Body armor, Humvee armor, and tracked armor

Army’s Cold War thinking impeded production of armored HMMWV

Phil Carter at Intel Dump has a brilliant post on what he calls a brilliant story in the Wall Street journal about the cause of the up-armored Humvee shortage. It’s a little lengthy and all good. This is important, and you should go read it.

He relates how the Military Police, previously the major supporters of the up-armored Humvee variants, was out-weighed and out-voted by the combat arms, especially the armored generals. The initial armored Humvees suffered a variety of mechanical problems, and the armor folks jumped all over them. I’ll only quote one graph:

The Armor community may have cited these problems in its decision, but the real issue was that it didn’t want to procure equipment for anything less than high-intensity combat. You see, an admission of the value of equipment for low-intensity conflict and peacekeeping operations would diminish the value of armored forces, which are designed to fight high-intensity battles. The Armor community was even willing to do so at the expense of its scouts, who drive the exact same M1025 un-armored HMMWVs that MPs do. This Cold War high-intensity combat paradigm was so prevalent in the Army that the MP community — the Army’s center of excellence for peacekeeping ops — could not sell this program to the Army in any sufficient numbers. Mr. Jaffe is right that the MP corps lacks a 3- or 4-star general. The path to advancement in the Army has never been through low-intensity conflict or peacekeeping operations; it has always been through the combat arms. Senior Army leaders today may see things differently, because many have Balkans experience (like retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, who predicted it would take “several hundred thousand” troops to secure Iraq). But in the mid-1990s, when this program was in the early stages, the Army still believed in its Cold War/Gulf War I paradigm.

First off, we need to consider our support personnel as combatants. The operations in Iraq, during the invasion and after, have proven that our support units are going to come under fire for two reasons: 1) The low-intensity nature of this war means that there will always be the threat of attack by irregulars, and 2) When the primary thrusts drive hard and fast into enemy territory, the supply lines needed to keep them moving are going to get long. The longer those supply lines are, the more important they become AND the more vulnerable to attack they are.

Every soldier needs to be a rifleman. Every unit needs basic combat training and equipment. Every Humvee and truck needs at least basic protection from small-arms fire and roadside bombs. Every campaign needs to take guerrilla warfare and potentially-hostile locals into account.

I still think that there’s a place in the Army for an all-Humvee combat unit. We don’t need tanks or even Strykers in places like Liberia and Haiti. But un-armored Humvees have proven to be too vulnerable.

At the same time, if the road to Baghdad proved we need more armored Humvees, it also proved the value of heavy armor even in lower-intensity situations. The M1s and the Bradleys spearheaded the assault on Iraq, and if we would have been using Strykers and armored Humvees instead, our losses would have been far, far greater. Different missions require different equipment, and to suggest that procuring armored Humvees threatens the existence of our heavy forces is illogical. There’s only so much money in the budget, of course, but those are the sort of tough decisions that we’re going to have to make to win this war.


  1. Yes, but they’re scheduled to convert to the Stryker. I’m a cautious Stryker fan, but I think we will have call for a Hummer-based unit, from time to time. Although if most overseas Hummers end up armored, maybe that would make an armored-hummer force redundant, as everyone would be an armored-hummer force.

  2. Please help the Soldiers get the armor they need. Based on the 12-8-04 press conference our Soldiers are creative enough to go-to-the-dump, find scrap metal & glass then weld it in place, on site. Specifications for all government vehicles are here in the USA. Specific armor parts back-fitting every vehicle could already have been manufactured & shipped out. The military is not saving money putting even one Soldier at risk. It is a cold hard fact that VA hospitals around the world are spending millions treating our injured Soldiers. There is no way to count for the Soldier’s pain & suffering. And, money-saved can not be measured in sorrow for the over 1,000 plus dead. Some of which will have to be blamed on the lack of proper equipment. I have a Soldier in Iraq. Let’s stop the talk. Let’s get our priorities right. Get the private sector were involved. It is only the government that takes months, years to deliver product. What can we do to start a war for the right safety supplies now? This is America. How come we can’t solve a simple problem like getting a needed, live saving part in production and delivered? Where are the Bloggers? This is beyond stupid. Betty Norris 12-9-04

