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Up-Armored HMMWV

The Army had started adding armor to its High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV, years before Operation Iraqi Freedom. The armament carrier and TOW missile carrier members of the HMMWV family, among others, had been technically armored when they were introduced, with supplemental armor added soon there after. The armor level of these vehicles protected to some degree, but mostly from shrapnel and some small arms fire. Other variants in the family did not even have this level of armoring. Results of survivability subtests conducted on the HMMWV showed the following survivability features: the ballistic grill deflected several fragments and protected the radiator; the position of the radiator in the vehicle presented less of a target to detonation from the front (but not from aerial bursts); and the windshield was not penetrated. The ballistic fiberglass in the body appeared to offer little protection, while the windshield offered better protection. Tires remained the most vulnerable part of the vehicle. The standard tires on the vehicle were a run-flat type, having a magnesium inner liner. There was no spare tire on the vehicle. Flats had been driven up to 20 km before failure.

Post-Cold War requirements for light scout vehicles and US participation in peace enforcement operations in Somalia, notably the events of 3 October 1993, prompted the development of an armored armament carrier variant of the HMMWV family, based on the A1 series of vehicles. Up-armor kits were developed for the HMMWV to improve ballistic protection and resistance to mine blast. The resulting armored variant, designated the M1109, subsequently served in Haiti, Somalia, and in the early phases of US operations in the Balkans.

The land mine hazards in Bosnia, plus the patrol requirements and terrain requirements, led the Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) to contract with O'Gara-Hess and Eisenhardt, then a component of the Armor Holdings Company's Mobile Security Division in Fairfield, Ohio, to produce armor for an "up-armored" HMMWV variant. The vehicle was based on the Expanded Capability Vehicle M1113 and was subsequently designated the M1114. This version of the HMMWV quickly became the vehicle of choice for operations in that relatively benign AO due to its increased mobility and lowered maintenance needs relative to tracked vehicles. Requirements in Bosnia and Kosovo did not seem to require logistical and other "soft-skinned" vehicles be similarly "up-armored." The up-armored M1114 weighed about 2,000 pounds more than the standard HMMWV and included 200-pound steel-plated doors, steel plating under the cab and several layers of bonded, ballistic-resistant glass to replace zip-up plastic windows.

O'Gara-Hess and Eisenhardt had first been contracted in 1993 to develop enhanced protection systems for multiple variants of the HMMWV to provide ballistic protection for doors, windows, roof and underbody areas. In addition to increased armor protection, the up-armored Humvees featured more rugged suspension systems able to handle the added weight and ballistic-resistant glass. They also include air conditioners that enable crews to operate with the windows up, even in stifling temperatures. The various components were also designed to be incorporated into unarmored HMMWV cargo/troop and armament carriers. A companion TOW missile carrier was developed, designated the M1115, and O'Gara-Hess and Eisenhardt also developed kits used by the US Navy and US Air Force on the M1116, designed for base and local patrol duties, and the M1145, used by the USAF as a vehicle to support Tactical Air Control Parties (TACPs).

The Army units that entered Iraq in March 2003 did not employ the M1114 because it was not part of their standard equipment. Nor were any of the Combat Service Support vehicles in these units armored. With few exceptions, ground combat in Phase III of OIF was conducted with vehicles specifically designed for battle. As units transitioned to full spectrum operations, however, the greater mobility, speed, and lower maintenance needs of wheeled vehicles made them the favored vehicle for most units. The nature of operations faced by Coalition forces meant essentially that every Soldier and vehicle had to employ some protective measures in every direction at all times. As attacks on US forces increased over the summer, CJTF-7 began to submit requirements through the Joint Staff for armored wheeled vehicles. Those numbers increased steadily and rapidly in the fall of 2003 as CJTF-7 imposed restrictions on the use of nonarmored vehicles in its operations. In August 2003 CENTCOM placed urgent requests for such protection with the Department of the Army. The scope of the task was immense because, by late 2003, CJTF-7 employed some 12,000 HMMWVs and 16,000 other wheeled vehicles.

