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Iraqi Army Upgrading Their Rides....

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Here at Winds, I've talked about my anger that Hummers are still the main patrol vehicle in Iraq for US troops with no replacement in sight, and also noted that many Iraqi soldiers are driving around in unarmored civilian pickups. These guys are putting everything on the line to give their country a better future, and their casualty rates (not to mention lineups to volunteer) prove it.

So I'm happy to report that the Iraqi army is improving its standard rides in a number of areas... and in one area at least, they're showing themselves to be smarter than the Americans.

DID has covered Iraq's 9th Army Division (Mechanized), which has done wonders refurbishing some older Iraqi tanks. Gen. Bashar and his veteran troops are working with familiar equipment, and are putting it to good use. They've also received a set of donated and refurbished T-72 tanks and BMP armored personnel carriers from Hungary and Greece, respectively.

More recently, Iraq bought bought about $31 million worth of up-armored Hummers, which gets them 200-300. Hardly ideal, yes it's an IED blast trap, but they're definitely way better than pickups and will stop small arms fire. That's a plus, too.

Now, there's a huge and very important area between tanks (heavy-duty firepower and protection, hard on roads, little visibility, mobile locally but a pain to move beyond that, saved for major things), and Hummers (very mobile, high visibility, much more vulnerable especially to IEDs, not an ideal firepower platform). It's especially important to the Iraqis, because that's really where their major vehicle needs live. They need something for urban patrol - very mobile and can be shifted around easily, easy on roads, with firepower equal to or slightly better than the Hummers, good visibility so the locals see you and vice-versa, and good protection against both small arms fire and IED land mines.

As I've noted here before, there are a few options if that's what you're after. As it happens, the Iraqis just chose - and they chose very well.

First, they chose well by doing a major buy of $445.4 million for 1,050 Iraqi Light Armored Vehicles (ILAVS) if all options are exercised. Deliveries could continue until the end of November 2009, but they'll have the first 400 or so within a year. By creating an order this big, they ensure that the vehicles they need can be deployed in numbers that might make a difference in key areas. They've also had the side effect of increasing the production capacity for their chosen vehicle in the USA. Which will help the US, who needs more of them.

Second, they chose well by going for an option that mounts the Marine Corps Armored Turret System. Gunshields - very simple, basic concept, eliminates a bunch of very preventable casualties by providing protection from bullets and mine blasts. Follow the link, and note the transparent, bulletproof glass in the gunsheilds and turret that allows the person manning the heavy weapon to actually look around and remain aware while being protected. Over 3 years after entering Iraq, the US Marines have figured out that this is a good idea for patrol vehicles and are starting to install them. The US Army? Not on the ball yet.

Score another for the Iraqis, and the sharp folks on BAE's bid team who bundled it with their vehicle.

Third, the Iraqis chose well by selecting a variant of Force Protection Inc's v-hulled Cougar 4×4 that has earned such praise from US Marine Corps and Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams in Iraq. They correctly gathered that if it was good enough for anti-IED teams, it was also a good patrol vehicle for them. Which it is - gunshields, gun ports, v-hull, and all.

One fine day, the US Army and Marines might also clue in.

Finally, kudos to the defense firm who won the contract. BAE Systems already made a number of eligible armored vehicles, including fine v-hulled offerings like the RG-31s Canada is using in Afghanistan, and equally proven larger vehicles like the Casspir. But BAE looked at the specs, looked around at what was out there, swallowed their pride, and partnered up with Cougar-maker Force Protection Industries in South Carolina. That took a lot of balls on BAE's part, and their Anniston, AL and York, PA plants are now going to expand the Cougar's production base.

I'd have been equally happy with an Iraqi choice of Australia's Bushmaster, a slightly larger wheeled vehicle that has performed well in Iraq and shares many of the Cougar's positive traits. It would have been a great vehicle, and a nice plus for a real ally.

But the Cougar is a very fine choice with better visibility, and one that has earned more of a name for itself via high-stakes combat action. I can understand why the Iraqis chose it... and soon, they'll have better rides in theater than their American counterparts.

Good for them.

1 TrackBack

Tracked: June 9, 2006 2:06 AM
The Return of Iraqi Armor from Pajamas Media
Excerpt: Winds of Change follows the rebuilding of the Iraqi Armed Forces, refurbishing old equipment and buying some new vehicles some of which are superior to the Hummers the US Forces use....


What your assessment of the South African anti mine vehicles? They're the pioneers but have the South Africans kept up with the latest 'advances' in mines and IED?? If so what model would you recommend for the Iraqi and other militaries?


Is it just me or has MegaForce come to life? Just please, no headbands.

Very interesting and encouraging. Thanks for sharing.

I've always wondered why turret shields weren't commonplace. Didn't a Master Sergeant Shannon get a medal for building improvised "Shannon shields?"

I'd take headbands any day before spandex bodysuits...

The South Africans have kept up - both the RG-31s and larger Casspirs are SA vehicles, and there are others. There's no design that will help all the time, because IEDs have blown up a 70-ton M-1 tank. But the V-hulls to deflect the blast remain useful, and there are also other approaches involving flexing composites and multiple blast-absorbing layers that can be seen on the KMW Dingo and Iveco MLV/Panther. The DID article has links to some of that information.

I believe Spain is in the market for a light scout vehicle. If you want something that can also be a patrol vehicle, the smaller Cougar 4×4 or BAE's RG-31 fit the bill, and the British and Belgians are using the Iveco MLV. If it's more about straight scouting and recon, the KMW Fennek becomes an obvious contender. It all depends on the requirements... something BAE acknowledged by picking up the Cougar instead of its own options.

