Page last updated at 17:34 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 18:34 UK

New armoured vehicles for troops

Ridgback armoured vehicle
The Ridgback should give troops more protection from mines and bombs

A new fleet of 86 armoured patrol vehicles will be bought for troops in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said.

These include 14 Vikings - which are tracked, amphibious vehicles - and 72 armoured Jackal trucks.

The MoD also unveiled the new Ridgback urban patrol truck, 157 of which are already on order for about 150m.

The Minister for Defence Equipment and Support said they would help troops cope with "ever-changing threats".

Baroness Taylor said: "There is no such thing as absolute protection, but we have got to provide the best range of equipment.

"I am always looking for the newest technology to address the ever-changing threats, and offer the greatest protection, mobility and firepower while giving our commanders the choice of vehicles they need to carry out the tasks they face."

The government has been criticised for failing to provide the military with enough resources.

But Baroness Taylor said getting the right equipment was her "priority".

Roadside bombs

The Ridgbacks are being fitted with extra protection, weapons and communications systems, and once modified, they will be taken to Afghanistan for pre-deployment training.

It is hoped they will give troops better protection from roadside bombs and landmines.

Four British soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand Province last week as they travelled in a lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rover.

BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt says there is a difficult balance to be struck for commanders on the ground in terms of force protection.

Foot patrols will still be necessary, especially if British forces want to win over Afghan villagers, while less obtrusive vehicles are likely to be preferred for intelligence-gathering missions, she says.

Sir Kevin O'Donoghue, Chief of Defence Material and head of the MoD's Defence Equipment and Support branch, said: "The variety of vehicles available to UK forces on operations gives commanders the ability to choose the best-suited vehicle for the terrain, the threat and the agility required for operations."

The Ridgback was unveiled at the MoD's DVD event at Millbrook, Bedford.

Formerly known as Defence Vehicle Dynamics, it is an annual showcase event to show off new equipment and provision for frontline troops.

The MoD said the total number of new protected vehicles being delivered to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq now stands at almost 600.




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