The truth of the saying, "success has many fathers" comes alive today in The Sun, which runs the story today on the government’s U-turn on armoured vehicles for Iraq.
"British soldiers," says The Sun, "are finally getting bomb-proof patrol vehicles in Afghanistan and Iraq after warning that their lives were in peril. Ministers acted last night after a Sun campaign to beef up their protection."
Anyhow, we now have the transcript from Hansard in which Des Browne tells the Commons about the new armoured vehicles. Here it is:
The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): If I may be permitted, Mr. Speaker, in that regard I can announce today the conclusions of an urgent review into protected vehicles for operations, particularly in Iraq. We have identified three complementary ways forward, two of which build on and accelerate work that is ongoing, and the third is new. They will be funded from an acceleration of existing funding and, in part, from substantial new funding from the Treasury for Iraq and Afghanistan. I have set out the details in a written statement. Briefly, we are ordering 100 new Vector vehicles, 70 FV430 vehicles beyond the 54 already ordered, and about 100 new Cougar wheeled armoured vehicles for both theatres.We are still uncertain as to precisely which vehicle is being ordered. The Sun and the BBC both show a three-axle vehicle, while the ILAV has two. This, however, is nerd territory, although we cannot wait to hear how the minister reconciles his earlier claim that the RG-31 was too big with his decision to buy an even bigger vehicle. I wonder how that will go down in the back streets of Basra.
Michael Gove: The Prime Minister recently underlined the threat to our troops in Iraq from Iranian-backed militias and Iranian-supplied weapons. I am delighted that the Minister has today announced that we are going to upgrade the armoured vehicle fleet available to our troops to protect them from that threat. However, the wheeled armoured vehicles that he has ordered will not be ready for deployment until the end of this year. What consideration was given to the procurement of battle-ready RG31 protected patrol vehicles?
Des Browne: We gave serious consideration to all the vehicles that were available. Thanks to the work that we were able to do with the Americans, and thanks particularly to significant work that my hon. Friend Lord Drayson was able to perform, we were able to identify about 100 Cougar vehicles to which the Americans were prepared to allow us to have access. We chose those because up-armoured, with electronic counter-measures added and with Bowman radios fitted, we believe that they would be the best protected mid-range vehicles in theatre. We made an objective decision to choose them instead of the RG31s. Had we chosen the RG31s, we would have had to fit ECMs and Bowman to them and possibly to up-armour them. In any event, the earliest possible time that we can get them into theatre is in the context of the six-month period of the next two roulements for Iraq and for Afghanistan. It physically could not be done any more quickly with any vehicle.
It will also be interesting to see whether anyone challenges the decision to buy the Panther, asking whether, if the RG-31 had been selected instead, these could have been reconfigured and diverted to Iraq. The MoD must be keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that they lose no more Land Rovers between now and the arrival of the Cougars.