“An Era of Constant Competition”: British forces prepare for the next generation of conflict
After parachuting from a C-130 plane at 800 feet, still camouflaged, Brigadier General James Martin pondered a dangerous world and how Britain is ready to use force to protect her interests and those of her allies.
The commander of the 16th Air Assault Brigade spoke as British troops took part in a combat exercise with the Jordanian special forces. It happened in a week that the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, leading the largest naval and air force under British command since the Falkland Islands, began military operations against Isis.
It also came after the Royal Navy participated in a naval exercise in the Black Sea with the United States and Ukraine, whose warships were regularly confronted with Russia.
On Wednesday there were allegations that a Russian warship fired warning shots at the British destroyer HMS Defender. The Russian news agency Interfax reported that the Ministry of Defense in Moscow had claimed that the destroyer had ventured up to five kilometers into Russian territorial waters off Cape Fiolent off the Russian-annexed Crimean coast.
The UK Department of Defense claimed no warning shots had been fired and that the HMS Defender was in international waters. Military sources insisted that the Russian military conduct gun drills after properly warning international shipping.
The exercise in Jordan was part of Operation Fortis, which also includes the carrier’s attacks on Isis. The air strike – followed by simulated door-to-door fighting by the British and Jordanians – took place near Azraq, just over 80 kilometers from the Syrian border and 19 kilometers from Zarqa, the hometown of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi , the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, whose group later formed Isis.
The Jordan Army’s Quick Response Force (QRF) is based in Zarqa, which has a history of extremist Islamism. British forces partnering with the armed forces could be stationed in the city in the future, although this is not currently planned.
British and American F-35B stealth jets participating in missions against Isis in Syria and Iraq are also reported to have “denied airspace” to Russian aircraft flying in an area in support of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group, had spoken of “rubbing himself against Russian activities” in the water and airspace: he wanted the eastern Mediterranean to have become “more crowded and contested” because of the Kremlin’s military presence in Syria point out and stressed, however, that both Western and Russian pilots had a “healthy respect for one another” and avoided aggressive behavior.
When asked about the threat posed by Isis and whether Russia was a belligerent power, Brigadier General Martin reiterated the recent warning from British military commanders and ministers of “an era of constant competition”.
He continued: “The hint is in the title, I think there are potential opponents. I’m not going to give you a playlist, but I think anyone who seeks to destabilize or undermine the rules-based international system is a potential adversary. “
Regarding the unrest that started from Syria’s vicious civil war, he continued: “Just look north of this border, there are a large number of third parties looking for influence, and in part this is done through violent extremist organizations, there is still a great deal on the radar.
“There are many people looking for advantage, we want to ensure stability and show them and our allies that Britain is committed to stability in the region.”
As part of the post-Brexit “Global Britain” strategy for defense and foreign policy announced by Boris Johnson’s administration, British troops will be stationed more abroad, with a view outside of NATO, with a new focus on “Pacific Tilt”.
Following missions in the Middle East, the Carrier Strike Group will conduct battles with the navies of India and Japan, which have come into confrontation with Beijing over land and sea borders, as well as with the navies of South Korea and Singapore.
All four countries visited are regarded as allies of the West in the fight against China’s expansion strategy in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
According to the new military doctrine, the 16th Air Raid Brigade is considered to be the pioneer of rapid reaction.
When asked whether he expected his troops to be deployed significantly more abroad, Brigadier Martin said: “We have had constant competition for eight years. To gain an edge to make yourself more competitive, you can quickly and surprisingly demonstrate your intentions so that your opponents and allies too will understand how committed you are. I think skydiving is an obligation and in fact all flight maneuvers are very workable. “
Some officials have claimed that the Jordan Air Drop was the largest and most significant by British forces in the Middle East since Suez.
However, there are big differences. The 1956 operation was part of the invasion of Egypt by British, French and Israeli forces after President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the French and British Suez Canal. And that although the mission was militarily successful and three invasion countries had to withdraw at the request of US President Dwight Eisenhower.
The embassy of the British military and British diplomats was now very cooperative. They also wanted to highlight that the Jordan State Centenary Exercise was held.
Many of the British soldiers who participated in the exercise were ready to go. Some did not take part in the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Captain Dan Lauder served eight and a half years in the Army and 18 months with the 16th Air Assault Brigade. “I belong to a different generation than those who attended the really busy days in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “One of my most important experiences was helping with Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean (2017). I’m proud of what we did there, it was very worth it.
“But of course there are different aspects of military service and I would be very interested in partnering with the armed forces of another country. It’s one of the great opportunities the military offers to travel and learn about different cultures. “
Corporal Johnny Roberts, 31, of Ipswich added, “We have trained to take part in missions that involve combat. Nobody wants to see death and destruction, but we will do what we were trained to do. “
The Russian Defense Attaché, Colonel Denis Khittry, watched the exercise. What was his reaction to what he had experienced? The Colonel was diplomatic: “It’s the third best thing I’ve seen in Jordan after the wonderful ruins of Petra and the tank museum in Amman.”