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Gates to Thank Armored Vehicle Factory Workers

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will travel to the factory line of the newest version of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle next week to personally thank the workers for their efforts to speed delivery of the vehicles to warfighters.

Oshkosh Corp.’s factory in Oshkosh, Wis., produces the new MRAP all-terrain vehicle known as the M-ATV, which is designed to be suited to off-road conditions in Afghanistan’s rugged terrain.

The Defense Department has contracted the company to produce 6,600 of the armored vehicles. Gates is scheduled to travel to Oshkosh on Nov. 12, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said in a briefing today.

“The secretary wants to thank the workers there for doing everything they can to expedite the production of these lifesaving vehicles,” he said.

Morrell called their efforts an “amazing display of industry and dedication to the war effort.”

The factory expects to speed the production of the vehicle from 46 M-ATVs produced in July to 1,000 per month by the end of the year, he said.

The new vehicles are lighter than the MRAPs used in Iraq and offer an independent suspension and shorter wheel base that make it more adaptable to Afghanistan’s rocky hills. Its design retains the V-shape hull that helps to divert the blast of roadside bombs.

Morrell emphasized that the new vehicle is only one piece of the department’s effort to defeat the improvised explosive devices so prevalent in Afghanistan.

“Secretary Gates is pushing everyone in this building to make sure they are doing everything they possibly can to provide our warfighters with everything they need, be it [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], improved command and control, or additional authorities or even capabilities, so that they can better diagram, dissect and ultimately defeat these IED networks,” he said.

Most of the bombs found in Afghanistan are unsophisticated, unlike the more high-tech bombs troops faced in Iraq. But even so, they are the No. 1 killer of troops there, usually employing huge amounts of cheap bomb-making materials to attack troops and vehicles.

Last week, a U.S. Stryker combat vehicle was hit in Afghanistan by a 1,000-pound homemade bomb, killing seven soldiers.

“There's not an armored vehicle you could build that would likely protect you against a thousand-pound fertilizer bomb,” Morrell said. “Even if it doesn't penetrate the hull, those inside of it are going to suffer a concussive blast that is clearly going to be a real danger to them.”

Gates hosted a meeting at the Pentagon today to bring together most of the key players in the efforts to defeat the IEDs, Morrell said. Participants include representatives of the MRAP and ISR task forces, as well as the Joint IED Defeat Organization. Those deployed joined the meeting via secure teleconference.

Morrell said all groups involved need to collaborate to take an all-encompassing approach toward defeating those who make and emplace the bombs.

“If we're relying simply on better armor at the point of contact, we're not going to succeed,” Morrell said. “We need to be attacking this problem from 360 degrees, just as we did in Iraq and proved so successful there, by watching the roads, by watching for patterns of life, by mapping those patterns, by developing intelligence that allows us to penetrate the networks and take them down.”

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Robert M. Gates

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