Washington: The Army’s Humvee has become a modern military icon, replacing the World War II-era Jeep as one of the most recognizable vehicles on the battlefield.
It also provides just as much protection against improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades as those vehicles built by Henry Ford in the 1940′s.
The introduction of up-armored versions of the Humvee and the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle into Iraq and Afghanistan have leveled the playing field, but even today, U.S. troops know that when you load up into a light-armored Humvee, it’s a roll of the dice.
Top Army brass know this, and are looking to do something about it, Army Chief of Staff nominee Gen. Ray Odierno told the Hill this week.
During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, Odierno said the Army was considering building in scalable protective solutions into the 100,000 Humvees the service plans to upgrade in the coming months.
The Pentagon has already begun strengthening certain versions of the MRAP that are vulnerable to a particular kind of IED, known as an explosively formed penetrator, built by Iran.
“The protection of our troops and how we use these vehicles is important, and so we always try to include the most protection that we can,” Odierno said. “Either in the original design or some sort of armor that can be attached later on to protect them.”
Those scalable solutions would include armor and other defensive upgrades to the Humvee that would defend it against RPGs and IEDs — the weapons of choice for Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Army leaders have also adopted a similar plan for its future fleet of Ground Combat Vehicles and Joint Light Attack Vehicles.
GCV, designed to fill the gap between the Army’s medium-armored Stryker vehicle and M1A1 Abrams tank, is still behind schedule with the service poised to award contracts within the next few months.
But a recently released memo by Army Secretary John McHugh detailed efforts the service is taking to get its acquisition programs, including the GCV, back on track.
But until then, U.S. troops will be left to patrol the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan in the Humvee. And until Army leaders decide what they are going to do to increase protection in those vehicles, each trip American soldiers take into the field will be a gamble.