More than 6000 British troops yesterday began the first stage of a dress-rehearsal for the invasion of Iraq in an exercise designed to streamline and test the large-scale movement of supplies, equipment, and vehicles vital for fighting a war.
Over the next month, the men and women involved in Operation Log Viper will transport thousands of tons of logistical supplies by road and air to an RAF base in Suffolk and to Marchwood, the military embarkation port near Southampton.
The Ministry of Defence denied yesterday that the exercise was connected to the growing Iraqi crisis, but military sources said it was a key test of supply lines and the ability of all three services to move ammunition, fuel, and food for a rapid build-up in the Gulf.
Up to 1000 UK Royal Marines from 3 Commando brigade are preparing to fly out to join a US exercise in California's Mojave desert.
Tank and armoured infantry units from the UK's 7th "desert rats" and 4th armoured brigades in Germany have been placed on unofficial alert for deployment to Kuwait, according to military sources.