Friday, July 17, 2009

Helicopters: The True Story

There has been a lot of hot air this week about helicopters and the armed forces. I have received an email from an authoritative source who outlines the current position. I thought you might be interested in its contents. The author has given me permission to use his name, but I am not going to in case he suffers any consequences. He served in the RAF for ten years and was involved intimately in the Chinook reversion programme.

Hi Iain

Having listened over the last couple of days to the arguments that have been taking place in the commons I thought I would bring some things that you may or may not know to your attention in relation to the state of the rotary lift capacity of the MoD.

The eight Chinook Mk3 special forces helicopters purchased in 1996 will potentially cost £363 Million when (if) they become operational. The Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Defence and the PUS for Defence Procurement stated that some of these helicopters will be available at the end of the year. ZH*** has just entered the beginning of flight trials. Aircraft 2-8 are in various states of reversion and aircraft 8 has been cannibalised to such an extent that it is very unlikely that it will ever become operational. The likelihood of any of these aircraft being ready and available for operations this year is very slim. The aircrews have to be trained and flight certified, the ground crews have to be trained and certified. The aircraft has to be released as fit to fly and has to be retrofitted with the required DAS equipment that is still in trial at ******* **** to get it to theatre entry standard.

The UAE offered to buy the aircraft off the MoD.

You can buy a CH-47D which is the US standard Chinook or what we call the Mk2a for £20 Million.

JHC current order of battle states that it has 29 Chinook helicopters at its disposal for the front line (Source MoD Defence Statistics 2008). Assume that a third of the fleet are at various states of, minor, major and primary star (categories of maintenance) so are unavailable for operations.
Assume that a third of the fleet is being used for continuation training, OCU and trials. That leaves roughly 10 aircraft that can be deployed. 10 Chinook helicopters are currently deployed on Op Herrick. Assume that a third of the deployed fleet are grounded due to maintenance etc
Therefore the UK Chinook force in Afghanistan is roughly 6 helicopters that can be provided by flight operations for duty.

JHC current order of battle states that it has 23 Puma helicopters at its disposal for the front line (Source MoD Defence Statistics 2008). The Puma is non deployable to Afghanistan. It does not have the required power to operate within the flight envelope required by the user.

JHC current order of battle states that it has 6 Lynx AH7, 59 Lynx AH7/9 and 42 Gazelle helicopters at its deposal for the front line (Source MoD Defence Statistics 2008). The Lynx and Gazelle helicopters are non deployable to Afghanistan. They do not have the required power to operate within the flight envelope required by the user.

JHC current order of battle states that it has 15 Merlin Mk3 (22 initial purchase) at its disposal for the front line. Assume that a third of the fleet are at various states of, minor, major and primary star (categories of maintenance) so are unavailable for operations. Assume that a third of the fleet are is being used for continuation training, OCU and trials. That leaves roughly 4/5 aircraft that can be deployed.

4 Merlin helicopters are currently deployed to Iraq. Assume that a third of the deployed fleet are grounded due to maintenance etc. Therefore the UK Merlin force in Iraq is roughly 3 helicopters that can be provided by flight operations for duty.

JHC current order of battle states that it has 3 Merlin Mk3a (6 purchased from Denmark). These aircraft were promised in 2008. Here we are in 2009 and still no deployable airframes.

JHC current order of battle states that it has 26 Sea King Mk4 at its disposal for the front line.
Assume that a third of the fleet are at various states of, minor, major and primary star (categories of maintenance) so are unavailable for operations. Assume that a third of the fleet is being used for continuation training, OCU and trials. That leaves roughly 8 helicopters that can be deployed.

CHF splits its time between supporting Op Herrick and supporting 3 Cdo Bde RM deployed at sea. They can only operate in Afghanistan with Carson Blades.

The MoD is spending £70 Million on re-engining (8) Lynx AH9 helicopters with uprated engines. These aircraft are delayed.

The MoD bought the Bell 412 (Huey) to be used in hot and high climates like, Cyprus, Belize and Brunei. These aircraft can be bought for £2 Million. The US Army is modernising Jordanian Huey aircraft for £2 Million with modern avionics, armour etc for the Iraqi air force.

The NH90 is available for £14 Million (Internet source) and shares the same engine as the Merlin. For £70 Million you could buy 5 NH90 and these aircraft come with the added bonus that they can be built at Westland.

The Puma fleet has had its day. They are short of Puma qualified pilots (11 short) and the aircraft is becoming more expensive to maintain. The MoD is short of rotary pilots. A pilot takes roughly 3 years to become combat ready. However OCU conversion to another type can take as little as 6 months.

The Lynx AH7/9 fleet is reaching the end of its operational usefulness. OCU conversion to another type can take as little as 6 months.

