The United States has satisfied about 70 percent of the
military's combat armored vehicle requirements in the Middle East and
Officials said that over the last year the U.S. Army has vastly
increased the number of combat and support military vehicles that received
armor. They said the aim was to armor every vehicle deployed by the U.S.
military in the Middle East, Persian Gulf, South Asia and Central Asia
Officials and soldiers said the accelerated rate of production has
been insufficient to achieve the army's goal to armor its entire vehicle
fleet in Iraq. They said the result has been a significant shortage of
armored vehicles particularly among transport and support units, which has
affected supplies to U.S. troops in Iraq.
At the same time, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld echoed the Pentagon assessment that armored
vehicles don't guarantee troop safety. He cited the destruction of U.S. main
battle tanks from mines, and other officials said 120 up-armored Humvees
were destroyed by insurgency attacks in Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported.
"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be
blown up," Rumsfeld said.
Defense Department officials said U.S. contractors were cranking out
hundreds of armored Humvees per month for the army. They said that only 15
months ago production of armored Humvees was about 30 per month.
On Dec. 8, Rumsfeld, meeting U.S. forces in Kuwait,
was told that army units were digging through local landfills for "pieces of
scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles."
Rumsfeld responded that production capability marked a key element in the
acquisition of up-armored kits for military vehicles deployed in Iraq.
"The army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a
rate that they believe," Rumsfeld said. "It's a
greatly expanded rate from what existed previously Ñ but, at a rate that
they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this
The U.S. military set a requirement of 8,100 up-armored Humvees, of
which about 6,000 were being produced, officials said. They said that about
22,000 of Central Command's fleet of 30,000 vehicles have received some form
Over the last few months, the army has expanded the up-armor effort to
include non-combat vehicles in Iraq, officials said. They said the army has
added armor to 507 heavy tactical trucks, 492 medium tactical vehicles, two
heavy equipment trailers, eight M-915 trucks and 187 palletized load system
vehicles that serve in Iraq. The army has operated four depots, two arsenals
and one ammunition plant for the production of the armor kits.
Lt. Gen. Steve Whitcomb, commander of the U.S. Third Army, outlined
three levels of up-armoring. In a briefing on Thursday, Whitecomb said Level
One, manufactured in the United States, provides glass and other armament on
the side, front, rear, top and bottom of the vehicle. He said slightly under
6,000 vehicles have received such protection.
Another 10,000 vehicles have received Level 2 protection, or the
installation of add-on armor on existing vehicles. Whitcomb said such work
has taken place in Iraq and Kuwait. Whitcomb said Level 2 does not provide
protection at the top or bottom of the vehicle.
The lowest level, regarded as an interim measure, was termed Level 3, or
hardening. This involved the welding of steel plates on military vehicles.
"Our real focus for the Level 3 armor is not the Humvees," Whitcomb
said. "It's really the series of trucks that the army uses in combat
operations. We're not doing it in large numbers yet. We're doing it where we
can. We're building a capacity to be able to do that more frequently, to
refurbish the fleet. But that is an issue."
Officials said the army has decided to produce armor add-on kits for all
wheeled vehicles deployed to Iraq and the rest of the area under U.S.
Central Command. The command is responsible for most of the Middle East,
Persian Gulf, Central Asia and South Asia.
Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita said the decision to launch add-on
armor production took place around August 2003 amid in an increase in
insurgency bombing attacks on U.S. combat vehicles and covoys in Iraq. Di
Rita said army commanders determined that combat troops and support units
were not sufficiently protected from rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and
roadside bombs, known in the military as improvised explosive devices.
In Iraq, Di Rita, said, commanders no longer permit unarmored vehicles
to drive alone. Instead, they have been placed in convoys with combat
"Commanders there at that point started to face this growing improvised
explosive device challenge and said that they would like to have higher
numbers of armored Humvees than they had originally projected," Di Rita
In December, the Pentagon awarded a $6.6 million contract to O'Gara-Hess
& Eisenhardt Armoring Armoring for support of up-armored Humvees for the
army. The Fairfield, Ohio-based company was contracted to complete the
project by December 2007.
Officials said that in 2004, the army has been producing about 450
armored Humvees per month. They said the armor add-on kits were being fitted
on to the 19,000 Humvees in the U.S. Central Command area of operations.
So far, 15,000 Humvees have been fitted with armor. The command has a
total of 30,000 vehicles and officials said about 8,000 of them have no form
of armor protection.
"While armor provides protection, it is not the be-all and end-all for
security," Pentagon spokesman Maj. Paul Swiergosz said. "The army's IED Task
Force and the Center for Army Lessons Learned have provided as much, if not
more, protection for our forces by sharing tactics, techniques and
procedures to help counter IED attacks."