By MEDICINE HAT NEWS on November 24, 2021.
The press in the United Kingdom has sounded the death knell for British Army tank training at CFB Suffield, near Medicine Hat.
The Telegraph is reporting that Ministry of Defence officials are prepared to announced a reconfiguration of training facilities to align with an ongoing remake of the armoured fleet.
Training would proceed in Alberta until 2023, the paper says citing unnamed sources, but then be relocated to a new British base in Oman.
The News could not confirm the reports which were published late in the day Tuesday.
The modernization effort, stemming from an “Integrated Review,” called for fewer soldiers, greater shipbuilding and a new focus on unmanned vehicles, drones and cybersecurity.
The News widely reported on the issue in 2020, when the British Army cancelled training entirely after shifting personnel to the pandemic effort, then in 2021 when tank training was again cancelled with uncertainty cited as the reason.
The Telegraph erroneously reported before that review’s release that the Army would do away entirely with the heavy tank operations rather than pay to upgrade the country’s main battle tank, the Challenger II.
Instead the Ministry of Defence announced in March it would upgrade a smaller number of tanks and mothball others. From a fleet of 227 tanks, 150 would be upgraded to become the Challenger 3 at a cost of 800-million pounds.
British Army Training Unit Suffield has operated since the early 1970s with a contingent of training tanks that most recently numbered 22.
They were returned to the U.K. last spring along with about 1,000 other armoured vehicles to be upgraded or decommissioned.
Base officials described the logistics as typical, but defence analysts questioned the value of maintaining a training fleet in Canada considering the smaller size of the total fleet.
BATUS officials told the News a decision on training facilities would be announced in the autumn of 2021.
“Activity (at CFB Suffield) will resume from 2022 onwards,” read a statement. “Detail on the scale and type of training activities has yet to be confirmed.”
Officials with the Canadian Department of National Defence told the News at that time they were discussing the future of base use with the British and other NATO allies.
“We recognize BATUS’s importance to the Canadian Armed Forces, the local community and the Province of Alberta,” a statement read. “We have, and will continue to, express these crucial points during our discussions with United Kingdom.”