'It's time to future-proof' British bases in Cyprus, Army chief says

Now's the time to "future-proof" the British bases in Cyprus, according to the head of the British Army.

In the first visit to the island by a Chief of the General Staff in almost a decade, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith pointed out the importance of Cyprus to the British military.

The trip was an opportunity to see for himself the two resident battalions in Cyprus as well as visiting "our contribution" to the UN operation in Nicosia.

His trip also offered him the chance to talk to those who took part in Operation Pitting, the UK military's contribution to support the evacuation of British Nationals and former British staff eligible for relocation.

General Carleton-Smith was able to also explain some of the significant consequences for the Army of the conclusions of the Integrated Review, after its March release.

The Future Plans For Cyprus

Gen Carleton-Smith spoke about needing to "future-proof the bases" and that they now need "a degree of infrastructure upgrade".

He said: "We need to expect that the soldiers we base here need to be prepared not just for training requirements in Cyprus, but they need to be orientated and acclimatised for a potential range of operations across this region.

"We're going to be optimising their training and their equipment and we want to reinforce those bilateral relationships across the region, and that underwrites the military contribution to the political imperative to get after the opportunities of a global Britain."

The Importance Of Cyprus

The General was quick to talk about the "geography of Cyprus" affording the island a strategic advantage.

He said: "The UK is fortunate to enjoy a close bilateral partnership with the Republic of Cyprus and we retain sovereign bases here and have for many decades.

"They offer a military platform for us to base troops in the Eastern Mediterranean but also to use it as a springboard to shorten our response times across this region.

"It's a region with a degree of strategic volatility and it's to our military advantage to acclimatise, train and prepare troops here in Cyprus."

40 Commando Bravo Company from Royal Marines test new Future Commando Force 12-man teams in Cyprus ranges on LRGX November 2020 DATE UNKNOWN CREDIT BFBS.jpg
40 Commando Bravo Company from the Royal Marines test new Future Commando Force 12-man teams in Cyprus ranges on LRGX in November 2020.

The Integrated Review's Effect On Cyprus

The Integrated review commits to Britain deploying "more of our Armed Forces overseas more often and for longer periods of time" for training and exercises.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in November 2020 a £16.5bn increase in defence spending over the next four years, focusing on the future battlefields of space and cyber.

When discussing the infrastructure already present in Cyprus the head of the Army commented on how long the bases had been there without enjoying the "same infrastructure priority" that other parts of the Armed Forces have in the UK.

Gen Carleton-Smith said: "Since we expect to be here for an enduring commitment, now's the time to upgrade the facilities of the sovereign base areas, and part of the review determined to put in place a financial plan to get after those priorities and improvements over the balance of this decade.

"I think it's a region that has got a series of generational challenges.

"I think we're beyond that moment when both the broader Middle East, and clearly Afghanistan, acted as a major theatre of war, but that's not to say that, of course, all sorts of regional instability may continue to percolate across the region.

"The battalions that are based here are preparing for the full range of eventualities. We've got two infantry battalions based here so they are responsible for building up all their own infantry dismounted skills, but of course, they're responsible as well for a range of non-combatant evacuation operations or indeed supporting local countries with humanitarian disaster relief for instance".

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