Friday, 22 February 2008

Warriors reinforced: temporary expedient or the face of things to come?

At the recent inquest into the deaths of four soldiers, killed when in April 2007 an IED exploded underneath their Warrior armoured vehicle, the coroner called for greater protection for British troops on the frontline. The implication drawn from the hearing is that the lack of an effective armour-protected underside on the Warrior contributed to the deaths.
Coincidentally, the next day the Ministry of Defence announced that: "The battleworthiness of the Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicles being operated by the Scots Guards in Iraq has received a major boost with the introduction of the new 'Wrap Two' armour." To do this, the old Bar Armour was stripped off the Warriors and then the new Wrap Two armour fixed in its place. The MoD's news bulletin says that the soldiers aren't quite sure what the armour does but at least it's easier to keep clean.
Whilst this sort of improvisation may be understandable in the short-term, it is of major concern that one of the areas vulnerable to the next round of defence cuts is the Future Rapid Effects System. FRES is the long-term solution to the Army's battlefield vehicle needs and to cut or even delay its £14billion programme would have a serious impact both on the Army's offensive capability and also on the future protection for troops against the more sophisticated and powerful IEDs and mines which will be available to enemy forces.
It is good, however, to read that one of the UK's major armaments manufacturers, BAE Systems, whilst warning that budget cuts would have a serious impact on the defence industry, is at the moment at least making handsome profits for its shareholders from the current warfare. The company said: "The British Army's operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have resulted in numerous urgent operational requirement orders to enhance FV340 and Warrior vehicles and many small and medium-calibre ammunition orders in excess of £400m."

Link> The Telegraph: Protect our troops, says Iraq deaths coroner
Link> MoD: Warrior vehicles in new armour boost
Link> The Guardian: RAF and navy hardest hit by £4.5bn MoD cuts
Link> The Guardian: BAE Systems profits from 'urgent orders'