Manufacturers Could Boost Humvee Armor Output 22%

Armor Holdings Could Boost Humvee Armor Output 22% (Bloomberg)

Armor Holdings Inc., the sole supplier of protective plates for the Humvee military vehicles used in Iraq, said it could increase output by as much as 22 percent per month with no investment and is awaiting an order from the Army. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said [Wednesday] the Army was working as fast as it can and supply is dictated by “a matter of physics, not a matter of money.” A Pentagon spokeswoman declined comment.

Jacksonville, Florida-based Armor Holdings last month told the Army it could add armor to as many as 550 of the trucks a month, up from 450 vehicles now, Robert Mecredy, president of the company’s aerospace and defense group, said in an interview today. “We’re prepared to build 50 to 100 vehicles more per month,” Mecredy said in the telephone interview. “I’ve told the customer that and I stand ready to do that.”

Insurgent attacks on the vehicles with homemade bombs and rocket-propelled grenades account for as much as half of the more than 1,000 U.S. deaths and 9,000 U.S. wounded in Iraq, and have fueled criticism by members of Congress such as Representative Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, that the Pentagon didn’t adequately equip U.S. troops.

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Armor Holdings has already boosted output from 60 vehicles per month a year ago, said Mecredy, 58. As a result of the increased output, Armor Holdings has cut the price for the armor its supplies for the trucks to $58,000 per vehicle, from $72,000 per vehicle a year ago, Mecredy said. Shares of Armor Holdings rose $1.82, or 4.5 percent in New York Stock Exchange composite trading at 12:37 p.m.

When he was asked about current production yesterday, Rumsfeld said he wasn’t sure of the exact figure. “It’s something like 400 a month are being done,” he said. “It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it,” Rumsfeld, 72, said.

Making the armor has to be coordinated with output of the actual trucks by AM General LLC of South Bend, Indiana, Mecredy said. AM General spokesman Lee Woodward also said that truck output could also be increased. “If they ordered more trucks, we’d build more trucks,” Woodward said. “We’re not close to capacity. It might take some time to ramp up but we can do it.” Woodward declined to provide exact details on production capacity.

The main reason there isn’t enough armor is because the military has underestimated its own needs, said Meghan Keck, spokeswoman for Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat. Bayh wrote a letter to Rumsfeld in October calling for a more accurate estimate of Humvee needs.
“If the Army would be up front about the number of Humvees needed, the companies would be able to set their production accordingly to meet the need,” Keck said in a phone interview.

Obviously, we need to get to the bottom of this quickly. If Rumsfeld or other leaders are intentionally underfunding this program at this stage, they should be fired.

I am confused, however, about the need for producing more HMMWVs. My understanding is that the armor kits can simply be installed on the standard platform retroactively.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mike says:

    I am no expert on this but basically what the pentagon has briefed is that the “up-armor” kits are being sent to iraq/kuwait and installed by soldiers/contractors – they are also producing more “armored HMMWVs” (bigger engine/stronger frame) which are the ideal choice

    I have been tracking stories about the lack of armor for a while – I find it truly amazing that in a capatilist society like ours, only two companies are capable of supplying the up-armor kits – these aren’t complicated items – I can understand other companies not being able to make an armored HMMWV right off the assembly line

    I would bet the pentagon is dragging its feet for two reasons:
    1. cost
    2. wear and tear of up-armor on HMMWV (b/c of the added weight on a frame not designed to hold it – long term cost of replacing HMMWV in the future
    Either way this is sad – letting costs win out over soldiers’ lives and limbs
    my two cents anyway…

  2. McGehee says:

    Either way this is sad – letting costs win out over soldiers’ lives and limbs

    I’d be interested in a factual examination of just how much of a difference armor on Humvees really makes in terms of the injuries suffered by troops in Iraq.

    If a reporter from Chattanooga cooked up the current controversy mainly because he was going to be traveling in an unarmored Humvee, it’s worth considering the possibility this isn’t as real an issue as everyone’s saying.

