Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Saturday, 13 December 2008

Q&A: Jackal armoured vehicles

In October, the government said it would buy another 100 Jackals

One of the latest UK fatalities in Afghanistan happened while a marine was on patrol in a Jackal armoured vehicle.

The Jackal is one of a number of such vehicles dispatched to offer British forces in that country better protection than the controversial Snatch Land Rover.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it had bought more than 200 of the all-terrain vehicle, which was built specifically to meet the demands of the British Army.

What does the army use them for?

Jackals are officially categorised as Protected Patrol Vehicles.

The 4X4 is relatively new and has been in theatre since late 2007.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "Jackal was built to meet the British Army's specific requirements for an agile, well-armed, light patrol vehicle."

According to the British Army website, it is a "high-mobility weapons platform, with a unique airbag suspension system allowing rapid movement across varying terrain."

Jackal is proving a significant success, delivering excellent protection, mobility, range and firepower
MoD spokeswoman

In addition, the suspension system provides a more stable firing platform while in motion and raises the Jackal by more than a metre, allowing it to clear large obstacles.

It is used for reconnaissance, rapid assault, fire support and convoy protection. It has the capacity to support itself and its crew over 497 miles (800km).

It has a general purpose machine gun as crew protection and can also carry heavy machine guns or grenade launchers.

The MoD said its high levels of off-road mobility enable troops to avoid well-trodden routes.

It said the design of the vehicle hull incorporates many of the latest armour protection and is considered to be among the best in the world.

Its website says the Jackal's 5.9 litre engine is capable of maintaining off-road speeds of up to 49 mph (80km/h) and can reach a top speed of 80mph (130km/h).

Are they controversial?

It is not known how many Jackals are currently in the field, but in October, the government announced it would buy 100 of them as part of a 700m investment in equipment.

2 + 1 crew
5.39m long
1.97m high
2m wide
6, 650kg
Cummins ISRe Euro 3 engine
Source: British Army website

The MoD said the Jackal was one of the most agile and versatile vehicles on operations and had received "enormous acclaim" from soldiers on the ground.

"Jackal is able to operate in open desert and mountainous terrain, taking the fight to the enemy away from ground of their choosing, and is proving a significant success, delivering excellent protection, mobility, range and firepower," a spokeswoman said.

They are seen as a safer alternative to the Snatch Land Rover, which is designed to withstand small arms fire but has been criticised for offering insufficient protection against roadside bombs.

However, there have been a number of fatalities linked to the Jackal.

The most recent case involved a Royal Marine from 45 Commando who was killed in an explosion in the Sangin area of Helmand province on Friday 12 December.

He died while on routine patrol in a Jackal armoured vehicle.

In November, Royal Marines Robert McKibben and Neil Dunstan, both 32, were killed when their Jackal was hit by a roadside bomb in southern Helmand.

Trooper James Munday, from the Household Cavalry, was killed in a blast during a routine patrol in Helmand province in October.

The 21-year-old died at the scene after the Jackal he was driving exploded.

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