Armor Survivability Kit (ASK)
The Army categorized the level of armor protection for non-combat vehicles using a 3-tiered structure. Level I protection could only be achieved by vehicles manufactured with armor built into the original design of the vehicle. Level II protection was achieved by installing specially made, add-on armor plates and glass to vehicles that provided nearly the same level of protection as Level I vehicles. Level III protection was created by the ever-present ingenuity and initiative of the American Soldier and consisted of various ad hoc measures—Soldiers often called this "Hillbilly armor." Units in Iraq and Kuwait installed steel plate, sandbags, and other materiel on vehicles to fill the immediate need for protection.
M1114 HMMWVs fell under the Level I category. Factory-produced, they provided all-around protection, both glass and on the armament on the side, front, rear, sides, top and bottom. Proposed "Add-on" up-armor kits fell under the Level II category and were also factory-produced in the United States, to be installed on existing soft-skinned HMMWVs. However, the up-armor kits only provided front, rear and sides, glass protection, while leaving the top and the bottom of the vehicles vulnerable.
Only vehicles that were to be engaged in duties that would likely encounter hostile fire were to be up-armored. The only armored member of the HMMWV family available initially was the M1114, of which there were not enough in inventory to meet the demand. As a temporary stop-gap measure, the Army looked to armor kits that could be installed on the vulnerable M998 HMMWVs. These consisted of armored doors with bullet-proof glass, side and rear armor plates, and a ballistic windshield. The kit would enable the crew of an M998 to survive 7.62mm machine gun fire and IEDs. Engineers at the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland went to the drawing board to design the kits over a weekend. The Army field-tested them at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, also in Maryland to ensure they met strict ballistics protection standards. Even as the field tests were taking place, the Army started ordering the special steel and bullet-resistant glass needed to build the vehicles. That calculation proved to be decisive in moving the effort forward with unprecedented speed. Within 6 weeks of putting pen to paper to come up with a design, the Army had the first kits in hand, ready for shipment to Iraq. In contrast, the normal procurement process could have taken 5 to 7 years.
Aberdeen's kit became known as the Armor Survivability Kit. The kit included armored doors with ballistic-resistant windows and seatback protectors. It added about 1,000 pounds to a standard Humvee giving better protection against the RPG and IED threat. There were 2 ASK versions, one supporting a 2-door HMMWV and the other, a 4-door HMMWV. The ASK was not intended to replace the original production model of the up-armored Humvee, but was intended to provide an interim solution to provide greater survivability. Armor plated doors with ballistic glass replaced the fiberglass and canvas doors then installed on the HMMWV vehicles.
During the concept/design phase of the ASK program Anniston Army Depot was approached by ARL's Commanding Officer, inquiring if the depot would be interested in participating in the effort for design, development, prototype, and manufacture of the ASK. Always standing ready to support soldier-based initiatives, Anniston immediately responded positively to the inquiry, and was thus invited to attend the design meetings at ARL. The depot was involved in the testing of materials to determine the best candidates for the doors. They also provided input in the design phase of the doors and how they would be incorporated into the HMMWV configuration effort. The depot's recommendations were subsequently incorporated into the Technical Data Package (TDP).
With Army funding appropriated, and the TDP approved, the Army Research Lab again approached the depot for production of the life-saving kits. Due to the urgency of getting these doors installed, Anniston realized that the magnitude of the potential workload should be brought to the attention of Ground Systems Industrial Enterprise (GSIE) officials.
GSIE was a business group of the US Army Tank-Automotive-Armaments Command, the depot's headquarters. Under the umbrella of the GSIE were: Anniston Army Depot, Rock Island Arsenal, Waterviliet Arsenal, Sierra Army Depot, Red River Army Depot, and the Lima Army Tank Plant. Anniston coordinated the effort with the Ground Systems Industrial Enterprise, providing the TDP and POCs at ARL. After reviewing the requirements, GSIE coordinated the effort through ARL and the TACOM PM Office.
As a result, based on available funding, Anniston Army Depot and Rock Island Arsenal entered into a partnership in November 2003, to produce an initial quantity of 1,000 Armor Survivability Kits for both 2-door and 4-door HMWWVs. The depot produced their first kit in early December 2003. By February 2004, they had completed the initial production of 500 kits and were in the process of producing a second production quantity of 997 kits.
For the follow-on production effort, the other Ground Systems Industrial Enterprise installations were to be brought onboard to support the effort and would participate in the manufacture of additional kits as follows:
- Rock Island Arsenal (RIA): 1205
- Red River Army Depot (RRAD): 235
- Sierra Army Depot (SIAD): 708
- Waterviliet Arsenal: 115
In addition, Letterkenny Army Depot was later brought onboard to produce 410 kits. Based on the success of this project, the potential for requirements for thousands of additional kits existed. Eventually, the US Army contracted for factory produced Level II HMMWV kits. O'Gara-Hess and Eisenhardt, the company which had developed the M1114 and had already been working on add on kits, was selected as the contractor.
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