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Armor lessons.

What a prescient leader was the former U.S. Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, when he proposed transforming his service with a mix of heavy and medium armored vehicles. The wisdom of his approach is demonstrated in Roxana Tiron's article on the use of armored vehicles in Iraq ("Heavy Armor Gains Clout in Urban Combat," July 2004).

Shinseki was criticized roundly for wanting to equip light brigades with the medium-weight Stryker armored vehicle. At the same time, advocates of transformation denounced him for insisting on retaining a significant number of heavy armored combat vehicles. It looks like he was right on both decisions.

As the article correctly points out, the Army needs a mix of vehicle types, particularly for stability and counterinsurgency operations. The new Stryker medium-weight brigade has proven to be highly effective in Iraq, maintaining security over an area that took an entire light division to patrol, while providing enhanced survivability for crew and passengers. Units from that brigade have participated in intense fighting in both open and urban terrain. If not for the industrial base limitations, the Pentagon would probably be shipping more Strykers to Iraq instead of armor kits for Humvees.

But heavy armor also has a definite role to play in modern urban warfare. This is a lesson the Israelis learned several years ago and the United States should have learned after Mogadishu. Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles provide superior protection and firepower. It is no wonder that Iraqi insurgents focus on attacking light-skinned Humvees and trucks. They are far easier and safer targets to attack. Moreover, those Abrams upgraded to the M1A2 SEP configuration have proven especially effective in Iraq due to their enhanced sensor and targeting capabilities.

Shinseki's vision of the future Army also served as the base for the effort by the current chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, to build combined-arms modular brigades. These new "units of action" will consist of a mix of heavy, medium and light--even robotic--vehicles.

Daniel Goure

The Lexington Institute

Arlington, VA
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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Goure, Daniel
Publication:National Defense
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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