Ukraine: NATO creating ‘new supply chain’ says Wallace
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Troops in Germany are “holding equipment at high readiness” so that if war breaks out between Nato and Russia, forces could be flown in and the tanks moved within hours.
There are now some 60 Challenger 2 tanks in Europe plus 400 armoured vehicles moving between Sennelager in Germany and exercises in Poland and Estonia. Many, particularly battle tanks, had been mothballed – largely unused in Afghan and Iraqi conflicts.
But over 18 months Sennelager has become an increasingly important base for Britain’s armour, with troops working on the vehicles to ensure they are ready. Top brass are considering storing more ammunition and supplies there to avoid a logistics crisis in getting equipment across the Channel.
The Express became one of the first UK newspapers to visit the base. We met commanders and troops ahead of a major exercise. Their armoured vehicles lined up in hangars need constant maintenance otherwise there is an increased risk of breakdowns – as happened to Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
The move to boost the number of armoured vehicles in Germany comes more than a decade after the Government said it would move troops back to the UK from there.
An entire armoured brigade is now based on the Continent for the first time since that drawdown, with units rotating through Sennelager, using the tanks on exercise or preparing to deploy to Estonia.
Major General James Martin, who would lead our main battle force in a conflict involving Nato, said Britain’s use of bases in Europe and having troops there is “vital”.
He said: “The Nato forward base that is Sennelager is so important. In terms of speed of deployment, how quickly we can react and a demonstration of our will, it’s vital.
“The reason we wanted to do this in Germany, as a demonstrable act of UK will… we have a commitment to the continent of Europe and we are willing to conduct these exercises in the continent of Europe alongside our Nato partners. The ability to war fight also leads to that deterrence that hopefully prevents you from having to war fight.
“But there are no half measures. I don’t think you can deter by aiming to deter. I think you can deter by aiming to be ready to fight. I think that’s the history of warfare forever.”
Colonel Tim Hill, the Army’s most senior officer in Germany, said: “This is really important because it’s hold- stuff on the continent of Europe – already in place. So we don’t have to worry about, in times of crisis, trying to get this stuff across the Channel.
“It’s about speed of response. All we need to do is rapidly deploy people by air, and this equipment is already held forward.”
Colonel Hill, commanding officer of the base, declared the Army will be “here as long as we are needed”.
He added: “This also demonstrates the UK’s absolute commitment to Nato. We are here for the next 20 years… as long as we are needed.
“The British Army is very seriously looking at storing and sustaining war stocks on the continent of Europe. I think we’re going to see an increasingly important role in the storage of ammunition.
“We have old facilities here that can also be reactivated for the storing age of equipment packs and combat supplies, in terms of food and other supplies, so that we don’t have to transport it across the Channel.
“If I had to sum this base up, it’s =all about command and control, a forward presence, a training base. It’s all about the storage of armour and equipment held at readiness, and the storage of war stocks, supplies, ammunition, rations, medical equipment.”
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