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Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2006, 12:42 GMT
Fresh claims of Afghan shortages
Marine Gary Wright
Marine Gary Wright was killed by a suicide bomber last month
The government is facing fresh claims that British troops in Afghanistan are facing shortages of vital equipment.

Sgt Stephen Brown of the Royal Marines has complained his men do not have enough ammunition and equipment, and have to use inappropriate vehicles.

He told reporters in Helmand Province: "Countless times we have put in requests for what we need extra, and it has not arrived."

But the MoD and senior officers insist there is enough equipment for the job.

"Providing our forces with equipment that is both fit for purpose and effective in theatre is an absolute priority," the MoD said.

"In the past few years a range of new systems have been introduced which have significantly enhanced our troops' capability, including new improved body armour, new vehicles and a range of new weapons."

Meanwhile, the MoD's biggest purchases will be delivered almost three years late on average, the National Audit Office has said.

It looked at orders for equipment such as air-to-air missiles, armoured vehicles, radios and submarines.

And MPs along with armed forces sources have told the BBC aircraft in the RAF's fleet, currently being used for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, urgently need replacing.

On Thursday, it emerged that troops in Afghanistan had faulty ammunition for a month and had to borrow from other Nato forces.

Grenade 'shortage'

The complaint from Sgt Brown comes after a marine in his unit, Gary Wright, was killed by a suicide bomber in Helmand on 19 October.

Marine Wright, 21, died while on patrol in a Land Rover. A sergeant with him was injured.

We need different vehicles and more weaponry
Sergeant Stephen Brown
Royal Marines

Sgt Brown said that among the shortages faced by troops were heavy vehicles, such as "Wimiks", which are stripped down and heavily armed Land Rovers.

He said while a heavier vehicle might not have prevented Gary Wright's death, it might have prevented his injuries.

He also said there was a shortage of thermal imaging sights, which register body heat and which would show a bomber's explosives against his body, and of grenades launched from rifles.

"We need different vehicles and more weaponry," he said.

"Everything could be improved. It's the lack of kit that needs to be addressed. Countless times we have put in requests for what we need extra, and it has not arrived."

'Realistic'

But Lieutenant Colonel Andy Price, of the Royal Marines, said there were enough grenades available, and added heavy vehicles were inappropriate to patrol in narrow streets in built-up areas.

The commander's view is that he has enough kit to carry out the mission he has been tasked to do
Lt Col Andy Price

He said: "Every commander would love to have infinite resources but we are realistic.

"If we ask for 30 more Wimiks there's only one place they are going to come from in the short term and that's Iraq.

"We don't want to take kit away from them. What we ask for has to be something essential.

"The commander's view is that he has enough kit to carry out the mission he has been tasked to do."


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