All military rotary pilots that use Chinook, Merlin, Sea King and Puma do their multi engine rotary training on the Bell 412 therefore they are type certified to fly it.

All Lynx AH7/9 pilots are introduced to the Bell 412 so are aware of it.


So there you have it. Defence of the Realm blog has been superb in covering this subject and showing what is happening at the sharp end. The Prime Minister's conduct has been shocking. At the Liason Committee hearing he ducked and dived, but in the end it is down to him that our armed forces have one helicopter to 400 troups, while the Americans have one for every 33. They cling to this 60% figure like a limpet, hoping that people won't know that the number of Chinooks he we have is actually only 10.

When I was speaking in Reading last night, I was asked a question about Afghanistan. I rabbited on for a bit and then realised that I couldn't actually articulate the mission we are undertaking in Afghanistan. I know what it was originally, back in 2001, but it seems to have changed beyond all recognition. Are we now sure we are there for the right reasons? I have yet to hear a government minister articulate the mission properly over the last couple of weeks. They need to do it quickly, otherwise there will be a growing clamour for a complete change of strategy.

54 comments:

Thomas Rossetti said...

I think we were there in 2001 to try and capture Osama bin Laden and topple the Taliban.

Years before anyone had ever heard of Sharia Law or the Helmund Province, the Taliban were committing unspeakable acts of evil and yet we didn't seem to care. Even when they blew up two 5,000 year old statues we did nothing.

Now, it seems, we're "well up" for regime change, to the extent that we support a corrupt Afghanistan government led by Hamid Karzai.

I honestly don't know what we're doing there. The only thing that British forces should ever do is protect Britain's interests. What interests of ours are in Afghanistan? Osama bin Laden hasn't attacked Britain and hasn't made any threats to do so that I know of. There are enough home-grown terrorists for us to worry about.

Maybe, if Britain pulled out, the Taliban would have a greater chance of spilling over into Pakistan and maybe that would cause some problems down the line. We should worry about those problems when they arise. (The vastly better-equipped Americans are there in any event.)

Grumpy Old Man said...

Dear Iain. I am a retired RAF officer with experience of Helicoptor operations. I can support the main points made in your blog.
For the benefit of the unenlightened, "It does not have the required power to operate within the flight envelope required by the user." means that it is underpowered at the height of the Afghanistan plateau.

Stronghold Barricades said...

Just listened to Harriet ducking and diving on this question too.

Everytime someone dies now in Afghanistan will we blame MoD tactics or Brown?

SHB said...

I am amazed that the whole issue of the way this Government has treated the armed forces has taken so long to get traction.

The Government is now trying to defend the indefendsible - Bryant on QT last night was all over the place and I got the impression that he didn't actually believe in what he was saying.

When will Brown get it - people are dying because of his decisions.

Despite the situation we are in defence spending cannot be cut - reallocated maybe, increased possibily, and in my opinion I think that could be justified.

The issue with defence, which seems to be missed by a lot of people, is that the risks you face are not dependent on what you spend. You have to spend what it takes to mitigate the risks you face.

PS - is there a radio show tonight?

Fitaloon said...

Also we are in a bit of trouble with the fact that the "civilian" helicopter that crashed/shot down on Tuesday was working for the MOD so now 2 Chinooks will have to do it's job. Don't ask about it though Miliband and Ainsworth won't tell you.

TrueBlueBlood said...

What a great insight Iain....love it.

If it were not for the blogs and the internet, people would not be getting this information.

My level of mistrust with the BBC is at an all time high. Their journalism is not a flagship for the UK, just a betrayel of independence.

I hope the Conservatives act on the license fee with impunity when they get in as currently the level of investigative journalism is substandard.

Long live bloggers and Sky News in questioning and getting to the truth

londonmuslim said...

which is partly why we should avoid any further bloodshed and loss of British life (currently 185 dead British soldiers)by immediately withdrawing our troops.

Anonymous said...

We have all written off this government. So surely the pertinent question is whether the Conservative front bench has anything more pertinent to say than "more helicopters"?

Jess The Dog said...

Good comment, and excellent source. Afghanistan is a complex issue and not one for soundbites or snippets.

I was around in 2001 when Op Veritas kicked off...didn't go to Bagram myself, thankfully! We knew back then that we would be running expeditionary operations in Central Asia and the Middle East, and the difficult procurement decisions should have been taken back then.

The government have acted in a manner best described as utter treachery. Military commanders have been operating under a "don't ask, you won't get" policy since this deployment started, so the government could fall back on the argument that no-one had asked for X, Y or Z. Now General Dannatt has torn that facade down by lobbying furiously for more troops and resources, the government has resorted to smearing him. This is unprecedented - a government briefing against the head of the Army during a time of war! It is treason, it will undermine morale and infuriate the troops, and those briefers must be unmasked!

