IED vs The Husky (Protected Mobility Platform) vehicle.
The Medium Mobility Protected Platform or to give it its less catchy name, “The Husky” is a vehicle used by the British Army, most notably in Afghanistan. I am going to talk to you in this blog entry about an incident in which I witnessed first-hand, the reliance of this vehicle during an IED explosion. It was towards the latter end of my Operational Tour with 1st Bn, The Mercian Regiment that I was attached as a Vehicle Mechanic to the C Company’s Fire Support Group (FSG). As explained previously in my blog, our role was to deploy out of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) to offer heavy weapon support to the foot patrols that operated in the vicinity of the FOB on a daily basis.
It was on one such occasion that this incident occurred. It was the intention of the company commander (OC) to send out the whole company to the South of the FOB, through the local village of Rahim, and onward to a cluster of compounds about 1 km beyond, that were known to often be used as firing points against the FOB for rockets, small arms and mortars. We as the FSG, were to deploy on the higher ground to the West of the main company group so we could offer support with the General Purpose & Heavy Machine Guns (GPMG’s & HMG’s), snipers, Grenade Machine Guns (GMG’s) and the Javelin Anti-Tank weapon. We also carried Anti-Structure Munitions (ASM’s, pronounced AZIM). The company would patrol in staggered file through the village, known to be relatively IED free (as we had a high powered infra-red camera trained on it 24hrs), then shake out into extended line (next to each other with a few metres spacing between each troop) and approach the compound across open ground. If they came under attack, they could then advance as a company or withdraw as we deployed the heavy weapons onto the enemy location.
The first half of the operation went without incident as the company patrolled out through the village. The local population were going about their normal business, reason enough to assume that the Taliban were not moving into position to attack them. The FSG, with myself as a commander of one of the Jackal vehicles, drove out in a 3 vehicle convoy of 2 Jackals and 1 Husky into the desert and swung around to the position that we would hold for the duration of the operation, it was there we waited for the company group to get clear of the village before shaking out into extended line. As we took up our positions, we scanned every doorway and every window for enemy activity. The guy driving my vehicle was a sniper, so he unclipped his L115 .308 Sniper Rifle from the vehicle and used the optic sight to get a closer look (that meant a lot of leaning back for me as he swung the weapon across me to look out of the side of the vehicle. There was no activity so we began to relax. We listened to the radio chatter from the company, requested the high powered camera to check various sightings out and just waited. After around an hour, the inevitable happened. From our East, a compound on the edge of the Green Zone (GZ), just as I was scanning that area with the binoculars, a single gunman popped up into a window of a large compound and fired 3 or 4 rounds at the FSG in rapid succession. I was quickly behind the butt of my GPMG and let loose around 20 rounds or so at what was now smoke in the middle of the window, whilst screaming “contact left” at the top of my voice. I tried my best to get a decent fire control order (FCO) out so that everyone knew exactly where the firing was coming from, it was probably a garbled mess and in no way resembled the method we are taught to deliver FCO’s but I think I achieved the effect.
A few rounds from the Sniper, HMG and GMG followed mine, but I think it was definitely a shoot and scoot (I nicked the .338 empty casings and had them made into cufflinks at the end of the tour). It all went quiet but we remained on-edge.
As the Company emerged for the village, some 30 minutes later, they began to shake out into the extended line in order to advance on the target compounds to the South. The next thing that happened was the mortar line back at the FOB fired a number of smoke rounds in front of the objective to mask the advance. This worked well and the company started to advance. However, about 50m into the advance, heavy small arms fire started to come from the compound. It was obviously a spray and pray affair for the Taliban as, from where we were located, there was no way the enemy could see through the smoke screen. I don’t think the enemy fighters had banked on the FSG and the kind of weapons we could bring to bear on them, which surprised me as it certainly wasn’t the first time we, or previous units in the area had used them. Immediately, the HMG and GMG sprang into action. Both operators of these guns were seasoned infanteers and knew their weapons inside out. One would later go on to receive the Military Cross (MC) for bravery in another incident, one of two MC’s awarded to guys from the FSG. Heavy, accurate fire rained down on the compound from the FSG causing chaos and destruction. Having seen both of those weapons operate, I would never, ever wish to be on the other end of the .50 bullets or the 40mm grenades that were raining down. At points, when I saw movement, I and the other guys also joined in with the GPMG’s or the sniper rifle. Surprisingly, the small arms fire and now RPG fire carried on from the compound and other compounds in the vicinity. We decided to get closer to the enemy in order to increase our accuracy further. The Husky was the first to move. It gone no more than 10 metres forward when there was an almighty “BOOM!” We felt the all-encompassing shock wave and it was engulfed in dust. As the world quietened down, the radios began to spark into life. First the initial contact report went in, then the frantic messages to the Husky to check that everyone was OK. There was no reply and no movement at all from the vehicle casualty. You could tell people were starting to get very worried about the four guys inside, we had worked together closely for the preceding 4 or 5 months and it would have been devastating to lose anyone so close to the end of the tour. The guy who was on the GMG on our jackal was a close friend of one of the guys inside the now silent Husky. He grabbed the mine detector and jumped down off our vehicle. He moved in a swift motion towards the Husky sweeping sharply left and right with the detector and made it to the door in seconds. Thankfully, after what seemed like an age, the doors opened and a thumb was thrust outwards and upwards to signal that everyone was OK. The vehicle had done exactly what it was designed to do, deflecting the blast outwards and sacrificed the running gear. Everyone was completely unscathed, emerging one-by-one and making their way tentatively to the other vehicles for a lift home. The operation continued with the company completing searches of a number of compounds and demonstrating the freedom of operation in that particular area before withdrawing back to the FOB leaving only us in the FSG to guard the stricken vehicle.
The Recovery Vehicle arrived from another FOB after a long wait and we managed to drag the Husky back to the FOB where I could get a chance to carry out a full Battle damage Assessment. It was quite encouraging to
see how this vehicle behaved when pitted against what seemed like a huge IED. Every component of the rear nearside running gear was damaged beyond repair but the remainder of the vehicle hull and cargo carrying area was unscathed. Once the parts were ordered, it was a relatively straight forward task to get this vehicle up and running again and back into the hands of the FSG. I am completely convinced of the survivability of these and similar vehicle types and it fills me confidence that should I ever be involved in such an incident again, the Husky will offer a huge amount of protection.