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Posted by Richard Friday, October 07, 2005

Reviewers looking for EU-related news to put up on their web-sites and circulate to their e-mail groups may well have passed over the item today in The Daily Telegraph reporting on how British troops were being stranded in Iraq by "grounded planes".

Hundreds of British troops, says the paper, were stranded in Iraq yesterday after all the RAF's specialised aircraft were grounded with mechanical faults. Soldiers who had completed their six-month tours or are due to go on leave have had to wait for a week as technicians try to repair the three RAF Tristars.

Two and a half years of constant operations, the paper continues, have taken their toll on the ageing aircraft. An RAF technician warned that although aircrew might get tired "it's the airframe on these aircraft that is being put under great strain. It's because of cutbacks - they just don't have enough money."

That rather begs the question as to why there is not enough money when, as successive defence secretaries are constantly telling us, defence spending is actually increasing.

Now pick up, almost at random, a comment by Richard Coltart, head of news at BAE Systems, reacting to the government's "new defence strategy" in July 2004, noting that: "The emphasis is on new equipment - what they are doing is reducing the level of old equipment."

New equipment is all very well but, as we have reported in many previous posts, that equipment is being procured to a plan agreed with our European Union "partners" to equip the European Rapid Reaction Force. Meanwhile, funding for the forces' traditional roles and existing commitments is being cut back, one result of which, as the Telegraph reports today, troops end up waiting for their ride home.

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