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British look for ways to deal with IEDs

July 22, 2009 at 2:09 PM   |   Comments

LONDON, July 22 (UPI) -- British military officials said they are looking to adjust strategies and equipment to address the rising number of causalities in the fighting in Afghanistan.

Eighteen U.K. troops have been killed in Afghanistan in July, raising the overall toll in the conflict to 187 British deaths. Officials met last week at the Defense Ministry's Defense Academy for an update on measures being taken to counter attacks with improvised explosive devices.

"At a human level we all have an absolute desire to minimize death and injury and reassure the troops and their families that we are doing everything we can to defeat the IED threat," Vice Chief of Defense Gen. Nick Houghton said at the briefing.

"There has been an operational switch by the Taliban who are using IEDs to try to undermine international willingness to stay the distance to achieve our long-term objectives."

A report on the briefing posted on the U.K. Ministry of Defense Web site said there has been a 114 percent increase in IED attacks in 2009, with 807 in June alone. Officials said 73 percent of military deaths in Afghanistan are related to bombings.

That is leading to a study of a possible change in tactics and equipment for British forces in Afghanistan. Urgent Operation Requirements have amounted to more than $6 billion for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, with nearly all the funds going to force protection.

Under those expenditures the Mastiff Force Protection Vehicle, a heavily armored transport manufactured by U.S. company Force Protection Inc., and bomb-clearing systems such as Talisman have been increasing utilized.

"It is time for expenditure on counter IED to move from UOR to core business," General Staff Gen. Richard Danatt said at the briefing. "If we accept that we will be in Afghanistan for three to five years and beyond, there is no doubt that this is now our core business."

The BBC reported that Prime Minister Gordon Brown met Friday with Chief of the Defense Staff Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup and was told there is a need for additional helicopters for U.K. forces in Afghanistan. Flying lessens the chances of facing roadside IEDs.

The British soldiers involved in the coalition offensive in southern Afghanistan have access to 30 helicopters while U.S. Marines use 100 for the same number of personnel, Conservative Party leader David Cameron told Parliament.

The government has announced plans to increase the number of helicopters -- both Merlins made by AgustaWestland and Chinooks manufactured by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems -- deployed in Afghanistan over the next year. Funds totaling nearly $10 billion over the next 10 years have been earmarked for acquiring additional helicopters and upgrading the current fleet.

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