Camp Bastion attack shocks ISAF

Apologies for us having gone a bit quiet on The DEW line so far this week – Dave Majumdar is on the road covering the Africa Aerospace & Defence show in South Africa, with limited comms, while I’ve been maxed out with Flight International print deadlines following my return from the ILA Berlin air show.

One really big topic that we haven’t been able to cover so far is the shock insurgent raid launched against part of the sprawling Camp Bastion (part of which is referred to as Camp Leatherneck by the US Marine Corps) in Afghanistan late on 14 September.

UK media reporting of the event was pretty much contained to telling us that Prince Harry (aka recently-deployed British Army Air Corps Apache co-pilot gunner Capt Wales) was not involved, until the Ministry of Defence moved yesterday to “big-up” the RAF Regiment’s role in repelling the attack. This got The Sun very excited indeed, with the Red Top referring to “a vicious five-hour firefight” against “suicidal maniacs”.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force received a brutal wake-up call when 15 insurgents broke through the wire at Bastion at about 22:00 local time. Dressed in US combat fatigues and armed with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and suicide vests, they launched “a well-coordinated attack,” it says.

Once on the base, the raiders attacked the USMC flightline, destroying six AV-8B Harriers, significantly damaging another two and killing two Marines, including Lt Col Christopher Raible, commanding officer of the VMA-211 squadron to which the jets were assigned (USMC file image of an AV-8B below).

120601-M-VZ265-242.jpgISAF says they also attacked parked rotary-wing aircraft (but provides no further details), destroyed three aircraft refuelling stations and damaged six soft-skinned aircraft hangars.

Eventually getting on top of the situation, coalition forces killed 14 of the insurgent team and injured and caught the other member, sustaining non-life-threating injuries to nine more personnel in the process.

This was an astonishing lapse in security at a base which houses an estimated 28,000 coalition troops and is vital to supporting the activities of ground forces far and wide within Afghanistan. The swift removal of almost the entire deployed force of verstaile Harriers is by no means a critical strategic blow, but is nonetheless a massive embarrassment to the vastly superior military force.

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