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1 August 2002. Sir John Bourn, the Head of the National Audit Office, told Parliament today that Exercise “Saif Sareea” II, held in Oman in 2001, successfully demonstrated that the United Kingdom is capable of mounting a balanced, coherent force over a long distance. Among the United Kingdom’s allies, only the United States has shown that it could undertake a deployment of similar size.

Despite the redeployment of some elements to operations in Afghanistan, each of the three Armed Services met the majority of their objectives for the Exercise and gained valuable training experience from operating in a desert environment.

Much equipment performed well, including Warrior armoured fighting vehicles, the C17 strategic lift aircraft, and the Personal Role Radio.

One of the benefits of the Exercise was that it also identified a number of areas where there is room for improvement. NAO staff, who examined the Exercise at first hand in Oman, were able to confirm and review these lessons. They include:

Equipment that did not work well in hot and dusty conditions, some of which needed more logistic support than expected to keep going. Challenger 2, for example, worked well but required substantially more air filters, road wheels and track pads than planned to keep it operational. Other examples include the AS90 self-propelled gun. A combination of ambient temperature and intense vehicle usage exposed a flaw with AS90. The NAO assessed that the heat shield placed in front of the plastic air intake filter could not prevent filter melt down which caused two guns to be withdrawn from the exercise. This was not a design fault as the original design stipulated thermally-stable plastic tubes. The decision to make this change appears to have been made before the system was brought into service. Engineers made a modification of an aluminium plate reflector but this only worked when the guns were static and on the move could only keep to 25kph. One gun caught fire and was written off at a cost of £1m.

Difficulties in keeping track of equipment, spares and stores dispatched to the Exercise. An interesting development occurred in an area discussed many times in BATTLESPACE, battlefield support by civil companies. The Container Handling Rough Terrain (CHRT) System operated by Kalmar was only supported by contract with Kalmar in the UK or Germany, thus cranes and jigs were utilised to move equipment taking 40-50 minutes rather than the 4 done by the CHRT, causing considerable damage. Thus a large supply of spares has to be built up for the machines negating the value of the company’s support contract and causing greater inventories which the contracts were supposed to curtail!

The Exercise was the largest deployment of UK military forces since the Gulf War. Over 22,500 military personnel, 4,500 vehicles, 21 naval vessels and 93 aircraft were deployed to exercise with Omani forces. The Exercise was designed to demonstrate key elements of the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces concept, to identify lessons, provide training, and to support foreign-policy objectives. The Joint Rapid Reaction Forces pool the high readiness units from across the Armed Forces to deploy at short notice for expeditionary operations.

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