  3. John says:

    In further reading, I note that it’s truck armor that is the major issue. While HMMWVs have been armored, to a greater or lesser degree, the trucks are pretty naked.

    OEM armor is superior to later add-ons. The rule applies to military vehicles as much as it does to your private car. While there may be some exceptions, OEM equipment is generally designed to meet the mechanical needs of the entire system, not just a single feature.

    This, incidentally, is why US ambassador’s cars overseas are always “foreign” (Mercedes, for the most part.) No US manufacturer is currently making an affordable armored sedan. A half-million dollars is not a good investment for a couple of hundred ambassadors. It makes good sense for a President or Vice President. But those cars mostly get after-market up-armoring in a very special way.

  4. LJD says:

    Obvioiusly we all want our troops to have the most armored vehicles available, the best body armor and equipment. There is no valid reason they should not have it in this day and age.

    However, amongst the media frenzy, there are some other things to consider… First, not every troop lacking the armor is in Fallujah, or a place of similar violence. I would say with some certainty that the troops in Kuwait and Qatar do not require the same level of protection as those in the Sunni Triangle.

    Second, there is nothing that can be done which provides 100% results. There is no protection available to prevent injury or death to all of our soldiers, all of the time. The M1 Abrams was thought to be invincible for a long time. We have seen them burned by relatively primative weapons.

    Lastly, if the soldiers in question had just arrived in Kuwait, to be sent into theater, then they were still deploying. What would they know about the conditions where they’re headed? Observing the media’s knowledge of military hardware in the past, and knowing that they cued the soldiers questioning Rumsfeld, makes it all the more speculative. Yeah, Rumsfeld’s answer was lame, and dumb. He deserves to get burned for it. But I have yet to see the facts supporting the case.

  5. LJD says:

    Who knew we would see Democrats arguing FOR spending in Iraq and in defense. What next, Mandatory prayer in schools? ha ha ha ha ha

  6. Anjin-San says:

    One more example of the administrations incopetence… nothing in Rumsfeld’s demenor suggests he really give a rats ass if a few more boys are killed or wounded. After all, war is hell, right? Well it is for the guys who are doing the dying. Rumsfelsd should be fired, immediatly.

  7. McGehee says:

    Gosh, Anjin! I never would’ve guessed you felt that way. Somehow your 417 other comments containing variations on this theme never quite got the message out.

  8. Long post over at my blog on this subject. Two quotes from DOD briefs:

    “We’ve got about 30,000 wheeled vehicles in our theater — in Iraq and Afghanistan and other areas that CFLCC and Central Command operate. Of that 30,000 vehicles, around a little less than 8,000 of them do not have some type of armor protection on them — level one, two or three. Of those vehicles that don’t, some number of them are things like tool trucks, communication vans or vehicles that don’t leave the base camp. In other words, they’re trucked up into Iraq — or in cases before what we’re doing now, were driven up into Iraq — and they go onto a base camp, and that’s where they spend most of their time.”

    “There are 19,000 Humvees in the U.S. Central Command area of operations. This area extends from Kazakhstan to Kenya. Of these, officials said, 15,000 are armored vehicles or have been fitted with armor.[snip]

    The armor issue certainly is a high priority for the military. “People like having that security, that’s for sure,” said an Army spokesman. The Army is speeding up production of armor add-on kits not only for Humvees, but also for all wheeled vehicles that will be deployed to the CENTCOM area. To date, the Army has added armor to 507 heavy tactical trucks, to 492 medium tactical vehicles, to two heavy equipment trailers, to eight M-915 trucks and to 187 palletized load system vehicles.

    The Army has four depots, two arsenals and one ammunition plant working on the armor kits. Overall production is in the 100s per month.”

    Remember: This is the first time in American history when armor was being provided for every vehicle a soldier could possibly ride in. No such protections existed in Bosnia, Gulf War 1, Vietnam, Korea, etc.