Helicopters are one part of a complex debate. There are counter-arguments deployed about the time lag in recruiting and training additional crews for "off-the-shelf" helicopters, but the Reserve Forces Act 1996 allows the selected call-up of retired aircrew (likely to have left after whatever round of cutbacks) who could be retrained and converted to other aircraft types, although this would be politically disastrous.

That's helicopters - the same is true for other areas of kit shortages. I was around during planning for the Iraq invasion and was shocked at the procurement delays (for political reasons) including a UOR (urgent operational requirement) I was responsible for. Throw in body armour, Snatch land rovers, Hercules C-130s without explosive suppressant foam, Nimrod airframes that weren't safe to fly...there have been a lot of preventable deaths. No wonder the MoD is furiously fighting the ruling of Mr Justice Collins that troops have some human rights on operations (how could anyone take on that brief and look in the mirror in the mornimg?).

The overriding issue in Afghanistan is troop numbers. Vietnam - half the land area (for both N and S Vietnam) - had 10 times the troop numbers as deployed in Afghanistan - double the land area. That's a twenty-fold difference (more if you split Vietnam up). The US forces won the overwhelming majority of their major offensives. They did not win the campaign and lost the war. Helicopters may not have saved the five riflemen killed on patrol, but enough troops to hold ground once it was taken would remove the need to retake the ground time and time again. Brown has already ducked the accusation he was asked for 2,000 soldiers and sent 700. The man is a disgrace, utterly unfit for office.

This government has blood on its hands, and the most recent behaviour is simply treason. Even career-minded defence chiefs (Sir Jock Stirrup) have been pushed off the fence. This is the Armed Forces and everyone else vs Labour. They'd better do something substantial - but I doubt it. If Dannatt is smeared after he retires then I would expect resignations from serving officers. I might even hand in my old uniform to Brown Towers in North Queensferry myself, in a display of outrage.

The Tories need to keep the pressure up but could best do this by promising a public inquiry into Afghanistan after the election, same way as for Iraq. Keep this issue alive please!

spinning horatio nelson said...

"I see no helicopter gunships" said Gordon the hero

Unsworth said...

I have been asking for at least seven years 'what is the Mission in Afghanistan and what is the definition of success?'. And exactly the same questions could have been asked of Iraq.

No one really has a clue.

Without those two definitions there cannot be a 'victory'.

What military knowledge and experience does Brown have? For that matter can anyone name a single Minister with direct and personal experience of service in the armed forces? These people are numbskulls - incapable, incompetent and totally amoral.

Nigel said...

Gordon Brown is a shameless, lying ****, and his evidence to the Liaison Committee was utterly unconvincing even to the ignorant.

The helicopter debate, revealing though it might be, is just a symptom of what is wrong in Afghanistan.

>>...realised that I couldn't actually articulate the mission we are undertaking in Afghanistan<<

You're beginning to see the light.

Read this:
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n13/stew01_.html

And this:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment
/columnists/matthew_parris/article6684516.ece

It might be possible to build a stable nation in Afghanistan - though it will undoubtedly cost us and the US many billions, and many more soldiers' lives, and take many years.

The effort might be utterly futile.

What is certain is that no one in government is in the slightest bit interested in (or indeed capable of) working out which possibility is more likely.
Or doing anything to change the probabilities in our favour.

strapworld said...

Iain, Devestating letter. Confirming what we all feared. What a pity Cameron did not have these facts before him at PMQ's!

Brown as Chancellor and as PM has betrayed our armed services.

He cannot be allowed to get away with this disgrace.

I wonder what our learned friends would say about a class action,by the families of our brave troops killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan, against Gordon Brown?

Perhaps The Sun and the Daily Mail may wish to fund such an action?

Eddie said...

http://www.twofourdigital.net/UKParliament/Archive/0000007449.wmv.asx

at 1:56:00

At one point The PM trys to muddy the water in response to the question about 2,000 extra troops, by talking of the number now (which has been increased by the 700 that was finally agreed). We have 9,150 on the ground now, and nobody has asked for 11,150.

It was the most blatant putting up of a straw man argument I have ever seen, and for the PM to do that in response to a serious question of troop numbers, when there is concern about proper resourcing, was disgraceful.

Old Codger said...

Will Dave fund more helicopters for Afghanistan? He has criticised Gordon but only promised a review himself.

An even bigger question is will Dave properly fund the defence of the UK. He has promised to ring-fence the NHS and education but not defence.

Nigel said...

