Skip to comments.THE FACTS ON HUMVEE ARMOR
Posted on 12/13/2004 6:14:20 AM PST by conservativecorner
Thursday, Lieutenant General R. Steven Whitcomb,Commander, Third Army "Patton's Own," and Coalition Forces Land Component Command, answered some questions, regarding the armoring of vehicles in Iraq, including humvess.
These are some of the facts the three star General shared with the press:
"Congress has provided in the neighborhood of about $1.2 billion since last year strictly to armor our vehicles"
"Up-armored humvees... is a vehicle that is produced in a factory back in the United States and it essentially gives you protection, both glass and on the armament on the side, front, rear, sides, top and bottom. If you'll think of a protection in a bubble, that's kind of what the level-one up- armored humvee gives you."
"Back in August of 2003, we were producing about 30 of those vehicles a month. We're in the category now of over 400 per month being produced. The requirement that we've got from Multinational Corps Iraq and Multinational Force Iraq, General Casey and General Tom Metz, are for about 8,100 up-armored humvees. We've provided a little under 6,000 up-armored humvees to the force to date."
(Started using) "add-on kits that we might be able to produce that gave that vehicle additional protection.We call that level-two armor, and it's better known probably most places as add-on armor. It is factory produced, so it's built under controlled conditions, and then it's either -- can be put on back in the states. But we've got 10 sites here in the theater, a couple here in Kuwait, and eight sites up in Iraq itself where we can bolt on, add this armor to existing unarmored vehicles. It gives you protection front, rear and sides, glass. It does not give protection at the top or at the bottom of the vehicle. So it gives you better than what you have with no protection on a humvee, but not quite the level-one protection."
"We looked at a stop-gap measure, a bridge, if you will, till we got the factory-produced level two and the level one protection for our vehicles, and that's what we call level-three hardening.(It consists of) taking steel plates that have been approved, make sure that they've got the type of minimal protection. Our real focus for the level-three armor is not the humvees, it's really the series of trucks that the Army uses in combat operations."
"Right now...we've got about 30,000 wheeled vehicles in our theater -- in Iraq and Afghanistan and other areas." level one, about 6,000 vehicles; level two, about 10,000 vehicles; almost 4,500 vehicles that have the level- three protection 8,000 (vehicles) do not have some type of armor protection on them.
"Of those vehicles that don't, some number of them are things like tool trucks, communication vans or vehicles that don't leave the base camp. In other words, they're trucked up into Iraq -- or in cases before what we're doing now, were driven up into Iraq -- and they go onto a base camp, and that's where they spend most of their time."
"The humvee was a vehicle that was not designed to afford armor protection, nor were most of our trucks. They were designed as cargo carriers. The only up-armored humvees, the high-end ones, we had were for our military police forces. They were not for use by -- as we see them used today with the numbers of forces."
"Add-on armoring runs anywhere from about a thousand pounds of steel plating up to about 4,000 pounds of additional weight. So a lot of our vehicles, as you point out, are not designed -- their engines aren't designed to carry perhaps an additional ton of weight, the suspension and the transmission."
"I am not seeing constraints on resources that are -- allow us to do that, with the exception of, as I say, level one and -- primarily because you're producing vehicles and a certain amount of law of physics is involved here. It's not necessarily just money; it's a production capacity to be able to build more."
"When you combine the 6,000 and the almost 10,000, we're in relatively good shape humvee- wise."
"The other thing that we've got -- and I won't talk about it because it is very sensitive -- is we're leveraging technology, how to detect where IEDs are, who's using them, how they're being set off and those kinds of things so we could go out there early and kill those guys before they're able to execute."
