Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vehicles return from Iraq for redeployment to Afghanistan

One of the final deliveries of heavy equipment has arrived back in the UK from Iraq enabling some of it to be refurbished and sent to support operations in Afghanistan.

The MOD logistics ship 'Anvil Point' docked at Marchwood military port on Southampton Water in the early hours of Friday 24 July 2009 with its cargo of vehicles, stores and equipment from Operation TELIC (Iraq).

Among the vehicles on board were several Mastiff armoured personnel carriers lashed to the upper decks, which will be refurbished now they are back in the UK and made available to commanders for operations in Afghanistan.

Providing the manpower at the Marchwood military port is 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, part of the Royal Logistic Corps, whose personnel comprises of port operatives such as crane drivers, stevedores, railway operators and boat handlers, among many other trades.

Since the end of Operation TELIC and the withdrawal of British forces from Iraq over 4,000 containers of kit and over 600 vehicles have made their way back to the UK and into the system for redistribution wherever they are needed.

The logistical challenge is huge involving a massive operation in Iraq and Kuwait to document and track each piece of valuable equipment.

This gruelling task was undertaken by the Joint Force Logistic Component (JFLogC) using a innovative tracking system that works through a combination of identification stickers and electronic 'guns' that read the stickers' information; and 'bricks' containing electronic information, attached to equipment, that are tracked by mobile electronic data sensors.

The system used by the MOD is a modified 'off the shelf' purchase, saving considerable research and development costs. It has the added advantage that it is compatible with the US military version.

The system can be set up at the roadside at the end of a convoy route in under five minutes and can register over 100 containers as they are driven past at 50mph (80km/h). That information can then be used to tell exactly what is in every one of those containers and where they are going.

Captain Richard Hall, the Theatre Drawdown Unit Technical Officer, explained:

"Consignment tracking is widely used by civilian companies to track stock as they export and deliver it to their customers. Recently the Armed Forces have harnessed this technology to our advantage.

"Knowing where our stock is saves us money; we have a large logistic focal point here in Kuwait, and smaller ones at key Middle Eastern air and sea ports. We also have series of similar nodes in the UK at the delivery locations and ports of entry."

All the data sensors on the equipment are connected, via satellite, to a central computer server in the UK which can be accessed by users all over the world. This gives total visibility of where items of equipment and vehicles are but, most importantly, when they are going to get to their destination.

Corporal Mark Wright, who is responsible for making sure that the data bricks are secured to every piece of kit, said:

"You can see Total Asset Visibility readers at most ports, airports and border crossings. They look similar to a small satellite dish, and these scan the bricks as the consignment physically passes by, and then relay the information to a central server.

"We can't have soldiers deployed across the world to zap the barcodes, so this is a way of capturing the information automatically, saving on manpower and money."

The technology means that as the Anvil Point docked in Southampton the 17 Port and Maritime Regiment personnel quickly and easily unloaded the cargo and organised it for onward transit - and possible return to front line operations.

The majority of kit has been shipped from Iraq to the UK on one of four civilian roll-on/roll-off ships, operated on a long-term lease by the MOD to transport military supplies and equipment.

In total there will be eight ships' worth of military hardware returning from Iraq when the operation is complete.

Friday, July 17, 2009

RAF Engineer - "first in and last out of Iraq"

A Royal Air Force engineer who was amongst the first British military to enter Iraq in 2003 is now going to be one of the last out.

Squadron Leader Graem "Pingu" Corfield was flown with the Royal Marines into Iraq's Al Faw Peninsula on day one of the British operations in Iraq in 2003.

He was part of One Marine Expeditionary Unit who provided air engineering support for the Royal Marines' assault on the Al Faw Peninsula.

Now after much change in southern Iraq, Squadron Leader Corfield is serving as second-in-command of the Joint Helicopter Force (Iraq) (JHF(I)), based in Kuwait, supporting Operation Brockdale; the drawdown of British equipment from.

