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The provision of support for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is made more difficult because they operate in remote locations and harsh conditions. A report today from the National Audit Office finds that, despite the challenging operational environments, the MOD has successfully delivered around 300,000 personnel and 90,000 tonnes of freight to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years. However, it has not consistently met its targets for delivering supplies in a timely fashion. The MOD is taking measures to improve the effectiveness of its supply chain; and the amount of time a unit waits for items to be delivered has reduced by half in Afghanistan and a third in Iraq.
The Ministry of Defence has approved £4.2 billion to upgrade or buy new equipment to meet urgent requirements in the two theatres. The NAO found that the availability of this equipment has generally met or exceeded targets, though the suspension and wheel hub reliability on the Vector vehicle has been poor. There have been spares shortages with some fleets particularly when the vehicle is used for a different purpose than intended (such as the Mastiff vehicle in Afghanistan). The availability and serviceability of helicopters has exceeded MOD targets, although prioritisation of spare parts for operations has led to reduced availability in the UK.
The MOD’s prioritisation of Urgent Operational Requirements has led to shortages of equipment matching that in theatre for Service personnel in the UK to train with. The MOD has introduced new equipment, but numbers remain limited to support the scale of pre-deployment training.
The MOD is responsible for providing accommodation, medical and welfare services to Service personnel who are on operations. Accommodation at main bases meets most needs and personnel are generally satisfied with it, although conditions at the smaller patrol bases are more basic. Welfare services are also generally well delivered, although the provision at the smaller more remote bases is lower than that provided at main operating bases. Personnel have widespread confidence in the medical system, which the MOD has delivered successfully. The helicopter borne Medical Emergency Response Teams provide quick, life-saving medical support to casualties and evacuate them speedily to hospital.
Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office, said today:
“The task of supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is not an easy one. Despite this challenge, the Ministry of Defence has had a number of successes, particularly in providing life-saving medical treatment. But there is still more to do. By improving the management and replenishment of stocks in theatre and getting a clearer picture of what supplies are available and where they are, the MOD could make real improvements to its supply chain.”
Urgent Operational Requirements for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have included enhancements to existing capabilities (such as modifications to helicopters, better protection for existing vehicles and early attack warning systems for bases) and new equipment procurement (such as Mastiff vehicles, deployable accommodation, and communications and surveillance equipment).
The Vector vehicle has been used by British Forces in Afghanistan since April 2007. It is a light, protected patrol vehicle, based on the in-service Pinzgauer vehicle. Originally procured specifically for Afghanistan, the MOD decided to deploy Vector to Iraq in May 2008. The Mastiff vehicle used by the British Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq is a six wheeled protected patrol vehicle based on the United States Marine Corps Cougar vehicle, with additional armour and modifications.
There are six types of helicopter deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the six, the Chinook, Apache, Puma and Merlin have been able to cope consistently with the harsh environmental conditions. The MOD has modified its Sea King helicopters and has planned upgrades for the Lynx fleet.
Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at http://www.nao.org.uk/. Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
The Comptroller and Auditor General, Tim Burr, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 850 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.
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