Austrian officials are warning locals not to be afraid as hundreds of British tanks, military vehicles and troops flood the landlocked country next month.
In total, 243 British tanks and various other military vehicles together with 500 British soldiers have been given permission to enter the country, with the Austrian military that are organising the cross-country trip warning people that the heavy vehicles are likely to cause delays on Austrian roads.
The army said they also wanted people to realise that the apparent invasion of foreign troops was part of a planned exercise, so that the locals do not get worried.
An army spokesman said that the British troops will be heading to exercises taking place in Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania as part of the multinational military exercise “Swift Response 19” which is organised by the US Army in Europe and designed to practice coordination between NATO allies.
The exercise will take place between the 11th and 24th June.
After taking part in “Swift Response 19”, the British troops will then also take part in “Saber Guardian 19”, an exercise co-led by the US forces and the Romanians which will include a medical exercise, river crossings and an air assault.
They will then take part in “Immediate Response 19”, which will be co-led by the Americans, the Croatians and the Slovenians, and which is geared towards ensuring the allies’ ability to quickly move soldiers and equipment from one location to another.
The army spokesman said: “In order to minimise traffic disruptions, the arrival of the British Army vehicles has been carefully coordinated. They will be arriving from Germany at the Suben crossing, and then will travel along the A9 in the direction of Slovenia.”
They said that the British are limited to 15 columns per day with no more than 20 vehicles per column, and a gap of one hour between each column with none of the vehicles allowed to make stops at service stations, and instead having to use designated military bases such as the Linz-Hoersching barracks which is on the route.
Austria is a neutral country and has been since 1955 as a condition of the Soviet Union to leave the country which at the time was occupied by a coalition that also included the US, the UK and France after the end of World War II. Since 1995, NATO and Austria have been actively cooperating in peace operations including in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Kosovo, and in Afghanistan.
However despite neutrality deeply ingrained in the country’s subconscious, army chiefs in the Alpine republic are keen to gain experience in military logistics by working with countries that wish to cross the country. In each case any costs to Austria as a result of assisting with the manoeuvre will be refunded by the home country of the army concerned – in this case the UK.