British Army to Switch Main Training Base From Canada to Oman in Move Seen as Hostile to Iran
10:50 GMT 24.11.2021 (Updated: 15:24 GMT 28.05.2023)
The British Army has had a huge base in the Canadian province of Alberta since 1972. The Suffield base became increasingly important as the British Army pulled resources out of Germany after the end of the Cold War.
The Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, is expected to announce the British Army is quitting its main overseas training base, in Canada, and will shift more than 1,000 tanks and helicopters to a new base in Oman.
The Daily Telegraph’s defence editor Dominic Nicholls
wrote: “Defence sources said the shift to the Gulf would enable British forces to position hardware closer to allies such as Ukraine and Bahrain, and to potential adversaries such as Iran.”
The British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) in Alberta has been in existence since 1972 and enables mechanised infantry and artillery to train on a 1,600 square mile base near the city of Medicine Hat.
The BATUS base grew in importance during the late 1990s and in the last 20 years as the British Army gradually closed down its bases in Germany, where it had maintained a presence since the Second World War.
But the Ministry of Defence reportedly feels the base is too far from Europe and the Middle East and is seeking to relocate to a new base close to the port of Duqm in Oman.
In 2019 Britain and Oman signed an agreement
which allowed the Royal Navy to anchor ships, including the new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, at Duqm.
Duqm is on the Arabian Sea, 200 miles south of the Omani capital Muscat and 300 miles from the Straits of Hormuz but the decision to set up a huge British Army base within range of Iran will doubtless be poorly received in Tehran, which already feels under threat from the US and Israel.
Britain has already set up a Joint Logistics Support Base at the port of Duqm, and the British shipbuilding and repairs firm Babcock has taken out a 37-year lease there.
Oman was a British protectorate between 1891 and 1970 when it gained independence but it has remained a close ally of London ever since.
Sultan Qaboos, who was educated in England, ruled Oman from 1970 until his death last year and was succeeded by his cousin Haitham, who also went to school and university in England.
The Economist has described Sultan Haitham, 66, as “outward-looking and Western-oriented.”
was a good friend of Iran but his cousin has moved Oman away from Iran and closer to Saudi Arabia, which is fighting a proxy war with the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen.
Confirmation of the move to Oman is due to be included in a wider announcement by the Ministry of Defence about British Army roles, including fleshing out the exact role of the new Ranger Regiment, which was formed in March.
The Telegraph reports the Rangers will be modelled on the US Green Berets, an elite special forces unit based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.