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Coronavirus prompts largest British military mobilization in nearly two decades

Operation Rescript potentially envisages army deployments on British streets to maintain law and order

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s direct announcement to the British people on March 23, the British military is now poised to to play an even bigger role in managing the social and potentially political crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sky News is reporting that up to 20,700 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Royal Marines are on “standby” to “mobilize” in support of government-led efforts to contain the coronavirus crisis.

According to Sky News the operation could see the “biggest mobilization” by the British armed forces since the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq in March-April 2003.

The military mission to support the domestic anti-coronavirus effort has been code-named Rescript.

It is now understood that Operation Broadshare – which was originally intended to support the domestic effort – is now the code-word for the British overseas effort against coronavirus.

The overseas effort encompasses all British military deployments abroad in addition to British overseas territories and colonies, notably the occupied Malvinas Islands (which the British call Falkland Islands).  

The main thrust of Operation Rescript was set out in a tweet message by the Chief of the General Staff, General Mark Carleton-Smith, on March 21.

As part of Operation Rescript, the army is reportedly helping the National Health Service (NHS) to transform the sprawling ExCel exhibition centre in east London into a 4,000-bed hospital facility for patients afflicted by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. 

Whilst Operation Redscript is ostensibly centered on helping the NHS – in particular by delivering protective equipment to hospitals – it is widely believed that in keeping with the original mission of Operation Broadshare its real mission is to act as the army’s spearhead in the event of widescale public disorder, such as riots and lootings.

Furthermore, the intensification of the military’s role In Britain’s coronavirus crisis risks creating the impression that the British establishment believes the country lacks adequate social resilience and national cohesion to withstand the storm.    


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