Regarding the soldier who asked Secretary Rumsfeld the armor question, General Whitcomb said: "What I think Specialist Wilson(soldier that popped the humvee question on Rumsfeld) was probably talking about is going through a facility that we've got that takes vehicles of two types; one, it takes vehicles that have been hit in combat and can't be fixed in Iraq and we bring them back here into Kuwait and we either fix them or we take parts off them that we can use. And some of those parts may, in fact, be the level-three armor, the steel plating that we either take off and put into stacks that we'll reuse, or that my suspicion -- and it's a suspicion only -- is that Specialist Wilson and his crew came in and found a vehicle or found some of that stuff and was taking it to add on to their vehicles."
SOURCE: (U.S. Department of Defense)
Here some other facts, compiled from various sources:
Today 77% of Humvees in Iraq are armored
9,386 armor kits shipped to Iraq
9,143 have been installed (97%)
Armor Holdings (AH:NYSE) said it could boost its output of "up-armored" Humvees by as much as 22 percent per month to 550 from 450 now.
The cost of installing the Humvee armor at the factory is $58,000 a vehicle.
For all the focus on up armored humvees, it is a pity that there is no thought as to whether it is the vehicle we need or not...because it is not.
What they aren't saying: uparmored humvees are a bad vehicle. From the individual soldier perspective, they don't care. Its something that they can ask for. The military brass knows it is a bad vehicle...that is the source of whatever slowness there is in procurement. The army doesn't really want them. Well, they half want them. They want them because it is what they can get. They don't want them because they know it is not the vehicle they need. It comes down, like many things, to politics.
First, let me explain why the M1114 (uparmored humvee) is a bad vehicle. The M998 (the basic humvee) is a very good utility vehicle. It is good for what it was designed for...as a replacement for the Jeep. It is not, and never will be a good armored vehicle. It was never meant to be.
Putting a whole bunch of steel and ballistic glass on a souped up Jeep causes all sorts of problems. The vehicle is far heavier than designed...it causes excessive stress on the engine, transmission and suspension leading to frequent breakdown. The M1114 is far less reliable than the M998. And when driving through Sadr City, the last thing you want is a breakdown.
Putting all the armor on has other effects. It dramatically reduces the vehicles cross country capabilities the Humvee was expressly designed for. The M998 has very few terrain restrictions, the M1114 has a lot. It is pretty much restricted to roads. It can't go anywhere wet...it will quickly sink to the axles. It can't go through most sand...it will sink. It can't go over rougher terrain...the suspension will fail. It can't climb steep hills. A farmfield that is a racetrack to an M998 is a sinkhole to an M1114. It can't go all the places it may need to. The M998 can go wherever a farm tractor can go, and then some. The M1114 can go where a midsize passenger car can go...except it is likely to breakdown on the way.
The vehicle has other problems. It uses much more fuel and has a far lower range. And the army doesn't just pull into a gas station. It cannot turn as tightly(the wheel traverse had to be reduced because it would fail at the extremes due to the weight). It is tough to drive in tight conditions...like urban back streets. Three point turns are less than ideal for avoiding ambushes. It is not as fast...it can't give chase. An M998 could, if necessary, hang with civilian cars (which is what they are facing). An M1114 doesn't have a chance...it can't keep up. The M1114 cannot carry or tow much of anything. Troops, especially on patrol have a lot of specialized equipment that they can bring or leave behind depending on the mission. In an unarmored M998 the vehicles' cargo weight capacity was the limiting factor for scouts...all that armor means other equipment and extra ammunition that they can't carry.
While the armor may protect the driver and the vehicle commander...someone is usually exposed from the wasit up in the hatch. That is necessary to see what is going on around them as well as be able to fire back. It is far from the right vehicle.
The humvees limit the ability of our troops to do their job both with their operational limitations and their maintenance problems. It means more mechanics and less troops on patrol. It means more drivers delivering parts, and less on patrol. It is a step backwards. We have a nine to one tail to tooth ratio...for every shooter there are nine guys making him food, delivering his ammo and fixing his trucks. Now all those support people (who have always been in unarmored vehicles) are going to need to spend even more time supporting themselves.