Here is the charming, recently re-instated defense minister (and alleged mass murderer) of the 'democratic' government our soldiers are giving their lives for:
http://tinyurl.com/mzwqrk

Afghanistan might or might not be 'winnable', but not by what we are doing at the moment.

Diogenes said...

"one helicopter to 400 troups" I'm supprised they have the time. It ain't half hot, indeed.

Anonymous said...

How about some on the job "continuation training, OCU and trials".

If I was brave and fit enough to fight in Afghanistan and you asked me "would you like to travel from hell hole A to hell hole B via Land Rover or via Chinook copiloted by Dave doing his continuation training?"...I'm going with Dave.

Anonymous said...

My dear Thomas Rossetti.

We are most surly protecting British Establishments interests. It is just that The British Establishments interests, and the interests of British people are rarely, if ever the same thing.

Ordinary people of any type, race, creed, sex, age, or colour, have never had an interest in wars of any kind or description. This in the entire history of history itself, and I am sure pre-history as well.

If you have information of any kind of war that has worked for the interests of ordinary people. I would love to know about it. Surly it is common sense, that if ordinary people stopped fighting and therefore dying in wars. There would not have ever been any EVER.

There is a reason why we are in Afghanistan. It is just that it has bugger all to do with the reasons we have been given, by ANY main, or not so main stream politician, commentator, or pundit.

This is why you are so clearly confused. Lies are confusing. This is the nature of lies, and the system we all live in and very much exist under.

We are in reality constantly confused. This not only because the media and especially the establishments BBC essentially lie to us, virtually all of the time. Our real confusion stems from our stupidity in believing most of these evil lies, most of the time.

Perhaps this may help your problem.

Simply start dis-believing everything the establishments, witting, or otherwise messengers tell you. Or better still simply ignore the media entirely.

Even better still, throw your TV in the nearest dump, or give it to someone your truly despise. Like-wise only buy news-papers for a laugh, the sporting results, and/or the tits.

Believe only what you see with your own eyes, hear with your own ears, and understand using only your common sense, and common humanity. Look only at your local surroundings, and define yourself as good for that good you personally do for those you know by first names.

For surly if we all did this, the whole world would be indeed be paradise.

It is not paradise, and is never going to get close to being so, because we lazily believe the lies our establishment have always told us.

Atlas shrugged

Anonymous said...

The statues weren't 5,000 years old, you cretin.

Anonymous said...

Great scoop ! Being thick or just plain ignorant, why on earth are the Chinooks being, as it were, 'de-digitalised' [ a process involving taking out some 28000 bits of wiring..] to make them 'manual' rather than 'fly by wire' ??

Why couldn't we just buy the bloody avionics from Boeing ?? Why would Boeing want to piss us off if they are wanting our future business ??

Or is just an Olympic sized cockup due to incompetence on a scale we cannot comprehend ??

Someone needs to get to the bottom of this 'hot topic' quickly, as I recall well the 'cover-up' over the helicopter that crashed with that 'Fadec' software that pilots were not happy with, and lost a load of 'high-value' intelligence people from Northern Ireland.

Handily they managed to blame the pilots who couldn't defend themselves very well because they were, er, dead. Jon Snow has been banging on about this for years on behalf of the families, but the MoD have yet to lift the cloud over these brave airmen.

I'm so annoyed that something like this will happen again, and front line service men take the c/rap.

Witterings From Witney said...

Iain,

Perhaps you would care to answer a conundrum - as no-one else seems able, or want to.

Why are all three political parties, in particular the Conservatives, in favour of introducing 'democracy' into Afghanistan, costing £billions - in place of a system of government by an unelected, unaccountable 'cabal' - whilst ceding our democracy to an unelected, unaccountable 'cabal' in Brussels - costing £billions?

Well?

Peter said...

With so many armed groups in Afghanistan, controlled by various warlords, can we really be sure that we are actually fighting the Taliban.
Are not the Taliban busy fighting in Pakistan.
Our troops may be on the wrong battlefield?

Paul Pinfield said...

Brown's performance in front of the Liaison Committee was disgraceful. Anything to dodge the blame.

It is clear to me that he has blood on his hands.

C**t

trevorsden said...

I know you are a a game old trouper Iain, but we have troops in Afghanistan ...

"will we blame MoD tactics or Brown?" -- both.

Our defence budget might indeed need to be increased but given the immediate need we can and should refocus our spending on the current war.

But 'Dave' cannot do much in the short term because we are so woefully short of helicopters NOW. It will take time to provide the equipment and train the pilots and provide the groundcrew.

The letter does though point out that Hueys could be bought and used relatively easily. Why have the govt and MoD not acted before?