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. 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.

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. Unlike the interim ASK kits, these factory produced kits added between 2,000 and 4,000 pounds to the standard HMMWV, depending on the variant. The kit included steel plating and ballistic-resistant windows offering improved protection against small arms fire and shrapnel. The add-on kits did not provide protection against mines or explosives detonated under the vehicle. To meet the Level II up-armor requirement while Level I production in the US was ramped up, US Army Tank-Automotive and Armament Command (TACOM) contracted for the production of add-on armor kits for the HMMWV in October 2003. The first 15 test kits were flown to Kuwait in November 2003.

The US Marine Corps also experienced similar issues as the mission transitioned in Iraq. Much like the armored inserts in flak jackets saved Marines on the road to Baghdad during Phase I of Operation Iraqi Freedom, in late 2003 the I Marine Expeditionary Force began investing in new armor to protect Marines in HMMWVs against improvised explosive devices used by enemy fighters in Iraq. By the end of 2003, 110 "hard armor" kits had alrady been ordered. The on-order hard-armor kits were installed on HMMWVs in Iraq. The armor, designed by O'Gara-Hess and Eisenhardt to be mounted on the base M998 variant, was installed by motor transportation Marines under supervision of technical representatives from the contractor. Additional protection kits for HMMWVs including riot window protection screens and underbody protection from grenades were also procured.

With funding secured and contracting processes completed, by early 2004 the Army started to move ever-larger quantities of both armoring kits and newly built armored humvees into Iraq. The contract specifications required that the weight of the kits leave the HMMWV with a 1,000-pound payload, be easily installed in theater, and that 6,700 of them be manufactured by April 2004. Steel and protective glass manufacturers suspended commercial orders to meet the demand for materiel and the kits were produced at seven different Army depots and arsenals in the United States. By late January 2004, there were more than 2,000 armored humvees deployed in the Global War on Terrorism, and most of them were in Iraq. The company that manufactured HMMWVs had almost finished building a new factory specifically for the armored version of the vehicle. By spring 2004, the manufacturer would be producing at approximately 220 armored Humvees per month.

When commanders did the initial Pre-Deployment Site Survey Iraq assessment in early 2004, it was thought that operations in Iraq needed 1,000 up-armored HMMWVs, which was seen as being in excess of the requirements to facilitate quick replacement due to any loss of capability. As the enemy changed tactics and techniques, CENTCOM upped that number so that as of late April 2004 there were about 2,500 up-armored humvees in theater. When the enemy changed tactics, the commanders did their assessment and came forward with an additional requirement resulting in new contracts. The contractor was able to surge the production rate of vehicles by a factor of 3. There were approximately another 2,000 additional up-armored humvees on contract that were to flow in between April and December 2004. At that point CENTCOM was to have approximately 4,500 up-armored humvees. There were also 8,000 up-armored kits installed, that protected windshields and doors of an additional 8,000 vehicles. Those kits were in addition to the up-armored vehicles.

As of late October 2004, Army employees at 4 depots, 2 arsenals and an ammunition plant (Letterkenny Army Depot, Pennsylvania; Anniston Army Depot, Alabama; Red River Army Depot, Texas; Sierra Army Depot, California; Watervliet Arsenal, New York; Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois; and Crane Ammunition Activity, Indiana) were working 3 shifts a day, producing the Army-designed kits to keep up with demand. 8,800 add-on-armor kits had reportedly been produced, 8,700 of which had already been installed in vehicles in Iraq, while O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt has provided 289 more kits. The requirement, as of late October 2004, was for 13,872 kits. In Kuwait, for 1st Cavalry Division HMMWVs being fitted with "up-armor" kits, the Army had also bolted an M6 machine gun mount in the truck bed.

