Iraqi heat and dust taking toll on U.S. military equipment

Thursday, December 4, 2003< /FONT>

The U.S. Army is struggling to maintain air and ground platforms in the Iraqi desert.

Officials said numerous platforms have been damaged or required additional maintenance because they could not function in the heat and dust that characterize the Iraqi summers. They said the army has requested additional funds for spare parts as well as research to prolong operations of the systems.

"This near-term objective of repairing or replacing equipment returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will not be easy," House subcommittee chairman on readiness, Rep. Joel Hefley, said.

The issue was discussed during a meeting by the House panel with senior service leaders on Oct. 21. The chairman and the service leaders said many air and ground platforms have been damaged by operations and harsh conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One example was the operation of the CH-53E heavy-lift helicopter. Officials said the Super Stallion, deployed by the Marine Corps, was found to have contained an average of 150 pounds of fine sand throughout the aircraft.

The Defense Department has been awarding contracts to a range of companies for the supply of spare parts. Parker Aerospace, based in Irvine, Calif., was awarded an $11.1 million contract for delivery of parts for the AH-64A Apache attack helicopter, the UH-60 Black Hawk, the CH-47 Chinook and the OH-58 Kiowa helicopters.

Gen. Richard Cody, the army's deputy chief of staff for operations, said his service requires additional armored Humvees as well as ceramic-enhanced body armor. He added that the army needs repair or replacement of some 250,000 pieces of equipment, including aviation systems, communications and electronics systems, tracked and wheeled vehicles, missile systems.

"We must continue to resource our operations with the right equipment to complete the mission in Iraq and to continue the pursuit of the global war on terrorism," Cody said.

Much of the marine platforms sustained failure or battle damage during the drive from Kuwait to Tikrit during the first two weeks of the U.S.-led war in March, Gen. William Nyland, assistant marine commandant, told the House panel. The corps plans to obtain additional supplies and maintenance through the $87 billion supplemental allocation in the fiscal 2004 budget.

Air force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley said his service must replenish his stocks. This includes replacement of precision munitions kits, old-tech bombs, and other ordnance. "

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