Thursday, November 23, 2006

The betrayal of our fighting men

The Telegraph reports that the lives of British paras in Afghanistan were put at risk when cheap ammunition from either Pakistan or the Czech Republic failed.

A shocking demonstration of the poor quality rounds is shown on a video posted by a paratrooper on the YouTube website. It shows two soldiers in a sandbagged position struggling to operate the machinegun, which can also be mounted on Land Rovers.

One is shown constantly re-cocking the weapon as his colleague seeks to feed through the ammunition belt. At one point, the Para, who becomes exhausted with the strain of constantly pulling the cocking handle, drops the gun and swears in frustration. All the time incoming enemy fire can be heard.

The soldiers ended up scrounging decent .50 cal ammo from Canadian and US troops.

A Parachute Regiment officer involved in the fighting said: "The ammo we had was rubbish. It just kept jamming. At one point we refused to go out because it was so bad. Eventually we managed to scrounge some Canadian rounds.

"If we had not got that ammo we would certainly have lost a lot of people."

This is what happens when you stop making your own military equipment and munitions and rely on cheap imports. The British Army should not be buying cheap anything from anywhere. They should be supplied with kit made in British factories by British workers to British standards.

If the requirement is such that no British made kit is available - whether it be bullets, tanks or aeroplanes - then we should acquire the best available for the requirement, not the cheapest. It's not as if the "best" is always the most expensive anyway.

We should also be looking to source that requirement from British facilities in the future.

How many soldiers have to die before we realise that?

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