Also as of late October 2004, nearly 5,100 up-armored Humvees were reported by the Department of Defense to have been delivered to Army and Marine Corps units in Iraq, with another 724 on ships bound for the theater. As of late October 2004, US Central Command's requirement for up-armored Humvees called for 8,105 up-armored Humvees in Iraq. Prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Army had only about 500 up-armored Humvees, called "UAHs," in its inventory.

As of late November 2004 there was a CENTCOM validated requirement for 13,000 add-on armor kits, and 8,000 or up-armored HMMWVs, for a total of 21,000 in theater of the combination of the 2. As of that date, there were 19,000.

Seven companies produced almost 9,000 HMMWV kits by July 2004. In late 2004 TACOM also tasked its producers to make 4,200 Level II armor kits for the cabs of the Army's 5-ton M939-series cargo trucks. These kits were entirely separate armored cabs that replaced the unarmored cabs. In the 18 months after November 2003, TACOM supervised the production by 8 manufacturers of 20 vehicle-specific variants of add-on armor kits for 27,000 vehicles. The kits were installed in 6 different nations, at 16 separate sites in the CENTCOM AOR, by 650 Government and contract workers. 10 sites, 2 in Kuwait, and 8 in Iraq, had already been established in early December 2004 to allow for add-on armor kits to be installed on existing unarmored vehicles. According to a 0 December 2004, Department of Defense briefing, Army trucks used in the Iraq/Kuwait Theater of Operations and not HMMWVs had been the main focus as to that date of Level III hardening.

The M1114 had been the only armored logistics vehicle in production when OIF began. In May 2003 production lines could produce 30 M1114s per month. By December 2004 production had reached 400 per month, and by September 2005 the rate had increased to 650 per month. The Army's armor contractors had produced 13,000 armor kits in total by May 2005.

As the process continued issues were discovered. A drawback of add-on armoring was the extra weight it added to the vehicle, which can run from about a 1,000 pounds all the way up to about 4,000 pounds of additional weight. The added weight puts added wear and tear on the modified vehicles whose engines, suspensions and transmissions were not originally designed to handle the strain. HMMWVs could also only handle loads based on their initial role. Heavy cargo carrier variants, initially designed to be artillery prime movers and special purpose shelter carriers, could handle some of the heaviest weights. As a result, a wide variety of kits and sub-variants were developed in order to provide flexible options based on the vehicle in question and its intended role.

FY04 and FY05 budgets funded the Up-Armored HMMWV Modernization effort. Technology advancements in both armor and ballistic glass materials had progressed to the point that improved ballistic protection was available that was lighter and less expensive. This effort had the potential to decrease the M1114 Up-Armored HMMWV's overall vehicle weight by up to 1,000 pounds, thereby increasing user payload. An additional benefit was a potential reduction in vehicle Operation and Sustainment (O&S) costs related to the reduction in overall vehicle weight. This effort would also address a removable armor package that could potentially be used on a portion of the HMMWV fleet to increase ballistic and blast protection on non-protected vehicles.

The US Army had initially hoped that the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) Program would provide a near term replacement for the HMMWV family, to include its up-armored variants. The demands of Overseas Contingency Operations delayed numerous actions on the JLTV program. On 26 October 2011, the Government Accountability Office released a report ground based vehicles, in which it noted that both the Army and the Marine Corps articulated a significant future role for their Up-Armored HMMWV fleets beyond FY25. However, the fleets were experiencing reduced automotive performance, in part because of their existing armor, the need for better protection as threats have evolved (which led to the development of supplemental armor packages), and other issues. The Army told the GAO that it was planning to recapitalize a portion of its Up-Armored HMMWV fleet to increase automotive performance and improve blast protection. According to GAO, the Marine Corps' plans to extend the service life of some of its HMMWVs used in light tactical missions were not known at the time of the report's publication.

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Page last modified: 10-01-2012 13:59:00 ZULU