$250M allotted for armor to protect vehicles against penetrating bombs
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army has received $184 million for armor to protect vehicles against a particularly lethal type of roadside bomb, retired Army Gen. Montgomery Meigs said Thursday.
The Marine Corps — which has fewer vehicles than the Army — also has received $65.7 million for the armor, which is expected to begin arriving war zones next month, said officials from the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.
Meigs is director of the organization, which is dedicated to defeating roadside bombs. Its total budget for fiscal 2006 is $3.47 billion.
Explosive devices, such as roadside bombs, account for roughly half of combat deaths in Iraq and more than a quarter of the combat deaths in Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department.
The organization has given the Army and Marines the money to armor trucks and Humvees against explosively formed penetrators (EFPs), which can penetrate a tank in the right place, Meigs said.
Meigs showed reporters a mock-up of such a roadside bomb, which is made from a pipe and a blasting cap. When the device goes off, it fires a projectile at roughly 10,000 feet per second, he said.
The device can be manufactured so that the projectile is shaped for maximum effectiveness, according to a spokesman from the Air Force Research Laboratory, which has studied EFPs for more than a decade: a “long rod” for maximum piercing capability, a more conical shape for a bigger hole, and a fragmentation mode for broader, thin-skinned targets.
Meigs would not say how the armor works, but he did say it features a new door locking system that would to help the doors be opened or removed in case of an emergency.
Standard locking systems can jam when doors are warped by the force of explosions, he explained.
Asked when all Humvees would be fitted with the armor, Meigs said, “As fast as we can do it, I just can’t give you a date.”
He added that troops downrange already have about 5,000 interim armor kits, which provide close to the same level of protection as the new armor but lack the new door locking system.
Meigs said explosively formed penetrators account for a disproportionately high number of U.S. deaths from roadside bombs, but he declined to give specific numbers.
The devices are made by industrial machines and require high-quality explosives, he said.
In Iraq, such devices are found exclusively in Shiite areas, and they also have been used by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, he said.
Officials have accused Iran of supplying the means for roadside bombs in Iraq but they have not provided specific evidence linking the Iranians to roadside bombs in Iraq.
While Meigs said “easy access” to technology for explosively formed penetrators comes through Iran, he did not say outright whether Iran is supplying such roadside bombs to insurgents in Iraq.
He noted that President Bush has said the most sophisticated roadside bomb technology comes from Iran.
“All I can do is tell you what the administration has said about this,” Meigs said.