Britain gears up to send Bosnia reinforcements

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The Independent Online
THE planned reinforcements for the British forces in Bosnia, on which the Cabinet has delayed a decision, are expected to include the aircraft-carrier Ark Royal and a special artillery battery.

Since members of the 2,400- strong British force came under heavy artillery fire at Tomislavgrad on Friday and near Kladanj on Sunday, the need for artillery to strike back at Serb forces firing from over the skyline, and for locating radars to detect their gun positions, has become obvious.

The UK's Nato quick-reaction battery, the AMF(L) from 94 Locating Regiment, Royal Artillery, was held back from its winter exercise in Norway. Armed with six 105mm light guns which can be carried by air, and trained to operate in near-arctic conditions, the Light Gun battery will give the British force a highly flexible source of long-range firepower. The Light Gun can fire a 15kg (33lb) shell 17km (10 miles).

Specialist parties of observers to direct the fire have also been on stand-by. Military sources said there would be more observation parties than would be usual for a battery, for maximum flexibility.

The artillery force will probably include Cymbeline artillery and mortar locating radars. These radars register certain points on the trajectory of an incoming shell, from which it is possible to plot the position of the weapon that launched it.

An artillery locating radar brought by the Ukrainians was an early target for attack by the Serbs, who realised its importance. The aircraft-carrier Ark Royal can carry eight or nine Sea Harrier jets and nine Sea King helicopters.

The Harriers are mainly designed for air defence of the carrier itself rather than for ground attack, although they can perform that role. They might be of value enforcing an air exclusion zone, while the Sea Kings, each of which can carry 18 passengers by day or night are of great value in moving troops or evacuating casualties.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has denied reports that a US carrier battle group was steaming into the Adriatic. The US aircraft-carrier John F Kennedy, with 20 F-14 and 20 F/A-18 jets on board, was in the central Mediterranean last night, but a carrier there could easily provide air support if necessary.