By COLLIN GALLANT on August 27, 2020.
The British Army may have no use for tanks in the near future, according to a U.K. government report into modernizing its military – and subsequently, no use for a training base at CFB Suffield.
British newspaper The Times reported Tuesday that as part of a broad review of military capacity, and facing new costs to upgrade its relatively new Challenger 2 heavy tanks, the ministry of defence is considering an option to mothball tanks in favour of a new focus on attack aircraft and cybersecurity.
Forces.net, an online news service for United Kingdom’s armed forces members, cites The Times report that mothballing the tanks would also lead to its exit from base training in Alberta.
An “Integrated Review” of the entire military is due to be presented to government in November. It is being billed as the largest strategic review of military readiness and priorities in decades.
Such a move away from armoured divisions would have major implications for NATO commitment at a time when American officials are pushing for other members to step up their contributions to the alliance.
It would also be a shock to the southeastern Alberta economy, where between 5,000 and 10,000 British Troops train each year at Suffield. At 2,700-square kilometres, it is the largest live-fire ground training base in the Commonwealth.
Troops destined for Alberta this year were redeployed within the U.K. to bolster the National Health Service as they dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.
A 2012 review of armour training weighed the option of closing operations in Canada and moving exercises to British bases in Kenya, Germany, or a domestic facility at Salisbury Plain.
Eventually, a new agreement was signed to remain in Canada, including investment in facilities.
That was hailed as a major economic win for the Medicine Hat region, with economic impact from the base at the time cited at C$80 million per year.
The base is also home to a Canadian Forces contingent, permanent British Army staff and facilities of Defence Research and Development Canada, which has a weapons testing range.
The base was created out of need to test chemical weapons during the Second World War outside of continental Europe.
The British re-established its presence in 1972 by lease which was extended several times before a permanent on-going use agreement was worked out in 2006.