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WTHR Eyewitness News June 19, 2006

Report: Armored Humvees prone to rollovers

By Tom Walker

There's a new report that the vehicles designed to protect our troops may actually pose a threat. Thousands of pounds of armor could make the Humvees tougher to control, increasing the chances of rolling over.

The Humvee has become virtually indispensible to the US mission in Iraq. But time after time, the Humvees involved in crashes have proven deadly to their occupants by rolling over.

Experts say it can be partly explained by the thousands of pounds of new armor ordered for the vehicles, ironically to protect the troops inside. It has made them top-heavy.

"If I get into a sudden turn, say if I'm trying to dodge a roadside bomb ahead, it's going to increase the probability that it's going to roll over," said John Pike, Global Security.org.

An analysis by the Dayton Daily News found that 60 of the 85 soldiers who died in Humvee accidents in Iraq, or 70 percent, were killed when the vehicle rolled. Of the 337 injuries, 149 occurred in rollovers.

The Humvee is expected to operate in all kinds of conditions, sometimes at high speed, in battle conditions some say it was never intended for.

"It really wasn't designed to go that fast all the time, with that kind of weight on it in that kind of terrain," said Rep. David Hobson (R-OH).

It has raised the question whether more soldiers are dying from rollovers than are being saved by the extra armor. But even critics of the design say soldiers are better off with it than without.

"A lot of these have been shot at. A lot of these have the front end blown off. The kids still walk away," said Hobson.

Military brass last week defended the whole range of steps being taken to protect the troops.

"To my knowledge there are simply no commercial products more capable than the equipment being issued to our Marines today," said Major General William Catto, US Marine Corps.

The Pentagon is not criticizing the Humvee's manufacturers, which include the South Bend company that makes its chassis, AM General. The company says newer models are being specifically designed to carry the extra life-saving armor.

Senator Evan Bayh's office says he's looking into the rollover issue. He has repeatedly called for better armor for military Humvees.

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