LONDON — Britain is considering stepping up it’s presence in the Persian Gulf region with the creation of a permanent army training base in Oman, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Thursday during a visit to the country.
Based near the port city of Duqm on the Arabian Sea, the establishment would provide a permanent base for British troops to train alongside Omani forces, Fallon said during a press conference in the capital, Muscat.
“We have been conducting land training here, but we have not had a permanent presence. We want to put that onto a more permanent base by establishing a permanent training hub,” the Muscat Daily reported Fallon as saying March 31.
An MoD spokesman in London said the plan was in the early stages of investigation.
“The UK regularly carries out training and exercises in Oman, which are an important part of our operational development. We are in the early stages of looking at options for a permanent land training hub which would provide valuable opportunities to work alongside Oman to ensure regional stability and security.”
The Duqm area mentioned by Fallon also will be the site of a planned naval support services shipyard joint venture that was announced in mid-March by Britain’s Babcock International and the Oman Drydock Company.
The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this month to build the facility.
Fallon said the facilities would “benefit the Royal Navy and others,” and would be a strategic asset to the navy.
The facility could host the two 65,000-ton aircraft carriers now being built for the Royal Navy.
The MoD said in a statement that the agreement will provide “vital engineering work and support to the world’s naval vessels, including the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.”
Fallon was in Oman as part of a swing through the region to discuss security industrial co-operation and other issues. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also on his itinerary.
During the Qatar leg of the trip, Fallon announced the Royal Navy would in April take over the lead on the naval Combined Task Force set up by a number of navies to police the waters of the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and elsewhere.
Fallon, who was in Qatar to support British companies attending the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition which took place earlier this week, told reporters that the bid to sell Typhoon jets to the Qatari’s remained on the table even though the Gulf state announced it had signed a deal for half of it’s fighter jet requirement with France’s Dassault Aviation.
The French are supplying 24 Rafale jets and a suite of missiles to Qatar for 6.7 billion Euro ( $7.6 billion).
The French deal had not killed off the Typhoon bid in Qatar Fallon said.