And he now expects to return home on one of the last, if not the last, flight. Reflecting on the change in Iraq since the start of Operation TELIC, Sqn Ldr Corfield said:

"Iraq was a police state when I first arrived. Now it's an organised, democratic and self-reliant nation."

He also spoke about the use of the Merlin helicopter in Iraq:

"Chinooks and Lynxs were world class at their job in the original invasion of Iraq but now, the Merlin is the battlefield helicopter of choice and it has made Iraq its own. It's saved lots of lives," he said.

In the UK, Sqn Ldr Corfield works as a Senior Engineering Officer on Tornado aircraft, based at RAF Lossimeouth.

He is currently working with JHF(I)'s three Merlin helicopters as part of the Joint Force Logistic Component (JFLogC) in Iraq which is running the operation to recover six-years-worth of kit from the country, through Kuwait and onward to the UK.

The task faced by JFLogC when they arrived in Iraq on 28 March 2009 was immense with almost 4,200 troops in Iraq, an estimated 5,000 containers of equipment to process, and over 600 vehicles from Challenger tanks to quad bikes to deal with.

The majority of kit has been shipped to the UK on one of four civilian Roll-on/Roll-off ships, operated on a long-term lease by the MOD to transport military supplies and equipment. To date six ships' worth of military hardware has been dispatched, with another two to go later this month.

Apart from a small number of forces who will likely remain in Iraq, subject to the agreement of the Iraqi Government, to continue training and mentoring the Iraqi Armed Forces, British personnel, kit and equipment are due to be home by 31 July 2009.

Friday, July 10, 2009

80 per cent of kit removed from Iraq

The operation to return British military equipment from Iraq, one of the biggest logistic challenges to be undertaken by British military forces in modern history, reached its 100-day point on Friday 10 July 2009

The Joint Force Logistic Component (JFLogC) is the driving force behind Operation BROCKDALE which commenced on 1 April 2009, and they estimate that 80 per cent of the work is already complete.

Commenting on Operation BROCKDALE on Friday, the Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth said:

"The withdrawal of UK forces from Iraq has been conducted in good order and with consummate skill and I congratulate everyone who has been involved. This is intelligent logistics at its best, ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.

"In their first 100 days, the Joint Force Logistic Component, supported by forward-based civilian teams from the Defence Support and Distribution Agency, has made magnificent progress and I am confident they will continue to do so until the task is complete."

The Commander of JFLogC is Brigadier Paul Stearns Royal Marines who said:

"Today's military equipment is at a premium, it is high quality and high value. It's vital we get it to its next home fully refurbished or put on the shelf ready for use again as quickly as possible.

"The taxpayer has invested a lot of money in our equipment and my team are acutely aware of this. It is my job to protect that investment."

The task faced by JFLogC when they arrived in Iraq on 28 March was immense with almost 4,200 troops in Iraq, an estimated 5,000 containers of equipment to process, and over 600 vehicles from Challenger tanks to quad bikes to deal with.

Since then the JFLogC have made every one of the 100 days count.

Lieutenant Colonel Darrell Amison, the Commanding Officer of 4 Logistic Support Regiment, who make up the mainstay of the specially formed Theatre Drawdown Unit or TDU, said:

"Of the 5,000 containers we had to deal with we have shipped to the UK, sold or disposed of almost all of them.

"We have now processed all but 100 of the vehicles that are due to go back home, and we are on track to get the remainder where they need to be by our target date of September."

In an innovative military development the TDU was specifically generated to reflect the requirements of Op BROCKDALE, incorporating a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) Armoured Equipment Support Company to process vehicles and a Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) General Support Squadron to deal with the hundreds of thousands of items of kit and equipment.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

RAF Merlin flies 3500 miles back to UK

An RAF Merlin helicopter lifted off this morning from the Headquarters of the Joint Force Logistic Component in Kuwait for a marathon journey of 3500 miles back to UK.

