Up-Armoring Humvees Kills More Soldiers than Saved
Thousands of pounds of armor added to military Humvees in Iraq have made the vehicles more likely to roll over and kill or injure soldiers, a newspaper reported. “I believe the up-armoring has caused more deaths than it has saved,” Scott Badenoch, a former Delphi Corp. vehicle dynamics expert, told the Dayton Daily News for its Sunday editions.
Congress and the Army have spent tens of millions of dollars on armor for the Humvee fleet in Iraq, the newspaper said. That armor — much of it installed on the M1114 Humvee built at the Armor Holdings Inc. plant north of Cincinnati — has shielded soldiers from harm. But serious accidents involving the M1114 have increased, and accidents are much more likely to be rollovers than those involving other Humvee models, the newspaper reported.
An analysis of the Army’s ground-accident database, which includes records from March 2003 through November 2005, found that 60 of the 85 soldiers who died in Humvee accidents in Iraq — or about 70 percent — were killed when the vehicle rolled, the newspaper said. Of the 337 injuries, 149 occurred in rollovers. “The whole thing is a formula for disaster,” said Badenoch, who is working with the military to design a lighter-armored vehicle.
Army spokesman John Boyce Jr. told the Associated Press on Sunday that the military takes the issue seriously and continues to provide soldiers with additional training on the armored Humvee. The Army has made safety upgrades to the vehicle, including improved seat restraint belts and a fire-suppression system, he said.
There are more than 25,300 armored Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. When Humvees roll, the most vulnerable passenger is the gunner, the soldier who operates the weapon mounted atop the vehicle. Gunners were killed in at least 27 of the 93 fatal Humvee accidents since 2001, according to the newspaper’s analysis. [emphasis added]
The story isn’t totally new; we’ve known since at least March 2005 that the armored Humvees were more roll-over prone. That the net result is more deaths than saved by the armor, though, is new.
The reporting here gives the impression that it is the true armored Humvees (M1114s) rather than up-armored standard (M998) Humvees that are the culprit. If correct, that’s a surprising finding. I’ve long suspected that strapping armor onto a vehicle not designed to carry it would be problematic.
As to the M1114s, they were previously a special purpose vehicle mostly used by military police (MP) units. They may simply not be appropriate for more standard patrolling operations.
Cori Dauber, whole noting the tragedy of this, also sees some dark humor: “Too bad the press, of course, lacks a sense of irony. Will they now excoriate the military for endangering the troops by over-armoring their vehicles, and demand to know when the dangerous armor will be removed from the entire humvee fleet?”
UPDATE: Doing a bit of research to bolster a point I made above, I actually found I was in error. The M1114 is not the Armament Carrier variant of the HMMWV used by MPs; that’s the M1025/M1026 family. The M1114 is a factory up-armored vehicle, dubbed the Enhanced Capacity Vehicle (ECV), that arose in reaction to the Kosovo operation.