Based at Blandford in Dorset, home of the Royal Signals, the 13th Signal Regiment will be tasked with providing “digital armour” around armed forces personnel operating overseas to give commanders and soldiers alike the ability to operate with confidence in their IT and comms systems while under fire.
The MoD said that that both adversaries and hostile actors were already creating a “cyber frontline” alongside the more traditional domains of land, sea and air, and as the character of warfare evolves, digital and cyber capabilities will be increasingly relied on to ensure the UK’s national security.
“This is a step-change in the modernisation of the UK armed forces for information warfare. Cyber attacks are every bit as deadly as those faced on the physical battlefield, so we must prepare to defend ourselves from all those who would do us harm and 13th Signal Regiment is a vital addition to that defence,” said defence secretary Ben Wallace.
Sitting within the 1st (UK) Signal Brigade, under the command of 6th (UK) Division, the 250-strong regiment forms the core of the new Army Cyber Information Security Operations Centre – although it will also work on behalf of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force – and will provide specialist technical support for a hub to test and implement next-generation information capabilities.
It unifies a number of existing cyber functions from across the Army, with personnel from 15 different units joining in the first intake, plus specialist Navy and RAF personnel.
They will be organised into several Cyber Protection Teams alongside technical staff who will secure technology for troops deployed on military operations.
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Brigadier John Collyer, commander of the 1st (UK) Signal Brigade, said: “The formation of 13th Signal Regiment is an exciting step forward as the Royal Signals, Army and wider defence rapidly drives up their potency and resilience in the information environment and cyber domain.
“The stakes are high and our success is increasingly and critically reliant on focusing our brightest men and women onto the opportunities and risks that underpin our operations – both home and away.”
This is actually the second time the 13th Signals have existed – during the Second World War the unit served as the 1st Special Wireless Group, pioneering the use of then cutting-edge high-frequency radio communications technology, and was renamed the 13th (Radio) Signal Regiment in 1959, at which time it was based in West Germany, with personnel providing support for Nato operations during the Cold War. It was stood down in 1994.
Last year, General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the UK’s defence staff, said that cyber security would soon take its place alongside the Army, Navy and RAF in its own right as a pillar of the more coherent and consistent national UK’s defence strategy.
“Our modernised force will be framed through the integration of five domains – space, cyber and information, maritime, air and land. This will change the way we fight and the way we develop capability,” said Carter, in a speech delivered at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi).
“Our new UK Strategic Command … is charged with driving the essential integration across the modernised force to achieve multi-domain effect. It will develop and generate the capabilities we need to operate successfully in this sub-threshold context – or grey zone, as some call it – including space, cyber, special operations and information operations.
“It will also command the strategic base, including the fixed parts of our global footprint, and the support, medical and logistic capability that enables operational deployment and mobilisation,” he said.