From today's Telegraph: Friendly fire threat to Gulf troops By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent (Filed: 06/01/2003) British troops should not be sent to fight in Iraq unless a system is in place to prevent accidental attacks by American aircraft, says a retired senior officer whose unit was bombed in a friendly fire incident during the 1991 Gulf war. In a letter to The Telegraph today, Lt-Col Andrew Larpent accuses the Ministry of Defence of "serious negligence" in failing to introduce a system that would prevent such accidents. Lt-Col Larpent commanded 3 Bn Royal Regiment of Fusiliers during the Gulf war. Nine of his men were killed and 12 seriously wounded when an American A10 Tankbuster aircraft mistook them for Iraqi troops. The colonel launches his attack as the Government prepares to announce the mobilisation of 7,000 reservists and the deployment of troops to take part in any American-led war on Iraq. The accelerating military campaign was underlined by reports in America yesterday that British special forces have already been in action with US forces in Iraq. They have been orchestrating the growing allied air campaign in southern and northern Iraq by guiding munitions on to their targets using laser target markers, the Boston Globe reported. Intelligence officials and analysts told the newspaper that small groups of British soldiers had been working inside Iraq with about 100 American special forces and 50 CIA officers for at least four months. Their tasks have included marking minefields and monitoring suspicious movements around weapons facilities. Australian and Jordanian troops were also said to have been involved. Lt-Col Larpent argues that defence chiefs should make the fitting of an effective Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system to front-line army vehicles "a pre-condition of the commitment of British troops to close combat operations involving the US air force". The ministry's failure to introduce a technical protection system that would guard against a repetition of friendly fire incidents was "difficult to excuse", he says. "There has been plenty of time over the past 12 years for a solution to this problem to be found. The MoD answer that 'we are working on it' is unacceptable." Lt-Col Larpent says that some of the men who served under him during the Gulf war are still in the regiment and are due to be deployed as part of 1 (UK) Armoured Division to fight alongside American forces. One of those due to be sent to the Gulf is the brother of a soldier killed in 1991. "That the same soldiers are now preparing to undertake operations in the same theatre with nothing more to protect them from their allies than the same fluorescent marker panels we carried on top of our vehicles smacks of serious negligence on the part of the MoD," Lt-Col Larpent says. "Our chiefs of staff and politicians should consider very carefully the risk that they could be imposing on our troops and how they will answer to the nation if yet more British soldiers become casualties in similar circumstances." Lawyers for two American National Guard pilots being court martialled over the killing of four Canadian soldiers in a similar incident in Afghanistan last April blamed the error on drugs that were given to the pilots. The courts martial will hear that, as a matter of routine since the Second World War, American combat pilots have been given amphetamine "go" pills to extend their ability to fly missions. Lt-Col Larpent's letter follows criticism of the Ministry of Defence by the National Audit Office and the Commons public accounts and defence committees for its failure to introduce an effective IFF system for Army vehicles. Despite highly critical reports in 1992 and 1994 by the committees, it was not until the 1998 strategic defence review that the ministry admitted it could not produce an effective system because the three services had different equipment procurement procedures. Although the procurement system has been reorganised and work is going on to incorporate combat identification into the tactics and procedures of the three services, there is still no firm date for its completion. The audit office warned the ministry last March that modern weapons had left "few safe sanctuaries within the battle space", making friendly fire incidents much more likely. Last August the public affairs committee said that, a decade after its first report, the MoD had just approved a policy paper on combat identification. Implementing that policy could be years away.