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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 07:47 GMT
Academy sign of 'purple approach'
RAF Chinooks on HMS Illustrious
Aircraft carriers are places were Army, Navy and RAF work together
The creation of a central academy for military training is symbolic of a new way of working in the UK armed forces, a defence expert says.

Recruits from all three services - the Army, Navy and RAF - will be trained at the centre together, rather than separately as they are now.

John Chisholm, editor of Naval Power International, says the move is indicative of the increasing emphasis on "tri-service" operations in the battlefield.

The "purple" approach - so-called because it is the colour you get if you mix Army green with the light blue of the RAF and the dark blue of the Navy - involves members from all three forces working closely together.

"If you take a Royal Navy aircraft carrier then you may have on board Army, Navy and RAF aircrew operating three different types of aircraft," says Mr Chisholm.

"Within that context... it may be a good thing to bring people together at the beginning.

"That may be the advantage of [the academy]. They will get to know each other and will be able to operate better together and understand each other's problems."

Army training
A central academy may help with "purple" operations

Mr Chisholm says there are many examples of purple operations around the world today.

"The obvious place it happens is on any Navy task group," he says.

"Basra is a good example now. A lot of the helicopters in Basra are Navy helicopters - but they are shuttling around guys who are in the Army.

"In Afghanistan, the vehicles that are there are from the Royal Marines - they are now training Army people on these vehicles."

Presently, most of the armed forces training takes place at more than 20 different bases scattered across the UK - most of them addressing dealing with the needs of just one service.

Mr Chisholm believes many of these bases, including the main Navy training centre at HMS Collingwood in Hampshire, will decline in importance or be closed after the academy is built.

Rivalry

He anticipates that specialist training will remain, while "skills training" common to all forces - like helicopter maintenance or fire fighting - would be moved to the new training centre.

"What you would want at that sort of academy is what you can train Army, air force and Navy people in the same way.

"They are going to be operating side-by-side within naval task forces and will have to work together then," he says.

What worries me about it is it's just going to be a desire to save money and the benefits are not going to be realised - but I would hope they are
John Chisholm
Editor, Naval Power International

"There's a lot of rivalry between units. You can have detrimental rivalry and some of this will hopefully go if training takes place together at this level."

According to the Ministry of Defence website, other areas that could be covered by the new academy include intelligence, languages, communications and computing.

But Mr Chisholm says there is another major factor in the decision to create the academy - money.

"Like any other attempts at reform in the military, attempts to save money are at the bottom of it.

"I'm still a bit doubtful as to what it will achieve. If they put it all together you're going to lose identity in terms of the three services," he adds.

"What worries me about it is it's just going to be a desire to save money and the benefits are not going to be realised - but I would hope they are."


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