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18 Aug 17. Romania negotiating to buy U.S. rocket systems worth $1.25bn – Pentagon. The U.S. State Department has approved the sale of mobile artillery rocket systems to Romania worth up to $1.25bn (971.02m pounds), the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said on Friday. The Pentagon agency said it notified Congress of the possible sale on Thursday. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the weapons system. Romania has asked for up to 54 high mobility artillery rocket systems and related services and equipment, the agency said in a statement. (Source: Reuters)
18 Aug 17. Mother wins MoD apology over ‘Snatch’ Land Rover death. In July 2005, Sue Smith’s son, Pte Phillip Hewett, was killed by a roadside bomb while travelling in a lightly armoured “snatch” Land Rover in Iraq.
He was the ninth of 37 service personnel to be killed in the vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, which came to be known as “mobile coffins”.
Following a legal battle that reached the Supreme Court, Sue has finally got her apology from the MoD.
“He didn’t die for nothing,” she says.
Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Sue has recalled her journey from the inquest process, to a victory at the Supreme Court, to the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War.
It has resulted in a settlement of her case and an apology from Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon for failures that “could have saved lives”.
Sue remembered how Phillip had become worried about travelling in the Snatch.
“He wrote to his uncle saying that he was concerned that so many of his friends had lost their driving licences so they didn’t have to drive in Iraq.
“One of his friends said, ‘It’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by six,’ because that’s how dangerous the vehicles were. But he wouldn’t have refused. He would have done as he was told.”
Sue, from Tamworth in Staffordshire, said that when Phillip, a fitness fanatic, came home on leave, he was a shadow of his former self.
“He spoke to his sisters and discussed his funeral and said what he wanted. He wasn’t the same. His character was different.
“He wouldn’t tell me. I think he was trying to protect me so I didn’t worry. But I was worrying anyway. Had I known, I think I would have run over his foot or something to stop him having to go back.”
The day Phillip died, Sue had a premonition.
“I got up to go to work and there was a breaking news story about three soldiers from the Staffordshire battle group that had been killed in Al Amarah by a roadside bomb.
“I can’t explain it but I just knew before I went out the door. And we were sorting out his birthday presents to send to him. It’s like something inside me. I can’t really explain it better than that.”
Sue recalled that waiting for the body to be repatriated was the worst time, because no-one would tell her what had happened.
‘More to be answered’
The inquest into Phillip’s death was due to last five days and Sue hoped it would provide answers, but it was completed in three hours.
“Quite honestly it was like a smack in the face. It was almost as if those three lives were worth an hour each. It shocked me that it was so dismissive.
“Because by then I knew that (the vehicle) was what had to be questioned,” she said.
“And it was almost like I was something under someone’s foot and they just wanted to get rid of me, and it made me feel more determined because I knew there was more to be answered than what I got at the inquest.”
Desperate for answers about the Snatch, Sue founded a group called the Military Families Support Group with other families of service personnel. She was initially told by the MoD that the people in a position to decide, had decided that the Snatch was the correct vehicle for the job. She found the inability to get answers from the MoD maddening.
“Sometimes I felt like they just wanted me to go a