From seat belts that won’t snag to stronger doors, the U.S. Army’s M1114 and M1151 armored Humvees are in the midst of a makeover designed to save soldiers’ lives. Some of the new components are recently installed while others will be added to the vehicles in coming weeks and months, military officials said.

Many Humvees already are reinforced with what’s called the interim Frag Kit 5, four bolt-on doors that provide another layer of metal over the factory-built armor, said Army Lt. Col. John Hermann, Army Materiel Command support operations officer at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Those doors will be replaced by a more permanent kit coming to the theater in a few weeks, he said.

The new doors enhance protection from penetrators, roadside bombs designed to pierce tanks that began showing up in Iraq about six months ago, Hermann said.

Also changing is the seat belt. The previous V-shape belt across the shoulder and lap tended to get stuck on body armor plates, Hermann said. The new straps will still form a V but with two buckles that release separately.

Hermann said that soldiers at Camp Navistar in northern Kuwait have field-tested some of the new components, providing direct feedback through the Army to design engineers. “I believe it’s really shortened the cycle time in getting these fielded, (to) months instead of years,” he said.

Other enhancements already here or coming include:

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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