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Tue, Jun 19, 2007

Report: British Troops Face Helicopter, Armored Vehicle Shortage

MoD Denies Shortage Allegations, Says Assets Are "Shared"

British soldiers in Afghanistan are reportedly facing severe shortages of helicopters and armored vehicles. The Daily Telegraph reports only half the Apache helicopters assigned to British forces in the country are operable and just 70 percent of the Chinook transport helicopters are available for use.

A Daily Telegraph reporter spent three weeks with troops in the Helmand province and discovered what was termed an "alarming" amount of deficiencies, the newspaper reported.

Of 96 new armored vehicles allotted to troops in the Helmand province, only 16 have been delivered. Soldiers have reportedly resorted to "scrounging" equipment from a small Estonian contingent serving alongside them.

Things are getting so bad that one garrison was down to its last 200 mortar rounds because there were no available helos to supply them, according to the Yorkshire Post.

The Ministry of Defense said that more equipment was on the way.

"Our military commanders have the helicopters required to provide combat and medical support for our troops in combat. These helicopters have proved vital to the success of our operation in Afghanistan which is why we are spending (more than) $456 million making 14 additional aircraft for deployment over the next two years," said a spokeswoman.

"There is no shortage of combat fighting vehicles in Afghanistan. We are part of a coalition and so we share assets," she added.

The Telegraph also claims engineers travel in soft-skinned trucks while carrying explosives and soldiers use their personal binoculars because those issued by the Army are inadequate.

The Duke of Gloucester was reported to have had to cancel a frontline visit because no Apaches available.

The situation is reportedly causing some morale problems. Combine lack of proper equipment with less-than-desirable pay scales and the British Army could be facing the loss of seasoned soldiers.

An engineer with 11 years in the service told the Telegraph reporter he had recently decided against reenlistment for just those reasons. He only received about $1.50 a day pay raise for a promotion from senior corporal to junior sergeant.

"It's just not worth staying on," he said. "I will have to spend (almost) $800 on a new mess kit and (about) $118 a month on the mess bill rather than the (nearly) $32 I currently pay."

FMI: www.army.mod.uk

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