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Army Pushes Forward on Up-Armoring Wheeled Vehicles

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2004 – Up-armoring tactical wheeled vehicles continues to be a priority for the Army, officials involved in the effort told reporters today at the Pentagon.

Maj. Gen. Stephen Speakes, an Army force-development official, said vehicles are armored at three different levels. "Level 1 means that the vehicle cab was built in the factory with a much higher level of armor protection," he explained. Level 2 takes the existing fleet and puts more protection on vehicles. Level 3 is simply another add-on armor kit that is locally fabricated in theater, the general said.

"We can't automatically swap out all of the equipment that we have out in theater, but what we can do is develop programs where we take kits and put them onto existing pieces of equipment," Speakes said. "This is an interim solution, but it's a darn good solution that's been very, very effective as we take a look at what we've done to protect the force."

Today, 61 percent of the vehicles in the theater have been up-armored, said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, director of Army systems management at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

"I would point out here, though, that with respect to the light tactical vehicles -- and that's the vehicles that have been suffering the majority of casualties and the majority of incidents -- we're now at 80 percent," Sorenson said. By March, 98 percent of the light tactical vehicles the Humvees and the heavy-truck fleet will be armored, he added.

Sorenson said the Army is about to project 35,000 vehicles to be up-armored. Of that number, there is currently funding for 29,000 vehicles, with plans to "shoot ahead of the duck," and obtain funding for 38,000 vehicles.

"The fundamental point that I would like to communicate is that at this point, once the theater commander establishes a requirement, money is not the issue," Speakes said.

It is an expensive program, though, the general admitted. "As you look at our forecast both of what we have already spent and what we're immediately forecasting to spend here over the next six or eight months or so, it's several billion dollars."

According to Speakes, "several" is exactly $4.1 billion dollars.

The funding for the add-on armor kits is about $2 billion, Sorenson said. The budget for the up-armored vehicles themselves is about the same, he added. Those figures cover fiscal 2003 through 2005, Speakes said.

The manufacturer producing the up-armored Humvees for the Army has determined that by March, it can increase its production to 550 a month. That's 100 more per month than the anticipated top production number. The extra vehicles were planned for, so there is no extra cost for the modification to the existing contract, Sorenson said.

Col. John Rooney of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. said that testing of kits is ongoing to ensure that the armor solutions are meeting the changing threats on the battlefield.

Proposals come in from the theater based on attacks that have taken place, Rooney explained, and they're tested at Aberdeen. He added that any one of these solutions can be turned around within 24 to 48 hours to determine results on how it performs against specified threats. The results also be immediately compared to the other solutions that have been tested against that particular threat.

Speakes said it was necessary in all of this not to forget the broader strategy to protect troops. "The entire effort that we've focused on is a holistic approach, not only the armoring," he said. The effort also focuses on the importance of changing the tactics, techniques and procedures by which convoys are conducted, and introducing systems to pre-detonate particular explosive devices, he said.

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