(Adding armor to the heavier cargo trucks has a slightly different effect. They can carry the weight, but at the cost of their cargo load. That means that either more drivers have to make the trip or that the same drivers have to make the trip more times to deliver the same material. Statistically...armoring them may very well make them feel more safe, but actually be at greater risk due to more missions)
The bottom line is that the up armored humvees are not good vehicles. It is a poor stop gap measure. Strapping a whole bunch of steel onto a vehicle that was never designed to be armored does not an armored vehicle make. A few months ago there was a story about a guy who turned his bulldozer into a tank and ran over the police station and the mayors office. Note: he didn't try to turn his SUV into a tank. It wouldn't work.
You may have come to the (correct) conclusion that I don't think we should be cranking out up armored humvees. The humvee is a good utility vehicle. It is not and never will be a good armored vehicle. Most people at this point will scream that I am sacrificing our troops blood or that I should talk to a casualties' family or something.
A lot of the people pushing for the up armored humvees use the line 'our troops deserve the best' or 'whatever it takes' without realizing how far from the best the vehicle they are advocating is. The fact that I don't think we should be armoring humvees does not mean that I don't recognize that we have a need for an armored vehicle. Those that answer 'but we need it NOW!' don't realize what the impediment to getting the right vehicle now is.
This is a new issue. No where in all the reporting from WWII did I hear the press complaining that the Jeeps were not armored. That is essentially what is happening now. The US army has never used armored cargo trucks. The redball express wasn't behind ballistic glass. Even in Vietnam, where there were not 'front lines' and supply lines were frequent targets, the solution was not armoring cargo vehicles (although that certainly was common with the field expedients that the question was complaining about having to do)...the solution was escorting them.
We face a new challenge. A big part of it is motivated by the public's aversion to casualties. That is not a bad thing...but it can go to far. Politically, Americans are highly intolerant of anything where 'our boys' shed blood. So in order to do anything, we have to have much much higher 'force protection' than ever before.
So we arrive at the need for an appropriate armored vehicle for the mission we now face. The first question is do we have anything now? We have a whole slew of tracked armored vehicles, but the need is really for a wheeled vehicle...for many reasons I won't get into here. The only real wheeled armored vehicles we have other than the M1114 and a chemical recon vehicle is the 'LAV' or Stryker. It is not appropriate for the mission...it is a full capability combat vehicle designed to replace the tracked Bradley with more strategic (airlift) mobility. It is too big for urban patrol, and much to expensive to replace the tens of thousands of humvees.
So we need a new vehicle. There in lies the problem. Defense procurement. Military beauracracy. Defense Contractors. Worst of all...Congress. Pork. It takes the military years to navigate the dog and pony shows to get new equipment.
We have a need now, but using the 'proper' channels and methods it would take years, if not decades, to meet the need. So why can't we skip the 'proper channels' and get it done now?
That is political question...can Congress keep their pork fat fingers our of the pie? Is the Bush administration willing to give its political enemies an honest to goodness 'unbid contract' to carp about? I answer both those questions no.
The P-51, one of the greatest fighters of WWII went from design to testing to assembly line production in 120 days. The Commanche helicopter was conceived and designed in 1983 to meet the Soviet threat...it was cancelled 20 year later without ever having delivered to the military. The difference is politics.
A big part of the problem is 'military specifications' (MilSpec). Every single piece and part usually goes through extensive and rigorous testing. Almost everything is custom designed and tested to death. Another part of the problem is politics. Big programs produce maps of the US (by congressional district) showing what get made in who's district. For a big program it is not all unusual to get something from at least 85% of districts. Not exactly a model of industrial efficiency, but this is advertised as a selling point...it is how you get the funding.
The answer is rather straightforward. We need to opt out of the procurement nightmare and produce a vehicle with primarily Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) components. The armor on an armored vehicle (with the exception of the Abrams) is not the complex part. It is the moving parts: the engine. The transmission. The suspension. Etc.
