Thursday, March 11, 2010


The Prime Minister constantly tells us he has given the military all the equipment they have ever needed or requested. How he can say this without his nose growing a few inches longer is anyone's guess. Let's just take the case of Snatch Land Rovers, whose use has caused to many unnecessary deaths at the hands of IEDs in Afghanistan. Parliamentarians have been asking about these vehicles for some time. These Hansard quotes illustrate that it is not a new issue.

(June 2006)
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, we on these Benches, too, extend our condolences to the family of the soldier killed in Afghanistan yesterday. Our thoughts at this time are also with the two soldiers who were seriously injured yesterday, and we wish them a speedy recovery. I thank the Minister for his reply and understand completely that any answer that he gives must not prejudice troop protection, but the Snatch Land Rover is not remotely adequate for patrolling areas where insurgents use landmines. Can the Minister assure the House that the Government will provide our soldiers with equipment that is fit for this role? What assessment have the Government made of the RG-31 which, with its V-shaped undercarriage, has a greater resilience to IEDs and which the Americans have bought in large numbers just for this role?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I do not accept that Snatch Land Rovers are not appropriate for the role.

(26 June 2006)
Mr. Ruffley: Nearly a quarter of the British soldiers lost in hostile action in Iraq were in Snatch Land Rovers at the time. Those vehicles are widely recognised to be inadequately armoured to withstand roadside bombs, and are consequently seen as a soft target for insurgents. In the interests of preventing unnecessary deaths, will the Secretary of State tell us which specific vehicles he is considering deploying as replacements for Snatch Land Rovers in Iraq?

Des Browne: The hon. Gentleman has made a good point. The Snatch Land Rover was a popular option earlier in the campaign in Afghanistan, because it was mobile and a good all-rounder, and had the right profile to help our troops to engage with the people of Basra in Multi- National Division (South-East). I think Members will appreciate that a vision of our troops thundering down narrow streets with battle tanks was not exactly what we wanted to convey to the people of Basra and other parts of south-east Iraq. Things are changing. As I have said, the level of violence in Basra has increased. I will not go into detail for obvious reasons, but the weapons that the terrorists are using have changed radically, as I have seen for myself on visits. I have seen that that is a serious issue, and have asked for a review.

Dr. Fox: Clearly, there is an increased risk. Lord Drayson told the other place recently that in Iraq, the Snatch Land Rover “provides the mobility and level of protection that we need.”— [ Official Report, House of Lords, 12 June 2006; Vol. 12, c. 2.] Fusilier Gordon Gentle was killed by a road-side bomb way back in June 2004, and since then other soldiers have been killed who would have survived if they had been in properly armed vehicles. Snatch Land Rovers do not offer the level of protection that our troops need in Iraq, yet we continue to use them. Why are our troops not given the level of protection that they need, and which American troops already enjoy? Commanders cannot deploy vehicles that they do not have.

Des Browne: As I have already said to the House, it is open to commanders to deploy vehicles that have heavier protection than the Snatch Land Rover and they have to make— [Interruption.] Other vehicles are available to them; there is a choice.

(16 Oct 2007)
Ann Winterton: ...The fact is that those at the top of the military seem to have become obsessed with high-tech, high-priced, overcomplicated new equipment. Let us take the case of the FRES vehicles; they were originally expected to be on stream by about 2010, but we will be lucky if it is 2020. It may even be later than that.

Mr. Kevan Jones: Rubbish.

Ann Winterton: The hon. Gentleman says “rubbish”, but I think that the point was even admitted at the Dispatch Box in debate last week. In the meantime, there is a great hole; we have insufficient numbers of the right vehicles.

Mr. Jones: I wish that the hon. Lady would do her research, and that she understood what she was talking about when making statements such as the one that she just made. I have pressed the Defence Committee hard on the subject that she raises; I am the one who has been pressing for an in-service date. Lord Drayson, the Minister with responsibility for defence procurement, has made it clear to the Committee on numerous occasions that 2012 is the in-service date.
Having seen the rapid progress that he is making with that programme, I now have more faith that it will be in service by 2012. To say that may not happen until 2020 is absolute rubbish.

Ann Winterton: The hon. Gentleman expresses his opinion. We will have to wait and see who is right. I hope that we are both in the House in 2012, and that we will recall this conversation on the Floor of the House. In the meantime, the real needs of the present have been overlooked, and the hard-learned lessons of the past appear to have been forgotten. So many people thought that Iraq would be another Northern Ireland, where the use of Snatch Land Rovers was appropriate, but they were completely wrong, and many people have lost their lives or been maimed as a result. I have always given the Government credit for the provision of, and improvements to, equipment such as helmets and body armour, and surveillance equipment and electronic countermeasures that use the latest technology. That is in addition to armoury for the infantry. It is in the provision of larger equipment that things have gone horribly wrong.

(wikipedia, today)
FRES: Programme restructuring:
After General Dynamics had its preferred bidder status withdrawn in December 2008, the Ministry of Defence decided to restructure the programme. The utility vehicle programme has been scheduled to restart towards the end of 2010.[15] The UK MoD's Defence Equipment and Support agency has focused its attention on the tracked variants of the FRES programme; most notably the Specialist Vehicle. The FRES Integrated Project Team (based at MoD Abbey Wood) has disbanded. The UV element has been put on hold; its future hangs in the balance of the Strategic Defence Review, scheduled for early 2010. The SV element has joined with the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) to form a new Medium Armoured Tracks Team (MATT). The two programmes share the Common Cannon and Ammunition Programme; whereby a new 40mm Cannon will be the main armament to both the upgraded Warriors and the new Specialist Vehicle.

