BETTER late than never is how you can sum-up Britain's reaction to the disaster in the Indian Ocean. It took the government five days to finally order a Royal Navy frigate, two auxiliaries and an RAF transport plane to the area. I think this is an absolute disgrace. While all the countries affected by the tragedy have been screaming out for more helicopters and more transport aircraft, Britain's small arsenal of aircraft have been nicely parked-up at their bases. I must admit I was outraged when I saw how the Sri Lankan armed forces were trying to move aid in a single helicopter, and using chartered aircraft when Britain has literally hundreds of aircraft at its disposal. I never thought I would say this but Britain can move 50'000 troops to Iraq in a matter of weeks but it is unable to send a single aircraft to the Indian Ocean to help in one of the world's biggest disasters.
For the last six months the top brass in the British armed services have been moaning and groaning that the defence budget is being slashed. Here was a golden opportunity to show the tax-payer why we need hundreds of transport planes and helicopters but unfortunately they never left Britain. A single Chinook helicopter, (of which Britain has at least 60) would have made plenty of difference. Britain has at least 100 heavy transport aircraft, a further 300 army, Navy and Air Force helicopters of all shapes and sizes.
There has also been an important lack of personnel. Apart from 10'000 soldiers in the Gulf, Britain has hundreds of troops in Brunei, which could have easily been sent. Its an absolute disgrace and I am sure it will have tarnished Britain's reputation in the area for years to come. The fact that the British aid agencies had to charter planes shows clearly how unwilling the British government and armed services were to get involved.
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