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First UK Ranger battalion to deploy in 2022

British Army chiefs aim to deploy their first new Ranger battalion on operations in East Africa next year.

General Mark Carleton-Smith, head of the British Army, told the Atlantic Council think-tank in Washington, DC, on 14 May that standing up the four Ranger battalions was one of his priority implementation areas.

The formation of the Ranger battalions were revealed in the Defence Command Paper, published in March, as the centrepiece of efforts by the British Army to build up capabilities to train and advise partner armed forces and proxy groups. These capabilities are to be grouped in a yet-to-be-formed Army Special Operations Brigade, which Gen Carleton-Smith dubbed as Special Operations Forces (SOF).

“We will stand up the first Ranger battalion to act as vanguard SOF and see it deployed to East Africa by this time next year,” said Gen Carleton-Smith. “We are creating the army SOF brigade and Ranger battalions to be more akin to the [US Army special forces] Green Berets to fight and accompany indigenous forces of proxies and partners.”

Gen Carleton-Smith said the British Army’s warfighting formation, 3 (UK) Division, would step up its training and presence in mainland Europe to practise activating and using pre-positioned forward deployed equipment. This aims to compensate for the withdrawal of all British Army units from Germany back to garrisons in the UK, which was complete in 2019. “The 2010 decision to complete the withdrawal of [the] British Army on the Rhine led to a degree of domestication of the British Army that I am uncomfortable with,” said Gen Carleton-Smith.

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