When Army Secretary Francis Harvey bragged last week that every American vehicle in Iraq was about to be armored up, Defense Tech readers smelled a rat.Maybe what Harvey was saying was technically true, readers figured. But a whole lot of those supposedly toughed-up vehicles would be protected with jury-rigged, "hillbilly armor" -- the kind that's cobbled together from scrap heaps and landfills.Now, the L.A. Times has confirmed what the folks here had already guessed. "About a quarter of the 25,300 military vehicles venturing outside bases will have only the makeshift steel plates known to soldiers as 'Mad Max' or 'hillbilly' armor."
There are three levels of vehicle armor in Iraq. About 6,000 Humvees have "level 1" armor, meaning they were manufactured as armored vehicles, with beefed-up engines, air conditioners and equipment to handle the added weight. They weigh 2,000 pounds more than the standard Humvee, with steel-plated doors, steel plating under the cab and several layers of ballistic-resistant glass in the windows. They were designed to protect against rocket-propelled grenades, small-arms fire, shrapnel and some land mines.Next are 12,000 vehicles that have factory-made, "level 2" armor bolted on in the war zone.Then there are the 7,300 vehicles with Mad Max armor, slated to be phased out this summer.The remaining unarmed vehicles won't travel outside protected bases, except on cargo trucks, military officials said.When Chief Warrant Officer Randall Menough's crew began fashioning armor at Camp Buehring last year in Kuwait, there was no Army directive to Mad Max vehicles. But they did it anyway.