The Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, has today confirmed to the Prime Minister that the military have all the equipment they need to commit additional troops to Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister has said that increasing the number of British personnel in Afghanistan would happen only if military commanders have the equipment they need for the tasks they are asked to undertake.
Today Sir Jock confirmed to the National Security, International Relations and Development Committee (NSID) that this condition has been met.
Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said:
“If you look at what we have done with our equipment between August this year and December, then you’ll see that we have increased our levels of equipment holdings by far more than the proposed increase in ground forces. So absolutely in terms of quantity we’ve more than met the remit.
“The equipment that our people are using is frankly the best that they’ve ever had in any of my 40 years of service and it’s getting better all the time, so in terms of numbers, in terms of quality, both are increasing.”
Sir Jock’s view was based on the substantial increases in the numbers of armoured vehicles and helicopters available in theatre since British troop numbers were increased to 9,000 in August. Improvements include:
• Newly arrived Merlin helicopters today given the ‘green light’ for operations in Afghanistan a month ahead of schedule;
• We have almost doubled helicopter flying hours since November 2006 through increases in numbers and improvements in availability of Chinook, Sea King and Lynx. This will increase further in the coming months with more Merlin helicopters available for frontline operations;
• By the end of the year the number of heavily armoured, mine-resistant MASTIFF vehicles will have almost doubled (a 93 per cent increase);
• A 77 per cent increase in the number of RIDGBACK, a smaller, more agile version of the MASTIFF, since August 2009;
• Introduction of two brand new tactical support vehicles – the COYOTE and the HUSKY which carry troops, kit and supplies the front line;
• 5,000 sets of the brand new OSPREY ASSAULT body armour covers and Mark 7 helmets have been sent to theatre, and 5,000 more on the way;
• As well as body armour and personal weapons, troops who deploy on operations are issued a ‘black bag’ containing over £3,000 of equipment that a soldier needs from boots and sleeping bags to camel back water packs and binoculars;
• By May 2010, the number of available hours provided by the Hermes 450, Desert Hawk and Reaper Unmanned Arial Vehicles will have increased by around 33%, 50% and 80% respectively;
• Overall, since 2006, we have delivered equipment valued at more than £10 billion to the Armed Forces.
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said:
“Our forces in Afghanistan are risking their lives daily and they deserve our support. The mission there is vital for our national and international security and we must not lose our resolve. There has been a very substantial improvement over the last few months in helicopter numbers and in protective vehicles. The ratio - even with the increase in troops - has improved quite considerably in both of those areas which are of vital importance to the safety and ability for our people in Afghanistan to operate.”
Notes to Editors:
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