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WASHINGTON — Defense officials will send 4,060 more mine-resistant vehicles to Iraq by the end of the year, which will be used to replace up-armored Humvees on some missions.

Marine Corps force protection officials on Tuesday told Congress the $2 billion move is not designed to completely replace the Humvee as the primary vehicle for missions in Iraq. But the hope is that the heavier, more blast-resistant trucks will give commanders there more options in the fight.

Of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles ordered, 538 will be given to the Navy for ordnance detection and disposal. But officials said 1,022 assigned to the Marines and the 2,500 slated for the Army will be used for patrols, combat missions and other tasks, at commanders’ discretion.

“There is now a much wider need for these vehicles for all troops involved in patrolling,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command.

“The V-shaped hull is designed to force these blasts off the sides, away from the occupied spaces in the vehicles. And their additional height gives the blast more time to expand, lessening its impact.”

Defense Department officials said only a few hundred of the larger, V-bottomed vehicles are currently in use in Iraq.

Brogan said most of those vehicles — Cougar and Buffalo trucks, as well as other large explosive rapid response vehicles — are being used solely for anti-explosive work.

Members of the House Armed Services Committee said they were glad to hear the heavier vehicles will be made available to more troops, even though they believe military officials should have pushed for those blast-resistant vehicles earlier.

“In my mind, our biggest blunder has not been incorporating the V-shaped undercarriage for our armored vehicles,” said Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., chairman of the seapower subcommittee. “This technology existed before the conflict in Iraq began. … It is well past time that we deploy this potential lifesaving vehicle.”

Brig. Gen. Randolph Alles, commander of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, said the MRAP vehicle push is just part of the recent force protection upgrades by the service.

Starting next month, Marine officials will roll out their new Modular Tactical Vests to troops in Iraq, with a goal of outfitting all Marines there with the better armor by the end of the year. New fire-resistant clothing is on its way as well.

Work is still being conducted on devices that could remotely detonate roadside bombs, although officials said that technology is still likely years away.

Alles said the upgrades are needed to keep up with adaptations by enemy fighters in Iraq.

“As we’ve armored the vehicles more heavily, they’ve increased the artillery rounds, started using more explosives,” he said. “We field a solution, they develop a countermeasure, and we have to counter that.”


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