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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
UK improving military kit for desert
Troops on exercise in Oman
Exercises showed up a series of faults
A raft of measures to improve the poor desert performance of tanks and artillery is being worked on by the Ministry of Defence amid speculation about possible strikes against Iraq.

Britain's defence department is trying to correct a series of faults in key equipment highlighted by military exercises in Oman last year.

Challenger II
Challenger II: Air filter problem
Urgent work is going on to "desert-ise" the Challenger II tank - a spearhead for any assault by British ground forces - whose air filters failed to cope with dusty conditions similar to those found in southern Iraq.

A package of improvements to the mobile AS90 self-propelled gun is being worked on by BAe Systems, and a spare parts "battle pack" has been put together for heavy duty lifting equipment, the MoD told BBC News Online.

Serious problems

The plastic air filters on the AS90s melted in the heat in Oman, a report by the National Audit Office said last month.

Desert failure
Tank filters clogged
Ageing radio system "incapable"
AS90 gun filters melted
Helicopter parts unserviceable
Lynx rotor blades lasted just 27 hours
SA80 rifles jammed
Shortage of forklift trucks
Boots melted or fell apart
Source: NAO report
Serious problems were also identified with the army's ageing Clansman radio system, with rotor blades on the Lynx helicopter, and with the SA80 rifle.

Fork lift trucks had no maintenance contractors so became in short supply. There was a shortage of desert combat suits and boots, and normal army boots melted in the heat.

"Various trials of possible enhancements to the Challenger II tank are taking place in Batus, Canada," an MoD spokesman said.

"We are discussing ways of improving the performance of air filters with manufacturers to enable them to work in desert conditions."

The MoD believes the AS90 "remains operational" but to enhance its ability to operate in desert environment a "desertisation package of enhancements is being worked on with BAe Systems".

For Containers Handling Rough Terrain - basically fork lift trucks for lifting military equipment - more critical parts are being held in reserve and "spares battle packs" have been developed, said the spokesman.

The MoD added in a statement that "no decision had been taken on military action in Iraq".

"Should Challenger II tanks and any other equipment be required in a desert environment, it would be appropriately modified," the ministry added.


With the US building a huge attack force in the Gulf, what could Britain contribute to a strike on IraqToken support?
What can Britain do in an attack on Iraq?
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