  9. Anjin-San says:

    McGehee:

    Sorry if my concern for our guys in Iraq annoys you. Please feel free to blame the Iraq disaster on the media or tell us how the sun shines out of Bush’s ass or whatever else you wish to share…

    My goodness, I actually proposed holding a senior goverment official accountable for poor job performance which let to American servicmen being killed and wounded. What the hell am I thinking?

  10. Anjin-San says:

    The Bush administration moved swiftly to quell criticism from troops Thursday by outlining plans to protect all military vehicles used in Iraq. But two companies under contract to the Pentagon said their offers to boost production went unheeded […]

    Former Republican congressman Matt Salmon of Arizona, a spokesman for ArmorWorks in Tempe, Ariz., said his company will finish a $30 million contract with the Pentagon this month to make 1,500 armor kits for Humvees. “We are at 50% capacity, and we could do a lot more,” he said. “They are aware of it.”

    Armor Holdings of Jacksonville told the Army last month it could add armor to as many as 550 trucks a month, up from 450, said Robert Mecredy of its aerospace and defense group. “We’re prepared to build 50 to 100 vehicles more per month,” he said.

  11. McGehee says:

    Anjin, if there was a news story about powdered sugar falling like snow in Ghana, you’d call for Rumsfeld to be fired and brought up on charges.

  12. Dan says:

    I’ve been in M1114s (level 1) and HMMWVs with bolt on armor and had my soldiers strike mines in each. An M1114 struck a 20lb anti tank mine and was totally destroyed. All soldiers survived with minor injuries. The M998 with bolt on armor was destroyed by a smaller mine and two soldiers suffered life threatening injuries and were evaced to Walter Reed MC. The bottom line is M1114s (production up armored) save lives. They also give sodiers a far greater level of confidence resuting in more effectiveness and less second guessing. If we’re going to bust the budget for this cause lets not cut corners when it comes to saving lives and accomplishing what we’ve set out to accomplish.

  13. chris Taggert says:

    Currently in process of designing and manufactuing a shield, which could withstand full scale explosion on Humvees—-Working at metal fabrication company in Jessup ,Md and have extensive knowlege of my concept for shock proofiong and armor plating which can easily be tested and applied but do not have connections nor have I proposed this working idea as I want the company I work for to obtain rights to this shield and need sponsorship from either defense ie
    Pentagon or some financer as the metal is highly expensive but bullet proof litterally….call me or have the company Armourer Of America in Los Angeles who I saw on CNN contact me…I am not trying to get rich or famous just save my brothers life who is going to Iraq soon…..I don’t kid you about this shield I know it works

    It is what is considered the highest of reactive armour not even used on M1 Abrams. It is MY (own), design but proven …If you can place me in contact with either the DOD or this company this editorial is about & have them contact me immediately at my home or work as I assemble military hardware every day and have full MIL Standard skills and certifications; —-I already build the military hardware… Name is Chris Taggert# 410-239-2520 Work at PSI in Jessup,Md main contractor for Norhtrop Grumman and US NAVY….as well as the US Army…..Trying to contact John Nehmans in LA or who may be interested in Armor fully capable of stopping all rounds and very powerful explosisions in Iraq….
    410-7924754 ext:267 I need to first get a
    proposal written up and then have an Auto CAD schematic & diagrams designed on this shield….

    My brother is an Officer in the US Army and will be sent soon to Iraq….He may see action! It is imperative that this shield be adminsited immediately or others may be in harms way —NO even the hardest armour plating is not sufficient

    I know much of metallurgy and Physics and Donald Rumsfield “IS” correct, no amount of armor is sufficient “but” The Laws Of physics —IS!!!!!

    I do have the solution ;Please contact someone as I am just an Assembler but highly skilled in all forms of protection for equipment and Metallurgy!

    Thank you and please see someone important gets this. I shall be glad to explain in detail as I am a modest-man and it will take the big machines such as I work with at our company to produce this…….NEW ARMOR…..