Information Warfare: The Prince Harry Story

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April 30, 2007: For over two months, the British army has been preparing to send Prince Harry, the 22 year old second son of Crown Prince Charles and his late wife Diana, off to war in Iraq. There he would join the 7,000 British troops stationed in southern Iraq. Harry is a platoon leader in a reconnaissance battalion (or regiment, as the British prefer to call some battalion sized units). Harry is a platoon leader in the Blues and Royals regiment, a recon unit. Harry works out of a Scimitar armored vehicle. There is some concern that Britain will be sending the Mother of All Kidnapping Targets to Iraq. Snagging a prince would appear to be a major payday for Islamic terrorists.

All was quiet for the last two months, until the British media began to report how excited Iraqi terrorists were at the prospect of having a British prince to kidnap or kill. One can expect the prince to encounter more eager photojournalists in Iraq, than terrorist kidnappers.

To protect the prince from any special terrorist attention, the British have been considering several deception measures. For starters, they can take the identifying marks off the Scimitar armored vehicles, and rotate Harry and his crew around the four vehicles in his troop. Carefully vet the civilians working in the camp and pay careful attention to keeping quiet about duty schedules and the like. The prince would be most vulnerable when outside the wire. The squadron has 36 Scimitars, and lieutenant Wales (he goes by the last name Wales, as is dad is Prince of Wales) can only be in one of them.

As backup, a detachment of SAS commandos has been assigned to the area where the Blues and Royals will be operating, apparently with a secondary task of recovering the prince, should local terrorists get really lucky. This may be Harrys best protection from special attention. The SAS have a long history in the Middle East, and are much feared by the locals.

Not that Harry can't defend himself. He is a trained soldier, and apparently quite enthusiastic about his profession. He moves around in an eight ton Scimitar FV107 tracked armored vehicle. The Scimitar is armed with a 30mm automatic cannon (with 165 rounds of ammo, that can be fired as single shots, or at up to 90 rounds a minute) and a 7.62mm machine-gun. The turret is also equipped with two, four barrel, smoke grenade dischargers. The crew consists of a commander (Harry), gunner and driver. The fifteen foot long Scimitar can move along at up to 80 kilometers an hour, and has proved quite useful for patrolling the sandy terrain of southern Iraq. The armor on the Scimitar can stop heavy machine-gun (up to 14.5mm) bullets. Two Scimitars, then a rather new armored vehicle, accompanied the invasion force that retook the Falkland islands in 1982. The Scimitar was heavily used during the 1991 Gulf War.

Prince Harry is third line to the throne, after his father and older brother. Behind Harry, is Prince Andrew, his uncle. Andrew also went off to war in 1982, when Britain rushed to recover the Falklands from Argentina. Andrew was a helicopter pilot (co-pilot actually), flying off a warship. During missile attacks on the British fleet, Andrews helicopter flew off a distance and fired up an electronic device that drew missiles away from the ships, and to the helicopters. Younger sons have always been expendable in the aristocracy. It was typical for couples to want just two sons ("an heir and a spare"), and in most countries the heir inherited everything, with the spare left to make his own way in the world. The clergy and military have long been typical careers for the "spares."

Harrys unit, the Blues and Royals, is the oldest cavalry unit in the British army, and part of the Household Cavalry (the royal guard, so to speak). A third of the Blues and Royals is actually a horse cavalry unit, serving in London to guard the queen, and perform ceremonial duties. Two squadrons (companies) of the Blues and Royals will go to Iraq. Each of these reconnaissance squadrons has three reconnaissance troops (platoons), each containing four Scimitar tracked armored vehicles, each containing a crew of three men. The squadron also has a a troop (platoon) of Striker anti-tank guided missiles vehicles, and a support troop (with four Spartan APCs, a recovery vehicle and five trucks). Total strength of the squadron is about 220 troops. In wartime, another squadron is added to regiments, staffed by reservists. The Household Cavalry has its fourth squadron active in peacetime, and it is assigned to the 16th Air Assault Brigade.

The British have operated with a light hand in southern Iraq, despite frequent violence from pro-Iranian Shia militias. There is a civil war brewing in the south, as more moderate Shia groups (largely tribal organizations) arm themselves to oppose the pro-Iranian militias that want to turn Iraq into a religious dictatorship (like Iran.) Iraqi Shias don't particularly like Iranians, mainly because the Iranians treat their own Arab minority quite harshly, and always have. Only about half the Iranian population are ethnic Iranians (an Indo-European people, related to Indians, Kurds, most Afghans and Europeans). The rest of the Iranian population are various minorities, the largest (about a quarter of the total population) Turks.

For centuries, Iran has been getting pushed around by the British, and this made Iranians rather anti-British. Most Iraqis in the south appreciate the British for driving out Saddams thugs. So the pro-Iranian Iraqis are looking to grab prince Harry, or make a show of it, mainly to please their Iranian backers, and get some media attention.

The British government would rather avoid any fuss, but British public opinion, and prince Harry, believe that the prince should go to Iraq with his unit and do his duty, despite the increased risk. This is particularly true because Harry is part of the wealthy upper class. In Britain, if you have more, you are expected to do more. That often doesn't happen, so sending a soldier-prince to Iraq is rather more than it appears to be.

No one seems eager to make a decision here. Harry says he wants to go. His grandmother, the queen, is barred by law and custom, from interfering in the administration of the armed force. The prime minister says the decision must be made by the army. The generals wish Harry had joined the navy.

 


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