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Troops In Iraq Promised New Gear
By Leo Shane III
Stars and Stripes
Mideast Edition
May 7, 2005

WASHINGTON Members of Congress promised Thursday that troops in Iraq will get new IED jammers within 60 days and better gun truck kits in the coming months, and started research on ballistic glass shields that can be easily installed on Humvees.

The equipment promises came as the House Armed Services Committee continued its yearlong review of the improvised explosive device problem in Iraq.

Army and Marine officials testified that the services had underestimated how dangerous roadside bombs would be, but said they are confident military technology has now caught up with the problem.

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, deputy for acquisitions and systems management, said that lack of foresight slowed the supply of armor kits to Iraq and Afghanistan, as officials struggled to buy steel, find contractors to fashion the armor, and develop working prototypes to retrofit the military vehicles.

"In some of the first instances where we put these kits on, the vehicle came to a basic stop and the weight shattered the front shaft," he said. "We had to go through a very deliberate process."

Now kits are being made and moved much quicker, Sorenson said, and of the 10,000-plus up-armored Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 80 percent have the best-available armor.

A new law passed by Congress earlier this year also has sped up the procurement process, allowing defense officials to bypass traditional bidding processes if a "combat emergency" is declared.

Committee chairman Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said the new process will allow military officials to quickly produce and ship new low-cost electronic jamming devices, designed to disrupt radio-controlled roadside bombs.

Hunter did not give specifics on the number of devices headed overseas, but said he expects units to receive them in 45 to 60 days.

"This is an area where we need to move very quickly to save lives, so we're going to use this new [law]," he said.

Also at the hearing, officials from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said they are pleased so far with new gun truck kits already in use in Iraq.

The armor and turrets add-on, designed for cargo vehicles already in use, was built after military officials saw troops improvising their own mobile battle stations to deal with dangerous convoy missions.

Steven DeTeresa, one of the researchers on the project, said about 30 of the $40,000 kits were sent to Iraq over the past eight months. One of the trucks was stuck by an IED in March, but the seven soldiers aboard suffered only minor injuries.

DeTeresa said one of the keys for the new gun truck kits are ballistic glass shields on the sides of the vehicle, which protect gunners from shrapnel while still allowing them to quickly respond to incoming fire.

Hunter and other members of the committee asked DARPA to begin researching how to adapt those shields on the Humvees already in use, noting the number of injuries to troops in exposed positions on those vehicles. DeTeresa said he believes both types of convoy vehicles need to be used in current combat missions in Iraq.

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2005 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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