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A world-leading base to beat the bombers
Buy this photo » Corporal Shaun Cheatham and his Belgian Shepherd high assurance search dog Turbo. Pictures: OX57882 Jon Lewis
A £100m world-leading bomb disposal training base has opened its doors in Oxfordshire.
A state-of-the-art cave complex, seven-million litre diving pool and a £900,000 underground tunnel system are among the features at St George’s Barracks in Bicester.
The centre is the new home of the Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Munitions and Search Training Regiment (DEMS Trg Regt).
Troops from the UK and around the world will be trained in the latest bomb search and disposal techniques on more than 250 different courses.
The head of the British Army, General Sir Peter Wall, officially opened the “vital” facility yesterday in front of local dignitaries and troops.
He said: “This marks another significant point in the drive to further UK capability.”
Of UK bomb disposal expertise he said: “It is probably done better here than anywhere else in the world.”
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the “weapon of choice” was IEDs, improvised explosive devices.
The general said: “For a lot of our opponents we don’t see that will change.
“We are going to find persistently clever IEDs made by highly motivated and religiously motivated people setting booby traps, IEDs, and devices against us to undermine our values.
“This will be a place where we are preparing for the most significant threats of those operations.
“We just made a very significant investment here because this is the path for the future and these sorts of devices will be prevalent.
“This is a very significant achievement and I am greatly privileged to be here to mark that today.”
He said despite the cut in the defence budget, the UK’s capability had to be maintained and the training centre was the future path in defence.
Sir Peter said: “This place (St George’s Barracks) had this sort of capability for many years and I’m delighted to be able to expand our presence here. We will be here for the long-term and are very grateful for the hospitality we get here.”
Work at the former Royal Ordnance Corps base started in 2011 and was completed last summer.
The regiment began its move last year and has run training courses there, but it officially opens on April 1.
They have already seen students from as far as New Zealand and Canada.
Lt Col Chris Henson, who is the commanding officer of the new facility, grew up near Bicester, at Wooton Underwood. He has returned to serve in the area for the first time since he joined the Army.
He said: “It’s an absolute first class training facility.
“We are keen to be seen as world leaders.
“We will provide further training for international partners and other Government organisations.
“We are self contained and students are kept very much on the base, they are intensive courses. We have brought about 100 new military staff and there are about 30 new civilian posts.”
Lowdown on 200-acre complex.
About 4,000 personnel from the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force will train at the site every year.
Houses, compounds and even a mock motorway are among 32 different specific training spaces that have been built at the site, which is spread across more than 200 acres.
There is also accommodation blocks for up to 250 students. As well as bomb searches, troops will also train in munitions safety and disposal, how to disarm bombs underwater and use the latest robot technology to make devices safe.
A £600,000 robot called Cutlass, which personnel learn to control, was used in a recent terrorist attempt in Northern Ireland.
Troops will be trained to search for IED or other types of bomb using different types of detectors in areas including cave systems, water, vehicles, underground, pipes or buildings. Trainers say technology will be constantly updated – when a new bomb is manufactured by the enemy it will be shipped to the base and 24 hours later they will be training troops how to defuse it.
Work done at St George’s Barracks will not include live firing but will prepare troops to carry out operations within the UK and abroad.
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