In its latest bid to combat movements of terrorists and their arms shipments, the British Army in Northern Ireland has introduced Operation Stop-Gap to the province's troubled border.
In its latest bid to combat movements of terrorists and their arms shipments, the British Army in Northern Ireland has introduced Operation Stop-Gap to the province's troubled border. The operation is conducted from helicopters. Mobility is the key. Sweeping down from the skies, British marines are able to block roads and search traffic for illegal arms.
A. B.B.C. team flew with the marines when Operation Stop-Gap swung into action this week. Though the troops didn't succeed in making any arms hauls, they did maintain that the deterrent effect of their aerial patrols was a powerful one.
SYNOPSIS: In its latest effort to combat the movement of terrorists and their arms shipments, the British Army in Northern Ireland last week launches Operation Stop-Gap. As the name suggests, the operation is intended to block any gaps in security in the troubled province. A team of three helicopters, a command ship and two others, mount an aerial patrol along border roads. In the second it takes for a helicopter to swoop from the sky, a road block can be set up and the search for illegal arms underway.
Speed, mobility and surprise are the essential factors of the new operations. Road blocks are considered by the security forces as a vital part of their role in Ulster. In cities, there's relatively little difficulty in setting them up. But in open country, it would take a small army to police all the roads. Since Operation Stop-Gap started, it has shown that just thirty men can cover an ares of up to a thousand square miles in a single day.
A spike chain across the road is intended to halt any vehicle trying to accelerate past the checkpoint. While the men of Forty; Five marine Commando stay on the ground, their commander is still airborne in the command helicopter, surveying the surrounding area and in constant touch with a central control. During the first weeks of operation, the Army was claiming that its new system of border patrols was having great deterrent value.