04 October, 2006

Antiques Road show in Afghanistan

If the Antiques Road Show was ever to visit Afghanistan, it could do worse than feature the airframes of some of the army's Chinook helicopters, especially the one which saw service in the Falklands a quarter of a century ago. Following his interview with Brigadier Butler, Tom Coghlan, the Daily Telegraph's man at Camp Bastion, in Helmand, has been talking to some of the Chinook pilots and it makes for grim reading.

"The airframes are antiques," said Flt Lt Steve Hewer. "There are up-to-date versions of the Chinook but we don't have them. We do have the latest self-defence systems and we are grateful for that."
The demands being made on the pilots are such that a normal six month tour of duty has to be split into three two-month mini-tours.
The six British forward operating bases in the province are too dangerous to supply by road, unless large numbers of troops are deployed as a protection force, so the resupply burden falls almost exclusively on the Chinooks. Four Lynx helicopters in the theatre have been unable to fly in daylight during the summer months because of the heat.
On operations to forward bases, although the Chinook pilots are always acutely aware of the danger of rocket propelled grenades, they receive so much small arms fire that they hardly notice it any more.
"It is extremely challenging flying," said Flt Lt Hewer.
What a shambles. Unless the government gets a grip, it will only get worse. For now, let us just be thankful that, somehow, the bravery of the pilots has not resulted in any fatalities.

No comments: