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Last Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
More armoured vehicles for troops
Vector Pinzgauer
Some 166 Vector Pinzgauers have been ordered
More armoured vehicles have been ordered for British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, Defence Secretary Des Browne says.

The Land Rovers used at present have been blamed for causing the deaths of up to 18 soldiers by not providing enough protection.

The Ministry of Defence has increased an order of Vector Pinzgauer vehicles for Afghanistan to a total of 166.

An order for Iraq of an upgraded FV430 troop carrier will rise from 70 to 124.

The new version of the FV430, to be known as Bulldog, offers a similar level of protection to Warrior tracked vehicles, but is smaller and lighter.

The ministry has also ordered for the first time 100 US Cougars - wheeled patrol vehicles, which are used extensively by US troops in Iraq and cost at least 250,000 each.

They would be delivered in batches to Iraq and Afghanistan over the next six months.

The Vector vehicles, destined for Afghanistan, are bigger and more mobile than snatch Land Rovers. They are due to be delivered from early 2007.

Following criticism about the Land Rovers being a "soft target", Mr Browne announced in June that their use in Iraq would be reviewed.

The Land Rovers are designed to withstand small arms fire but are vulnerable to roadside bombs or rocket-propelled grenades.

"[The review] has confirmed that there is a growing requirement for a protected vehicle with capabilities between our heavy armour, such as Warrior, and lighter patrol vehicles, such as snatch.

"The review has also identified feasible options to address the gap in the short term," Mr Browne said.

Conservative MP Roger Gale told the Commons in June almost a quarter of British soldiers killed in hostile action had been killed in Land Rovers.

Two extra Chinook helicopters would also be deployed to southern Afghanistan, Mr Browne added.

There would be "substantial new funding" from the Treasury, but Mr Browne did not specify the cost.

Defence correspondent Paul Wood, in Baghdad, said the order of extra vehicles was recognition that both Iraq and Afghanistan had proved more difficult than ministers and military chiefs had acknowledged.

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