Recording: Report Launch: Necessary Heresies: Challenging the Narratives Distorting UK Defence

A new Whitehall Paper edited by Military Sciences Fellows Justin Bronk (Air Power) and Jack Watling (Land Warfare) is launched at this event.

Watch the event recording


‘Necessary Heresies’ offers a robust challenge to several key tenets which underpin the Integrated Operating Concept and have been central to reform and modernisation efforts driven by General Sir Nick Carter, the outgoing Chief of the Defence Staff. Through the use of multiple case studies, the authors contend that the dominant narratives underpinning UK defence reforms are both flawed and risk creating dangerous distortionary effects.

Crucial nuances and practical constraints are almost unavoidably ‘lost in translation’ as senior decision-makers shape policy and generalists rewrite doctrine and strategy documents based on their own understanding of briefings given by specialist practitioners and subject-matter experts. This tendency is exacerbated by a natural inclination to over-hype the potential for novel technologies or strategies to provide transformative effects.

Among the narratives challenged by the authors, the book argues that the ‘grey zone’ concept leads to an intellectual dustbin that confuses ways and ends; that cyber warfare is the slowest and least precise form of conflict; that the military is far more casualty-averse than either ministers or the public; that munitions can be hypersonic, smart or cheap enough to field in large numbers, but not all three; that armies have a basic requirement for significant combat mass; and that any-sensor-to-any-shooter networks are not as transformative or universally applicable as regularly claimed.

Necessary Heresies: Challenging the Narratives Distorting Contemporary UK Defence


Dr Jack Watling

Senior Research Fellow, Land Warfare

Military Sciences

View profile

Professor Justin Bronk

Senior Research Fellow, Airpower & Technology

Military Sciences

View profile


Explore our related content