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Army Thin-Skinned Over Homemade Armor

Discussion in 'Legal' started by w4rma, Dec 26, 2003.

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  1. w4rma

    w4rma member

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    Transportation Unit Headed for Iraq Sought Extra Protection for Non-Combat Vehicles

    By David A. Lieb
    Associated Press
    Friday, December 26, 2003; Page A22


    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Fearing roadside bombs and sniper bullets, members of the U.S. Army Reserve's 428th Transportation Company turned to a local steel fabricator to fashion extra armor for their five-ton trucks and Humvees before beginning their journey to Iraq earlier this month.

    But their armor might not make it into the war, because the soldiers did not obtain Pentagon approval for their homemade protection.

    The Army, which is still developing its own add-on armor kits for vehicles, does not typically allow any equipment that is not tested and approved by the Army, Maj. Gary Tallman, a Pentagon spokesman for Army weapons and technology issues, said last week.

    "It's important that other units out there that are getting ready to mobilize understand that we are doing things" to protect them, Tallman said, "but there's policy you have to consider before you go out on your own and try to do something."

    The possibility that soldiers could be denied extra protection because of an Army policy has outraged some of the friends and neighbors who helped the Jefferson City-based unit.

    "I think it's the stupidest thing I ever heard of," said Virgil Kirkweg, owner of a Jefferson City steel company, which rushed to meet the reserve unit's armor request. "I just hope the government is not dumb enough to make them go out there without something that's going to protect them somewhat."

    The 72 vehicles operated by the 428th are not designed for battle. They have thin metal floorboards and, in some cases, a canvas covering for doors. Iraqi guerrilla groups have been targeting all types of military vehicles with homemade bombs and small-caliber weapons.

    E-mails from soldiers already deployed in Iraq urged the Missouri reservists to get extra armor if possible, said 1st Sgt. Tim Beydler, a member of the 428th.

    The soldiers persuaded a local funeral home director who is active in community affairs to pay the $4,000 tab for 13,000 pounds of quarter-inch steel. Industrial Enterprises Inc. donated the fabricating work, also valued at about $4,000, so the steel could be fitted under vehicle floorboards and on the inside of doors.

    The soldiers drove off Dec. 12 for Fort Riley, Kan., planning to fasten the specially made steel to their vehicles when they arrived in Iraq.

    "We're doing what we can to protect our soldiers. That's the bottom line," Beydler said last week as news of the donated steel was being praised locally as an example of grass-roots support for the troops. "It not only boosts morale of the soldiers, but also of the soldiers' family members, who know their soldiers will be afforded some extra protection."

    Fort Riley spokeswoman Deb Skidmore said the reserve unit will be allowed to take the steel to Iraq, but U.S. Central Command will decide later whether the troops will be permitted to use it.

    The Army's concern, Tallman said, is that unapproved steel-plating could somehow cripple the vehicles or cause them not to perform the way they were designed. For example, a Humvee armor kit recently tested at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground was so heavy that it caused the vehicle to break, he said.

    Tallman and spokesmen at several Army bases said they were unaware of any other units trying to craft their own armor before leaving for Iraq. But Tallman said the Army had discouraged several families of individual soldiers from trying to obtain their own bulletproof vests, citing the same reason for Army testing of equipment.

    Kirkweg said the Missouri soldiers did not have time to wait weeks, months or years for the Army to test and approve a steel-plating project that he could complete in three days.

    "We thought, this is a very important project here -- we're talking about the possibility of saving people's lives," he said. "So without hesitation we went ahead and proceeded with the thing."
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30796-2003Dec25.html
     
  2. ElToro

    ElToro Member

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    Sounds like an episode of "Monster Garage"

    i'd rather have 1/4 inch steel plate than canvas... good for them and the army allowing it... ive thought about doin that myself except i dont have the welding skills... you know, just in the doors and maybe floorboards. add to the rigidity, but kill the gas mileage. :(
     
  3. Blackcloud6

    Blackcloud6 Member

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    The Army is right on this one, the NG unit is wrong.

    There is a lot more to up-armoring vehicles than simply bolting steel to vulnerable places.

    First, is the steel they used ballistic steel, RHA or High-Hard steel? It probably is not; Projectiles my end up going through these steel plates if they are mild steel.

    Have the ones that they are putting on the floor been tested properly against various mine threats. These plates, if not properly installed, may well blow right up and kill the crews or deflect the blast into the crew. Lots of engineering and physics go in this type of endeavor..

    Have they tested their set ups to what happens in vehicle accident such as collisions and roll-overs? The stuff may well come flying off and kill folks inside.

    Have they tested to see what the extra weight and placement will do to the suspensions, transmissions, welds, joints etc? They may end up with a bunch of broken vehicles in very short order and not be able to perform their mission.

    What threats are they trying to defeat? Have they done a proper threat analysis for the mission they are to perform? Does their add-on armor defeat the threat? I bet they just pulled info out of the paper and press and decided what to do. They may have a false sense of security too, as the armor may not be able to defeat the most prevalent threat.

    How much load capacity have they lost in putting on this armor? How much mobility? They may not be able to perform their mission. Or worse, their vehicles may become so slow that they cannot effectively drive out of an ambush, especially in rough terrain.

    Up-armoring of unarmored tactical wheeled vehicles is not easy. The reason the army does not allow units to this is for all of the above reasons. The Commander of this unit allowed for unauthorized modifications to his fleet. He may be brought to task for this.
     
  4. BeLikeTrey

    BeLikeTrey Guest

    tough question....

    Of course I'm of the mind to duct tape steel plates to my back. Whatever gives me a better chance of survival. (really though, whatever improves my survivability....)

    Other side of it, could it put me at more risk by a breakdown in a hot zone..
    Good thread guys! This one has me on the fence and teetering back and forth.
     
  5. riverdog

    riverdog Member

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    In this case they are replacing canvas and thin flooring with 1/4" steel. They are obviously focusing the armor to protect the personnel and shouldn't add that much weight to the gross of the truck. As for whether the steel is the appropriate type, since it's replacing canvas, I'd think that any quality steel would be an improvement. Rifle fire and RPG's could remain a problem, but would the canvas be better? A mine going off may still seriously damage the vehicle, but if the driver and walk away because of a little more steel between him and the blast, that's a good thing.

    I fail to see a significant downside to additional armor.
     
  6. AZTOY

    AZTOY Member

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    I work in a radio shelter for the Army.The shelter goes on the back of humvee (M998 Truck) and the shelter is made of THIN fiberglass . :uhoh:

    I understand why thay what to add more armor. I have seen the picture of shelter and humvee that have been hit.:what:

    I could be in Iraq in a few month and i would like the extra armor!!!

    PVT Berki
     
  7. jerryd

    jerryd Member

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    The problem is never solved, look at what was done to the vehicles during all the wars, they were all modified by the men for the specific duty they needed, they may not be correct but they serve the purpose. We used to put sand bags on the floors and on the hood near the windshield at least gave some protection from bulets and schrapnel. Also saw some 5ton trucks that were converted to gun trucks with quad 50s on them. Leave it to the american soldier to come up with something that suits their purpose.
     
  8. telomerase

    telomerase Member

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    Absolutely right. The most prevalent threat is an Administration dedicated to restarting the Crusades, and a little armor isn't going to stop that.

    Seriously, though, an army that was designed to actually FIGHT would expect its troops to learn about engineering and create new equipment (e.g., for Iraq; video camera-equipped stationary turrets and vehicles to replace vulnerable sentries and patrols). The US Army has quite a different purpose, and it wants its troops to remain docile sacrificial animals within the military-entertainment complex. Human casualties are necessary to make people lose their rationality (and support more multi-hundred-billion dollar Crusades); smashed robots just wouldn't do it.

    AZTOY, I hope you can scrounge some extra Spectra and boron carbide somewhere... Blackcloud6 had some good points re weight, but most of the projectiles that will be heading your way are probably still 7.62 X 39.
     
  9. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Actually units in country are up-armoring their own vehicles....Here's a couple pics.....
     
  10. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    and another....
     
  11. Spot77

    Spot77 Member

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    I understand Blackcloud6's points, but hey.....somebody's got to test the stuff, right? I suspect we're not giving them enough credit as to the research they've done.....I mean, I doubt they just took a 3x5 plate of steel and attached it to their Humvees with duct tape.

    :neener:
     
  12. WilderBill

    WilderBill Member

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    If the army had not improvised hedge cutters from beach obsticles after D day, they might not have ever made it past the hedge rows of Normandy.
    I think this is along the same line of thinking.
    I know I'd want more than canvas protecting me. :eek:
     
  13. G1FAL

    G1FAL Member

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    Why dont they just do what our guys did in 'Nam, until the army gets its head out its 4th point of contact, and put sandbags on the floor of the Hummers? No, its not the best protection in the world, but its better than nothing.
     
  14. Blackcloud6

    Blackcloud6 Member

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    "Quality steel" is not necessarily armor. This steel they are putting may well not protect even against 7.62x39.

    Also, with the threat being mostly IED, these steel plates may become big pieces of shrapnel.

    There was a program a few years ago to quickly up armor some of the civilian 4x4s being used by the military. A simple armor door panel was put on the dodr and everyone thought it was OK. This program circumvented the notmal R&D, Operational Test and Live Fire Test regulations. Shortly after fielding, one of theses vehicles rolled over, the door panels flew about inside and killed the four people in the vehicle.

