‘We haven’t forgotten about the Middle-East’ says British Army Colonel

British Army is in a ‘dire state’ says Tobias Ellwood

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The Middle East has “not been forgotten” as war rumbles on in Europe, a British colonel declared last night.

Soldiers are in Oman honing their war-fighting skills before they take command of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VTJF) on January 1 2024.

The Daily Express can reveal defence chiefs want to expand the training base near Duqm to allow Royal Marines and the RAF to train there.

It can also be used by Royal Navy ships to practice destroying targets on the shoreline.

They are want to build an explosive storage facility to house ammunition for troops training in the area as the British Army ramps up its partnership with Oman.

After stepping up to help the public during Covid, delivering PPE to hospitals and administering vaccines, troops say they are returning to their core duties.

Captain Lewis Haigh said troops were “proud” to support the UK during the pandemic and fill gaps when workers walked out on strike.

But the British Army is now returning to its “core purpose”.

It comes at a time when Britain’s role in the World is being heavily scrutinised.

The British Army withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021 after 20 years and will no longer be involved in the UN counter-terrorism mission in Mali.

Defence chiefs are reviewing their priorities in the Integrated Review. But Duqm, in Oman, has become a crucial hub for the military, with the Carrier Strike Group visiting in 2021 and troops regularly conducting gruelling exercises there.

Colonel Hugh Campbell-Smith, Commander of the Defence Hub in Duqm, said: “They are setting up a site which has amphibious landing sites, naval gun support so you can fire from ship to shore, it is big enough to put a live air range in.

“As something that is in the region, outside the Strait of Hormuz, you have not only got the Gulf, but you are Indian Ocean facing, you have got a real opportunity to develop something which we struggle for anywhere in the World.

“But in this region, it is a fantastic training opportunity.”

Colonel Campbell Smith said the military is maintaining strong relationships with countries in the region.

He said: “It is more about the UK wanting to have that presence in the region.

“As we know, this region draws us. It is something we are constantly having to think about. Partnerships take a long time to develop. It’s not something you can dip in and out of. That is why the Omani one has been strong.

“Duqm sits within the Gulf but is facing the Indian Ocean, which is something defence is looking at.

“The Middle East has not been abandoned. We continue to keep those strong relationships.

“There is a presence here, they are not forgotten and we value the partnerships and the training opportunities.

“It is a fantastic opportunity to deploy a force onto something which is really testing and then for them to train to a standard really showing they are ready, then wherever they are needed in the world afterwards, they’ve had that training.”

The British Army wants to build an explosive storage area to ensure ammunition lasts longer for troops training in Oman.

Col Campbell-Smith added: “Having an explosive storage area, which is what we are looking to build. You could have it here ready and when British troops come in, they can just take it.

“What would be really good is if that ammunition is stored in the explosive storage area, you took it out when you required it, if they don’t use it all, you don’t have a problem.

“It makes common logistical sense.

“Ammunition has a life. What you want to do is time it perfectly. If you don’t have a storage area, you really have to think about what exactly it is that you require. That might take some of your flexibility away.

“By having your explosive storage area, you have stuff that is stored. And once you are in a temperature controlled environment, you are able to store it for years. You have got that opportunity to be more flexible and save the ammunition.”

Captain Lewis Haigh, from 4th Light Brigade Combat Team, highlighted how soldiers have refocused on “future threats abroad” after years of helping the public.

He said: “The Army is now getting back to its core purpose.

“We’re training for a range of different things around the world.

“You have humanitarian and peace support, security and, at the far end, war.

“The military was proud to support the UK during Covid – with the Nightingale Hospitals, vaccinations, testing and, more recently, providing drivers during the ambulance strikes.

“But the Army is now focused on future threats abroad.

“During all that time the Army was still training soldiers of the future, we just now have more of a focus on external threats.”

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