UK Seeks To Expand Training in Mideast – DefenseNews.com

ABU DHABI — Britain is hoping to expand its training and exercise effort with countries in the Arabian Gulf, but is not looking to strike any further basing agreements on the lines of the naval accord with Bahrain late last year, according to the UK’s defense procurement minister.

“I wouldn’t rush to suggest we have any further bases agreement in mind, but we are looking at measures to see what is the appropriate structure for an exercise and training regime for our friends in the Gulf,” Philip Dunne Dunne told reporters on the opening day of the IDEX show on Sunday.

Dunne said British forces had conducted operations with gulf nation forces in Afghanistan, Libya and to a degree now in Iraq, and it’s appropriate to consider issues such as interoperability and to “look at how we do things and build partnerships [in the region] for the 21st century.”

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Britain signed a deal to create a permanent naval base in Bahrain in December. The British have stationed minehunters in the gulf state for years, but the new deal gives the Royal Navy a permanent onshore facility for crews as well as an engineering facility to repair vessels. It will additionally allow the Navy to accommodate larger warships.

The moves in Bahrain reflect on a smaller scale version what the US and France have been doing in building a presence in the region.

The Bahrain basing agreement signaled an increasing commitment to a region Britain largely retreated from when the Labour administration of 1968 closed its military base in what is now Yemen.

“We have decided to look for more opportunities to provide reassurance to our friends and partners in the gulf,” Dunne said.

“There’s the Navy opportunity [in Bahrain], then there are all three services looking at the increased tempo for military-to-military training and exercises in the region,” he said.

The British have relied extensively on the United Arab Emirates for use of its Al Minhad air base as a vital part of its air bridge to Afghanistan and the UK Royal Air Force maintains a presence on the facility, but doesn’t have a permanent base there although Dunne said the government “would hope to build on the relationships we have [with the UAE].”

Dunne, who was at IDEX supporting the 80 or so British companies exhibiting at the show as well as signing a Typhoon improvement package with Eurofighter, also outlined the effort British forces were making in striking Islamic State terrorist targets in Iraq as part of a coalition effort.

The procurement minister said that with the Royal Air Force responsible for 10 percent of the air attacks against ISIS in Iraq, it was by some margin the second largest contributor in terms of airstrikes.

About one third of the British airstrikes involved the MBDA Brimstone missile, integration of which is at the heart of the Typhoon improvement package signed Sunday by Eurofighter and the four program partner nations of Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Britain was also the second largest provider of ISTAR in Iraq, Dunne said.

Email: achuter@defensenews.com

UK Seeks To Expand Training in Mideast – DefenseNews.com}

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