Practice makes perfect
For this quick blog we ask a nice theoretical question, inspired by a recent UK government statement that said, among other things that ‘the UK also intends to look at options for a permanent training facility’ in the Sultanate of Oman.
So then, were it to be set up, where would a permanent UK training facility in Oman be based?
Anchoring itself on the end of the Arabian Peninsula, the sultanate offers immense open spaces and challenging terrain in which to operate. As has been mentioned in the news recently, the UK exercises regularly in the country and with its armed forces.
There is also permanent in-country presence too, with the RAF’s 902 EAW now based at RAFO Musannah in support of Operation Kipion, having recently moved there from a previous (officially) undisclosed location.
For ease of compilation, the suggestions are based on the idea that any permanent training unit would be focused on land forces. There are already permanent overseas British Army training areas in Canada, Kenya and Brunei; maybe the idea will be to find a hot and sandy spot?
Close to the capital, it is in this area that the new RAFO airbase was constructed. On the one side are the rising peaks of the Hajar Mountains and Jebel Shams, while on the other floods plains lead out to the sea. There is the added bonus that the main naval base is just down the road. The downside is that it isn’t that remote, so large movements of personnel and equipment would be obvious to see.
It was in this southernmost province that the Battle of Mirbat was fought in 1972 and the southern focus during Exercise Saif Sareea II in 2001. The coast is mountainous, an environment already suggested as a focal point for training exercises between UK and Omani forces. Inland, the wide-open plateau leads into the Empty Quarter and room to manoeuvre. RAFO’s Thumrait airbase could function as a crucial nearby component in any air bridge.
Perhaps a long shot, in as much as these are all guesses for something that may or may not happen, but all the ingredients are present in this province. The ever-expanding commercial drydock at Duqm will soon have a military capability following an announcement between Babcock and Oman Drydock Company, while a new local airport has recently been built. Similar to Dhofar with open space to spare, it lacks the variety of environments that other areas have.
But if I was the one who had to pick the location for any permanent UK (land) training facility, I’d suggest a certain terrace somewhere a little more civil…