THE BLACK RATS PREPARE FOR AFGHAN CHALLENGE
By Julian Nettlefold
On August 23rd military personnel from 4th Mechanized Brigade showcased their capability as they prepare to deploy to Afghanistan. The Brigade will deploy on Operation HERRICK 17 in October for a six-month tour as the lead formation of Task Force Helmand. Due to the significant progress in the development of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) it will be the first to oversee a drawdown of British troops from Helmand province, with the UK’s military commitment there due to be cut by 500 by the end of the year. It was of particular interest for the Editor to attend the HERRICK 17 brief as his Godson, Lt. Simon Kershaw, Scots Guards, is part of the deployment.
Also on display at the event, at the Army’s Bulford Camp, was some of the latest equipment the Brigade will use in Afghanistan, this included:
FOXHOUND, the Army’s newest vehicle. During the course of the event, Defence Minister Peter Luff MP confirmed the Ministry of Defence’s intention to spend around £30 million on an additional 25 Foxhound. The Foxhound on display showed the new Theatre Entry Standard with the new Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA), screen and cameras. The Foxhound has had extra protection added which has pushed the GVA up to 8500lbs which requires the driver to have a HGV licence which we understand was always to be the case. Other vehicles shown here was the NAVISTAR Husky which one soldier described as ‘awesome,’ the Supacat Jackal 1 and the Mastiff 3 which has greater headroom than earlier versions.
The Singapore Technologies Warthog was shown. When asked their views of Warthog Vs. Viking the soldiers said that Warthog, although better protected and roomier was less manoeuvrable and the road wheels tended to melt when the vehicle was driven at speed, hence they had a speed restriction on tarmac.
The Signals Corp. stand showed the new Thales location PDA which is a very clever system linked to the PRR, with a data attachment. Each soldier now has this system, with the Company Commander having the PDA which alerts him whenever a man is down. All men in the Company can be located on the PDA.
Upgraded Scimitar. The Queen’s Royal Lancers’ stand showed the upgraded Scimitar CVR(T) with added bar armour and a new back egress door to allow quick exit for the crew.
Sharpshooter. The Scots Guards stand showed the highly favoured Lewis Machine Tool Sharpshooter with the Trijicon AGOG sight and FLIR Systems MUNS in-line day/night sighting system. Six soldiers per company have the system as well, as the sniper commander in the sniper teams. The Editor had a chance to fire the weapon with the ACOG and hit the target on the first attempt. The Editor also shot with the Beretta shotgun with buck shot and solid shot and the Minimi machine gun where again, it showed its accuracy with another first round shot! Other weapons shown were the SA80 in various modes including the underslung grenade version.
The Royal Logistics Corps showed the new palletized General Dynamics Gap Crosser mounted on an MAN vehicle which can launch and recover the bridge in minutes. The MoD bought 15 systems under a UoR. Other vehicles on display included an MAN DROPS vehicle and the MAN Recovery Vehicle.
Other items on display included the QinetiQ Dragon Runner UGV, new camera techniques, clothing and dog training.
4th Mechanized Brigade, known as ‘The Black Rats’, is based in Catterick but made up of units from across the UK, including a number of reservist as well as regular military units.
Introduced by the Brigade Commander, Brigadier Bob Bruce, and Mr Luff, the events enabled member of the Task Force to show off their skills, from marksmanship and search dog handling, through to the challenges of having to cook for thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen on a daily basis.
Brigadier Bob Bruce, Commander 4th Mechanized Brigade, said, “Today has enabled many of the men and wom