UK MoD Denies Plans To Close Canadian Training Facilities

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense today denied that it was planning to close its training units in Alberta, Canada, following media reports that the British Army Training Unit Suffield would be closed down after nearly 50 years of operation.

In a short Twitter statement, a spokesperson for the Ministry said:

“Canada is one of the UK’s oldest and closest allies.

Contrary to reports today, we are not closing BATUS. It will continue to be a vital training base for the British Army.”

The alleged plans were first reported by The Telegraph late on Tuesday, with sources telling the newspaper that a training area in Oman would be replacing the 2,700 kilometre-square base in Alberta as the main training facility for armored vehicle training going forwards. According to the sources, the move to Oman would allow for British hardware to be positioned closer and more visibly to partner nations like Ukraine and Bahrain, as well as potential adversaries like Iran. In addition to reducing the time needed to respond to regional crises, the positioning of future training in Oman and Poland is claimed to facilitate the showcasing of British military technology to potential clients and hopefully arms sales.

During a visit to RAF Leeming, in Yorkshire, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Forces New that: “BATUS is not being closed… Of course, we’ll change what we do there because some of those forces we might use elsewhere but no we’re not closing BATUS.”

A defensive live firing attack during Exercise Prairie Storm 2 2016 at the British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) in Canada (Crown Copyright)

While British military personnel are said to remain in Canada as part of training exchanges with Canadian Forces units in addition to roles as defense attaches and liaison officers, the move to Oman would result in the shuttering of the Suffield training range, as well as the smaller Wainwright training area near Edmonton.

Brooks Mayor John Petrie said to the Calgary Herald that he was “extremely disappointed” to hear the news, saying that the withdrawal would affect the city and other communities around the training area that depend on visiting British troops. According to Petrie, the Suffield range is considered a stable source of economic activity, not subject to “the ups and downs of the oil and gas sector”.

Despite the public denial by the Ministry, the Telegraph story cites another spokesperson as saying that the closure of BATUS would not take place before 2023, as large-scale armored exercises are still scheduled to take place over the next two years.