Special forces plead for more armour

Somewhat to my surprise, this is from the ABC -- so it must be right

Australian special forces in Afghanistan are pleading for better protection against roadside bombs as they approach perhaps the most intense fighting season they have experienced in the conflict. ABC TV's Lateline program has revealed that a majority of the patrol vehicles used by a major group of Australia's elite soldiers have not been given the extra armour that can help protect against improvised bombs.

At the start of April, two diggers were wounded while driving through southern Uruzgan province. An improvised mine exploded under their patrol vehicle and one soldier nearly died after suffering severe wounds to his legs and lower body. He is recuperating in a hospital in Sydney.

Some soldiers are disappointed and others are angry because the patrol vehicle lacked the armour that, through different avenues, soldiers have been requesting for nearly two years. Neil James from the Australia Defence Association says it is a legitimate concern. "You should always listen to the soldiers and the commanders in the field, particularly when they tell Defence bureaucrats about what type of vehicle they need to fight," he said.

Extra armour has been tested and some of the patrol vehicles have been given extra protection, but the next phase of what has been called "up-armouring" has not happened. It probably will not happen before the current northern summer has finished. That means there will be no new armour through what is expected to be the most intense fighting season experienced by Australian soldiers.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says that in general, the soldiers have what they need. "Absolutely. Nothing holds my focus more than ensuring that our troops in theatre have all the capability and protection they need, to do their job as effectively and efficiently as possible," he said. "We are constantly reviewing those concepts, and I'm absolutely satisfied they have all the protection and capability they need."

Regular diggers in the Mentoring and Reconstruction Taskforce have armoured cars and access to heavily armoured vehicles like the Bushmaster, and they have been through some intense fire fights as well. But Special Forces need fast-moving vehicles they can fight from and that can travel large distances. But for a significant section of the Special Operations troops, more than half of the vehicles available to them have received no new armour for the mission in Afghanistan.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston says this problem has been around for a long time. "The particular project the DMO has undertaken to up-armour the vehicles started in 2004," he said. "The objective of having all of these light vehicles mine-resistant and ambush-protected is a very, very difficult one. But I actually think we should have done better that we have to this point in time. This whole project has been stalled now for 18 months. "The problem is that we are exposed. Most of the casualties we've had have been the direct result of IEDs. IEDs are the number one threat to our personnel in Afghanistan. And in saying that I would have thought we would have done better, sooner."


Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here

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