U.S ARMY APPEALS FOR BETTER COMBAT VEHICLES IN IRAQ
25 May 04. Reuters reported that faced with continuing attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army generals on Tuesday urged defense contractors to step forward with creative ways to make combat vehicles less vulnerable to roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and other threats. This view is reinforced by Scott Gourlay in his forthcoming article in next month’s issue (ARMOR, ARMOR EVERYWHERE), and our comments below, ‘MAN DEMONSTRATES CAPABILITY IN ARMORUING TRUCKS’ for the UK Support Vehicle requirement. DVD will outline new armouring requirements this year.
Brig. Gen. Roger Nadeau, program executive officer for ground combat systems, lauded the performance of Abrams tanks and Stryker armed vehicles built by General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE:GD – News) and Bradley Fighting Vehicles built by United Defense Industries Inc. (NYSE:UDI – News) But he said all three vehicles, as well as armor-reinforced Humvees and trucks in maintenance convoys, remained vulnerable to attacks by roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, even though the U.S. military had already rushed to retrofit its equipment with additional armor and other protective gear.
“Underneath, on the sides, on top, there are specific areas” of vulnerability, Nadeau told a conference sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement. “We are always looking for ways to improve the survivability.”
“We need exponentially better — however you define what that is — and then it’s about balancing the cost,” he said. He vowed to be a company’s “strongest advocate” for rushing new protective gear to the frontlines as soon as possible, even if that involved trimming back funding elsewhere. Nadeau and Gen. Paul Kern, Commander of U.S. Army Materiel Command, underscored the need for continuing improvements, saying any temporary fixes could be incorporated into longer-term development of new combat vehicles.
‘TOO MANY FUNERALS’
The Pentagon decided last month to rush more tanks and other armored vehicles to Iraq to help commanders grappling with deteriorating security conditions. The move came at the end of a month in which 130 U.S. troops were killed, bringing the U.S. toll to 730 since the invasion of Iraq 14 months ago.
The bottom line was protecting U.S. troops, Nadeau said, adding, “We go to too many funerals.” News reports have estimated that nearly one in four deaths in Iraq could have been prevented if U.S. troops had more access to armored vehicles. Col. Don Kotchman, a project manager for the Army’s Future Combat Systems, said engineers were reviewing technologies being developed for new combat vehicles to see if there were any that could be accelerated for use on the battlefield now.
The big challenge was to make tanks and other vehicles more survivable without adding too much weight, which would lower their ability to manuever and speed, the officials said. Nadeau pledged to work with Congress, which controls Pentagon spending, to ensure viable technologies are sped to troops facing daily attack in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying he realized companies needed to know they could make money on the enterprise.
Lawmakers are ready to boost funding to help protect U.S. troops. Both the House and Senate added about $1 billion to the administration’s fiscal 2005 budget request to pay for thousands more up-armored Humvees and other protections.
Robert Kearns, CEO of Suppress X-S, a company that has developed a system to prevent fuel tanks from exploding even if they are hit by rocket-propelled grenades, rushed to talk to Nadeau after he spoke.
“I’m calling him to the mat,” Kearns said, noting his technology was lightweight and inexpensive and had already been tested by the Army, but bureaucratic obstacles had thus far prevented it from being sent to Iraq. A kit to prevent the fuel tank on a Humvee from exploding would