The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) will spend £23.8m to triple the size of its logistic hub at the Omani port of Duqm which could be used to support the UK’s two new aircraft carriers when they operate East of Suez.
The move was announced during a visit by UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to the country and fits into plans for more forward basing described by the First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin as DSEI 2019.
The MOD said the investment would help facilitate future Royal Navy deployments to the Indian Ocean.
Duqm Port in Oman is home to a large drydock big enough to host Queen-Elizabeth-class carriers and is strategically important due to its position at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. The Royal Navy maintains a heavy presence in the region protecting shipping traffic in the Strait of Hormuz.
The expansion of the port facilities will also support British Army training in Oman. The UK and Oman hold close security ties with the Middle Eastern country purchasing a number of military systems from the UK including the Eurofighter Typhoon and Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank.
Omani and UK forces also often hold joint-exercises.
Commenting on the plans, Defence Select committee chair and MP Tobias Ellwood said: “Whilst it is encouraging to see the MoD invest in bolstering the UK’s logistic hubs abroad, questions remain as to how this cash injection fits into the Government’s broader, strategic spending plan.
“It is vital that both the upcoming Integrated Review and Spending Review set out a coherent strategy, outlining how the Government intends to strengthen our global presence. Patchy, piecemeal investment will do little to establish the our global presence and realise our ambitions.”
The expansion of port facilities was announced during Wallace’s tour of the Middle East where he also visited Qatar.
Wallace said: “The long-standing friendships between the UK and the Gulf states are more important than ever. With shared defence and security interests, it is vital we work together for both regional and global stability. Our trade links are just as strong, too – from cotton to aerospace.
“Whether tackling Daesh or making our streets in the UK safer thanks to our intelligence networks, these are hugely valuable relationships that I am pleased to be able to renew this week.”