THE Ministry of Defence is to invest millions of pounds in a squadron of drones to overwhelm enemy radar, Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, has announced, as he suggested Britain could “enhance its lethality” after Brexit.

Mr Williamson also said the Government would buy and adapt cargo ships or ferries to bring two new vessels into service, which could rapidly respond to a crisis and carry out a range of operations.

In a keynote speech in London, attended by the military top brass, including the heads of the three services, he declared: "Brexit has brought us to a great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality and increase our mass."

He explained the MoD’s Transformation Fund would be used to "complement" the cutting-edge technology of the multimillion-pound stealth fighter jet by developing "swarm squadrons of network enabled drones".

The Secretary of State explained the drones, costing £7 million, would be capable of confusing the enemy and overwhelming their air defences. They are expected to be deployed by the end of this year.

He set out how the effectiveness of ground troops would be increased with those across the services being given the same night vision equipment used by colleagues in the special forces.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute, Mr Williamson revealed the new "Littoral Strike Ship concept".

He said: "These globally deployable, multi-role vessels would be able to conduct a wide range of operations from crisis support to war fighting.

"They would support our future Commando force, our world-renowned Royal Marines - they will be forward deployed at exceptionally high readiness and able to respond at a moment's notice - bringing the fight from the sea to land."

The minister explained that the two ships - one of the first investments from the Transformation Fund - could be based to the east of Suez in the Indo-Pacific and to the west of Suez in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Baltic.

He also confirmed the new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, embarked with UK and US F-35 jets, would be deployed on her first operational mission to the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Pacific region, where China has been involved in a dispute over navigation rights and territorial claims in the South China Sea.

During his speech, Mr Williamson said future conflict would "require us to be adaptable, agile and capable of using new technologies quickly and cost-effectively" and that he was determined to use the Transformation Fund to "create the armed forces of the future".

However, last month, the Commons Public Accounts Committee published a scathing report, which said there was a funding black hole of at least £7 billion in plans for kit for the armed forces due to Government dithering over which projects to fully finance, cancel or scale back.

Asked how his vision was matched by financial realities and how it would be paid for, the Defence Secretary replied: "All that we have announced has been fully costed...and covered."

But Labour’s Nia Griffith said the UK's ability to play such a global role had been "completely undermined by eight years of Tory defence cuts".

The Shadow Defence Secretary said: "The Conservatives have slashed the defence budget by over £9bn in real terms since 2010 and they are cutting armed forces numbers year after year.

"Instead of simply engaging in yet more sabre-rattling, Gavin Williamson should get to grips with the crisis in defence funding that is happening on his watch," she added.

Stewart McDonald for the SNP said Mr Williamson had delivered an extraordinary speech, which was “almost impressive in its ability to ignore the mounting funding challenges - well into the billions - that his department faces”.

Given the fire financial outlook for the MoD, the Glasgow MP said: “It is, therefore, incumbent on Gavin Williamson to halt the proxy Conservative leadership challenge that he is so perversely using the MoD for and instead commit to a serious and thoughtful approach to sorting out the challenges facing defence and security.”