This week the Prime Minister said 200 new vehicles would be provided to replace the Snatch Land Rovers, which are so vulnerable to IEDs. He was told that 400 were needed.


Martin said...

This is not new. Time after time coroners inquests have blamed the lack of equipment on the deaths of servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, be it land rovers, body armour, rifles that don't work, rubbish ammunition or crappy old aircraft.

Brown has starved the forces of money whilst Liebour have fought more wars than any previous Government.

If the BBC finally climbed out of Brown's arse they might start to report the truth for once.

Brown is a liar and an idiot, clearly the two essential qualifications to be a Socialist.

DespairingLiberal said...

Excellent piece of work Iain.

One of the interesting things about all of this is that it is another reminder that the UK's defence infrastructure, including the bloated and incompetent MoD, is still running on a peacetime rather than a wartime basis. This means (as we see from the various questions and the Wikipedia entry) that the contracting process is for example still running in the usual chaotic, fragile and incompetent ways it so often does. Those like myself who have worked as contractors within the system are painfully aware of just how mismanaged it all is.

Of course, the shining example of the "peacetime war" mentality is the way Blair rushed into battle whilst the Treasury under Brown were in no way going to properly fund it.

Oh well, goes the reasoning at Number 10. There aren't too many troops who vote. Being mostly young working class guys.

That was until the military top brass started (unheard of before) to directly critique government spending policies to the press in this area.

trevorsden said...

FRES is/was a programme for a different age and different problems. It has long since passed its sell by date.

FRES is totally not suited to the role of a patrol vehicle in an Afghan context. It does not have a V shaped hull. The military were wrong to persist with it as long as they did and the Govt have totally failed in its duty of care to allow it to skew the procurement of suitable vehicles.

A sensible govt - even if it cared only for its own image and not for its soldiers - would have replaced Snatch years ago, there were a number of suitable vehicles off the shelf. Lets notr forget this is a war of choice not necessity. it should thetregfore be funded adequatly.

And lets not forget that when brown needed public spending cuts to make a feeble effort to balance his budget - he slashed helicopters not something else.

Houdini said...

What surprises me is how the Tories have failed top explain just what a Snatch Landrover is and what it is designed for. To the public they look like little armoured cars and up to the task, which I suppose what Browns problem is too seeing as he hasn't been in one or only as a photoshoot.

The Snatch Landrover was designed for use in NI and was given macrolon coated protection against the threat from riots, and riots only or stone throwing; they were never meant for protection in a war theatre and certainly not against an explosive device.

Maybe giving this explanation will show the public what they are and how inappropriate they are.

Gallimaufry said...

So that's 200 or 400 vehicles to do the job that the 401 IVECO Panthers (costing £166 million)were bought for. A few have been upgraded (before going into service)for the RAF Regiment in Afghanistan. The armed forces aren't starved of cash for equipment, the MoD just spends their money very badly because;
a) nobody in government joins up foreign policy and defence properly,
b) defence procurement is primarily seen as a means of job creation instead of obtaining enough kit for a task on time and within budget,
and c) who wants a boring patrol vehicle or coin aircraft when a tank or a fighter jet looks so much sexier.

Sean Haffey said...

I don't think Brown likes to be confused by the facts. This is very mean of you, Iain.

Twig said...

"An independent review into a fatal 2006 Nimrod crash, which killed 14 service personnel, has accused the MoD of sacrificing safety to cut costs.

The highly critical report, by Charles Haddon-Cave QC, said the Afghanistan crash occurred because of a "systemic breach" of the military covenant.

A safety review of the Nimrod MR2 carried out by the MoD, BAE Systems and QinetiQ was branded a "lamentable job" ".

BBC report: Cost cuts blamed for Nimrod crash


Ian said...

The key to the mystery is to "think Brown" (you may need a shower afterwards)

He keeps repeating that the military were given all the equipment "they requested." It's perfectly possible for this to be true, of course - you simply need to make it clear to the military that requesting equipment will not be in their best interests. They then make no requests, and you can make the Brown claim above.

So the question should actually be, "what exactly was requested by the military that you fulfilled?" If e.g. helicopters were never requested, then you can ask the military commanders why not.

dizzy said...

Damn, I saw the title of this post and thought it was going to be about porno and the Lib Dems. Shame on you and your misleading headlines Iain!

sodthem said...

Concerning the Snatch it's not lack of resources but the Army chiefs persuing a fantasy weapon sytem and a mis-guided tactical doctrine. Add on this Blairs desire to be a good European and pushing the British Army towards a EU army. The result was some very dubious equipment purchases and our soldiers are suffering as a result. For the full story go and read the Defence of the Realm blog,

The money was there but it was mis-spent by the Army chielfs and politicians. Both have blood on their hands.

Alan Douglas said...

Even these 200 vehicles will take several years to arrive in theatre, I understand.

I wonder why Brown has "ordered" these now. Might there be an election coming up ?

Alan Douglas

Pogo said...

Why can't they simply buy a couple of hundred of whatever it is that the Yanks are using?? They'd probably get them delivered, taxed and insured with a full tank of juice sometime next week.

Jimmy said...

Bogdanor deals with this latest smear attempt pretty well.