Take engines for example. Anyone familiar with automotive engine design and manufacturing knows how detailed a process this is. Not only does it take a long time to design, it takes a long time to figure out the best way to manufacture it. That is why the same engine is in a lot of vehicles. They aren't about to design an engine for every model of car or pickup and don't change it every year. But that is exactly what the military procurement leads to.
But more importantly...that is the escape...what we need already exists. We don't actually need to design an engine to MilSpec for this particular vehicle...we need to find a good one that already exists. The Caterpillar or Detroit Deisel engines in the tractors of the tractor trailers is more than capable. They may not be milspec, but they are good reliable proven designs. And they are already set up to manufacture them en masse quickly. The same thing for the transmission and suspension.
This all might sound fanciful and pie in the sky...but it has already been done. Admittedly, not by us, but by the Finns. All of the Scandanavians use an APC called the SISU. It looks a lot like our Stryker, but it is not quite as good. It doesn't have quite the cross country mobility. It doesn't have quite as much armor. As far as an APC/IFV for mechanized infantry to bring into battle, virtually no one would choose the SISU over the Stryker.
The stryker costs $3.1 million. The SISU cost $100,000. The SISU actually costs less than the M1114 despite its much greater size and capabilities. In fact much less. There are several different contracts involved, and several different armor packages added...so there is no one sticker price. But all M1114's come to at least $130k and $160k to $180k is the norm.
How did they do it so cheap? COTS. It is a Volvo engine...same one they use in their biggest trucks. Same transmission. The drivetrain was slightly modified (shortened). Its differentials are almost the only part designed from scratch. All of the complex moving parts are COTS. The frame was modified bus frame. Their spare parts are not special ordered...they are the same ones used by the trucking industry. Then they welded a steel box onto it. Steel is cheap.
We are struggling to put out a few hundred M1114's a month. They are, in essence, hand made rather than a factory assembly line. All the complex COTS are available from efficient pre-existing large scale production sources. Putting them together might be no more efficient than the M1114, but the availablity of the parts we are putting together would be much greater. We could crank out vehicles designed for what we need quickly. In fact, more quickly than the M1114.
My point is not that we should buy SISUs. They are not designed for what we need. They are an APC as opposed to an armored car/patrol vehicle. The SISU is not an example of the vehicle we need, but it is an example of the process we need. The point is that we COULD, with the political will, give our troops what they really need. Quickly. Cheaply. But it is not politically expedient. Congressman couldn't tell their constituents how they brought home the bacon. The President would be charged with favoritism with unbid contracts and political favors.
Whatever lack of enthusiasm there is with regard to the armored humvee procurement from the military end is simply explained. They know it isn't what they need. They know it will turn into a maintanence nightmare. They are not enthusiastic about it...but they are willing to take it because they know that they aren't going to get what they really need.
The troops need armored vehicles and the public and press is echoing their call. But that doesn't mean we should be giving them what we happen to have available. Troops going from an M998 to an M1114 are happy to get them...without thinking that the vehicle they really need, and deserve, isn't available because of petty politics.
The conventional wisdom is that we need more armored humvees. Beware the conventional wisdom. It is rarely wise. Do you remember in the weeks after the war when the Brits were walking around in soft caps instead of helmets without body armor and the conventional wisdom was the the US was too armored?
Pitts crossed a journalistic ethics line in arranging what happened. But the issue he advocated for has some merit as evidenced by the soldiers' response to it...our troops need armored vehicles. But the solution at hand is not the right one. The fact that the jury rigging happens in the O'Gara Hess factory in Ohio as opposed to being done by the troops in the field doesn't make the armored humvee the vehicle our troops need. But political BS prevents us from getting the troops what they need in anything like a timely manner. We should use this as an opportunity to cut out the political BS rather than forcing our troops to use something other than the right equipment for the job.
I think you're on to something.
