MoD acquires first quantum computer for UK Government

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has acquired the first quantum computer to be used by the UK Government, to explore quantum use cases for defence operations

The new tech acquisition will help the MoD, alongside quantum specialists Orca Computing, establish new approaches and solutions that aren’t possible using regular computers, reports the BBC.

The governmental department will utilise Orca’s PT-1 quantum computer, claimed to be the first of its kind to be capable of working at room temperature, rather than the sub-zero conditions required by other such devices.

Describing the acquisition as a “milestone moment” for understanding quantum, Stephen Till, of the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), said: “We expect the Orca system to provide significantly improved latency – the speed at which we can read and write to the quantum computer.”

Richard Murray, co-founder and CEO of Orca Computing, added: “Our partnership with MoD gives us the type of hands-on close interaction, working with real hardware which will help us to jointly discover new applications of this revolutionary new technology.”

Early quantum developments

As opposed to operating on bits with a binary value of zero or one, quantum computers use qubits, which can represent two digits simultaneously.

It’s this two-state unit that makes quantum computers capable of coming up with new solutions to problems.

Solutions that would usually take years for regular computers to find can be established by quantum computers in minutes, according to experts.

Along with defence, quantum technology is being explored for battling climate change, developing new medication, and advancing AI.

David Mahdi, cryptographic expert and chief strategy officer at Sectigo, commented: “While the much-touted ‘Quantum Apocalypse’ may be several years away, governments and organisations across the globe must begin preparing for the new age of quantum computing; an advanced type of computation that leans on quantum physics to run multiple processes simultaneously.

“For over fifty years, public key infrastructure (PKI) has been relied upon by almost all organisations to provide the cryptographic backbone which secures devices and the humans using them. Like most things, nothing lasts, and the PKI we all rely upon to maintain digital trust is severely threatened by quantum computing.

“Quantum computing will render traditional PKI, as we know it, no longer fit for purpose. This poses a very real threat to the information security systems we all rely on to protect our freedom, liberty, privacy, and security.

“To remain secure, the world will have to adopt new families of quantum-resistant cryptography. The US-based NIST is currently working on selecting what the world’s post-quantum standards will be.”


How quantum computing is helping businesses to meet objectives — Johannes Oberreuter, Quantum Computing practice lead and data scientist at Reply, spoke to Information Age about how quantum computing is helping businesses to meet objectives.

Attracting tech talent to the UK defence sector — Scarlett McDermott, CTO of WithYouWithMe, discusses how the UK defence sector can go about attracting tech talent.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.