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UK to deploy more intelligence personnel to monitor Russia and China

Additional UK military intelligence personnel are being deployed to overseas locations as part of growing strategic competition with Russia and China, according to the head of the UK's Defence Intelligence organisation.

During a rare public appearance at DSEI 2021 in London on 16 September, the organisation's chief, Lieutenant General Jim Hockenhull, said this was part of a wider revamp of how Defence Intelligence gives early warning of crises to political decision makers and monitors the build-up of Chinese and Russian military capabilities.

He said this involves a move away from reliance on traditional classified intelligence-collection methods towards the exploitation of open-source information and commercial services, as well as the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to process the “deluge of information” now available to intelligence analysts.

The commercialisation of space was identified by Lt Gen Hockenhull as a key development, even if some commercial earth observation satellites do not generate images with the same resolution as those produced by military reconnaissance satellites. “Private sector satellites are more numerous and resilient; they take more pictures than [their military equivalents], so you can't dismiss them.” he said. “Our analysts need a way to manage the deluge of information; we need automation. We have ambitious plans for automation in the UK intelligence enterprise.”

Defence Intelligence was already using image-recognition technology to help speed the analysis of satellite imagery and machine translation to allow the rapid reading of foreign language material, he said.

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