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RAF protecting Camp Bastion

June 27, 2012

Personnel from Number 5 RAF Force Protection Wing, based at RAF Lossiemouth, have now been deployed at Camp Bastion for two months where they have responsibility for providing security at the main British base in Helmand province.

RAF Regiment personnel on patrol

51 Squadron RAF Regiment personnel on patrol. Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2012

Number 5 RAF Force Protection Wing, comprising members of the Wing Headquarters, 51 Squadron RAF Regiment and 2622 (Highland) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment, left RAF Lossiemouth on 16 April 2012 and the personnel are now two months into their deployment to Afghanistan.

They are serving with members of No 2 (Tactical) Police Squadron from RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire, soldiers from the Tonga Defence Services and elements of 16th Regiment Royal Artillery, which together form the Bastion Force Protection Wing.

Since their arrival they have taken responsibility for the security of the Camp Bastion complex, one of the busiest airfields in the world with over 28,000 people working on-site. They are also responsible for patrolling the surrounding area, covering over 600 square kilometres, to prevent insurgent attacks against the airfield and its personnel.

Continues at: mod.uk – RAF protecting Camp Bastion

2 Comments leave one →
  1. peterdow permalink
    June 28, 2012 03:32

    I am very pleased and proud that NATO – ISAF has seen fit to put Scots onto the job of protecting Camp Bastion.

    I have written about the vital strategic importance of Camp Bastion a couple of years ago. Here’s what I wrote back then.

    With strategic airlift capacity, think strategically. A few more runways like the new longer runway at Bastion and Afghanistan’s airfield infrastructure would be sufficient for all of NATO-ISAF force supplies to reach Afghanistan by air – removing dependence and vulnerability on Pakistan’s land routes and eliminating the extortion and corruption along the Afghanistan ground supply chain, as detailed in Warlord, Inc..

    After supplies are landed at the few huge hub airports – Bagram, Kandahar and Bastion – cargo could be transferred into smaller airplanes using adjacent smaller runways for connecting flights out to smaller airfields associated with NATO-ISAF forward operating bases.

    Whether by luck or by design Bastion is well chosen in being far from a population centre which makes it politically feasible to impose a rigorous security exclusion zone on the ground for many miles around the airport.

    Controlling the ground far around a military airport is very necessary to defend the incoming aircraft against missile attack by ensuring no enemy can get close enough to launch a missile anywhere near below where the planes descend to land.

    Landing at night is not a sufficient defence. Aircraft engines and their exhaust jets are very hot and infra-red shines just as brightly at night for missiles to lock on to.

    We cannot assume that the Taliban will be unable to source the most advanced ground-to-air missiles. We should assume they will source such missiles and take the necessary security precautions.

    So at Bastion NATO-ISAF must control the ground in a vast security perimeter out to the horizon and beyond which means closing the nearby road to Afghan traffic and providing an alternative circuitous route for civilian traffic.

    I need hardly mention the military, economic and political disaster of allowing the enemy to bring down one of our big aircraft. So this must not be allowed to happen. Therefore a very wide secure ground exclusion zone around Bastion should be imposed.

    In addition, I need hardly remind people of Al Qaeda’s willingness to use aircraft themselves as weapons and therefore airport air defences need to be operational and alert at all times, not just when scheduled aircraft are landing.

    The progress at Bastion is very promising for the whole Afghanistan mission. It shows the way ahead.

    We can contemplate one day removing the constraints limiting NATO-ISAF supplies reaching Afghanistan by air. From a limit of about 20 percent now, I foresee a 100 percent supply-into-Afghanistan-by-air strategy as both feasible and desirable.

  2. peterdow permalink
    June 28, 2012 04:12

    So it matters that Camp Bastion is well defended and I want to make sure we are using the correct tactics to secure the land around any airfield camp we are defending.

    So I have some new comments to make which occurred to me after seeing that photograph of our soldiers patrolling through poppy fields. I am wondering if there are poppy fields in that 600 square kilometres around Camp Bastion?

    Anyway, we don’t want or need any high vegetation around the air field which would allow insurgents cover to sneak close to the base, either to launch missile attacks or to plant anti-personnel mines, I.E.D.s or anything else.

    Much better if the land is cleared of all tall vegetation so that it is much easier to keep clear of threats. Short grass is good.

    That may mean buying out farmers who are growing crops, buying their land around the camp, compensating them but only if they are growing worthwhile crops.

    If they are growing poppy fields then they don’t deserve compensation in my book.

    Either way there is a big job for our engineers to clear the land all around the camp of all cover useful to an enemy. So that’s clearing all the 600 square kilometres which was mentioned as being patrolled by our forces.

    It is a big job to keep such a large area of land free of cover and yes it is OK to hire local Afghan labour to help with keeping the vegetation down. After all, we will have put some local farmers out of living so they’ll be looking for employment.

    It might be an idea to have grazing animals on the land to keep the vegetation down but I would not be surprised if the Taliban shoot grazing animals if they can but if they do that’s a reminder to us that the Taliban are still out there if a reminder is ever needed.

    I assume in a dry land like Afghanistan that burning vegetation is easily done and that’ll be the easiest way to clear the land I suspect. So I approve a “scorched earth” policy.

    At night when it is not so easy to distinguish between a farmer tending his grazing animals and an insurgent pretending to be that, I suggest that the 600 square kilometres should be an exclusion zone for everyone except Camp Bastion personnel. So all workers who clear vegetation during the day need to go homes outside the 600 square kilometres every night.

    This is the attitude NATO – ISAF and our base security forces needs to take. We need to take ownership of all the 600 square kilometres of land which we are patrolling around Camp Bastion and optimise it for security.

    It would be the same outrage if the Afghan government dares to suggest that we don’t own take ownership of the surrounding land, don’t clear the land, and should instead allow existing cover for insurgents in land surrounding Camp Bastion as it would be if the Afghan government dared to suggest that we open the doors of the airbase itself to the Taliban.

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