The Defense Department has sent about 760 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to Iraq this year, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

The department hopes to send a total of 1,500 MRAPs to the U.S. Central Command theater of operations by the end of the year, less than six weeks from now.

On Nov. 8, the head of the Defense Department’s MRAP task force said it is possible more than 1,500 MRAPs could be sent downrange this year.

“I think we will do much better than that, but I’d rather not predict at this time,” John Young told a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

Whether the DOD can meet its goal depends on whether MRAP manufacturers can significantly increase production in November and December, and whether MRAPs can be outfitted with gear quicker before being sent downrange, a Democratic staffer said.

On Wednesday, Morrell said the industry delivered 452 MRAPs to the government in October, which is 21 more than expected, but he conceded that November and December will be “tough” months for MRAP production

“I think we are shooting for just over a thousand in November and I think about 1,200 in December,” Morrell said. “So that is really ramping up production. It’s more than doubling what we did this past month. So we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we feel as though we are on the right track.”

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in Charleston, S.C., also is working to shorten the time it takes to outfit MRAPs with radios, jammers and other gear before the vehicles can be shipped downrange.

The average time for an MRAP to get through SPAWAR is about 21 days, but that is expected to drop to seven days by mid-December, Morrell said.

At the Nov. 8 hearing, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said he felt that too many variants of MRAPs were flowing through SPAWAR, slowing the output of vehicles.

Young replied that officials have tried to make as many MRAP components common. He noted that both the Army and Marine Corps versions of MRAPs have the same turret, but some equipment is unique to each service, such as jammers.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates would not say definitively whether the department would meet its goal of sending 1,500 MRAPs downrange this year.

“Certainly my hope is that we will meet our goal,” Gates said.

Asked about his choice of the word “hope” to describe whether the Defense Department would succeed, Gates replied, “That’s because I stopped predicting the future when I left CIA.”

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