The UK announces 20,000 British Forces to boost NATO in speech

Speaking at Lancaster House today, the Defence Secretary set out his vision for deterring threats, leading among allies, and defending the UK

In the context of an ever more dangerous world, the Secretary of State for Defence, Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, will deliver a major speech at Lancaster House today, to set out his vision for the UK to deter threats, lead among allies and defend the UK.

Following last week’s targeted Royal Air Force strikes against the Houthis in Yemen and the announcement of a further £2.5bn UK support package to Ukraine, the Defence Secretary is expected to announce that in the first half of 2024, 20,000 service personnel from the Royal Navy, the British Army, and the Royal Air Force will deploy across Europe to take part in Exercise Steadfast Defender 24. 

The exercises will see the UK’s Armed Forces join thousands of personnel from 31 NATO allies and Sweden, operating across multiple countries, coinciding with the NATO Alliance’s 75th year.

The deployment will see the UK use the RAF’s most up-to-date fighter jets and surveillance aircraft, the Royal Navy’s most advanced warships and submarines, and a full range of Army’s capabilities – from logistics to armour to special operations forces.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps MP is expected to say:

"We are in a new era and we must be prepared to deter our enemies, prepared to lead our allies and prepared to defend our nation whenever the call comes.

"Today our adversaries are busily rebuilding their barriers. Old enemies are reanimated. Battle lines are being redrawn. The tanks are literally on Ukraine’s lawn.  And the foundations of the world order are being shaken to their core. We stand at a crossroads.

"I can announce today that UK will be sending some 20,000 personnel to take part in one of NATO’s largest deployments since the end of the Cold War. Exercise Steadfast Defender. It will see our military joining forces with counterparts from 30 NATO countries plus Sweden, providing vital reassurance against the Putin menace."

Among those deploying next year is 7th Light Mechanised Brigade Combat Team (7LMBCT), which led the response during the activation of NATO’s Strategic Reserve Force in Kosovo last year, and which will be operating across Europe to deliver one of the largest NATO deployments since the Cold War.

Enhancing the coalition between the UK and her NATO allies, Steadfast Defender 24 will bring NATO nations together and deliver on promises made at the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius.

Contributions from each service:

The Royal Navy:

  • The Royal Navy will be deploying eight warships and submarines, and more than 2,000 sailors.
  • A UK Carrier Strike Group, centred on a Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier and her air group of F-35B Lightning jets and helicopters, and surrounded by escort frigates and destroyers, will operate as part of a potent naval force of allied warships and submarines in the North Atlantic, the Norwegian Sea and the Baltic Sea.
  • More than 400 Royal Marines Commandos will be deployed to the Arctic Circle at the heart of an allied amphibious task group designed to land in the high north and defend the alliance in one of the world’s harshest environments.

The British Army:

  • 16,000 troops from the British Army will be deployed across eastern Europe from February to June 2024, taking with them tanks, artillery, helicopters, and parachutes.
  • There will be live fire manoeuvres, parachute jumps, an Army and Navy joint helicopter force, and Army Special Operations Forces on deployment.
  • The British Army will deploy to test and strengthen the readiness of the UK’s land forces in defending NATO, and to bolster its ability to operate jointly with allied armed forces.

The Royal Air Force: 

  • The Royal Air Force will be making use of some of its most cutting-edge aircraft, including F35B Lightning attack aircraft and Poseidon P8 surveillance aircraft.
  • The RAF will practice flying in simulated conflict scenarios against near-peer adversaries, proving its ability to deter and defend against threats.

Ministry of Defence
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP