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Giant sacks, specially designed to transport fuel by air to the front line, have been delivered to troops in Afghanistan.
The Air Portable Fuel Containers Mk 5 are enormous rubber balls which enable essential fuel supplies to be delivered by air to more remote areas of operations.
The balloon-like containers, which hold up to two tonnes of fuel each, also contain the polymer Kevlar, a flexible plastic commonly used in body armour, to keep the contents protected from enemy fire.
Measuring 4.5 feet (1.37m) in diameter when full, the Mk 5 containers can be easily transported in a sling under a helicopter or in the back of a transport aircraft. The Kevlar protection means they can also be parachuted into locations or dropped from heights of up to 25 feet (7.62m).
It means that personnel stationed at forward operating bases or check points - who rely on fuel to power the generators which provide them with heat, light, medical facilities and communications equipment - do not have to wait as long as they would for the vital supplies to be transported by road.
Flight Lieutenant John Harrison, Tactical Supply Wing Detachment commander at Camp Bastion, Helmand province, said:
The Mk 5’s give the TSW great flexibility and are a key enabler in delivering battlefield helicopters with essential fuel whilst operating at or near front line operations.
They are extremely robust and have the capability to be airlifted full of fuel and deposited wherever they are needed, usually in extremely austere locations.
This allows the battlefield helicopter to extend its reach from Camp Bastion and spend longer at the front line to deliver valuable support to ground troops. They are relatively maintenance-free and easy to operate, making them an essential bit of equipment.
Richard Holloway, Battlefield Utilities Project Team Leader for MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support, which secured the delivery of the containers, said:
These containers provide an effective, safe and quick means of delivering fuel to the front line, ensuring essential support to operations.
Designed and built in the UK, the containers have been bought under a Â£2m, five-year agreement with GKN Aerospace, based in Portsmouth.
Phil Swash, President and CEO, Aerostructures Europe, GKN Aerospace, said:
The real contribution this equipment makes to the effective functioning of our troops working in remote and forward bases is something this team and the whole site is extremely proud of.