First Sea Lord encourages Royal Navy to invest in global partnerships and embrace technology

Topic: PeopleSenior leaders Storyline: First Sea Lord

Britain’s most senior sailor has said the Royal Navy’s commitment to operating with international partners and embracing technology are as important as ever amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Speaking at the Sea Power Conference at Arundel House, in London, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key reflected on the last defence review and said Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine reinforced the Integrated Review’s conclusions.

In his speech to the conference, held in conjunction with the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Admiral Key also spoke about the need for defence and the Royal Navy to futureproof themselves by embracing technology and how countries can work together against aggression.

Addressing both in-person and virtual attendees, he said his ‘call to arms’ speech delivered in Rosyth in February (in the shipbuilding hall where Type 31 frigates will be built) recognised a huge and ambitious investment in the Royal Navy.

“Of course, we now know that at the same time, President Putin was making his final preparations for operations against and subsequently invading Ukraine,” Admiral Key said.

“So has Ukraine changed the IR? Do we need to revisit its conclusions? In fact, I think it doubles down on some of those conclusions.

“We will have to react, we will have to respond to the reality of what we see going on around, we have to recognise that some of our assumptions about Russia are clearly wrong and what they mean.”

He said the Review concluded there was an increasing risk of a return to state-on-state conflict; saw the importance of alliances and partnerships; reaffirmed the need for us in Defence to futureproof, by embracing technology and innovation and reiterated the need for joined-up approach across Government.

“When we talk about the return to state-on-state warfare, when we talk about the need to operate at high levels of intense warfare, we know that we're not going to do so alone,” he said.

“NATO remains the key cornerstone of what we are going to do. As signalled in the IR, we have to be ready to defend our homeland.

“But we are not constrained to the Euro Atlantic and I welcome the announcement today by the Prime Minister about closer Defence ties with Japan. Just as we have made long standing commitments with our friends and allies including in New Zealand and Australia.

“So we count on the strength of our alliances and partnerships.”

Delivering his 20-minute speech at the conference, also attended by Minister for Armed Forces and key note speaker James Heappey, Admiral Key spoke about the Royal Navy’s efforts to become the foremost naval power in Europe.

He added: “It’s about mindset, it’s about an impact and it’s about being bolder, it’s about being operationally effective. It’s about being globally deployed, persistently present alongside those who matter to us and espousing the values of our nation.

“Operating at the heart of an integrated force and a leading contributor to defence and deterrence of what we hold dear. To achieve that, we will have to be digitised, we will have to data driven and innovative.

“But we will only achieve all of that if at our heart we are people orientated. We must attract, train and retain the very best of the talent available to us across our diverse and wonderful nation.”

The Royal Navy’s relationship with the United States was also highlighted, with the UK Carrier Strike Group working with US Marine Corps personnel and being escorted by US Navy ship USS The Sullivans. First Sea Lord also confirmed HMS Prince of Wales will host the Atlantic Future Forum in the US later this year.

He finished: “I'm heartened by the strength of everything that I see. And while I know that there are huge challenges ahead for our Service, we have the opportunity, working alongside all of you, whether international friends, commercial and industrial partners, or those who are at risk as well. I'm confident we can achieve what has been asked of us.”



So has Ukraine changed the IR? Do we need to revisit its conclusions? In fact, I think it doubles down on some of those conclusions.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key