Ministers warned of Iraq equipment risk

By staff

Defence chiefs did not have enough time to suitably prepare for the invasion of Iraq, the head of the armed forces has told the Iraq inquiry.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup said ministers were warned of a “serious risk” that the military would not have all the necessary equipment in time for the invasion.

“The problem of course was that we simply didn’t have enough time, as it turned out, to do everything we needed to do before the operation started,” he said.

Asked whether a further two months preparation time would have had an effect, Sir Jock said: “I think it would have made a significant difference. That’s 50% additional time.

“We were finding that in a number of cases we were getting 100% delivery about a month or two after the operation started. So I think that the six-month assumption wasn’t a bad one.”

Sir Jock, deputy chief of defence staff in charge of equipment when the invasion occurred, said defence chiefs had made their concerns plain.

“We made it absolutely clear to ministers that if we were not allowed to engage with industry – and that was the critical element – we could take these no further and that there was a serious risk that they would not all be delivered by the assumed start of operations,” he said.

One of the first British deaths in Iraq, that of tank commander Sergeant Steven Roberts, was related to a lack of appropriate armour.

“The other area where we could have done better is in terms of enhanced combat body armour,” Sir Jock told the inquiry.

“We didn’t have enough of that in theatre at the time.

“And I think, in part for both clothing and body armour, the issue was it was all done so rapidly at the last minute. No one was quite sure who had what.”