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Humvee armor suppliers working around the clock.

The now familiar sight of Humvees struck by mines and roadside bombs in Iraq are driving the industry to pursue short-term fixes and long-range changes in the way they produce vehicles.

The attacks prompted a frantic effort to send armor kits to Iraq and purchase up-armored versions of the Humvees, which were not designed for frontline combat. They were introduced in the 1980s as a replacement for Jeeps.

In April 2004, Maj. Gen. John Sattler. Director of Operations for CENTCOM, said that their initial request for up-armored Humvees hovered at 1,000 vehicles. "As the enemy changed his tactics and techniques, we upped that number where we have now in theater about 2.500 up-armored Humvees," he said during a press conference. "There are additional up-armored Humvees on contract that will flow in, approximately another 2,000 that will flow in between now and in December. So at that point, we'll have approximately 4.500."

He added that commanders on the ground asked for more help, quicker, so the production rate has increased. In addition, the Pentagon purchased and installed 8,000 up-armored kits to protect windshields and doors.

"It's not a matter of resources, it's a matter of how fast can we build these things and get them over here." Gen. Richard Myers chairman of the joint chiefs, said during a May visit to Iraq.

The Army's sole contractor for putting the armor plating on the standard Humvee chassis. Armor Holdings Inc., established a new group to respond to military requests.

In May, Armor Holdings received a $16.6 million contract to supply additional up-armored Humvees through 2004 and into 2005. The company will increase its vehicle production rates to 350 units per month. The award also includes up-armored Humvees for the United States Air Force for delivery in early 2005.

Another firm, ArmorWorks LLC, is also producing aad-on armor kits for Humvees. In 2003, the company sent two engineers on a pilot program to Iraq to train soldiers on how to install armor kits.

In February one of the trucks with the ArmorWorks kit was struck by a roadside bomb. blasting the driver's side. The Kevlar plates stopped the shrapnel, according to information released by the company, although one soldier went deaf in one ear. That sort of battle testing has increased confidence of commanders and soldiers alike in the up-armored kits, the company said.

ArmorWorks additionally is pursuing energy absorbing technology that can mitigate blast effects from bombs. "nines and artillery. These systems are being designed for the U.S. Army Stryker light armored troop carrier and the Marine Corps' new Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

The Army, meanwhile, is producing new crew protection kits that augment medium and heavy vehicle seats with ceramic armor plates. The system, designed by Army engineers, is called vehicle class body armor support systems (V-BASS). Mounted on the truck seat, the V-BASS wraps passengers in body armor, but the 60 pounds of weight rest on the seat instead of the soldier, The $1,800 kit already is being used in combat. More than 110 V-BASS systems were shipped to Balad. Iraq, in December 2003 for field evaluation. No further production is expected, according to manufacturer STS International Inc., although the company said it is ready to produce them on a wide scale if asked.

Add-on kits may help save lives in the short term, but more needs to be done in the future to make armor and vehicle designs that are compatible, said industry experts.

Researchers and engineers from armor companies and vehicle manufacturers increasingly are collaborating, said Lori Wagner, manager of Honeywell's advanced fibers and composites technology division.

"We're working directly with vehicle manufacturers so that our armoring capabilities will be in concert with the skin and frames of the vehicle," she said.

"Most armor systems are either add-ons or supplements," Wagner said. "We're looking at being able to incorporate the two in order to mold the two together into one system."

By fusing armor, skin and frame during production, the weight and toughness requirements could be achieved, she said, Although this level of integration is a future goal, the current collaboration with vehicle engineers and scientists has aided armor suppliers seeking to meet the needs of specific vehicles.

"Beyond that we are looking at how to we're advancing the fiber itself," Wagner said. Researchers are reconfiguring the fiber alignment and developing new resins to enhance the energy absorption and pliability of the armor. Honeywell's Spectra Shield is currently being evaluated for several different applications including the Expeditionary Force Vehicle, Stryker vehicle, Humvees and other trucks.

To protect against rocket-propelled grenades, researchers at Battelle are investigating electromagnetic armor.
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Author:Pappalardo, Joe
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2004
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