The helicopter problem is a long standing one and the MoD are themselves culpable. But it is this govt which has committed troops to to wars and has had ample time to make a real difference to helicopter numbers. And it has failed.

There is of course an ultimate and delicious irony in all this - there always is (if you can set aside the tragic consequences). Our problems now are because we are supporting a surge set in train by the hero of the left, the political prop that Brown sought to use to save his premiership.

Obama. To support Obama, Brown has committed too few under equipped troops to the task. At the beginning of his premiership he met and sought to cut Bush dead - for his own political expediency.

What goes round comes round. There is no escape. Cameron and the Tories should operate within that truism.

Grumpy Old Man said...

Dear Jess the dog,
"This is unprecedented - a government briefing against the head of the Army during a time of war!"

Not quite. The antipathy between Lloyd-George and Haig was well known. Lloyd-George tried his hardest to remove Haig, and famously described Haig as, "brilliant to the top of his (riding) boots". The establishment was never going to allow such an oik as LG to remove a monument of rectitude such as Haig who stayed till the end. It was only in the 30's that such as Liddle-hart opened the eyes of the public.

Mirtha Tidville said...

It is now becoming clearer, day by day, that Brown,for years as the Chancellor raped the defence Budget to waste elsewhere. (usually projects to win some votes). Whilst some of us have known this for years, the majority of the public are just waking up to the nightmare they kept re electing.

Sadly good men are dying because this tosser was only interested in his own future and to hell with theirs.....Truely the worst we have ever had...

Sadly I dont think Dismal Dave will do much with this info so dont hold yer breath..

Tony Sharp said...

Old Codger said... "Will Dave fund more helicopters for Afghanistan? He has criticised Gordon but only promised a review himself."

What is needed is an urgent review and re-prioritisation of defence procurement. That is the problem. The amount of money that has been thrown at the MoD was more than enough to buy what was required in theatre.

But instead of buying cost effective and reliable equipment, the MoD has insisted on placing orders to secure British jobs and put money into the coffers of British arms companies, rather than buying what our armed forces need and is available quickly at less cost.

This current argument about 'more helicopters' is being used a smokescreen to distract people from the disgraceful politicisation of defence procurement and failing of our service men and women.

This blog post should be required reading for the uninitiated.

Anonymous said...

So let's get this straight.

We don't know why they are there.


We do know that they don't have the right or enough equipment.

We do know Gordon Brown is a liar, he has form, like telling the political correspondents he didnt brief that Darling was for the chop, even in a nationwide press conference and the press knew he had.

Our soldiers are dying in greater numbers.

NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING TO PROTECT OUR SOLDIERS OR TAKING STEPS TO PREVENT THEIR DEATHS. WHAT EXACTLY IS DAVID CAMERON DOING ABOUT IT, MORE WORDS?

It beggars belief that we had 8 die in one day and still nothing gets done. More words more funerals more hypocracy.

HOW MANY MORE NEED TO DIE BEFORE ANY ONE DOES ANY THING TO HELP THEM?

LIKE GET THE FUCK OUT OF THEIR.

AT LEAST THATCHER GAVE THE ARMED FORCES WHAT EVER THEY WANTED WHEN THEY WERE ENGAGED IN THE FALKLANDS WAR. SHE TRUSTED THEM. THEY TRUSTED HER IN RETURN.

BROWN IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ULTIMATE DEATHS AND SO IS LABOUR.

AND TO THINK THAT THE MAN WHO STARTED IT ALL BLAIR, IS TO BE NOMINATED BY US FOR PRESIDENT OF EURO. AND PEOPLE SAY THAT POLITICIANS ARE NOT CORRUPTED BY POWER? PULL THE OTHER ONE.

Oldrightie said...

"Everytime someone dies now in Afghanistan will we blame MoD tactics or Brown?"

The MOD is like every corner of Government since 1997. Do as you are told by Jimmy Snot or face dismissal and the loss of any pension.
The main focus as always is follow the money. Since we have none left many of the procurement or requirement arguments are answered. The Afghans know this and are easily capable of fomenting our dissatisfaction as they did that of The Russian people. Labour have us in such deep shit I doubt they could even finance the flights home for our troops, except in small numbers, sadly.

Man in a Shed said...

The John Maples approach was right. Ask the specific question that deserves an honourable answer. Only problem is Labour always lie, evade or just spin in response. Especially Brown - but they've all had the same training.

Brown or Mandelson's responses today are meaningless. What they mean is they want to be seen as doing something and will get even with the military later. ( Expect some key military projects to come under threat for the Army etc soon to help shut the generals up ).

