More than 300 military vehicles are being shipped to the Jordan, where logistics, medical, intelligence and bomb disposal experts will practise supporting a massive British military expedition.
Army sources said despite being held in Jordan, bordering Syria, the desert exercise was not a dress rehearsal for sending British troops against Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (Isil) militants.
A source said: “This isn’t a counter-Isil exercise. If anything, this is much more about us being prepared to join the US in Ukraine than it is in Syria.
“This is not the sort of kind of force you expect to roll into Aleppo to take on a bunch of jihadists.”
After more than a decade of fighting a long-running counter insurgency campaign in Afghanistan, where no more than 10,000 troops were deployed at any one time, the Army is trying to relearn skills for larger scale armoured conflict.
The exercise in the south western desert of Jordan will be the biggest of its kind since 2001, when British troops held a major drill called Saif Sereea in Oman..
Troops will be drawn from 3 UK Division and Force Troops Command and will rehearse “theatre entry tactics” which involve landing in a hostile area, setting up a field hospital and dealing with chemical and biological weapons. Soldiers from 1st Bn The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, will provide security.
Late last month more than 80 vehicles including heavily armoured Mastiffs were loaded at the Marchwood military port near Southampton aboard the MV Anvil Point bound for the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba.
Jordan has been a key contributor to the coalition fighting Islamic State and last year one its pilots was shot down and paraded in a cage before being executed in a barbaric public.
It now has a huge number of displaced persons in camps on the Jordanian border and with growing economic hardships in the country, there are fears that Islamic State’s influence may grow.
The UK has a long military connection with Jordan, many of its officers are trained at Sandhurst and a British Army team is attached to the King’s Army headquarters as instructors.
An Army spokesman said: “The annual exercise in Jordan presents the British Army with a challenging environment in which to assure its combat readiness to deploy and support an armoured force of up to 30,000 troops anywhere in the world. The exercise will test key evolving concepts such as the air deployment of a very high readiness field hospital and the latest explosives ordnance disposal and search capabilities, all of which will enable us to be more agile in deterring threats to the UK and its interests.”