Nick Harvey MP (Lib Dem North Devon) Question 142524 :will today ask The Secretary of State for Defence, how many weapons mounted installation kits and general purpose machine guns are in theatre in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan.
There is a very good but (unstated by Nick) reason for asking this seemingly innocuous question. First a litle background to what a "weapons mounted installation kit " is.
The Land Rover Wolf is the primary utility vehicle of the British Army. Used initially as a project name, "Wolf" is still the troops generic name for a Land Rover - it is available in many variants.
Currently the term applies to what military johnnies officially call "the Truck Utility Light or Truck Utility Medium or by the engaging acronym (TUL / TUM (HS))" the most common of which is the "Weapons Mount Installation Kit (WMIK, pronounced ‘Wimik’.)" ... which is used for reconnaissance and as a close fire support vehicle.
WMIKs are manufactured jointly by Land Rover and Ricardo Vehicle Engineering.They have a strengthened chassis, stripped (and therefore lighter) bodywork and fitted with roll cages and weapons mounts. Typically the vehicle will carry one 12.7 mm Heavy Machine Gun, 7.62 mm General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) or on occasion the MILAN ATGM, on the rear ring-mount, with an additional pintle mounted GPMG on the front passenger side.
Recently the MOD announced the purchase of 40 new belt fed Automatic Lightweight Grenade Launchers (ALGL) made by Heckler and Koch (HK GMG) for Afghanistan WMIK's that can fire up to 360 grenades per minute up to 1.5 km away.
BBC correspondent Alastair Leithead spent a period as an "embedded" journo in Afghanistan and as a result filed a BBC Online report.... This was headlined 'Lack of vehicles' in Afghanistan.
Lack of heavily armed Land Rovers was a particular problem explained Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Mayo, spokesman in Helmand province, told Alastair that of 170 WMIL's needed only 126 in working order.
Any observer of the MOD's press department will be unsurprised that the MOD insistedthat troops were properly equipped to do their job when asked to comment and added that huge investments had been made in equipment for the Army.
Alastair reorted from personal experience that on average 1 WMIK was being lost a week and replacements sent from the UK often arrived late.
Lt Col Charlie Mayo said the WMIKs were taking "a hell of a hammering" in the hot and dusty conditions and said the situation was "tight, but not critical yet".
Another vehicle, the air cooled engined lightweight Pinzgauer (named after an Austrian Pony) carrier , has been fitted with extra armour to try to cover the shortfall. Consequently this has affected carrying capacity limiting the number of men and the amount of equipment they can carry. These vehicles have the driver over the front wheels which is not ideal when drivingh over mines /IED's - well not for the driver. Lord Patel reported (Sept 6th 2006) on these "coffins on wheels" when their purchase was announced...at something of the order of £250,000 each (not including armour).
Those with long memories (well that go back to November '06) will remember the arrival of Brigadier Lorrimer in Afghanistan who famously sent a "shopping list" to the MOD - reported in the Mail on Sunday - with the banner headline reproduced above.
Army fury as chief in Afghanistan is told he won't get vital armour
By CHRISTOPHER LEAKE, Mail on Sunday 18th November 2006
The senior Army officer who will command British troops in Afghanistan next year is embroiled in a furious row with the Ministry of Defence after learning he will be denied vital armour to protect his men.The MOS countered this experience by the Brig. with what the Prime Minister said earlier ..
The MoD snub comes just six weeks after Tony Blair promised on TV: "If the commanders on the ground want more equipment, armoured vehicles for example, more helicopters, that will be provided. Whatever package they want, we will do."
Nick Harvey's question today, Mr Leithead's report 6 weeks ago suggest things haven't changed. QV Lord Patel January 27th 2006 -