NEWTOWN, Conn: About half of the armored vehicles used by the British Army in Afghanistan are unfit for operational usage according to figures published in the Daily Telegraph. The vehicles, ranging from lightly protected patrol models to more heavily protected MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected) types, have either proven vulnerable to insurgent roadside bombs and the topography and climate of Afghanistan, or have been pulled from service due to the need for repairs and refurbishment.
Most prominent among these vehicles are the 6×6 Mastiff (a British-configured version of the U.S. Cougar MRAP) and the 4×4 Ridgback (also based on the Cougar, in the Category 1 model). These MRAPs were procured by the Ministry of Defence under Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) contracts extended in late 2007 and 2008. The MoD has ordered somewhere in the range of 350 Mastiffs, with 271 so far having been delivered. Of these 271 units, only 134 are rated ready for operational duties by the Army. Regarding the lighter Ridgbacks, only 73 of the 118 units are considered serviceable at the present. The first Ridgbacks and Mastiff 2s (Mastiffs converted by UK-firm NP Aerospace to an advanced armored version) were deployed in Afghanistan in June 2009, begging the question as to how many units have atrophied either through climactic conditions or combat damage.
The British MoD, for its part, argues that repairs and refurbishment are an obvious necessity for vehicles used in combat theaters as they ensure the safety of their operators. Under fire from all sides since 2006 due to the growing list of British casualties in Afghanistan which have stemmed from improper or insufficient kit, the MoD has rushed to provide improved armored vehicles (thus the Mastiff and Ridgback UOR orders) and has placed UOR orders for armored tactical support vehicles (the Coyote, Husky and Wolfhound).
The MoD has also withdrawn the highly-criticized Snatch Land Rovers from outside-of-base duties in Afghanistan. The lightly-protected Snatch Land Rovers proved particularly vulnerable to insurgent IEDs (improvised explosive devices). Public criticism focused on why vehicles originally designed and purchased for patrolling duties in Northern Ireland would be used for operations in vastly different circumstances in the Near East. Scrambling to retain a light patrol vehicle element for the Afghan and Iraqi theaters, the MoD pushed out an enhanced version of the original vehicle, the Snatch Vixen, in 2008. Some 150-200 Snatch Vixens were procured, though these also proved vulnerable to roadside bombs despite the additional armor and counter-IED measures installed. The MoD is now looking to place an urgent operational requirement order for 400 new Light Protected Patrol Vehicles (LPPVs) to replace the Snatch Land Rovers. Only 358 of the total 653 are in workable condition.
All told, the MoD claims to have invested GBP 1.3 billion ($2.07 billion) on armored vehicles for the British Army from 2007 through 2009.