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Army Humvees in midst of safety makeover

By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 26, 2006

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:

  • A single-movement combat lock latch. The two devices were previously separate and two hands were needed to unlock and open the door, which could be difficult with injuries, Hermann said.
  • A fire-suppression system with multiple sensors inside the vehicle that are triggered by heat and light. “If the vehicle starts on fire, at a certain temperature, it kicks in.”
  • Crew extraction device. Soldiers will be able to attach a tow strap or chain to the door exterior to pull off a door to free anyone trapped inside after a vehicle rollover. Before, bolts had to be unscrewed to pry off the doors.
  • A voice intercom system that improves communications by connecting all Humvee occupants, including the gunner, through headsets.
  • Gunner’s restraint. The five-point harness system keeps the gunner secure inside the Humvee.

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