Q5. [284666] Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): The seven soldiers killed in Afghanistan, whose names the right hon. and learned Lady gave us at the start of Prime Minister’s Question Time, bring to exactly 170 the tragic total of those killed in Afghanistan since 2006. Many people in my constituency are starting to doubt the wisdom of this war and I wonder whether she could remind the House of precisely what our military objective in Afghanistan is.

Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. We do not want anyone to be in any doubt about the importance of this mission in Afghanistan. It is important to ensure that in the mountainous regions surrounding Afghanistan and Pakistan, we do not have a crucible for the development of terrorism, which threatens people not only in those countries but in the wider region and, indeed, the whole world. This mission is also important for the education of people in Afghanistan. There are now 6 million children in school in that country, compared with only 1 million in early 2001. Our troops have paved the way, working with other international forces, to make that possible. They are paving the way for economic development and a more secure democracy as well as security in the region and the world. We want to make it clear to our soldiers, their families and the people of this country that we have no doubt about the importance of the mission in Afghanistan.

Oldrightie said...

Has anyone noticed the word "crucible" used by different tweeldledums lately?

SHB said...

@anonymous at 9.48pm.

Suggest you get on a plane and go to Afghanistan.

MB said...

Are there are recent figures anywhere on the actual contribution from our brave European allies?

The government seem to be reluctant to criticise them and keep stressing how it is a joint operation but you get the impression that most of them are still not pulling their weight and only doing the nice safe jobs.

Nigel said...

Tony,
>>...instead of buying cost effective and reliable equipment, the MoD has insisted on placing orders to secure British jobs and put money into the coffers of British arms companies...<<

Substitute 'European' for 'British', and you'd be closer to the truth (Eurofighter, A400M, etc).

Though if that were the only problem with defense procurement, I'd be relatively happy.
The eight Chinooks which have been sitting in a hangar for nearly a decade are a perfect example of MOD incompetence.

Dan said...

Ian glad you have found the Defence of the Realm blog it should be required reading for CCO and any present or future MP who aspires to comment on this conflict.

In terms of why are we there, one of the questions that does not seem to be being asked is why UK VOLUNTEERED to be NATO lead nation in Helmand in 2006, this was when Defence Minister Reid, remember him, made the stupid comment about us not needing to fire a shot. Prior to that there was a small Special forces group in the area hunting down and fighting Al-Queda, some British SAS but mainly a few hundred American and a few Germans and Norwegians.

Someone decided we should provide a significant force to support the Kabul government take control of the area, as we are now told there are no where enough Afghan Army or Police to do this why it was decreed we should attempt to do this in mid 2006, I do not know, but fear it will be more to do with mid term elections in Washington than anything to do with Afghanistan. Why did the Dutch volunteer to take the lead in Kandahar, well that is easy they had pulled out of Iraq in 2005 and that had annoyed the US. why did UK volunteer to take lead nation status in Helmand, well that is because the UK wanted to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible and wanted to use the excuse of the new mission in Afghanistan as the reason we could not do both.

Well unfortunately having agreed to it and sent in the troops, Bush ignored the Iraq Study Group report and the famous surge took place, we did not have the guts to stick to the original plan and say we do not care if you are increasing your troop numbers we are out and feel free to put some extra troops in Basra.

We then had 2007-8 when the British were in Basra but now willing to commit any more resources when some would have been needed to defeat the militias which were eventually defeated by the Iraqi Army and the Americans while we stood by and watched, while at the same time the operation in Helmand which was originally meant as a distraction took on a life of it's own.

The other Europeans which with the major nations already having thousands of troops in a province of their own elsewhere in Afghanistan had enough sense to realise that there was no need to try and integrate Helamand into Kabul controlled Afghanistan until the Afghan police and Army were ready to cope and the politics of the competing Warlords was prepared, are not going to agree to help as there is no real military need for the mission.

Dan said...

In terms of Helicopters the blog post linked by Tony sharp is important as is http://defenceoftherealm.blogspot.com/2009/07/certain-weariness.html if the quickest way to get helicopters which can operate in the heat, dust, and high altitude of Afghanistan, then that is what is needed, and the proposal also shows how by delivering them to the Afghans with initially our support until they are self sufficient they eventually allow us to leave. A plan which says we buy more from Westland which might be available in 2011 so add training a trials 2012-3, so hopefully available for the next operation after Afghanistan but pointless in Helmand.

In terms of Mine protection vehicles, this post is useful, http://defenceoftherealm.blogspot.com/2009/07/unwinnable-war.html the point is you can design a vehicle from the beginning to be Mine resistint and do it realitivly cheaply and still have a reasonable performance or you can take a basic truck or vehicle and add on heavy bits of armour and end up with less protection and less performance as the vehicle was never designed to carry the extra weight, and it will cost more. We have gone for the second option every time, giving our troops a worse vehicle with worse performance and protection and it costs more, but may have a British flag on it. The logic of doing that in 2001 if we were planning to be out in 2002 was one thing but the idea that we are not planning to be there for years is now nonsense.

