Thursday, December 30, 2004

Now that I'm back, and now that I've had something to say about the incredible tragedy in Indonesia, I have something else to get off my chest.

The administration has taken a great deal of heat over the issue of armoring Humvees. Time to look at some facts.

First: Repeat after me "A Humvee is not a tank. It is not an amored reconnaisance vehicle. It is not an amored troop carrier."

The Humvee is the replacement for the venerable "Truck, 1/4 ton, M151". You know it as the "Jeep".

When the military decided it was time to replace the Jeep, a number of firms responded with proposals and the military decided on the design set forth by AM General, a firm with a long record of successful military vehicles. It was dubbed the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). That was the project name, so it would have retained the name regardless of which design was chosen. The military likes pronounce-able acronyms, so it's referred to as the "Humvee".

It's much larger than the Jeep, so it was deemed that the chassis could replace a number of existing vehicles. It could function not only as a battlefield sedan a la Jeep, but as an ambulance, artillery caisson, etc. As an aside, the damn thing is so big that the Berlin Brigade had to keep their Jeeps since the Humvee was to large to squeeze through the alleys they had to patrol along the now defunct Berlin Wall.

Here's what the Army has to say about what it replaces:
Provide a common light tactical vehicle capability. Replaced the quarter-ton jeep, M718A1 ambulance, half-ton Mule, 1.25-ton Gamma Goat, and M792 ambulance
Whoever wrote this for the Army is apparently unaware that the Gamma Goat replaced the Mule years ago and was itself replaced in the 80s, but we won't quibble. The point is, the Humvee has always been intended to function as a soft skinned vehicle.

The sole exception was a variant intended for Military Police. Durng peacetime the main function of MPs (at least as far as I was concerned when I was in the Army) is to harass law-abiding soldiers and run detention facilities. During wartime, however, their mission expands. Detention facility MPs maintain such facilities as required, but also maintain POW facilities and law enforcement MPs retain those responsibilities, but also pick up the additional mission of convey escort. It was specifically for convoy escort duty that the military ordered a lightly amored version of the Humvee, some with machine guns in remotely controlled turrets.

Let's recap. The Humvee replaces the Jeep and two ambulances, none of which have ever been amored or could be amored. Bear in mind that the Jeep was a rag top. You can't armor a canvas roof.

As it turns out, you can armor a Humvee--to a point (apparently the "level three" armor is so heavy that the soldiers have to be very careful about opening the doors lest they rip the hinges out). Nobody anticipated that the nature of this war would require turning Humvees into miniature tanks, so we went into the war with the things configured just as we had planned to take them into war with a near-technological equal, the Soviet Union.

So now we've recognized the need for a better protected Humvee, and we're on it. But to say we went to war with an unprepared vehicle is sophistry.

Don't get me wrong. As an old soldier myself, I'm up for anything that can keep our troops safe, but nonetheless, I find it unfair to criticize the administration for decisions that the military made years ago and is now reevaluating.

1 comment:

Combat Doc said...

I just came back less than 2 months ago and I can tell you that EVERY vehicle I saw leave the wire was at least up-armored. Also your point is valid that the GP medium as the HMMWV is basically a car painted green. Though the hummer is better off-road and has greater capacity and mission possibility it is a car. Still the National Guardsman that questiones Sec. Rumsfeld was probably a pogue who will never leave the wire and probably wanted his face on TV. Keep blogging!!!