I've personally seen brief glimpses of the milspec process and, while there are some good aspects of it, it is much better suited to peacetime.
During wartime, the process actually serves to stifle American ingenuity, which is one of our greatest assets. We need a process, either temporary or permanent, that is able to "adapt and overcome".
I was discussing the Humvee issue over the weekend with someone after watching a news blurb, and it occured to me that many overlook the importance of logistics (I was speaking of delivery of the new Humvees, but it applies to the procurement process just as well) in wartime.
Yes, war is about killing people and breaking things. Sacrifice, leadership, discipline and political will are key. However war is also a logistical contest. WWII should have taught us that. The Japanese and Germans often demonstrated superior killing ability, sacrifice, discipline and often leadership. In some cases, they had better weapons. We joined the war at a severe disadvantage.
What made the difference is that the U.S. was able to adapt or redesign our weapons, outproduce our enemies, and then deliver those arms to our fighting men with some degree of efficiency. We certainly weren't perfect, but the result was enough to make the difference.
Our own Civil War is another example. Certainly both sides had dedicated and skilled soldiers. Leadership was largely equal. Recall that the South initially was able to push the armies of the North all the way up to Pennsylvania. In the end, the North was able to innovate, and then supply its troops better than the South in both arms and supplies.
Obviously, there are other aspects of both conflicts. However, I think its important to remember that logistics isn't some trivial pursuit unrelated to the outcome of war. In many ways, just as war=killing, war=logistics.
The big question is how to get our representatives to stop playing politics and start doing what's best for our troops. I think W could pull it off, but I'm not sure his advisors are able to think outside the box. Maybe its time for some people in industry to come up with something and present it to some key people in the Pentagon?
It need not be purely for patriotic reasons. The Humvee->Hummer sybiosis could easily be repeated. I'd wager there's potentially a small, but significant market for a civilian version of the military vehicle you describe, depending on what results.
My response to a freepmail question:
The half track and light tank are not what we need. It has to be a wheeled vehicle for a whole slew of reasons. I also don't think a vehicle from another army is quite the right fit...there has never been a vehicle designed as an 'armored peacekeeping vehicle' so whatever requirements there are, it is highly unlikely anything quite right has been fielded. Plus, I'd rather see it made in America.
Of the vehicles that do exist, probably the closest type to what we need is the armored car/scout vehicle. America has never really been big into them, but other countries have them. The soviets used BRDM-2's, the Brits have one (Scarab...I think that is the name) and the Brazilians make a whole slew of wheeled vehicles everything from an almost tank to an IFV to an armored car...I think it is called blindando or something like that. Other countries have them as well. I think it would be worth analyzing armored cars for their various strengths and weaknesses regarding what we need, but I think it would only make sense to design and build what we need, and do it quickly using COTS (commercial off the shelf) components.
It seems obvious that if what you want is an armored personnel carrier, you don't start with a marginally-powered 4X4, and start tacking on armore.
Your link makes a very good point that congress controls what the army buys and how many...the military has to go through Congress for any changes. But by the same token, why did the military brass not make a stink about getting only 450 of the vehicles that we supposedly have such a desperate need for? Especially if the military made a stink about 'giving our troops the protection they need' and it was introduced seperately, there probably wouldn't be a single congressman voting against it for fear that someone in their district dies and gets blamed on them for not voting for armored humvees.
By the same token, what we need is not quite an APC. An APC is designed to carry infantry into high intensity battle. What we need is a vehicle that can be handed out to anyone and everyone and used for all sorts of things...driving commanders around, small supply runs, moving a few people around, and probably most important of all, patrolling.
Our army is one of the few does not have a purpose built scout reconnaisance vehicle...they are either in humvees (general utility vehicle) or Bradleys (slightly modified IFVs). If we had one, it would probably be closer to the requirement than anything else we have...but it still wouldn't be quite right.
