Troops raise new concerns over safety of armoured patrol vehicles in Afghanistan

Bob Ainsworth defended the safety of Vector four-wheel-drive trucks after officers at both Camp Bastion and Lashkar Gah said they were making troops vulnerable.

Senior Aircraftsman Marcin Wojtak was killed while on board a Vector just 24 hours before ministers arrived in the country. He was the first fatality near the border of Bastion, the British troops’ biggest base in Afghanistan

A teenage officer with the Operational Liaison Mentoring Team at Lashkar Gah said many comrades feared getting in Vectors because of their “poor” underfoot security.

The troop, who did not want to be named, said: “The problem with them is that you sit over the front wheels. You’d almost be safer in an ordinary four-wheel-drive.”

The Vector armoured vehicle was brought in to replace lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rovers and was designed to better-protect troops from bomb blasts.

But in May this year a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) found that the combat vehicle had proved unreliable.

Defence Secretary John Hutton told the Commons Defence Committee earlier this year that Vector was “being withdrawn” because of unspecified “mechanical and technical issues”, although he did not state when they would be withdrawn.

The NAO said that the reliability of the vehicle’s suspension and wheel hubs had proved “poor”, it had limited under-belly armour to protect it from roadside bombs, and spares had been in short supply.

“As a result, confidence in the use of the vehicle was low among commanders, both those in theatre and those who have recently returned,” the NAO said.

Commanders were having to turn back to an upgraded version of the Snatch, known as the Snatch Vixen, which had been fitted with additional armour, it added.

The Government has spent more than £1 billion improving vehicles available to soldiers in Afghanistan.

Mr Ainsworth added: “What many do not realise is that the majority of people who we have lost this summer have been on foot patrols.”

“Vectors will be on people’s minds here but what you have got to try to do is give commanders the length and breadth of the Helmand valley the choice so they are never having to use the wrong vehicle for the wrong operation.

“The logistics of that are not easy – we have spent a billion pounds on vehicles since 2006.