Thursday 24 June 2010

A vehicle "incident"

The MoD is reporting the death of four soldiers last night in "a vehicle incident." They were, we are told, part of a team travelling to assist in an incident (another "incident") at a nearby checkpoint in the Nahr-e Saraj area, near Gereshk. This brings the total British military deaths since 2001 to 307.

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that all four men were drowned when their 18 ton Ridgeback plunged into the Nahr-e-Bughra canal.

The "accident" happened at 11pm last night and it is likely, Thomas Harding writes, that the driver was travelling using night vision aids rather than headlights in an area that is under threat of IEDs. The track next to the canal is unmarked and has no crash barriers.

This is the first time soldiers have been killed in the Ridgeback which, as we illustrated recently has proven very resilient against IEDs. However, MRAP "rollovers" have become a significant cause of casualties, coming to a head in July 2008 (pictured) - although other vehicle types, including Pinzgauers, Land Rovers and even Warriors have been involved in this type of accident.

Not least of the problems is the road shoulders rarely meet modern engineering standards and may collapse under the weight of MRAPs, especially when the road is above grade and can fall to lower ground (ditches and canals). Thus, we have long argued that more money should be spent on road construction and improvement, rather than vanity projects such as Ferris Wheels and the like.

We appreciate though that such advanced concepts are difficult for the military, officials and (especially) politicians to take on board, which is why it is much easier to require soldiers to thunder down in the darkness in heavily armoured vehicles, from which escape is difficult, with the occasional risk of death when they tip into canals.

But since the senior ranks of the military, the officials and the politicians are not actually at risk, while platitudes come easy and are dirt cheap, this doesn't really matter. Soldiers, as always, are expendable.

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