British army may park tanks on the Rhine

Faced with drastic budget cuts, the British army is considering sending hundreds of tanks across the Rhine - for the first time in 67 years - as it sells off land in the UK to save money.

British army may park tanks on the Rhine
Photo: DPA

According to reports in The Guardian, The Telegraph and Die Welt newspapers, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) may re-locate thousands of military tanks, carriers and cars in the Rhineland as it sells a huge complex in Ashchurch, Gloucestershire, where 6,000 vehicles are stored and repaired.

The ministry is being forced to cut its budget by eight percent by 2015 – which means saving £33.8 billion (€40.5 billion) this year.

Despite the Guardian’s claim that the MoD’s logistics planners have already “plumped for” the Ayrshire Barracks near Mönchengladbach as an ideal spot, Mike Whitehurst of the British Forces Germany denies that any final decision has been taken.

“I wouldn’t be led too much by media speculation,” Whitehurst told the Local. “As with all these things, there is some serious decision-making going on about the use of military estate. The vehicle depot in the UK may or may not be sold, but there are quite a lot of vehicle depots in the UK, and it is likely that the vehicles could be distributed elsewhere.”

What makes the plan all the odder is that the British military has already declared that it will vacate Germany, though the Ayrshire Barracks will be retained as a vehicle depot. Currently, around 300 people work at the logistics site in the Rhineland.

Critics have expressed concern that the move could leave the UK short in an emergency. Plus, the MOD is yet to calculate the considerable cost of shipping fleets of tanks across Europe.

“Moving so many vehicles to Germany would be quite a feat, especially any tanks,” David Willey, curator of a UK tank museum, told The Guardian. “You can only get one on every loader. Taking them to Germany would be quite expensive, and they need to be kept in a very secure environment because they have systems that the military need to protect.”

“It is just media speculation at the moment,” insisted Whitehurst. “I mean, ask yourself logically what would be the purpose?”

The Local/bk

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