Troops 'more prepared' for combat now

Troops are set to be “significantly more prepared” for combat in the Middle East now a Norfolk military training area has been given the go-ahead for an £18m upgrade.

Troops are set to be “significantly more prepared” for combat in the Middle East now a Norfolk military training area has been given the go-ahead for an £18m upgrade.

The Stanford Training Area (Stanta), between Thetford and Watton, was first formed more than 60-years-ago to prepare troops for the Nazi invasion of Europe.

But now the 30,000 acre live fire site, which covers 2pc of Norfolk, will be transformed to re-create the conditions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Monday Breckland Council's development control committee approved proposals by the Ministry of Defence for a mixture of single and two-storey buildings, made of plywood-clad steel containers.

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The training camp, which is one of the main centres in the UK for pre-operational exercises for troops deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, will see two new training complexes, urban and rural, to ensure military personnel have experience at fighting in all ground they are likely to encounter on tour.

Over the next nine months, nearly 300 buildings will be put up at Stanta, including homes, factories, mosques, and market stalls to recreate an environment to match modern warfare conditions.

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Lt Col Simon Lloyd, the commander of the Defence Training Estates (East), said: “It is £18m, but if it saves one soldier's life, it is worth it. This will revolutionise training for the boys going to Afghanistan and Iraq and they will be better prepared. They are very prepared now, but this facility will make the training more complete.”

The development will see the enhancement and extension of the Eastmere training village to create an urban Middle Eastern settlement and the creation of the rural village at 5ha of land at Bridge Carr. Mitigating habitats will be created to compensate the impact on the Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Area.

“The number of people coming here will not change. But the facilities will better prepare them for combat.

“These young men and women will not be as well trained as they could be without this improvement. They deserve this.

“They will be significantly more prepared, and significantly better at reducing bullets and saving lives,” said Lt Col Lloyd.

The site's infrastructure will also be improved to cope with the additional size and weight of the current vehicles.

Breckland received no objections to the plans and councillors unanimously voted to give the proposals the green light.

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