October 15, 2012
Credit: Credit: Crown Copyright
Angus Batey Wiltshire, England
British Army Brigadier Bob Bruce, commander of the 4th Mechanized Brigade, is unequivocal when assessing the equipment and training that his troops have received ahead of their arrival this month in Afghanistan.
“I absolutely believe that we will be the best-prepared and best-equipped British task force ever deployed on operations,” he told news media ahead of deployment to Helmand province as the 17th rotation of Operation Herrick, the British contribution to NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). “And I've absolutely no doubt that our successors will be in an even better place.”
Bruce's confidence is by no means new. Despite headlines that have tended to highlight inadequacies in kit or stuttering progress in procurement, the equipment available to the British military has undergone comprehensive and continuous improvement throughout the country's post-9/11 involvement in Afghanistan.
For Herrick 17 there is a new platform: Foxhound, the long-awaited replacement for the Snatch Land Rover. As well as being the first British military vehicle to be fitted with the Generic Vehicle Architecture information technology backbone, the Foxhound procurement flagged lessons that should help inform future equipment projects.
“Over the last 10 years, the Defense Ministry has become much more adept at getting involved with the manufacturer at an early stage,” says Maj. Gareth Barry, the British Army's trials manager for Foxhound. “As a corporate entity, we understand that the best way to get the best product for both sides is to engage early and have constant engagement.”
Core equipment projects are still time-consuming, but the urgent operational requirement (UOR) process, under which much of the new equipment for Afghanistan was procured, can move with considerable pace.
“Pelvic fracture can be a life-threatening injury,” explains Lance Cpl. Stuart Goldie, a combat medical technician with 3 Medical Rgt, “because major blood vessels run through the pelvis. The pelvic binder is a very simple bit of kit: It goes round the pelvis and binds it together tightly, stopping any abnormal movement. From the moment that they said, 'Right, we need something,' to these being in our Bergens [backpacks] on operations, took 72 hours.”