    The point is, the solution needs to be properly tested prior to operational use.

    The Cullen Hedge Row device is an interesting anology but it was not armor and thus in a whole different category. And, BTW, it was properly tersted by Ordnance Officers in Theater before being authorized for use.

    Also, in WWII, many Shermans were "up-armored" with sandbags by the crews. Patton did not allow this and ate alive any commander who let this happen in his unit. He was right, these sandbags did nothing to protect the Sherman from German anti-tank rounds nor from the Panzerfausts. They were simply a placebo that ruined the transmissions and made the Sherman slower.
     
  15. riverdog

    riverdog Member

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    We know that canvas won't stop a 7.62x39 -- 1/4" steel might. Although it may not help against some threats, I'm still waiting for an explanation of how it's worse than canvas.
     
  16. Blackcloud6

    Blackcloud6 Member

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    I thought I already covered that:

    overweight vehicle, dangerous in accidents, mainternance issues, while not affording any protection, etc.

    Also, most shots by small arms are at the window.

    Also, 1/4 in mild steel will be like cheese to the machine-gun fired 7.62x54R API.

    The floor plates will do nothing to protect the crew in an anti-tank mine explosion. The plate will probably kill them as it will fly right up at them.

    I doubt that these guys really know what they are doing.
     
  17. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    The approved up-armored HMMWVs are a maintenance nightmare. They have to be airconditioned because you can't put the windows down, they are underpowered and prone to overheating...They are also obscenely expensive.

    Jeff
     
  18. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    The Army is kinda sorta right. Troops have always resorted to expendient measures as Army Red Tape can result in lengthy delays before equipment upgrades reaches the GI in the field. Examples of bad armoring include coating a M-4 Sherman with concrete, extra sandbags or extra tracks as additional protection against shaped charges. They needed a screen to create "space" and dissipate the charge. Sometimes the expediency worked like the Cullin Hedgecutter device (in which case it was authorized and done on a divisonal level).
     
  19. artherd

    artherd member

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    "I'm still waiting for an explanation of how it's worse than canvas."

    1) it will act like a shreader in an accident, or even a very rough road at too much speed.

    2) the added weight will cause your Hummer to break down in a 'hot zone.'

    3) it is just more material to spall and make shrapnel, 1/4" steel is ineffective even against NON armor piercing small arms, and with a bomb, well, it's like adding a very large grenade fragmentation case. Congrats, you just made the Iraqi bombs 10x more effective.

    and the biggest danger:

    4) It is a placebo. The soldiers will be more complacent, and tend to hide in the vehicle. This loss in vigialance is more than likely to get them killed.


    There is a reason the amry uses KEVLAR, not steel. I'm all for improvements and battlefield innovation, but this is really a step backwards to anyone who knows what they're doing. Now, strapping 50 vests all over your hummer and riviting them to each other and the vehicle, HELL YES!
     
  20. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

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    If the Army had taken that sort of BS approach to development Patton would still be trying to get his troops out of Normandy's hedge row country.
     
  21. Blackcloud6

    Blackcloud6 Member

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    Thank you. This is what it takes to make the HMMWV somewhat survivable and this solution is fully engineered and tested.

    Ugh! There's a lot more to Patton's breakout during COBRA than the Cullen Hedgerow device. And, again, this device was approved. Did the Commander of this transpo unit get approval?
     
  22. riverdog

    riverdog Member

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    Okay, I'm convinced, canvas is better :rolleyes: Obviously there is a problem with the armor on the vehicles NOW and these guys are trying to improve their survival. If 1/4" steel isn't the answer, the folks who design armor for the logistics guys should start working overtime on a fix before the guys in the field make things worse in an attempt to survive. Kevlar's good, but it isn't cheap and armor for the Army Reserve's 428th Transportation Company's trucks is probably not in the FY budget.
    There are many engineers outside the Army and some of them have a clue. "Fearing roadside bombs and sniper bullets..." We really don't know what these guys fabricated but since they knew the specific threat they were working against, it's probably a bit early to say it won't work.
     
  23. Blackcloud6

    Blackcloud6 Member

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    Believe me this problem is being worked and that is all I can say about it.
     
  24. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

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    "Believe me this problem is being worked and that is all I can say about it."

    Due for limited testing deployment (non combat) by fall, 2007.

    Hold on guys, help's coming.

    God helps those who help themselves.

    The Army, on the other hand, courtmartials.
     
  25. Blackcloud6

    Blackcloud6 Member

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    Mr. Irwin: Are you sure you understand this issue?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 29, 2003
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