Monday, March 30, 2009

British two-ton ‘Dragon gun’ terrifies Taliban - Times

Michael Smith

BRITISH commandos have hauled a two-ton artillery gun up a 130ft cliff by hand to protect a vital strategic outpost in Afghanistan.

The weapon, which was installed under cover of night, has been so effective in guarding the town of Musa Qala in northern Helmand that the Taliban have nicknamed it “the Dragon” because of the flame that belches out of its barrel when fired.

The 105mm gun was dismantled and rebuilt at the summit of a rocky outcrop, known as the Roshan Tower, using techniques traditionally demonstrated at the Royal Tournament. Gunners from 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, normally based in Plymouth, faced a logistical challenge because the cliff face was riddled with deep cracks that threatened to crumble under the weight of the gun.

Major James Vigne, commander of 8 (Alma) Commando Battery, said: “The ammunition boxes, each weighing nearly 100lb and containing high explosive shells, also had to be manhandled up the 400-metre track which couldn’t take vehicles.

“The move was done at night to keep the gun secret from the enemy, with Gurkhas providing close protection on the hills and cliffs around. Once in place, the gun was camouflaged to prevent the enemy realising the new threat to them.”

The gun, which was installed in mid-January and is capable of firing 35lb shells, is so accurate that it can engage and hit a target 1.8 miles away within five seconds.

“The Dragon is the most feared weapon in our area by the Taliban - they are genuinely frightened by it,” added Vigne. “The Gurkhas operating from Musa Qala have been astonished by its speed, pinpoint accuracy and power.”

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