STEng – BT

Warthog keeping Taliban at bay

Vehicle’s success has led to a rethink on British tactics in Afghanistan

EVEN as hardware made by Singapore Technologies Engineering (STE) were put through their paces by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) at the National Day Parade yesterday, a tracked fighting carrier made by the group has continued to win battlefield accolades in the service of British forces.

In a report last Friday, The (London) Telegraph highlighted the success of the Warthog, a 22-ton tracked armoured vehicle whose off-road ability allows it to frequently outflank the fleet-footed Taliban in Afghanistan. The vehicle’s success has led to a rethink on British tactics as it is not only able to deliver troops and supplies, it can also bring down heavy firepower from unexpected directions, the paper said.

The Warthog, a variant of the Bronco which is used by the SAF, can carry up to a dozen soldiers who can be deployed either to fight insurgents or engage with the local population to build up an intelligence picture of tribal communities.

‘It has almost certainly saved lives after 11 Warthogs were hit in one tour by large IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device) without anyone inside being killed although two were badly wounded,’ The Telegraph reported. The Warthog has also proved adept at being able to drive through the notoriously difficult terrain of Helmand province’s irrigated ‘green zone’.

In one epic six-week-long battle earlier this year, the vehicles provided a perimeter defence for the Royal Engineers as they laid a key road in central Helmand called Route Trident. With heavy weaponry such as heavy machine guns and grenade launchers, the Warthogs kept the Taliban at bay.

‘You can put Warthog into places you would not dream of with other armoured vehicles as it has very low ground pressure giving us the ability to move around the battlespace in a completely different way,’ Major James Cameron, the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment squadron commander, the first to use the vehicle on operations, was quoted as saying. ‘We have been able to manoeuvre in an extraordinary way. Literally we can go over ditches, swim rivers or go up ravines getting right in behind the enemy where they least expect us. We run on them at speed and before they know anything about it we are right on top of them.’

Towards the end of the unit’s six-month tour, radio intelligence showed that Taliban commanders were warning their men, ‘Don’t fire at the tank’.

The Warthog was first introduced to the British forces in 2009. It was the first armoured vehicle to be built for a Western army by an Asian company. When ST Kinetics, the land division of STE, won a £150 million contract for 115 vehicles from the British, it represented a major breakthrough for the Singapore company.

STE produced the first Warthog within nine months of the order, on time and ahead of schedule although there was a delay of several months as the armour protection was improved. The Warthog was ordered to replace the BAE Systems’ Viking, which is being withdrawn from service after almost a quarter of the fleet was destroyed by Taliban bombs.

STE beat BAE Systems, which had offered a Viking II variant, to the British contract.

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