In all the blog posts only Ann Winterton gets some praise for raising sensible questions rather than point scoring, a few more MP's from all sides need to get an understanding as to whether they want to support the needs of the troops or the UK Defence Industry as they are not always the same.

John said...

The "mission in Afghanistan" back in 2001 was so the West could "kick the cat" after being upset and angry about 9/11/

The mission now is for Barry Bollocks Obama to strut his commander in chief credentials to show a Democratic President is just as good a kick-ass as a Republican one.

It also has the merit of being able to claim it is clearing up the mess left by Bush (boo! hiss!) and should it fail, all the blame will accrue to the Bushlings who lfet it too late, being distracted over Iraq.

There was a strategic purpose in Iraq, Saddam had enough military power and a taste for WMDs and regional expansion to pose a serious, direct threat to UK energy supplies, thus prosperity.

Afghanistan never was or is any strategic threat to Britain's interests, but of course it had no military so was easy to kick. The Taliban are not Al-Qaeda and fighting a war in Afghanistan in order to fight Al-Qaeda is like war with Italy to fight the Mafia.

Hope this gives you enough, Iain, for a clear explanation next time you are asked.

Arnie Saccnuson said...

Iain Dale said "our armed forces have one helicopter to 400 troops, while the Americans have one for every 33"?????

Are you saying that America has 848 helicopters in Afghanistan. They have 28,000 troops so to achieve the ratio you suggest they would have too??? Sounds like spin to me. Where did you get the figure. Citation needed.

Berty Brown-Staines said...

The question that should have been asked of Brown is "You have made it plain that several options were discussed. Was sending 2000 additional troops to Afghanistan one of them? Yes or No would suffice."

eeyore said...

Excellent post. There's another lengthy comment of equally impressive authority and detail on Douglas Carswell's blog. Well worth reading.

Dick the Prick said...

I got a bit drunk last - certainly not news in itself however, in the taxi on the way home started chatting with the driver whose grand daughter got blown up a couple of months by an unmanned drone in north east Pakistan. I expressed my sorrow and remorse and started talking about Musharraf and Zardari but, bottom line - you gotta think it was a pointless death.

Anonymous said...

I have just read the blog from the retired RAF person with amazement. It is so detailed.

I wonder if politicians have grasped how powerful blogging can be. For the first time ordinary people, sitting at home, can learn the facts and not be taken in by politicians being economical with the truth.

Jonathan Cook said...

I would like to thank the person who provided this information.

We all know that Gordon Brown is a lying and vengeful bastard. The only way that we can ensure our forces get the equipment they need is for people to speak out and tell the truth.

Gordon is scared of the public. If people at the sharp end continue to explain the reality, the public will hound Brown and force him to ignore his in-built hatred of the armed forces.

Brown will fold in the end. We have to hope, in the mean time, that we can get as much kit to the front line as fast as possible.

Heads on poles said...

Please do not overlook the fact that the Merlin has a major problem.
The Italian made gearbox has a weakness which means it can not handle the torque required to fly at its maximum speed.
This means that it can not operate as it is meant to however, I suppose a slow helicopter is better than no helicopter.

Chris Paul said...

I started campaigning against the mission on 11/09/01 but it is bloody obvious what that mission was and essentially remains.

- Destroy Taleban - who are Caliphate world domination mullahs, all round bastards, and fascists.

- Destroy major Al Queda terror training capability and terror productivity - including in UK and against our interest - which said Taleban enable.

- Prevent Taleban going nuclear.

- Destroy Bin Laden and the like.

And as corollaries:

- Protect oil supplies.

- Maintain highly strategic buffer state.

- Win hearts and minds, promote democracy and build international market for McDonalds, banking and diverse goods and services.

aka Secondary Imperialism

This is a mixture of protecting World Capital and British establishment and protecting our broad population from current terror threat and future far worse terror threat if nothing is done.

Surely Tories would or should argue that proetcting world capital and british establishment is in direct interest of white van family and pauper alike as they benefit from "trickle down".

I have always favoured a "policing" approach to criminality and Al Queda are criminals.

Chris Paul said...

Just a quickie.

Lots of these aircraft were bought under Tory rule, including the 1996 purchase that are not yet in use.

Your correspondent gives no indication of the capabilities of each aircraft type.

It's just a stream of numbers and jargon.

And it is also not clear what the upper class twits and upper class twit generals have been putting in for and deciding over the past 15 years of procurement and practical deployments.

