BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 16:24 GMT
Organising the UK 'war' effort
Troops from 16 Air Assault Brigades
Heavy equipment will be moved by sea
As the military build-up to a possible war on Iraq continues, BBC News Online's Melissa Jackson looks at the logistics of moving troops and equipment to the Gulf area.

It is a highly-organised task, planned and perfected by military experts according to the MoD's requirements.

Preparing for a possible war on Iraq is a huge and demanding task, but the mighty wheels have already been set in motion.

Thousands of troops will start heading to the Gulf over the coming weeks behind weapons and military equipment which will make the long journey by sea.

Everything is pretty low key at the moment, but it will get busy by the end of the week

Major Charles Heyman, Jane's World Armies
Military experts believe the scale of the logistical operation is so immense it would be a month before any attacks could take place.

Major Charles Heyman, editor of Jane's World Armies said: "Everything is pretty low key at the moment, but it will get busy by the end of the week."

Also heading for the Gulf will be medical and support staff ready to play their part in any armed assault.

Britain's military commitment to a potential war against Iraq would be on the same scale as the Gulf war 12 years ago, according to the MoD.

Col Ivar Hellberg, who commanded the logistics regiment of the royal marines during the Falklands war, said getting troops and equipment out to the Gulf was "quite a challenge".

In addition to the Royal Marines and Navy personnel already dispatched to the Gulf, a further 26,000 Army personnel are to be deployed.

This will comprise the 1 UK armoured division, with support from the 7th armoured brigade (the Desert Rats) and 102 Logistics Brigade - all based in Germany, and the 16 Air Assault Brigade, from Colchester, Essex.

They will have equipment, including 120 Challenger tanks and 150 Warrior armoured personnel carriers, 32 AS self propelled guns and 18 light guns.

'Desertising' the equipment

Much of the equipment is already either in transit or being loaded on board ships ready to set sail in the next few days.

The loading exercise is continuing 24 hours a day at Marchwood, near Southampton in the UK and at Bremerhaven, near Hamburg in Germany.

These centres of activity are both "ports of embarkation" for logistic supplies.

Tanks, personnel carriers and weapons are being moved to the two sites by road and rail and loaded onto waiting ships.

The 7th Armoured Brigade unpacking tank rounds
Moving troops to the Gulf is a 'major challenge'
Travelling with them is a team of army engineers who, over the course of the three-week journey to the Gulf, will "desertise" the equipment - fitting sand filters where necessary - and checking everything is in full working order.

Some of the landing ships logistics (LSLs) will have been specially chartered from the commercial fleet and from the merchant navy.

LSLs are similar to roll-on, roll-off ferries and are probably destined for Kuwait, along with military personnel, who will fly to the region.

Naval vessels - some of which have already set sail for the Gulf - will be accompanied by Royal Fleet Auxiliaries (RFAs) - ships which carry supplies such as fuel and food to keep the naval fleet afloat.

Moving equipment by sea is timely, but more cost effective, according to experts.

Sea transport benefits

Ewen Southby-Tailyour, editor of Jane's Amphibious and Special Forces said: "Sea speeds have not changed much since the Second World War - it's about 15-20 knots.

"It could take three weeks to get to the Gulf via the Suez canal. So we are a month away from any attack."

He explained that during the Kosovo conflict "only a quarter of front line vehicles and logistics went by air".

Ninety five per cent of everything needed for the Gulf War of 1991 went by sea

Ewen Southby-Tailyour, Jane's Amphibious and Special Forces
He said: "Aircraft carried 8,000 linear metres of supplies at a cost of 23m, compared with shipping which carried 13,800 linear metres for a mere 4.2m.

"Of note too is that 95% of everything needed for the Gulf War of 1991 went by sea."

However, some equipment does not travel well by ship.

The Rapier air defence system used in the Falklands was one such item.

So some of the more sensitive equipment will have to go by air, which will probably be on board the stalwart Hercules transporter planes, the workhorses of the armed services.

Military equipment and tents will have to be in place before the arrival of troops, who will require time to acclimatise to the searing heat.

Destination Kuwait?

Troops and supplies are expected to head for Kuwait, although Bahrain could be a possible destination.

Medical teams will fly to the Gulf, but a lot of their equipment will travel by sea.

These moves will be phased in gradually, according to the number of troops in the region, said Major Charles Heyman.

He said: "As the size of the force grows, medical support will grow. They will go out in parallel with the troops.

However some, he said, will go out earlier to set up field hospitals.

RAF teams would be deployed to the Gulf closer to the time of any planned conflict - probably using Jaguar and Tornado aircraft.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Paul Adams
"Britain's war machine is grinding into gear"

Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

21 Jan 03 | Middle East
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes