Southern Alberta Newspapers
British Army vehicles and heavy equipment used for decades to train in southeast Alberta have been removed from CFB Suffield, the Canadian base commander told a meeting of business leaders Oct. 19, but future military use by the U.K. and Canada is being determined.
That will depend on national governments’ decision making, said Lt.-Col. Joe Andrechek, but its place as a “premier” training facility is assured and lower level activities are increasing.
“We do know there will be training, but we don’t know what the size and scope will be,” Andrechek told the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce “leadership breakfast”.
“It’s the largest training area in Canada and one of the gems in the Department of Defence portfolio.”
Currently, British Army armoured divisions are deployed in Eastern Europe and some Challenger 2 tanks have been forwarded to Ukraine during its ongoing conflict with Russia.
British Army Training Unit Suffield had sent two divisions for armour training and exercises each year from the early 1970s until 2020 – when exercises were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Exercises were staged domestically and in Germany in 2021 and 2022, during which time a major review of future fighting capabilities was launched by the British Ministry of Defence.
Tanks will be upgraded, according to the ongoing review, but the number reduced and with the future of training that would have been done at Suffield now up in the air.
Andrechek said he feels it is unlikely that size of exercise – involving 5,000 to 10,000 troops – by the British would return.
In the meantime, the Defence Research Development Canada branch at the base hosts allied biological and chemical agent training each year, which could increase in size.
It also hosted defence contractors this summer in a showcase of new unmanned vehicles and drone technology, and will again next summer.
The base has also begun hosting U.S. armed forces helicopter training, made possible in part to a fuelling agreement with the Medicine Hat Regional Airport.
Andrechek also said he is in early discussions with a subsidiary of the Alberta government toward conducting carbon capture and materials research at the sprawling base located about 40 kilometres northwest of Medicine Hat.
C-Fer Technology, a division of Alberta Innovates, would like a facility to test how conventional steel pipe reacts while transporting a carbonate sludge destined for underground sequestration.
“It’s early-stage discussions,” said Andrechek, who became base commander in June.