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UK plans to build new spy ship to view underwater cables

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A rare photo of the Russian spy submarine Losharik, created and equipped to interfere with underwater cables (file image)

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Maritime Executive


03-21-2021 11:15:00

The Royal Navy plans to build a new spy ship to monitor the underwater telecom cables connecting the UK data networks to the rest of the world.

British defense planners have warned for years about the vulnerability of underwater cable infrastructure to foreign espionage and sabotage. Just over 200 submarine cables hold about 97 percent of the world’s telecommunications, along with trillions of dollars a year in financial transactions.

“Underwater cables are the necessary infrastructure of our time, essential for our modern life and digital economy, yet they are inadequately protected and very vulnerable to attacks at sea and on land, by hostile states and terrorists,” the British MP wrote. Rishi Sunak in the 2017 study

Russia has shown particular interest in the submarine cable networks that connect the United Kingdom with its allies, and the increased activity of Russian maritime assets near major underwater telecom cables has not gone unnoticed. In 2017, UK Defense Chief of Staff Marshall Air Sir Sir Stuart Peach said monitoring and protecting cables would be a critical task for NATO as Russia “continues to refine both its unconventional capabilities and its combat of information “.

“The lights can go out if we lose our critical national infrastructure across the board. Cables are part of that critical national infrastructure and extremely important,” UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC on Sunday. “Russia has certainly taken a deep interest in those cables, not only for the UK, but obviously for the continent of Europe.”

Underlining his department’s new plan for a “multi-role ocean surveillance vessel,” Wallace said it is “really important to invest in [surveillance] because otherwise we are deeply exposed. “

The call for a new spy ship is part of the UK integrated security and defense review, which was first unveiled last week. An in-depth plan with additional budget details is expected Monday; Initial reports suggest he will propose cuts to the British Air Force and British Army in order to fund nuclear and naval capabilities.

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