Army denied vital equipment in Iraq (1991) and Afghanistan, claims former SAS head

Written by BAFF Admin on . Posted in Archive

In the queue of retired senior officers giving their views recently about defence spending, Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb did not restrict his criticism to politicians, or to the present Government alone.

The Armed Forces were “pretty much doomed on our current course and thinking” and would become the “dumpster of irrelevancy” unless they changed direction radically and gained the right equipment to fight today’s wars, he said. The focus on investing in ships, aircraft and tanks had endangered lives because it had left forces such as the SAS inadequately equipped with basic equipment, he claimed.

He warned that the Armed Forces were “clearly in decline” and were increasingly seen as “irrelevant” by the public and politicians. Sir Graeme disclosed that the lack of equipment had compromised the Bravo Two Zero SAS raid into Iraq in 1991, which included the soldier-turned-author Andy McNab. Helicopters were not equipped with a basic infra-red device to allow pilots to see at night — a piece of Vietnam-era kit — which meant that the eight-man patrol was left on the ground at the mercy of Saddam Hussein’s army. Three men died. A decade later, helicopters were still not equipped with the infra-red equipment, which almost led to the loss of two Chinooks as special forces tried to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan. This was an example of a military that could do nothing more than “band-aid prevention”, said Sir Graeme.

The Ministry of Defence was buying equipment “we probably do not need” and unless it “mothball, cancel or break our procurement overdraft or sit down and reshape the force we so desperately need, we are unlikely to do anything”, he warned.

“The future is bloody grim either way,” he said, “and the Reaper, unless you are prepared to prevent him, is probably going to join us for dinner.” Sir Graeme said that the military had to share the blame for the situation. The officer, known for his straight-talking, said that the Army’s leadership needed to “look no further than the mirror to identify the guilty party”.