Afghan war 'to leave UK short of armour'

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The Independent Online

Critical failures in the defence procurement system resulted in British forces being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan with inadequately protected vehicles, according to a report published yesterday.

While troops were getting killed and maimed by roadside bombs, the military had spent "£718m on projects that have yet to deliver, some of which have been cancelled or suspended indefinitely".

The study by the National Audit Office (NAO) found that "in the period since 1998, the Department's core equipment programme has not delivered a number of key armoured armoured vehicle projects". This resulted in initial reliance on "soft-skinned" vehicles which proved to be vulnerable to improvised explosive devices.

The threat led the Ministry of Defence to spend £2.8bn in Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs), with the money initially coming from the Treasury, to acquire fleets of more heavily armoured vehicles.

Much of the equipment bought under the UOR system now in Afghanistan, especially armoured vehicles are, however, "theatre specific" and will need modifications for use in the UK. The cost of that, as well as of transport, is likely to result in these being left behind and possibly being handed over to the Afghan forces.

The study concluded that the UK faced a severe armour shortage in three years time which could put troops at further risk.