TACTICAL WHEELED VEHICLES – U.S. ARMY RE-LEARNS OLD LESSONS
By Scott R. Gourley
“We have learned a lot over the last year, but unfortunately
we have not learned anything new.” – Honorable Claude M. Bolton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology
As in past years, the 2004 National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Tactical Wheeled Vehicles (TWV) Conference provided key government and industry TWV experts with a forum to share lessons learned and discuss emerging technologies. The 2004 conference, held 1 – 3 February in Monterey, California, which included the highest registration figures ever recorded for the annual event, focused its primary spotlight on the activities of the past year.
Representative of the entire conference tone was the “keynote” address
presented by The Honorable Claude M. Bolton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
“Last year we were engaged in war and in winning that war,” Bolton opened. “This year we’re winning the peace. We have learned a lot over the last year, but unfortunately we have not learned anything new.”
Bolton went on to “ask” the audience if they knew how many Tactical
Wheeled platforms were currently managed by the U.S. Army. While rhetorical to some, the answer – more than 295,000 including trailers – seemed to surprise some attendees. Of that figure, between 36,000 and 37,000 TWV platforms are operating in Iraq, roughly 12 percent of the fleet.
Conference attendees were somewhat less surprised by the Assistant
Secretary’s second question, “What is the average aging of a Tactical
wheeled Vehicle in Iraq, versus peacetime operations?”
“It’s 10 – 12 times,” he answered. “And that means we are riding the heck out of these things.And, to the credit of all of you in here, the vehicles are doing reasonably well.”
“Force Protection is Key,” Bolton continued. “And if you get nothing else out of this conference you should understand that Force Protection is ‘Number 1.’ Last year we were kind of concerned about that but we’ve learned over the last year that the enemy is adaptive and we’ve got to get a whole lot better.”
He presented a list of programs and activities to emphasize what a year’s worth of Force Protection learning has prompted: including increased emphasis on Movement Tracking System (MTS); increased production of up-armored HMMWVs [high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle]; add-on armor kits for unarmored / soft-skin HMMWVs; development of M939 series 5 ton truck armor kits; and a new HEMTT [heavy expanded mobility tactical truck] crew protection kit program.
“And, of course, ‘Yankee Ingenuity’ is alive and well,” he said, expanding on the subject with a short World War II history lesson about U.S. tankers in the 29th and 2nd Armored Divisions who welded parts from Rommel’s beach obstacles to the front of their Sherman tanks, creating the capability to tear through the French hedgerows that helped slow the Normandy breakout.
Returning to a present day perspective, Bolton described the recent efforts of Captain Darryl M. Butler, a facility engineer with Task Force 1st Armored Division.
“He’s come up with something that they call the ‘Butler-mobile,'” he
explained. “And he’s gotten a group of Iraqi engineers, welders and
painters together and they’ve put together these [add-on armor] kits –
approximately 25 piece kits – weighing about 900 pounds, and they are
putting them on various vehicles to supplement what [we] are already doing in terms of add-on armor. Why? Because people are shooting at them today and they don’t see anything on the horizon for at least another month.”
Turning to the recent deployment of the Army’s first “Stryker” Brigade
Combat Team, Bolton noted that, “Last year at this time we were going
through the workup exercises getting ready to go down to [Fort] Polk [for May 2003 Certification Exe