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[casi] British armed forces' planned military build-up in the Middle East

i got this a while ago but hadn't got around to reading it, it may or may
not be significant as regards war plan iraq

Tim Ripley explains the British armed forces' planned military build-up in
the Middle East.
Middle East rapid training

The United Kingdom's joint rapid reaction force (JRRF) will be put through
its paces for the first time later this year when 23,000 British service
personnel are to take part in a joint exercise with the Omani armed forces.
New capabilities and equipment for strategic power projection will be on
show, including C-17 Globemaster airlifters, amphibious assault ships and
possibly WAH-64 Apache attack helicopters. Air, land and naval forces are to
be involved in exercise Saif Sareea 2 (Swift Sword) to put to the test the
UK's JRRF concept that was announced in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review
(SDR). During the two months long exercise the deployment, sustainment and
recovery of a large warfighting force over a 'strategic distance' will be
practiced. Expeditionary operations such as this are at the heart of the SDR
so it is not surprising that the Ministry of Defence wants to demonstrate
that it can 'project power' in the strategically important Middle East.
The deployment of a large force of Challenger 2 tanks, Warrior infantry
fighting vehicles and AS-90 self-propelled guns significantly differentiates
the exercise Saif Sareea 2 from the last major UK overseas exercise, Purple
Star, in the US in 1996 that only involved 'light' airborne and amphibious
forces. By projecting a 'heavy' force to the Middle East, Britain aims to
demonstrate the relevance of its armoured forces to the country's
expeditionary warfare strategy. The exercise is classed as a tier three, or
joint exercise, which brings air, land and maritime forces to practice
combined operations under a single commander.
It is being conducted under the auspices of the UK's Permanent Joint
Headquarters (PJHQ) at Northwood, near London, that is responsible for the
operational command of all British military activity outside of the United
Kingdom. The headquarters ran the British contribution to the 1999 Kosovo
war and masterminded the intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000. PJHQ has
control of the JRRF, which is in effect a pool of assets that the UK's
single service commands - the Army's land command, the Royal Navy's
Commander-in-Chief fleet and RAF strike command - make available for
short-term deployment around the world for a range of operations from
humanitarian aid, peacekeeping operations and war fighting tasks.

Some 17 naval vessels, two nuclear submarines and more than 100 aircraft and
helicopters are to deploy to Oman in September and October in a major test
of the UK's power projection capability. It will be the largest British
exercise ever held in the Middle East and be on a par with the UK's
commitment of troops to the 1999 Kosovo conflict. A UK Ministry of Defence
spokesman stressed to ETS News that this is only a bilateral exercise with
Oman and will not involve US forces in the region.
British troops last exercised on a similar scale in Oman in 1986, when just
over 2,000 troops deployed to the sultanate. The UK has close defence ties
with Oman and last year Alvis Vehicles signed a contract to supply the
sultanate with 80 licence-built Piranha 8x8 armoured vehicles and
modernisation equipment for its fleet of 60 Scorpion vehicles. The final
phase of the exercise will feature a two day VIP firepower demonstration,
which will provide a chance for UK companies to show off their products to
key regional leaders.

The exercise will test the UK's JRRF war fighting capabilities over a two
month period, practicing strategic deployments, armoured warfare,
helicopter-borne raids, amphibious landings and the full spectrum of air
operations. At its height some 23,000 UK personnel will be involved, along
with 12,000 Omanis. Current estimates suggest the exercise will cost the UK
alone some $67m. Beginning in September the RAF will deploy around 48
fixed-wing aircraft to the Muscat, Afar, Thumrait and Qarat Al Milh
airbases. The RAF's new Boeing C-17 Globemaster II transports will be making
their debut during the exercise.
HMS Illustrious will support the exercise from the Indian Ocean. A full
armoured brigade will form the core of the UK land element during the
exercise, with the headquarters of 1 Armoured Division co-ordinating the
event. Providing 'opposing forces' for the main 'live' phase of the exercise
will be an amphibious task group with 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines
embarked. For the first time the UK will also deploy its newly formed joint
nuclear, chemical and biological (NVC) warfare regiment to practice defence
against weapons of mass destruction.

PJHQ in Northwood, UK, will control the exercise through a joint force
headquarters (JFHQ) to be established temporarily in Oman. The practice of
the command and control procedures for air, land, maritime, special forces
and logistic components is a major objective of the exercise. Another major
element of the exercise will be the deployment phase with the deployment of
so much military hardware and supplies so far from their home bases in the
UK and Germany. Almost all the RAF's air transport fleet, the Royal Fleet
Auxiliary, chartered shipping and aircraft will be involved.
The first phase of exercise Saif Sareea 2 will involve single service tier
one and two training to allow the main forces to acclimatise to the Middle
East environment and shake down their tactics and procedures. The land
forces will stage their own training exercises, Desert Warrior and Desert
Rhino, in the south of Oman. The Royal Marines will carry out their own
practice amphibious operations in the north of Oman.
In the Indian Ocean the Royal Navy will conduct integration training. RAF
air crew and maintenance personnel will also be put through their paces in a
work-up period. Co-operation with the Omani armed forces will also be
undertaken prior to the main 'live' phase of the exercise, particularly by
the RAF which will be working with its Omani counterparts on the Sultanate's

The 'live' phase of the exercise is to take place in the north of Oman,
requiring the armoured brigade to make a 700km road march from its initial
base in the south, near Thumrait. Once re-positioned, the armoured brigade
will join with an Omani armoured contingent to stage a mock battle against 3
Command Brigade and an Omani infantry battalion and tank squadron. Omani air
and naval forces will also play their part on both sides of the exercise.
The exercise will take the traditional form with umpires monitoring and
deciding the outcome of engagements. This is because neither the UK nor Oman
have enough tactical engagement system (TES) training devices to provide for
all forces taking part in the exercise. Exercise Saif Sareea 2 is part of a
programme of events to ensure the JRRF is available to answer calls to duty
whenever they arise. It is scheduled to be repeated in three years time.

Andreas Speck
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