A year from now, Britain’s last combat troops based in Germany will have left, but some Army facilities once expected to close will now stay open until at least 2023.
The biggest, on the outskirts of Paderborn, is the 45 square mile Sennelager Training Area. It’s argued that keeping it will help reinforce NATO, amid heightened tension with Russia.
Defence Attache, Brigadier Rob Rider, said: “The aim is to now look at Sennelager in co-operation with NATO allies, NATO partners and to look at our deepening relationship with the German Army, and use Sennelager as a multinational / international training area. The British will retain the lead for it, for the foreseeable future, till another decision is made not to do that and British troops will fly out to Germany to use the facilities.”
Sennelager is likely to host more joint exercises with the Germans. The possibility for other countries to train there is also being explored.
The Army will also maintain a presence at a further three sites in Germany:
— Ayrshire Barracks in Moenchengladbach is where armoured vehicles are stored.
— A munitions depot in Wulfen is to be kept…
— A joint Royal Engineer and German Army amphibious capability in Minden.
As the two countries use the same M3 rigs to get troops and equipment across rivers, they are now in talks about spending more money on the capability.
Brigadier Rob Rider also believes that spending more money on this would be beneficial: “It’s the only thing that guarantees tactical and operational freedom of movement if bridges are blown by a potential opponent. It might seem mundane stuff but if you don’t have them you can’t move.”
Keeping German Bases
It is expected that in the autumn the two nations are to cement defence ties and sign a Joint Vision Statement.
That co-operation could include British soldiers using German Boxer Armoured Fighting Vehicles. The Army is considering buying a fleet.
But it’s not just the army who are deepening ties. RAF Chinooks have been sent to Mali where German forces play a key role in a UN mission and Germany has seen Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters and is contemplating purchasing some too.
London and Berlin are also discussing closer co-operation in places where they both operate, for example; the Baltic States and Afghanistan.
But, it’s keeping British Army boots on German soil that is said to especially please Berlin.
According to Brigadier Rob Rider, the German government is really keen that British forces are part of their adaptation to the emerging threats and retain a presence in Germany.
So, a large persistent presence will remain. Even if thousands of troops are no longer based in Germany, they will continue to train here.