Defence Secretary Grant Shapps visited multiple military locations, vowing for personnel to remain at the heart of our Armed Forces.

People will remain at the heart of our Armed Forces, the Defence Secretary has said, as he made his first visits as Defence Secretary to the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force. 

The Defence Secretary prioritised meeting Armed Forces personnel to understand their experiences and give his steadfast commitment to supporting serving personnel and their families.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said:

The work of each and every one of our Armed Forces personnel is critical to our nation’s security, and I am grateful for their tireless dedication and expertise, and proud to be leading such a brilliant organisation.

I am committed to protecting the security and prosperity of our nation while ensuring that all personnel and their families have the best possible experience, from childcare and accommodation, to pay and equipment.

On his visit to the Navy in Portsmouth, the Defence Secretary met with serving Navy personnel to understand their experiences and opportunities they have had in the forces.

He toured Type 45 HMS Defender which has recently been at the heart of joint operations with the UK’s allies, having completed four operations and four exercises in the year prior to her refit – including Exercise Formidable Shield. The Defence Secretary received briefs on Navy priorities and met with representatives from BAE Systems – a key defence partner – which is supporting thousands of jobs and livelihoods across the UK.

On Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, visiting the Army, the Defence Secretary and Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Patrick Sanders, met the British soldiers at the centre of the UK-led training programme which has trained more than 26,500 Ukrainian recruits to date. He heard their inspiring stories and observed the world-leading training, before receiving briefings on the Army’s priorities, including modernisation.

At RAF Waddington, accompanied by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Rich Knighton, the Defence Secretary met the personnel serving at the station – including 51 and XIII Squadrons, who operate Rivet Joint and Reaper Aircraft respectively. The Defence Secretary heard about their experiences in the Armed Forces and the work they have recently done. Grant Shapps was briefed on the intelligence gathering roles the RAF provides for defence.

Providing the often-unseen elements of Defence is Strategic Command, based at Northwood, London and led by its Commander, General Sir Jim Hockenhull. During a meeting with General Jim, the Defence Secretary was briefed on the work of the specialists in the organisation such as cyber operators, intelligence analysts, medics, and logisticians.

By integrating capabilities across Defence, Strategic Command ensures our Armed Forces are ready to respond anytime and anywhere. People are the key to making this work, and the Defence Secretary discussed the broad range of initiatives ongoing in Strategic Command to attract, upskill, and retain people, particularly those with science, digital and technical skills.

This week, the Defence Secretary also visited Kyiv with Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin to discuss the UK’s steadfast support to Ukraine.

Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said:

I am pleased the Secretary of State has had an opportunity to see how the Armed Forces are adapting to the lessons from the war in Ukraine, and to a world of state-on-state competition.

An Army that is benefitting from a £40 billion investment programme to become even more lethal and even stronger within NATO. A Royal Air Force which is transitioning from fourth-generation aircraft to fifth-generation aircraft, more capacity to transport people and cargoes, and is improving our ability to both use and defend in space. A Royal Navy that is a carrier force once again with an enhanced global presence and an ongoing renewal of our nuclear deterrent.  And all our Services striving to make more use of technology and data both to provide the winning edge and look after our people better.

Most of all I am pleased the Secretary of State is able to meet even more of our people. It is their commitment and skill, and the partnerships they forge internationally and with industry, that keep our nation safe.

Published 1 October 2023