Friday, May 15, 2009

Planes boots and military blood on the ground 

According to Stephen Grey in his book ‘Operation Snakebite’ Major Haston, the Deputy Chief of Staff for UK forces in Afghanistan was in 2007 repeatedly driven to buying spares for his troops’ equipment on the INTERNET using a credit card. (Grey pp130-131)

There is a list in the book of frightening logistics shortfalls.. for example a quarter of the new mastiff armoured vehicles being out of service at any one time because of a lack of cheap spare springs.

Not to mention simple design flaws in other UK armoured vehicles that, in Haston’s view makes their drivers and front-seat commanders
uniquely vulnerable to being killed by mine strikes. The continued use of such designs was barking mad..

So if we are not equiping our troops for operations in which they literally are getting killed today, what are we actually spending military money on?

At one time there was talk of Britain radically cutting its order for the Eurofighter but we now hear that we are to buy an unspecified number in the near future. This is presumably an addition to the 55 already in service and the 89 announced in 2004. . How much of the escalating cost over-runs on this aircraft could have been used to get front-line troops decent boots? To say nothing of the equipment they are routinely promised but not provided before going into action in today’s naggling wars.

The reports that the Typhoon has now been cleared ‘for a ground attack role’ in addition to its original specified roles is not comforting for those of us who remember how previous aircraft projects were compromised by attempting mission capability creep and consequent huge cost over-runs. In this case it will be interesting to see how the conflicting requirements of a high-level interceptor (Capability to accelerate up to a great height and operate in relatively thin air) match up to the technical need of an aircraft operating at near ground level. It is likely that we will see further escalations in costs.

The reports on the aircraft order as usual talk as much about the civilian jobs ‘saved’ as about the contribution or otherwise the aircraft could make to UK military range and capability.

Stephen Grey (2009) ‘Operation Snakebite: the explosive true story an Afghan desert siege’ Penguin Viking

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