Many helicopters making their way back to UK go on either a ship or in the hold of one on the RAFs massive C17 transport aircraft however on this occasion flying it directly represented the most speedy and economical option as well as providing important training for the crew.

Flight Lieutenant Max Bond is leading a team of six from the Joint Helicopter Force in Iraq (JHF-I) who will be onboard for the four day journey.

‘Planning is the key to success on a mission like this’ he explained form the operations room of the Joint Helicopter Force. ‘We are travelling though seven countries and will stop a total of 10 times for fuel and rest’

‘There are flight plans, diplomatic clearances and plenty of pre-booking required’ we’ve spent several days planning this trip’

For the past 5 years the Merlins have been supporting combat operation in Iraq however for the last 4 months the helicopters have provided direct support to the Joint Force Logistic Component (JFLogC). The Logistic force is co-ordinating the drawdown of six years worth of kit, equipment and personnel from Iraq since the end of combat operations in April this year.

So far JFLogC have completed about 80% of the task of handling over 4000 containers of kit and equipment; returning 600 vehicles to UK and reducing numbers from 4200 to the 500 troops now split between Iraq and Kuwait.

‘Good order’ is our watch word explained Lieutenant Colonel Lloyd Watkins, the JFLogC Chief of Staff, ‘and the helicopter force here in Kuwait are a key enabler in achieving this’.

The Merlin’s have provided a vital link between the Kuwait Support Facility, the Military port of Umm Qasr and the Contingency Operating Base on the outskirts of Basra which has been home for British forces for the past 6 years.

‘Now that UK troop numbers have reduced we can release one of the three helicopters’ explained Squadron leader Mark Biggadike, the Officer Commander the Merlin flight.

The helicopter will be going back to the UK for an overhaul then on to join the existing force in Afghanistan.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Signals soldiers given Iraq medals

60 communication specialists from 20th Armoured Brigade (The Iron Fist), the last serving British brigade in Iraq, received their operational medals this week in front of family, friends and partners.

Paderborn-based 200 Signal Squadron, which supports the Brigade Headquarters, were responsible for shutting down the communication networks in the south of Iraq while handing command over to the Americans.

Brigadier Tom Beckett (late Para) presented all first-time recipients of the TELIC medal on Wednesday 1 July 2009, followed by a speech in which he congratulated all members of the Headquarters and 200 Signal Squadron saying:

"The brigade has been there three times and to see our collective efforts over the last six years produce a good result in Basra is great.

"TELIC 13 was historic because it was the last British tour in Iraq and done successfully."

Troops from 200 Signal Squadron were based at the majority of British force locations in southern Iraq including as far south as the port at Umm Qasr and at Iranian border crossings.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

MOD auctions off surplus kit to Iraqis

As the UK withdraws all its equipment from Iraq, auctions are being held to sell off kit that won't be brought back to Britain to businessmen in the Middle East.

As the UK withdraws all its equipment from Iraq, auctions are being held to sell off kit that won't be brought back to Britain to businessmen in the Middle East.

While equipment that can be used again is being returned to Britain in good order for refurbishment and redistribution to troops elsewhere, surplus kit, from scrap metal to pick-up trucks, that would cost more to return to the UK than it is actually worth, is being sold off locally.

The auction operation benefits both the expanding Iraqi economy, with good deals on scrap, vehicles and furniture, and the British taxpayer, who stands to recoup in excess of £1m as well as reap savings in dismantling, decommissioning, transportation and storage costs.

Head of Overseas Disposals for the Ministry of Defence's Disposal Services Authority, Scott McCulloch, has made numerous visits to Basra to get the best return on surplus equipment for the taxpayer.

He said:

"The amount of money we save is very important, not only is the price paid quite significant but it’s a big saving when you look at shipping and storage costs in the UK. Overall it’s been a huge saving to the UK taxpayer."