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Extent of Britain’s global military presence revealed

Britain’s military is permanently based at 145 sites in 42 countries or territories around the world, new research by the investigative website Declassified has revealed.

It comes as the government announces an extra 10% spending on defence.

Key findings of the report

  • UK military has base sites in five countries around China: naval base in Singapore, garrisons in Brunei, drone testing sites in Australia, three facilities in Nepal and quick reaction force in Afghanistan
  • Cyprus hosts 17 UK military installations including firing ranges and spy stations, with some located outside UK’s “sovereign base areas”
  • Britain maintains a military presence in seven Arab monarchies where citizens have little or no say in how they are governed
  • UK personnel are stationed across 15 sites in Saudi Arabia and at 16 sites in Oman, some run directly by British military
  • In Africa, British troops are based in Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Mali
  • Many UK overseas bases are located in tax havens such as Bermuda and Cayman Islands

The scope of the presence is far greater than what is reported on the government or military’s public sites.

Seven of the countries where the UK military has a fixed presence are featured in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s latest list of 30 ‘Human Rights Priority Countries‘: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Closer look: Saudi Arabia

UK personnel are based at 15 key sites in Saudi Arabia. In the capital, Riyadh, British armed forces are spread out over half a dozen locations, including the air operations centres where RAF officers observe Saudi-led coalition air operations in Yemen.

Under the MOD’s Saudi Armed Forces Project (MODSAP), BAE Systems has made 73 accommodation units available to UK military personnel at its Salwa Garden Village compound in Riyadh.

Some RAF staff are on secondment to BAE Systems, also serve at the King Fahad air base in Taif, which services the Typhoon jet fleet, the King Khalid air base in Khamis Mushayt close to the Yemen border and at the King Faisal air base in Tabuk where Hawk jet pilots train.

There are separate contracts for Britain to support the “special security brigade” of Saudi Arabia’s National Guard (SANG), a unit that protects the ruling family and promotes “internal security”. 

You can read the full report from Declassified here.