The head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, asked the Ministry of Defence to deploy Challenger Two tanks – acknowledged as one of the best weapons in Britain's armoury – in Afghanistan two years ago, military sources have claimed. Despite his request, the Government decided the terrain in Afghanistan was not suitable for the Challenger.
It has also emerged that a scheme launched in March last year to provide more helicopters to Afghanistan will result in just three being sent to help hard-pushed British troops, but not until the end of this year.
No 10 admitted in March 2008 that there were "critical shortfalls in capability" regarding the use of helicopters, including in Afghanistan, and set up a "Helicopter Fund" and asked every European Union nation to contribute. Since then it has raised only £22m, and the only new helicopters are to be supplied by the Czech Republic.
Military sources claim that when commanders were told that they would be involved in a big offensive in Afghanistan in March this year – which turned out to be Operation Panther's Claw – they made known their fears there were not enough helicopters to move troops around.
One source said: "The operation was planned from the beginning of this year. They knew what was going to happen and they knew they didn't have enough helicopters. It is disingenuous of General Dannatt to come back with a shopping list last month when the list has been known about for two years."
An MoD spokesman said that there had never been a request for Challenger tanks.Reuse content