Better armor sought for military vehicles

Friday, March 26, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Responding to roadside attacks on military trucks and Humvees in Iraq, the Pentagon hopes to get kits providing greater protection to about 10,000 vehicles by the summer, a spokesman said Thursday.

The military is making many of the kits on its own, but has contracted out some of the work to speed along the process, said Maj. Gary Tallman, a Pentagon spokesman for Army weapons and technology issues.

Among the private firms manufacturing the kits is St. Louis-based Engineered Support Systems Inc. The company this month received two contracts totaling $23.8 million for 773 kits.

The kits are designed to thwart snipers, suicide bombers and others that have attacked non-combat military vehicles.

"In Iraq, you've got an unconventional enemy that targets combat support units," Tallman said.

Vehicles like Humvees and trucks, part of the Army's group of medium tactical vehicles, were not originally designed with heavy armor because they are not traditionally used at the front of combat, Engineered Support spokesman Daniel Kreher said.

Each crew protection kit made by Engineered Support Systems costs about $30,000, Kreher said. The kits use a simple bolt-on/bolt-off application that fits over the existing cab.

Some of the existing trucks and Humvees have canvas doors and traditional windows. In fact, the doors are removed altogether on some vehicles.

The kit includes reinforced glass, thicker doors and floor boards that are more difficult to penetrate, but don't hinder the vehicles' speed and maneuverability.

The roadside attacks in Iraq had become so concerning that some units were customizing their own trucks and Humvees, including a National Guard unit from Jefferson City. Tallman said the Pentagon has been developing the protection kits since last fall, though it does allow individual units to customize their own armor as long as those upgrades meet specifications.

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