That is my point...we have a new need with new requirements, and we should give our troops a vehicle designed for that mission. We don't even have to make it part of a unit's TO&E...we can just hand it out in addition to units meeting the need. Units going to Iraq fall in on them, and units leaving leave them behind.
The other thing to note is that Iraq is not the first, and will not be the last, 'peacekeeping' or 'nation building' exercise. And our military is not equipped for it. In fact, I think we could make the case (and this is a whole separate discussion) that it shouldn't be. Our military is for fighting and winning wars and these peacekeeping missions dull the sharp edge we need. There is a case to be made that there should be seperate 'peacekeeping' units either within or outside the DOD.
Regardless, we have the mission, and we will for sometime (How many years ago did Clinton promise Bosnia would only be a 12 month mission?). Our military is getting much better at it with experience...which may not be a good thing. All that experience is experience doing something other than preparing to fight and win our nation's wars.
This is probably a crazy idea, but in a way, it worked for Linux...
We have enough people on this board who "get it". We likely have plenty of contacts who are or who know soldiers and marines in the field. They know what they need more than any of us.
Maybe we need a new regiment of Pajamadeen as a sort of "working group" to solicit comments from the men and women in the field, come up with some workable ideas, perhaps put together some "proof of concept" paperwork. Maybe even come up with a prototype or at least some drawings.
I'm sure there are engineers on this board who would be willing to contribute. That and contacts in the automotive and manufacturing industries. Plenty of "nuts and bolts" mechanics too, I'd wager.
Maybe we couldn't actually get a vehicle produced, but we could start the ball rolling. I bet we could accomplish a lot.
Rather than a Linus keeping everyone on track, perhaps we could assemble a group of patriotic experts to guide things along who are representative of several key aspects.
I'm sort of thinking out loud here, but isn't this the sort of thing that makes America what it is? We don't sit around complaining that the government isn't fixing problems, we come together and do what has to be done, hauling the politicians kicking and screaming behind if necessary.
I have to admit that I would not be optomistic about such an effort's chance of success. Perhaps I am already too jaded by my experiences in military procurement and procurement politics. But I would certainly be glad to help in whatever way I could. Although an engineer, I am not an automotive or mechanical engineer. But those engineering details are quite a few steps down the process.
At this point, the biggest issue would be deciding exactly what the requirement of any new vehicle is. For example, the requirements for an armored patrol vehicle would push the vehicle to be smaller, lighter and more manueverable. Visibility would be more important than cargo capacity. The requirements of the general utility vehicle push it larger, and then by necessity a little heavier and perhaps less manueverable. A general utility vehicle's cargo would be more important relative to a patrol vehicle's. That is not to say that these issues cannot be reconciled, but hitting the right point on scale between them to compromise is very important. Or perhaps the decision that we really need two different vehicles (which I personally don't think, but a case could certainly be made).
If someone wants to start collecting information from the troops in the field on that subject, I would certainly be interested in reading it. Ask them about they think an armored peacekeeping vehicle ought to be able to do. I fear that most of the input would be 'tainted' by limitations of the equipment they already have experience with.
These seem like a good start:
The sloped sides seem like a good idea. They appear to be produced with a high degree of OTS parts.
If they work for the Israelis, they must be pretty decent in the terrain of Iraq.
A 6 cylinder, 4.6 liter 166 hp engine seems mighty small for an armored vehicle, even a small one.
Well said blanknoone.
The citation your note was inserted to prevent the withholding of funding after 10 months of wrangling and dodging. You will note the FY04 supplemental was highly earmarked, only $1.5 of the $25 billion was undesignated. This is because both armed services committees concluded in May that Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld would divert the funds. Check Hunter's comments on May's House Armed Services Committee Hearings, and that was a Republican! Rumsfeld will never ever receive an unallocated appropriation like the $87 billion again. Its a no confidence vote of the first order.
Let me get back to you. Its a fair question. I've got to take care of something right now. I pulled the transcripts earlier this year after listening to it on cspan.
I'll be here.
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