British military spends more on computers than weapons and ammo

Shows where wars of the 21st century will really be fought...

By Gareth Corfield


The Ministry of Defence has admitted that it spends more on computer services than it does on weapons and ammunition for the Armed Forces.

The startling admission came in a statistical publication issued by the department, breaking down how much of the £35bn defence budget is spent with British industry.

Spending on weapons and ammunition for the Armed Forces totalled £1.15bn in fiscal year 2016/17, whereas the MoD spent £1.45bn on computer services in the same period. For the four prior years, spending on computers consistently outpaced that for arms and ammo, with half a billion more being spent on computers than weapons in 2015/16. Psst. Belgium. Buy these Typhoon fighter jets from us, will you?


We understand the bulk of the spending was on maintaining and "modernising" the MoD's IT infrastructure, including IT security and the JPA military HR system.

Only shipbuilding and repairing, aircraft and spacecraft, and "technical and financial services" spending outpaced the MoD's expenditure on computers. Even construction, at £1.20bn, lagged behind it.

SNP MP Martin Docherty, who sits on Parliament's Defence Committee, told The Register, with reference to a well-known budget shortfall in the MoD: "We can only assume 'technical and financial services' is a euphemism for filling in that £20bn black hole – but on a more serious note, this underlines the changing nature of war fighting and points towards the substantive problems with the Modernising Defence Review: how does the MoD fulfil legacy capabilities while also undertaking a meaningful modernisation, all within a squeezed budget?"

Non-'fiscally neutral' defence review is go, minister tells MPs


"Data processing equipment", a separate category, attracted an average spend of £123m per year over the four years given. As a standalone category, weapons and ammunition includes everything from rifle ammunition to complex weapons such as the Royal Navy's new Sea Ceptor air defence missile system or the RAF's Brimstone guided bomb, as dropped in its thousands on Islamic State terrorists.

The Reg asked the MoD for a fuller breakdown of the top-line figure but was told it will "not release contract detail for commercially sensitive reasons". We know, unsurprisingly, Microsoft features in there. ®

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily


More from The Register

Scare Force: Pakistan military hit by Operation Shaheen malware

State-sponsored attack looks to infiltrate nuclear Air Force

Yikes. UK military looking into building 'fully autonomous' killer drone tech – report

MoD insists there will always be a human at the wheel

See this, Google? Microsoft happy to take a half-billion in sweet, sweet US military money to 'increase lethality'

Well at least someone's interested in buying Hololens

UK military may recruit wheezy, alcoholic keyboard warriors

They don’t need to travel or fight, so chief of defence staff is happy to relax medical rules

We asked the US military for its 'do not buy' list of Russian, Chinese gear. Surprise: It doesn't exist

El Reg drills into banned technology with Freedom-of-Info request

Register Lecture: Right to strike when your boss sells AI to the military?

Principles AND work for Google – it's been known to happen

Boffins urge Google to drop military deal after Googlers storm out over AI-based super-drones

Hey, don't be evil!

UK pins 'reckless campaign of cyber attacks' on Russian military intelligence

We know it was GRU

US military chucks $2bn at AI, Google touts machine-learning data search, and more

Roundup The AI stories you may have missed this week

US military manuals hawked on dark web after files left rattling in insecure FTP server

Wow, so servicemen forget to change their default logins too