Amid a wave of violence in Iraq, U.S. military commanders there
are requesting additional armored vehicles, particularly large ones
that can transport a dozen or more passengers,
Army has shipped more than 10,000 armored Humvees to Iraq, but these
only can fit four passengers. To move larger numbers of troops,
commanders have limited options.
One is a gun-truck armor kit that is installed on 5-ton vehicles,
with machine guns mounted around the cargo box. The gun-truck kit
was dubbed “Hunter Box” after Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.,
who earmarked funds for the project. Researchers at California’s
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory designed the kit.
To date, some 31 trucks have been outfitted with the armor protection
kits and added to U.S. convoys. In recent weeks, the Army has allocated
$2 million, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency $1.5
million to produce gun-box armor kits for 80 more trucks, said a
Lawrence Livermore spokesman.
The project’s main contractor is Plate Fabrication and Machining
of Philadelphia, Pa., and two other firms—Waco Composites,
of Waco, Texas, and Protective Armored Systems, of Lenoxdale, Mass.—were
added as subcontractors.
Gun trucks were popular during the Vietnam War. Livermore researchers
designed the kit with input from Vietnam-era gun truck veterans,
the spokesman said, and updated it to reflect the environment in
which troops operate in Iraq.
Although the Livermore gun trucks received glowing reviews by some
units in Iraq, they are considered a less-than-ideal solution because
they expose troops to overhead fire and put passengers at risk in
“We are trying to find other alternatives, primarily because
they [the Hunter Boxes] don’t have overhead protection,”
said a U.S. Army official in charge of evaluating equipment in Iraq.
“However, I’ve heard they might be able to put overhead
protection on them in the near future.”
A more sophisticated armored cargo carrier, also mounted on a 5-ton
truck, currently is being tested as a possible addition to the motor
The armored compartment—called the multipurpose troop transport
and carrier (MTTCS)—was designed by Science Applications International
Corporation. The company funded the development, and the Army Rapid
Equipping Force sponsored a series of tests at Aberdeen Proving
Ground, Md., where the system’s ceramic armor plates proved
they could survive attacks by a wide range of explosives, said Michael
Lowe, SAIC’s program manager.
A prototype was sent to Iraq, at contractor’s expense, to
continue the evaluation.
“The feedback so far is positive as far as protection. However,
it needs a stronger air conditioner, and the gunner’s turret
shields, when mounted on top of the box, make the vehicle too tall
to go under some bridges in Baghdad,” the Army official said.
“The seats are the same as in the C-130 aircraft and can be
easily removed or configured in different ways.”
Jeff Daniels, an SAIC engineer who spent several months in Iraq
working on the project, said the height problem was fixed by removing
the gunner shields welded to the top of the cargo box. The water-evaporation
cooling system keeps the temperature about 20 to 25 degrees below
the outside temperature, which in Iraq typically rises to 125-degrees
Fahrenheit during the day. “The REF personnel said it felt
okay inside,” Daniels said.
The safety features in the MTTCS, he said, have impressed soldiers
of the 3rd Infantry Division during recent tests in Iraq. The MTTCS
design offers rollover protection and armored overhead coverage,
in addition to two armor plates on the bottom. The ballistic glass
windows are spring-loaded, so the crew can return fire when attacked.
The seats—like those used aboard helicopters and fixed-wing
cargo aircraft—are equipped with seatbelts and harnesses.
They can be removed if troops need to transport cargo or if they
want to offload it entirely and set up the armored box as a fixed-site
shelter that can serve as a checkpoint, command post, emergency
hospital or ammunition storage bin.
The armored compartment can be adapted for existing 2.5-ton, 5-ton
or 7-ton trucks, said Lowe.
If the Army decides to purchase the system, SAIC has enlisted Teledyne
Brown Engineering, in Hunstville, Ala., to take over the manufacturing.
Lowe said it would take up to four months to get the production
line set up, and Teledyne would be able to deliver 100 armored compartments
per month. The price would range from $350,000 to $380,000 per unit.
“Feedback is mostly positive so far,” said the Army
official. “The few suggested improvements will be incorporated
in the next version.”
For shuttling passengers in Baghdad—often between the International
Zone and the airport or Camp Victory—one of the preferred
choices is the Rhino Runner armored bus. An evaluation report by
U.S. Army units noted the Rhino “provides excellent protection
with steel plates covering every side and is able to carry at least
23 passengers.” Only a handful of Rhinos currently are available
in Iraq, and are owned by contractors. These vehicles, however,
cannot drive off roads and do not have any weapon mounts, which
limits their military use.
The Rhino Runner, made by Labock Technologies, costs $257,000.
Unlike most military trucks, which were designed and built before
anyone considered armoring them, Labock engineers vehicles specifically
to withstand a heavy armor load. The company custom builds vehicles
from the chassis up, with protection against armor piercing bullets
and some level of bomb blast protection. The Rhino, however, has
not been tested against the current improvised-explosive threats,
according to Labock’s website.
One other vehicle under consideration is the REVA, a 4x4 personnel
carrier that seats 10 passengers and is equipped with two hatches
for light machine guns.
Like the MTTCS, the only way to enter the REVA is from the back
or the gunner’s hatch. Ten of these vehicles are currently
being used by civilian contractors in Iraq, with more coming this
The Army purchased five REVA prototypes for evaluation, he said.
Each one costs $195,000.
J.J. Van Eck, of South Africa, designed the REVA specifically for
the Iraq war, and he modeled it after the South African anti-mine
vehicles currently in operation with U.S. forces.
The hull of the REVA consists of a “capsule” without
chassis, and the wheel basis is built directly onto the hull with
a “V”-shape at the bottom of the hull to deflect a mine
blast, said the manufacturer, Integrated Convoy Protection.
The evaluation of these vehicles comes at a time when attacks by
suicide bombers and buried explosives are at an all-time high in
Iraq. U.S. convoys are targeted on average about 30 times per week,
or double the level of attacks from a year ago, said Brig. Gen.
Yves J. Fontaine, head of the Army 1st Corps Support Command, Multinational
Corps-Iraq. “Our main threat is the IED for the logistics
convoys coming from Kuwait, Jordan and Turkey and in going to the
Baghdad area,” he told reporters.
Earlier this year, as insurgent attacks escalated, the 3rd Infantry
Division requested improved fire suppressors for Humvees and other
Army procurement officials are evaluating four different fire-suppression
systems, which include sensors and fire extinguishers placed in
the crew and storage compartments.
Other vehicle enhancements expected in the near future include:
Door Extraction Brackets. The Army Aviation &
Missile Research, Development & Engineering Command designed
brackets to be mounted on each Humvee door (top and bottom) using
existing holes already on the up-armored Humvee. In the event of
an accident when the occupants may be trapped inside the vehicle,
a tow strap can be snapped on, and pulled by another vehicle to
rip the door off.
Sculpted Transparent Armor. The Armament Research,
Development, and Engineering Center developed clear armor in response
to soldiers’ requests for more protection in the gunner’s
turret, while still maintaining visibility.
Turret Gunner Seat. Soldiers from the 1st Corps
Support Command noticed that the gunner seats have a 2-inch strap
that often cuts off the circulation of the legs and causes soldiers
to become unstable in the turret. A replacement seat was scheduled
to be delivered last month.