News story

115/2012 - The Black Rats prepare for Afghan challenge as Minister confirms new protective vehicles

Military personnel from 4th Mechanized Brigade today showcased their capability as they prepare to deploy to Afghanistan. The Brigade will deploy on Operation HERRICK 17 in October for a six-month tour as the lead formation of Task Force Helmand. Due to the significant progress in the development of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) it will be the first to oversee a drawdown of British troops from Helmand province, with the UK’s military commitment there due to be cut by 500 by the end of the year.

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Also on display at the event, at the Army’s Bulford Camp, was some of the latest protective equipment the Brigade will use in Afghanistan, including FOXHOUND, the Army’s newest vehicle. During the course of the event, Defence Minister Peter Luff MP confirmed the Ministry of Defence’s intention to spend around £30 million on an additional 25 Foxhound.

4th Mechanized Brigade, known as ‘The Black Rats’, is based in Catterick but made up of units from across the UK, including a number of reservist as well as regular military units.

Introduced by the Brigade Commander, Brigadier Bob Bruce, and Mr Luff, today’s events enabled member of the Task Force to show off their skills, from marksmanship and search dog handling, through to the challenges of having to cook for thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen on a daily basis.

Brigadier Bob Bruce, Commander 4th Mechanized Brigade, said:

Today has enabled many of the men and women who will deploy on HERRICK 17 to showcase not only the high quality equipment with which they will deploy but also the result of the extensive pre-deployment training that they have conducted.

4th Mechanized Brigade previously deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, but a lot has changed since then. Now we are well down the path of Transition – the handover of security responsibilities to our Afghan colleagues - and our strategic outlook is very different to what it was two years ago. Notably, we will be the first Task Force to see our numbers reduce during the course of our tour, a big challenge but one we will embrace.

We are an experienced and well-balanced Task Force, while based on a regular Army formation we also have a number of regular Royal Navy and RAF service personnel in our ranks, as well as a number of reservists who have readily volunteered their time to accompany us to the front line.

The tour will see The Black Rats working in support of the Afghan National Army’s 3/215 Brigade and the Afghan National Police in their mission to bring security and stability to a region that has known years of unrest but has seen steady progress thanks to the efforts of Afghan, British and other international forces..

Approximately 10 per cent of the personnel who deploy on Op HERRICK 17 will be reservists, including elements of 6 Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, the 103 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, 243 (The Wessex) Field Hospital and 101st (Northumbrian) Regiment Royal Artillery.

Minister for Defence Equipment Support and Technology, Peter Luff said:

I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet some of the members of 4th Mechanized Brigade who will deploy to Afghanistan in the autumn and will face an entirely new challenge. They continue the work of their predecessor brigades and also oversee the beginning of our drawdown as Afghanistan looks ahead to a future with its own Armed Forces taking the security lead.

I was also very pleased to be able to confirm the purchase of 25 additional new Foxhound vehicles. Foxhound’s cutting edge technology gives our troops the ability to engage with Afghan civilians, as they must, whilst benefitting from a high level of protection. Personnel from 4th Mechanized Brigade will be amongst the first to use this outstanding new vehicle.

“This is another example of how the MOD, having balanced the budget, is now able to confidently spend money on the equipment that our personnel really need.”

Personnel from 4th Mechanized Brigade will be amongst the first to make use of the new FOXHOUND vehicle on operations. For its size and weight, FOXHOUND provides unprecedented levels of blast protection against the threats faced by troops on the front line. Robust enough to withstand the blast from an IED, it has a top speed of 70 mph. The engine can also be removed and replaced in just 30 minutes and it can drive away from an ambush on only three wheels.

Notes to editors

  • For more information about this press release, contact the Ministry of Defence Press Office on 0207 218 7954.

  • 4th Mechanized Brigade has a proud history having been formed in the deserts of North Africa at the start of the Second World War. It was at this time that Brigade troops adopted the Jerboa or ‘Black Rat’ emblem that they continue to wear as their insignia today. More recently, the Brigade took part in the First Gulf War and completed a number of tours to the Balkans during the 1990s.
  • The Black Rats have since deployed twice to Iraq and once before to Afghanistan for Operation HERRICK 12 in 2010; they therefore bring a wealth of operational experience and expertise to Helmand Province in October 2012.
  • The Brigade is due to take over as the lead formation of British troops in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in October 2012 for Op HERRICK 17.
  • The roulement tour will see The Black Rats working in support of the Afghan Army’s 3/215 Brigade and all elements of the Afghan National Police in their mission to bring security and stability to a region that has known years of unrest.
  • 4th Mechanized Brigade contains many fine and historic regiments. The Queen’s Royal Lancers and The Royal Dragoon Guards are the cavalry units in the Brigade; the infantry units deploying with the Brigade to Afghanistan include:
  • 1st Battalion Scots Guards
  • 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (The Royal Scots Borderers)
  • 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment
  • 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire) and 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles
  • In addition 40 Commando Royal Marines will deploy for the six month period.
  • The Brigade includes units from all regions of the the UK. These include:
  • Scotland – 1 Battalion Scot Guards (based in Catterick)
  • Scottish Lowlands – 1 SCOTS (based in Edinburgh)
  • West Midlands and Nottingham – Queens Royal Lancers (based in Catterick)
  • Lancashire, Merseyside and Cumbria – 1 LANCS (based in Catterick)
  • South East – 1 RGR are based in Folkestone but recruit from Nepal.
  • N Ireland and Yorkshire – Royal Dragoon Guards (based in Catterick)
  • South West – 40 Commando Royal Marines are based in Taunton but recruit across the UK
  • Cheshire – 1 MERCIAN (based in Catterick)


  • The planned investment, worth approximately £30 million, means more than £300m has been spent over the last two years on the development of these vehicles.
  • Developed with the help of engineers from the World Rally Championship, McLaren F1 and BMW, it incorporates cutting edge Formula One technology.
  • Overall, the Army will benefit from more than £5.5bn of investment in armoured vehicles over the next ten years as part of the £160bn that will be spent on equipment and support.


Reserves are currently, and will remain, an essential part of our Armed Forces. Since 2003 there have been over 25,000 reservist mobilisations and 29 reservists have paid the ultimate price for their country. Their dedication, professionalism and contribution has been vital to achieving success on operations.

The MOD is investing £1.8 billion over 10 years to enhance the capability and strength of the Reserve Forces. In autumn a consultation will be carried out that will look at how a new relationship can be created between the Armed Forces, individual Reservists and employers.

Op Herrick 17 will see reservists deploy as part of the following units:

Elements of The Honourable Artillery Company Elements of The Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry Elements of 101 Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers) Elements of 75 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers) Elements of 32nd Signal Regiment (Volunteers) Elements of 6th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland Elements of 3rd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Elements of 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Elements of 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment Elements of The London Regiment Elements of 148 Expeditionary Force Institute Squadron, The Royal Logistic Corps (Volunteers) Elements of 150 (Yorkshire) Transport Regiment (Volunteers), The Royal Logistic Corps Elements of 159 Supply Regiment (Volunteers), The Royal Logistic Corps Elements of 204 (Northern Irish) Field Hospital (Volunteers) Elements of 243 (Wessex) Field Hospital (Volunteers) Elements of 102 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (Volunteers) Elements of 103 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (Volunteers) Elements of 5th Regiment Royal Military Police


Published 23 August 2012