Robots and cyber warriors are likely to be a bigger feature than traditional tanks and jet fighters in the delayed defence and security review, according to arms firm QinetiQ.
The prediction came from the defence and security contractor’s boss as the FTSE 250 business delivered strong results that sent its shares surging.
Announcing revenue up almost a quarter to £603m in the sixth months to the end of September and pre-tax profits 15pc better at £82m, chief executive Steve Wadey said: “The changing nature of warfare is going to be more information-centric and less focused on platforms, and that seems the direction the review is headed in.
“We’re going to see manned and unmanned growing. Absolutely robotics has a role. We’re going to see a lot more integrated defence.”
As an example Mr Wadey pointed to QinetiQ’s recent demonstration where it operated a helicopter and drone together on a reconnaissance mission on Salisbury Plain. The drone would search for targets independently but alert a human in the helicopter if one was found and a decision needed.
QinetiQ is also working on the project to supply the US military with robot combat vehicle, an unmanned mini-tank.
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However, Mr Wadey believes humans are unlikely to be pushed out of combat entirely in the near future, adding that QinetiQ is working on how to bring new technologies together with existing ones.
QinetiQ is also involved in the Tempest project to build a next-generation stealth fighter aimed to be in service in the mid-2030s.
Mr Wadey said his company is using virtual environments to simulate systems, meaning that much of the testing will have been done before prototype aircraft are produced, speeding up development and cutting costs.
With fears about pressure on the UK defence budget, he said offering such services made QinetiQ an attractive proposition to the Ministry of Defence.
Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings is understood to be pushing for the Integrated Defence and Security Review to embrace new technology.
The report, which sets out defence priorities and spending, was originally expected in the next few weeks but is now delayed until next year because of the pandemic.
Shares in QinetiQ jumped to the top of the FTSE 250 leaderboard, up 11pc to 323p. The increase was partly fuelled by confirmation of both an interim and full-year dividend.