OPINION: Where Will The British Military Next Be Deployed?

Iran and the surrounding region has been at the centre of much political and media attention in recent weeks.

This is just one of many potential conflict areas around the world. 

Forces News has asked leading military experts where they think Britain's forces could be next deployed.

Iran is demanding the immediate release of an oil tanker seized by Royal Marines off Gibraltar last week.
Iran is demanding the immediate release of an oil tanker seized by Royal Marines off Gibraltar last week.


Dr. Jack Watling, Research Fellow for Land Warfare, RUSI

"I would say one of the most likely and concerning is the region around Iran. I say the region because any conflict with Iran would be regional by nature.

"There has been a long-term rise in tension in the Middle East over Iranian policy across the region - sponsoring proxies, building up a ballistic missile arsenal, and, as events have shown over the last few months, there are a number of trip wires that could rapidly escalate into conflict.

"Now the UK doesn't want that conflict, but were an escalation to occur, we would need to evacuate nationals from a number of neighbouring states, and we would likely be called upon to protect our allies from the threat from ballistic missiles, sabotage and raidings, so that the British Army would inevitably get involved.

"I think that one key area for the Royal Navy would be mine clearance - that's a skill that they have and a capability they have in the region which our allies do not. I think that the RAF would very much be involved in kinetic strikes against ballistic missile silos and other sites that threaten our allies.

"I suspect that UK special forces would be heavily involved in targeting. Then, of course, there would be potential conflict with Iran's proxies, particularly in Iraq where the British military has long term interests in that country's stabilisation and security."

RAF Regiment training Kenyan army in tracking (Picture: MOD).
RAF Regiment training Kenyan army in tracking (Picture: MOD).


Nicholas Drummond, independent defence consultant

"There's a lot going on in Africa that we don't know about - Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab are extremely active across various African states and the worry is that they suddenly decide to expand their activities and conduct basically a conventional war against a Commonwealth country or a partner nation.

"Nigeria or Kenya could both see British forces being deployed there if local security forces couldn't cope with the situation.

"If a conflict did arise, it would be the perfect scenario in which to deploy a strike brigade that would travel by sea around the sort of European, Spanish peninsula and then down the east side of Africa.

"The issue is that many of the terrorist groups in Africa are actually very well equipped - former Soviet vehicles, rocket-propelled grenades, sophisticated anti-tank weapons, and even former Soviet tanks.

"The most likely scenario would be a terrorist-led coup or criminal activity designed to de-stabilise governments, to produce fear, reduce confidence in existing governments, creating a vacuum that would allow a terrorist group to exploit fear to achieve their goals."

Exercise Winter Camp UK Soldiers In Estonia
Exercise Winter Camp in Estonia saw more than 100 British soldiers battle it out with their NATO Baltic State counterparts (Picture: British Army).

The Baltics

Peter Felstead, Editor, Jane's Defence Weekly

"I would say the Baltics, and in fact, we're already there. Our forces are currently leading a multinational battle group in Estonia, and that is one of four currently in the Baltics and Poland.

"The battlegroups are there to prevent a conflict, obviously, and that's a very effective use of military force, prevention being better than cure. But there's no telling how long they'll be able to be permanently part of that rotational deployment, so if we pulled out of the Baltics and President Putin decided he was going to actually do something, I could see us going back there."

soldier during exercise on Falklands Onion Ranges
A solder on exercise in the Falklands (Picture: Crown Copyright).

The Falklands

Francis Tusa, Editor, Defence Analysis

"Perhaps one might think the Falklands in a decade's time, where you would see British forces on their own, not as part of an alliance, undertaking offensive action.

"At the moment, I wouldn't say the Argentinians have any skill capability to retake the Falklands as they did once, but they are starting to rearm.

"In about a decade's time, if they continue on the current trend, then you can look at it and say - they've got x, y and z, could they undertake an operation against the Falklands? They might be able to, but at the moment they could do the odd provocative action, but luckily, with the airbase and some of the other forces in the Falklands, chances of Argentinian forces being able to take the Falklands, I'd say are infinitesimally small. 

"But the future is always different."

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