Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Another day, another inquest

This time, the inquest is into the deaths Second Lieutenant Joanna Dyer, Corporal Kris O'Neill, Private Eleanor Dlugosz, and Kingsman Adam James Smith. Last April, they were travelling in a Warrior in Basra, when a huge explosion from a buried IED ripped through the lightly protected base, killing all four of them.

It is not only protection from IEDs that our troops need, however, but also ignorant coroners. This one, David Masters, is now recommending to the MoD that the Warriors should have additional armour to the undersides, in an attempt to give the troops better protection.

Commenting on the "missing armour", Alan Hepper, an armour "expert" is cited by the BBC as saying, said: "It's a big issue. We have been told to treat it as an urgent operational requirement. It is being pushed through with great pressure from the Ministry of Defence."

Masters' response to that was, "It is encouraging - if any encouragement can be gained from something like this - that there is a very high-profile programme in place to research and develop new armour for the undersides of vehicles like this operating in Iraq and Afghanistan."

He is to meet Armed Forces Minster Bob Ainsworth later this week to recommend the armour issue was dealt with speedily. He said he would "seek confirmation from the top that something was being done".

The stupidity of this is that, no matter how much armour you bolt on to the underside of a Warrior, it still has a flat-bottomed hull. Without penetration, the force of an explosion of the size which killed these four would overturn the vehicle. If the huge acceleration imparted doesn't kill, the impact of the vehicle coming back to earth will.

This is exactly that which happened to a US Bradley MICV in May last year, where a buried IED flipped over the 30-ton vehicle, killing six soldiers and a civilian interpreter.

In counter insurgency operations, where the favoured weapon is the IED, the Warrior is grossly unsuitable for urban operations where it is confined to known or predicted routes, and can be ambushed in such a devastating fashion. The only effective defence is the v-shaped hull MRAP vehicle, of which the Cougar/Mastiff is the classic example. It has shown itself well capable of protecting its crews under circumstances in which these four soldiers died.

Ironically, it was David Masters who presided over the inquest of Lance Sergeant Casey and Lance Corporal Redpath who, as we reported died because they were forced to use a "Snatch" instead of a Mastiff.

The use of Warriors, with such tragic results, is yet another example of the failure to provide enough Mastiffs. It is a great pity that Masters could not make the connection. And, needless to say, the media will not, so perpetuating the ignorance and the neglect.