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First Lt. James McCormick, left, a member of the 518th Combat Gun Truck Company, pauses onboard a modified 5-ton truck on display near the Capitol in Washington on Thursday.
First Lt. James McCormick, left, a member of the 518th Combat Gun Truck Company, pauses onboard a modified 5-ton truck on display near the Capitol in Washington on Thursday. (Leo Shane III / S&S)

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers and defense officials on Thursday unveiled a host of new equipment that troops in Iraq will receive in the coming months, including new body armor, improved gun truck kits and better Humvee protection.

All of the equipment is being rushed overseas in response to feedback from Marines and soldiers about needed personal and vehicle armor improvements. House Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said lawmakers’ goal must be to get troops as much armor as needed to deal with emerging threats in Iraq.

“We can’t move this schedule fast enough,” he said. “The challenge of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] is ongoing. The bad guys are learning new tactics all the time. So we need to adapt.”

On Thursday, just blocks from the Capitol, committee members toured a pair of Army flatbeds converted into gun trucks, heavily-armored and heavily-armed vehicles designed for convoy protection or troop transport. The kits were rushed into production this spring.

The 5- and 7-ton trucks have three layers of protection: two sheets of hardened steel with ballistic insulation in between; multiple machine guns and gun shields, which can be mounted on top; and extra armor added to the truck’s cab.

Walter Grundler, a senior technician at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who worked on the truck design, said troops in Iraq have been creating makeshift gun trucks on their own for extra convoy protection, in some cases using wood and sandbags as armor.

About 30 of the new armor kits are already in Iraq, and 80 more will be delivered by September, said Steven DeTeresa, an engineer at the lab. Deployed units have ordered about 100 more, which are also under production.

In coming weeks officials will also ship about 6,000 new side panels for troops’ body armor. The three-pound ceramic weights protect areas uncovered by the standard armor, but will likely only be used in special circumstances, said Lt. Col. Shawn Reinwald of Marine Corps Systems Command.

“If you’re in a vehicle, the extra six pounds is probably fine,” he said. “But if you’re out carrying your gear, maybe not. It’ll be a unit decision.”

New armor kits for Marine Humvees, with ballistic glass windows for gunners, are also en route to Iraq. About 1,000 Marine Armor Kits will arrive in theater by the end of the month, and hundreds more scheduled to ship out in the fall.

“These ones with the glass allow troops to see out without exposing themselves,” said Maj. Ruth Cisneros of the Command.

Officials said all Marine Humvees in use in Iraq should be fully retrofitted by the end of the year.

Defense officials said they are also developing better fabric for troops’ gloves, to make them more durable and versatile, and already have shipped out lightweight helmets to troops to reduce their gear load.

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