A Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle
08 Mar 2012 By Thomas Harding – The Telegraph
The latest upgraded Warrior armoured vehicles arrived for operations in Afghanistan last year and it has taken the Taliban less than 12 months to show they are still vulnerable.
Following severe criticism of its weak underbelly after a number of deaths the Ministry of Defence decided to increase its protection.
Since the 2003 Iraq invasion, up to a dozen Warriors had been destroyed with the loss, before yesterday, of 22 lives, including four killed outside Basra when an IED detonated underneath.
At a cost of £30 million the MoD contracted BAE Systems to vastly improve its defence, especially after the coroner at the inquest into the death of four soldiers inside a warrior said he would “urgently seek” what could be done to improve its protection.
The overhaul was substantial and expensive. At a cost of £570,000 per vehicle extra armour was added to the undercarriage and sides and more robust seating was introduced along with measures to stop internal devices flying off during a blast. In addition the gear box was improved to deal with a weight increase to 40 tons and the suspension was raised to give it further blast protection.
It was considered one of the best vehicles to safely carry troops across Helmand rough terrain while packing considerable punch with its 30mn cannon and improved battlefield sights.
Its off-road capabilities almost meant it had greater chance of avoiding Taliban bombs planted in vulnerable locations on roads.
Commanders yesterday still insisted that the Warrior remains one of the better armoured vehicles on the battlefield but questions will remain over its underbelly vulnerability.
Depite the deaths, armoured infantry officers said it should remain in service. “Nothing carries as much accurate and heavy firepower as a Warrior bar a main battle tank,” said one officer. “Despite this event we want it to remain on operations because it delivers so much.”
The vehicle has been iconic for the British Army since it was introduced in the 80s seeing active service in the Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo and the 2003 Iraq invasion.
With only about 20 in Afghanistan it is used sparingly and to date it is understood three have been written off by an enemy frustrated by targeting the better protected Mastiff class of vehicle. The Mastiffs are used on mainly flat terrian and do not have the off-road capabilities of the Warriors.
The Warrior should have been replaced in the coming years by a new fleet of at least 3,000 armoured vehicles in a project called FRES (Future Rapid Effects System). But with defence cuts being imposed much of FRES is likely to be axed and the MoD has already agreed a £1 billion contract with the American company Lockheed Martin to refurbish the Warrior’s gun turrets in the 400-strong fleet. That force will not have any further armour improvement than the vehicle destroyed in Helmand.
But commanders insist on having a tracked vehicle that can carry troops across rugged terrain equipped with a strong main armament.
While ministers will stick with Warriors in Helmand right up until the 2014 withdrawal Taliban bombing in the past has forced the MoD to withdraw several poorly designed or protected vehicles including the Vector, Wimik and Viking.
Airmen have also been let down by poor standards after the death of 14 servicemen when an RAF Nimrod surveillance aircraft came down over Kandahar in 2006. It was found that a faulty fuel pipe caused the accident that led to the grounding of the entire fleet.
An MoD spokesman said: “Through state of the art equipment, every effort is made to minimise risk on operations but it can never be removed entirely.”