By José Antequera
Forty soldiers have died in recent years in traffic accidents suffered by the BMR and Lince, two models of Spanish Army armored vehicles that some experts say are not safe because they lack a turret.
On May 18, Soldier Antonio Carrero Jiménez, 27, was killed in a traffic accident while traveling in an armored vehicle of the Spanish Army during a military mission in Mali. Today, it is known that his armored vehicle, the Lince, had not passed the ITV, according to a report that the Guardia Civil has sent to Judge Togado, who is investigating the causes of the accident, and which are published today by the newspaper El País.
The fatal accident suffered by young Carrero is not an isolated case, but the tip of the iceberg of a chain of sinister fatalities pointing to the poor state of the armored vehicles used by the Army in its international missions, Diario16 was told by military sources. At least 40 soldiers have died in similar circumstances in recent years, and all with a common denominator: the victims were traveling in two models of armored vehicles under suspicion, the BMR and the aforementioned Lince. Just between May 18 and June 2, four soldiers were killed in these vehicles, whose operation and safety are under suspicion.
Both vehicles are considered "very dangerous", since they are not fitted with turrets, and so the soldier on watch at the top behind his machine gun is literally "dead" in the event that the car suffers an accident and ends up overturning. In this type of accident, the soldier is usually crushed by the armored vehicle, or leaves the accident with serious injuries, including paraplegia.
Among the Spanish detachments deployed on international missions, these vehicles are known as the "death cars," and although the situation has been denounced repeatedly, the Spanish Government has done nothing to remedy the problem, which necessarily involves the replacement of these obsolete armored vehicles. Army technicians are well aware that BMRs and Linces should not continue in service, but the vehicle renewal plan is not completed, and the lives of the soldiers continue to be at serious risk.
It was the Popular Party Government that first identified the problem and, apparently, hid it for years hid it from the public. The question is why the Ministry of Defense decided not to work with the RG31, a much more modern and better adapted, more reliable model that has a turret. In fact, there are no instances of soldiers being killed with this type of vehicle: when the RG31 suffers an accident, the rear rollover does not crush the soldier thanks to the turret.
However, someone in the Government of Mariano Rajoy gave the order to continue using the BMR and Lince despite the grave risks, something that is reminiscent of the disastrous management that caused the Yak-42 catastrophe.
"They are letting our soldiers die. When I started writing my book, I asked the Ministry of Defense for information because I wanted to know how many of these armored cars are still circulating today. I never received an answer," explains former Army Lieutenant Luis Gonzalo Segura, author of “The Army's Black Book.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: On 26 May 2003, a chartered Ukrainian Yak-42 aircraft returning 120 Spanish peacekeepers from Afghanistan hit a mountain hear Trabzon, in Northern Turkey, while landing to refuel. All aboard were killed. At the time, Spanish defence minister Federico Trillo stated "the meteorological conditions and dense fog caused the catastrophe.”
In 2004, the Spanish Socialist Party government sacked three generals after it was discovered that 22 of the victims' bodies had been misidentified and returned to the wrong families, causing this accident to become a symbol of military callousness and mismanagement.
The unnecessary deaths suffered by the Spanish Army because of its vehicles are reminiscent of a similar issue when the British Army sent its soldiers to Afghanistan using “snatch” Land Rovers, very lightly protected 4x4 vehicles which were easily destroyed by improvised roadside bombs or even gunfire.
Dozens of British soldiers were killed using these vehicles, beginning in 2003, and it took until 2010 for the British Army to recognize and admit the problem, and to eventually buy better protected vehicles for Afghanistan.
Since 2003, some 37 UK personnel have been killed while using the vehicles, the BBC reported in 2010, which were known as “mobile coffins” by British soldiers.
As to the causes of the Spanish Army vehicle deaths, it is likely that a turret would have worsened the situation by adding weight at the top, which would make the vehicles even more susceptible to turning over, and so even deadlier to their crews.)