerations have certainly softened. While private equity houses have traditionally steered away from investing in defence due to ethical considerations, public attitudes in the UK indicate a continued desire to provide military support to Ukraine. YouGov polling, conducted in February 2023 on the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion, found that 65% of Britons supported sending additional weaponry and supplies to the country. There was also more support (45%) than opposition (25%) for cyber-attacks against Russian military capabilities.

Furthermore, the Government’s continued desire to financially back UK defence points to a healthy procurement environment in the years ahead. The Defence Secretary’s very public lobbying efforts to secure additional funding on top of the multi-year settlement agreed in 2020 have certainly been fruitful. At the recent Budget, the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, announced that the Government will commit an extra £11bn to the defence budget over the next five years and confirmed the decision to increase investment by £5bn over the next two.

Where, therefore, does private equity most stand to gain in the industry? KPMG analysis from 2021 highlights two possible areas private equity houses might look to explore. Firstly, supply chain consolidation. Liquidity issues amongst the supply base lends itself to lower-tier suppliers joining together to create economies of scale and gain access to more capital. Secondly, in innovation. For growth-orientated investors, cutting-edge assets that become available to the market via divestments from parent companies presents an opportunity for private equity houses to bring their expertise to assets that could go onto become extremely successful businesses.

While, of course, some parts of the defence industry remain outside the scope of private equity, shifting public attitudes to offensive military technology and growing Government financial backing certainly point to a welcoming investment landscape in the years ahead.

GK consultants are on hand to offer investment professionals our expertise helping to assess the UK’s political and regulatory outlook. Please get in touch at for more information.