Joe, maybe I missed it, but there seems to be a BIG connection between the failed Rumsfeld/ DOD Hummer decision ... and Haditha.

I don't know all the facts, and if the relatives won't allow the bodies to be exhumed I'll be thinking more "set up", but it seems certain an IED attack successfully killed a Marine to start the issue.

A death showing again why Hummer Deathtraps Suck.

I hope that part of the Haditha fallout is for Rumsfeld to recognize the need to move away from Hummers. Immediately.

It would be great if the US Army could "copy" an Iraqi decision -- great for the Army being safer, and great for the Iraqis to be able to be leaders.

Hummer is a great vehicle, bit it wasn't designed for this particular mission. What engine is that baby sporting anyway? Cadillac Gage?

Blair is right. I went through the month long Hummer course and that vehicle is amazing, but its not built to withstand the kind of punishment that its meeting in Iraq. Even the up-armored units are insufficient.

But lets face it, we all know how the procurment system works (fails) within DOD. Just look at the Bradley and Osprey as a cases in point. I'm not trying to defend DOD here, but lets be realistic, DOD is the epitome of inssuficiency when it comes to fielding new equipment, even if it will save lives.

To the best of my knowledge simple water systems like camelbacks are still not standard issue (canteens are bulky, loud, and ill-suited for desert use IMHO), we had to buy our own when I was in as well as load-bearing vests that were superior to the Korea-era H-Gear we were using, and these are simple fixes that make sense for troops doing heavy foot patrols in high heat. Do we really think DOD is going to get its shit together for a system to replace the HUMMER? Yeah maybe a decade from now.

Keep up the pressure though, it may not result in much from the CoC, but the troops appreciate knowing that civilians understand their plight, even if they can't exert pressure in a timley manner.

Regret I had to copy this but his sums up much of what is happening in this war that contributes to the incompetence which has postponed victory. Goes directly to your comment "One fine day, the US Army and Marines might also clue in". They are plenty clued in its Rumsfield and Brownie's at the Pentagon and in the White House whom are not.

The Fourth Plague

By William S. Lind

[The views expressed in this article are those of Mr. Lind, writing in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the opinions or policy positions of the Free Congress Foundation, its officers, board or employees, or those of Kettle Creek Corporation.]

In Exodus, the Fourth Plague sent upon the Egyptians was a plague of flies. A similar plague of flies has settled on the U.S. military, in the form of a swarm of retired senior officers working as contractors. Not satisfied with their generous pensions, they wheedle six-figure contracts out of senior officer “buddies” still on active duty. In return for steam shovel loads of the taxpayers’ money, they offer “advice” that is, overwhelmingly, flyspeck.

The problem is that these contractors are businessmen, and business is a whore. The goal of business is profit, not truth. Profit requires getting the next contract. Getting the next contract means telling whomever gave you the current contract what he wants to hear. If what he wants to hear isn’t true, so what? Just start the “study” by writing the desired conclusion, then bugger the evidence to fit. The result is endless intellectual corruption, billions of dollars wasted and military services that, as institutions, can no longer think.

The plague of senior officer contractors has effectively pushed those still in the military out of the thought process. Meeting after meeting on issues of doctrine or concepts are dominated by contractors. The officers in the room know that if they wave the BS flag at the contractors, they risk angering the serving senior officers who have given their “buddies” the contract. Junior officers, who have the most direct experience with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are completely excluded. They have no chance of being heard in meetings dominated by retired generals and colonels.

Not only does contracting out thinking bring intellectual corruption, it adds a whole new layer of dinosaurism to the thought process. Most retired senior officers’ minds froze in the Fulda Gap many years ago, and that remains their vision of war. Further, any change is automatically an attack on their “legacies,” which they are quick to defend. Twenty years ago, once the dinosaur retired, you could push him into the tar pit and move on. Now he is back the next day in a suit, with a six-figure contract.

The plague of contractors reinforces one of the military’s (and other bureaucracies’) worst habits, formalizing thinking. Concepts and doctrine are now developed through layer after layer of formal, structured meetings, invariably organized around PowerPoint briefings. Most attendees are there as representatives of one or another bureaucratic interest, and their job is to defend their turf. PowerPoint briefings not only disguise a lack of intellectual substance with glitzy gimmicks, they inherently work against the concept of Schwerpunkt. Slides usually present umpteen bulletized “points,” all co-equal in (lack of) importance. In the end, what is important is the briefing itself: the medium is the message.

One of the great intellectual successes of the American military, the Marine Corps’ development of maneuver warfare doctrine from the 1970s through the early 1990s, offers an interesting contrast. The process was almost all informal. The key people were mostly junior officers. Meetings were after-hours, in someone’s living room over beer and pizza. Many outsiders were involved, but none of them were paid. In the end, most of the new manuals were written by a Marine captain, who took them directly to the Commandant for approval. Tellingly, since that time the Marine Corps has formalized its doctrine development process, and the quality of its manuals has declined.

Of course, contractors hate informal processes, because they have no role in them. There is no money to be had. In contrast, the current formal process gives them what they seek most, opportunities to kiss the backsides of bigwigs with bucks to obtain still more contracts.

As I told one senior Marine Corps general last fall, the present system is terminally constipated by too many people and too much money. The money draws contractors the way an outhouse draws other kinds of flies. If the U.S. military wants to start thinking again, it needs to can the senior officer contractors, outlaw PowerPoint and give younger officers time and encouragement to meet in informal seminars, write and publish.

Scharnhorst’s Militaerische Gesellschaft, from the time of Napoleon, remains the right model. The problem is that it doesn’t cost very much.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

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