  3. I’m currently stationed in Kirkuk Iraq, the past few months the threat of IED’s has considerably grown in this area, not only with them along the roads but also vehicle born IED’s. I drive an M1114 every day and know the problems of these vehicles, their limitations, and the lack of protective armor. Yes the M1114 is the heavy armored version of the HUMVEE, but just 2 days ago one of my buddies lost both of his lower legs when a shaped charge IED went off next to the vehicle he was driving, sending shrapnel through the 2′ thick armor door leaving a 3′ hole through the armor, and sending another piece of shrapnel through the light armored area right in front and below the door hinge which caused him to loose both his lower legs. So even these M1114’s aren’t the best vehicle to be driving in this war. Up until now all of our other IED encounters have led to maybe a few pieces of shrapnel hitting the back trunk area of the vehicle or a flat tire, not until an IED goes off in the right location do you realize how unarmored these armored HUMVEEs really are. Mechanically these HUMVEEs are very lacking. They break down constantly, are severely overloaded 1.25 ton truck carrying upwards of 6 tons, underpowered (governed in a combat zone might I add). These HUMVEEs are constantly being rolled due to the lack of training received on driving these vehicles. I’ve been an offroader for many years, and having an inexperienced person driving basically an SUV that is overly top heavy is bound to cause problems. The majority of the rollovers are caused by going around corners and abruptly applying the brakes, causing the suspension to bottom out and the fender to catch a wheel and over it goes. The suspension in these vehicles is heavy duty, but is still not heavy enough to handle the weight of the added armor. Yes the M1114 HUMVEE is nice to have, but when faced with vehicle born IED’s and IED’s in general they don’t seem to be holding up as well as people try to say they do. There isn’t any armor under the vehicle, so heaven forbid you run over an IED and it goes off, so if the IED is large enough not only is it going to blow through the bottom of the HUMVEE your likely going to end up on your side plus have pretty much all the drive train components coming through the floor of the HUMVEE also, not to mention the shrapnel and anything else under the vehicle. Something needs to be done, we have lost enough people over here already, and for what? These people are never going to change they have been fighting for years why does the US think we can change anything?

  4. Just days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor DEC. 1941, FDR requested 10,000 planes from the US Army. After one year they did not deliver the 10,000 planes but rather 100,000 planes. In ONLY one year! That was 60 years ago. Before the PC and the Billions in US Tax dollars we are spending on the IRAQ war. My father was in the US Air Force for 37 years.He was A Mustang. I propose an emergency new design pulling from Private industry heavily and bypassing the conventional funding and manufacturing process with long govt.contract reviews etc.. A series of newly designed airbags from new rip resistant composit materials combined with not a single thick layer of steal but rather a series of steel layers with engineered high nesity newly designed foam gaps between the layers of steal. As for rollovers, I have been raised in the desert with Off Road racing starting with the MINT 400 in Vegas. Radical ANTI Roll technology exists and needs to be incorporated into a new HV design. Turbo Charged Diesels without governors in the 500-750 hoarse power range may be expensive but look at the HUMAN cost and the economies of scale and cost reductions possible with mass production. All electrical signals should be scrambled and a new specific narrow band comm must be established for US Troops. I realize a hard wire can not be hacked. But we can scramble a lot of common RF signals(garage door openers etc..IF it is a war zone forget about Cel Phones. The high center of gravity is the big problem as a new design I propose would actually raise the physical distance the soldiers ride off the ground and hence the distance between the device and the bodies of out soldiers. Right now I imagine the enemy times the explosion to go off when it is centered under the passengers?? I’am not there. I would appreciate some feedback from actual NCO’s and officers driving these vehicles who might comment on a series of steel plates with distance bewtween the new alloy steel plates and a lightweight high density composit foam between the layers. Would airbags mounted into the floors made of much stronger KEVLAR type materials reduce metal flying and causing injuries? I also think doors themselve must go. A new entrance, exit method with a solid removeable single door with overlapping steels traps in and out for preventing metal flying debri. A single door like the Gulf Wing coming from the top would work also. George Bush needs to read a history book about how we prepared and fought WW2 in the first 365 days. I like many Americans want to help win this WAR. Congress never has declared war on anybody in Iraq. The pentagon is on a PEACE TIME FOOTING according to their own people. Patriots should do more than put a yellow sticker on their car or truck. They should delay getting their new GMC Yukon so we can deliver to the troops a radically new designed high powered fast and really built and engineered based on IED and combating them using all known and possibley newly developed technology. Detroit TOOLED UP for WW2. We have not tooled up since then for anything! NASA got us to the moon but we need an emergency meeting of the minds combining All the Major motor vehicle companies. Just as we had Lockheed and Boeing compete for the new Joint Strike Fighter Jet for the Air FOrce, Navy and Marines we need a FAST TRACK new Humvee design competition. 6 months for a Prototype with Production starting in 7 months. We as a Great Nation can do this . Look at what we did with making 100,000 planes in one year! Please give me feedback and tell me if I’am crazy or dreaming! If any Auto Execs making over 7 digits reads this email me and tell me like I’am 3 why we can’t do today what we did 60 years ago! WE need imagination and creativity by those OUTSIDE THE Forests looking in on the Slow moving Govt.. My prayers are with all of you fighting for your Nation, Unit and Life.May the Infinite Power of God surround and protect you each and every second you are in Country! God Bless You All! I pray for your safety each and everyday.