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.
It now appears that when Lord Drayson answered a not dissimiliar question From Lord Astor on the Monday of that week (18th July) he had answered "I am withholding detailed information on the availability of the combat vehicle fleet in Afghanistan, as this is sensitive operational information."
Bernard Jenkin (North Essex, Conservative) pointed out to Adam Ingram Minister for mumbling excuses about Forces Equipment shortages, on the 21st June that 16 Air Assault Brigade had already starting its training for its second tour in Helmand, which he understood will be deployed some time in the spring of 2008.
He had when meeting some of their officers, asked , "What equipment are you training with?" he went on to explain to the Hapless Scotsman (another of the buggers !) "The mobility and firepower of a vehicle known as WMIK, which is an open Land Rover with a .50 calibre machine gun strapped to its top, are vital to operations in Afghanistan. Almost all the vehicles are deployed in Afghanistan, so the entire brigade has one WMIK vehicle for training purposes in the UK and will not be able to do any training until it returns to Afghanistan.
The fact that the Government appear to have been reduced to buying and providing equipment for the front line only, because they cannot afford enough equipment for the front line and for training, is affecting morale and the effectiveness of our armed forces personnel."
On Tuesday 19th in answer to a question to Ann Winterton (Conservative Congleton) Adam Ingram had already stated that the MOD had 5 WMIK vehicles available in the UK for training.
Anyway , no doubt stung by all this detailed, and informed criticism on Monday 25th June the MOD announced that under an Urgent Operational Requirement for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan , (which as Lord patel's old batman pointed out they don't hand out with the rations.Sir.) 130 new new MWMIK 's , will begin deploying out to operational theatres "early in 2008", Lord Drayson, Minister of State for explaining shortages, overunning costs, and delays in Defence Equipment and Support, said:
So that's alright then , we send our troops to war in a convertible - this stripped down 50 year old Land Rover is useless as a patrol vehicle . Indeed why buy an open top patrol vehicle?
"These vehicles are well armed, swift, and agile and will boost our capability with some serious firepower. MOD and the Treasury have worked hard to get these powerful vehicles to our troops in quick time, and they will start going out to theatre early next year."
These vehicles are claimed to have, Longer range, Greater payload, Greater mobility (?) and a take your breath away top speed of "up to 80mph (130km/h)" - now how does that compare with a Toyota land Cruiser ute ?- a WMIK weighs nearly 4 tonnes all up, powered by a 4.2 litre engine. Keen observers will however note that the picture accompanying the MOD article is somewhat short on firepower , which can include "a .50 calibre machine gun or an automatic grenade launcher and a general purpose machine gun, as well as carrying up to four troops with their own individual weapons." let's hope they have ordered some guns as well. Note that no costs are mentioned.
It is encouraging to see from the picture that seat belts are provided, meaning the vehicles can be used on Public Highways throughout Europe. The Road Traffic Act as it applies to Afghanistan is not a subject upon which we can claim any knowledge, but presumably these brand spanking new WMIK's will be fully street legal in Kabul .
Big problem is of course, patrolling all day in the poppy fields , the thing will get mucky and dusty - how do you put it through the car wash