Saturday, 22 December 2007

What a difference a year makes

A report from Associated Press gives news of a "UK troop carrier hit by Iraq bomb". Television footage (and picture, see left) showed the vehicle on fire, with thick, black smoke billowing from it. British troops could be seen securing the site, east of Basra Airport. UK military spokesman Captain Finn Aldrich said there were no injuries.

The midday ITN news report referred to the vehicle as a Mastiff – the only specific reference to the vehicle type. From what we can see in the picture – although it is indistinct – it could well be.

Only a year ago after a horrendous year of death and injury of soldiers riding in Snatch Land Rovers (as well as Warriors), the good news now is that a "bomb in Basra" is virtually no news at all.

Given the impressive performance of the Mastiff, to have set it on fire in the way depicted (if it was a Mastiff) suggests it must have been hit by a huge bomb. Had it been a Snatch, there would almost certainly have been coffins going home for Christmas.

However, this should be a warning to the Army. As reported by The Sun today – and confirmed by the the MoD, the Taliban in Afghanistan are now using six stacked land mines in an attempt to take these vehicles out.

This is very predictable – the response of insurgents to heavier armour is always to use bigger bombs and, if they keep trying, one day they will get lucky. Heavier armour, therefore, is only part of the raft of measures which are needed to defeat the scourge of the mine and roadside bomb.

As we have seen with the Canadians, they are successfully employing mine detection equipment as part of their additional protection. Similar equipment has not been observed in British use, and the MoD needs to be acting on this if a tragedy is to be prevented.

As I wrote in that earlier post (link above), we really cannot afford another "Snatch" Land Rover situation, where the Army and the MoD react after the event – and then slowly – to a hazard which is both predictable and avoidable.