In the Seattle Times:
Responding to a request by field commanders, military leaders are increasing the delivery of armored vehicles to Iraq because deadly roadside bombings have not diminished as expected.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday that a request for more heavy armored vehicles — Abrams M1A1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles — has been made by commanders in Iraq. The Pentagon is considering sending more tanks and is accelerating production of armored Humvee utility vehicles.
Forces now arriving in Iraq as part of a massive troop rotation were ordered to leave many of their heavily armored tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles behind, in the belief that since their mission was peacekeeping instead of fighting, heavy equipment would be unnecessary.
But the violence targeting U.S. troops has escalated, not diminished. “The reason this is significant is because over the last several months they have been shipping all the armor in the theater out because of this persistent view that Humvees and mounted infantry is really all that’s required,” said one high-ranking Army officer in Washington In a March 30 memo, Gen. Larry Ellis, the head of the Army’s Forces Command, told the Army chief of staff, “It is imperative that the Army accelerate the production of Stryker vehicles to support current operations.”
A Fort Lewis-based unit is built around the Stryker, which can carry 11 troops and has half-inch armor plating. The Stryker was deployed late last year for the first time in Iraq, despite a Pentagon study that found it may be vulnerable to rocket-propelled grenade attacks.
Between the shortage of armored vehicles to face the recent insurgency and the fact that the Humvees that have had armor added are breaking down too frequently, maybe we could use some of those M113s we keep hearing about? The anti-Stryker folks are happy to point out that we’ve got tons of the things sitting around unused. Maybe we could use some of them for patrols in tough areas, at least until armored Humvee production catches up with the requirements. Most soldiers must have at least a passing familiarity with the M113, so I think it would be able to be fielded rather quickly. Sure, the armor isn’t what we’d like, but it’s a hell of a lot better than a Humvee.
Of course, M113 success in Iraq might make the expensive Stryker look bad. By all accounts the Stryker is performing very well, though, and I’ve said before that there’s room in this Army for both.