View Full Version : New U.K. Vehicle heading to Afghanistan

08-14-2009, 08:03 AM
News Article
The Springer is heading to Helmand
An Equipment and Logistics news article

13 Aug 09

As I put on the night vision goggles which will help me to see in the darkness that cloaks the Defence School of Transport at Leconfield, I immediately lose my spatial awareness. It's a good thing I'm just the passenger for a night test drive of Springer, the latest Army vehicle.

My driver is Colour Sergeant Martin Edwards, a Royal Marine in charge of training soldiers to use the vehicle:

"You get used to it pretty quickly," he says. "And you have to. These are the sort of conditions the lads out there have to operate in, except it's darker in Afghanistan."

I am covered by Gore-Tex and strapped into the passenger seat with a four-point harness. A murky fluorescent green blur becomes a tree-line as I tweak the goggles' focus. My vision is improving, but my sense of distance is strange and I have just a 50-degree field of vision.

For the next half-an-hour, we skid round hairpin corners, traverse heaps of rubble and empty a few lake-sized puddles by ploughing through them at 40mph (64km/h):

"We tend to get a bit carried away on the training with this one because it's so versatile," said CSgt Edwards.

Thanks to a £7m Urgent Operational Requirement, more than 70 Springers have been purchased, and when the soldiers of 11 Light Brigade deploy to Afghanistan in October, the vehicles will go with them.

These troops will be the first to complete the eight-day Springer training course. After getting used to driving the unladen vehicle in daylight, they learn how to load pallets onto its flat bed, then drive it in the dark.

The following day, it is my turn to take the driver's seat. I'm told to 'manhandle' the steering wheel and 'really get a grip on it'. With a 1.4-litre engine the Springer does not have much more power than a family car, but its low centre of gravity and ability to cope with tight corners and uneven terrain means flying over the top of a muddy mound seems almost natural.

Lack of four-wheel drive does not seem to inhibit its ability to go almost anywhere. In this regard, lack of armour is a benefit. Armour would be paid for with impaired versatility. In any case, Springer's main purpose is to carry casualties and cargo between relatively safe helipads and base facilities.

Experience on operations should confirm this is the little utility truck the Army needs.
Sharon Kean in the driving seat of a Springer

Heavy load of training

As attention focuses on new kit, the task of training soldiers to operate it is often overlooked. Colonel Brook says there has been an 'explosion' of training, partly because of the many new vehicles.
"The average infantry battalion now needs about 200 truck drivers," he said.

The training is also becoming more complex, as vehicles with more sophisticated technology are introduced.


"We are absolutely against the clock," said Col Brook, "and with vehicles like the Coyote and Wolfhound coming into service soon, the training burden for us will continue to grow. Our responsibility is to be ready for that."