And finally, the MoD figures already seem to have a third taken off them, so is your friend double top slicing the fleet?

Biggest issue though is those eight chuffing big Chinook helicopters bought by Tories in 1996 and apparently not deployable.

Anonymous said...

Supposedly the mission is about fighting the terrorists in their own backyard thereby limiting their ability to attach the UK high streets. Thats fine as far as it goes but why have we allowed over 5000 muslims to enter the country since 2003/07 supposedly to achieve additional qualifications at SPOOF colleges.

DougtheDug said...

I know what it was originally, back in 2001, but it seems to have changed beyond all recognition. Are we now sure we are there for the right reasons? I have yet to hear a government minister articulate the mission properly over the last couple of weeks.

The original mission and strategic mission hasn't changed but the problem is that the UK Government is a follower not a leader and both the mission and the strategy are driven by the US.

Afghanistan is a gateway to get access to the massive oil and gas reserves north of Afghanistan in the eastern Caspian Sea Basin.

It also completes the encirclement of Iran, Iraq on the west and Afghanistan on the east, which also has massive oil and gas reserves and is not a US client state.

If the US can crush the Taliban in Afghanistan they can run pipelines across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean and if they can effect, "Regime Change", in Iran then Iran is the best and most direct route for pipelines to get to the Indian Ocean.

They are already proposing a pipeline across Afghanistan to bring gas to India and the Canadians are upset because it will run right through their sector and defending it will be their responsibility.

The British Army is fighting and dying for US oil and gas companies and to help the US in its aim to secure energy and profit for the US.

rob's uncle said...

• [Jul 08]: Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): ' . . I WONDER whether she could remind the House of precisely what our military objective in Afghanistan is.'

The seven soldiers killed in Afghanistan, whose names the right hon. and learned Lady gave us at the start of Prime Minister's Question Time, bring to exactly 170 the tragic total of those killed in Afghanistan since 2006. Many people in my constituency are starting to doubt the wisdom of this war and I wonder whether she could remind the House of precisely what our military objective in Afghanistan is.

Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. We do not want anyone to be in any doubt about the importance of this mission in Afghanistan. It is important to ensure that in the mountainous regions surrounding Afghanistan and Pakistan, we do not have a crucible for the development of terrorism, which threatens people not only in those countries but in the wider region and, indeed, the whole world.

This mission is also important for the education of people in Afghanistan. There are now 6 million children in school in that country, compared with only 1 million in early 2001. Our troops have paved the way, working with other international forces, to make that possible. They are paving the way for economic development and a more secure democracy as well as security in the region and the world. We want to make it clear to our soldiers, their families and the people of this country that we have no doubt about the importance of the mission in Afghanistan.

From Theyworkforyou.com

Arnie Saccnuson said...

You are clearly a successfull blogger and comments must be an administrative nightmare, but you made a claim that the Americans have a ratio of 33 troops per helicopter and we know that they have 28,000 troops in theater which equates to 848 helicopters in theater which I doubt very much.

The problem is that I really want to believe in the conservatives, believe me, but that sort of garbage spin just makes it all look like more of the same, just a different brand name.
You obviously sing to the choir, but it isn't the choir you need to convince to win power because they will vote for you anyway.

What are your sources for claiming a ratio of 33 troops per helicopter. If you are correct and the Americans actually have 848 helicopters in theater then the British dont need to send anymore as that is more than enough for the combined total of 36,000 troops giving a ration of 44 troops per helicopter (American and UK forces combined).

I know its a small point but it is that type of crappy spin that puts a lot of people off politics!

Iain Dale said...

It was a figure quoted by Andrew Neil in THIS WEEK.

Arnie Saccnuson said...

Thank you Iain I have him Tivo and and just haven't had time to clip him and post him.
Do you believe on reflection that it is a credible ratio? It strikes me that's a lot of troops tied up in maintenance and a lot of helicopters not being shared around very fairly amongst the allies.

Stronghold Barricades said...

I also think that you're missing the major point here Iain

Helicopters are generally used in supply, transport type operations, and the lack of pilots is symptomatic of recruitment across the services. It has to be said, however, that Recessions are generally good for increasing the number of service personnel

To be successful the ground where helicopters are to operate needs to be secure, otherwise you may compromise missions and leave yourself open to ambush

Simply adding more helicopters to the mix won't make everything OK, because it does not answer the shortage of boots on the ground

Imagine the furore that would happen in our newspapers if a Chinook was shot down with a full compliment of squaddies on board taking part in an operation.

Chinooks are slow and noisy, or at least the ones that fly over me are, so it might not be that hard for a Taliban with ground to air capability to "take one out"

Men take a little longer to be recruited and trained if they are not to become fodder