WAR IN IRAQ 2003: British Forces Massed for War on a Huge Scale; but Conflict Could Cost Us Pounds 3.5billion

Article excerpt

BRITAIN has amassed a military force in the Gulf the scale of which has not been witnessed for almost 12 years.

From the all-conquering Desert Rats to the aerial arsenal of the RAF, Britain's troops have formed a significant and very potent force on Iraq's doorstep.

A total of 42,000 servicemen and women have now been deployed to the region, and they will line up alongside around 130,000 Americans. The deployment is only slightly fewer than during the first Iraq crisis.Then, 43,000 British troops and 137 aircraft joined the US and allies in liberating Kuwait and forcing Saddam's forces back on to home soil.

In 1982, just 28,000 troops were needed to regain the Falkland Islands after the Argentine invasion.

One defence economist has predicted war in Iraq would cost British taxpayers around pounds 3.5billion and that figure would rise if troops became entrenched in urban warfare.

Here is a breakdown of the British forces in action.

BY SEA

The Naval Task Group 03 will put 4,000 elite Royal Marine Commandos and 4,000 Royal Navy personnel in to the theatre of war.

Headed by the carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Ocean, the sea-based taskforce is made up of 15 vessels and a submarine and is the largest maritime deployment since the Falklands.

The Ark Royal has been adapted to carry helicopters, like the Ocean, rather than fixed wing jets, with the aim of quick deployment of Marines into Iraq.

The Marines come from 40, 42 and 45 Commandos, with the 3 Commando Brigade headquarters and other supporting elements.

As the UK's "go anywhere" forces, the Marines are trained to work in environments ranging from Arctic cold to the blistering heat of the desert.

As such, they will be invaluable in Iraq, where temperatures can plummet at night and soar during the day.

They were the heroes of the Falklands and expect to be in action quickly.

On board the carriers are Lynx attack, Gazelle reconnaissance and Sea King support helicopters.

The remainder of the NTG03 comprises the destroyers HMS Liverpool, HMS Edinburgh and HMS York, and the frigate HMS Marlborough.

In addition, there are two minesweepers, HMS Grimsby and HMS Ledbury; three landing vessels, Sir Galahad, Sir Tristram and Sir Percivale; and four Royal Fleet Auxiliary support vessels, including the Argus, which can be fitted out as a hospital ship.

BY LAND

More than 26,000 men and women from Britain's mightiest armoured and air assault divisions will provide a powerful force on the ground.

Although their role alongside the US in any land assault remains unknown, the troops will almost certainly be involved in any drive for Baghdad.

They are mainly made up from Headquarters 1 (UK) Armoured Division, with support from 7th Armoured Brigade (the famous Desert Rats), 16 Air Assault Brigade and 102 Logistics Brigade. …