Armoring Philosophy Changes as Wars Come to a Close
A decade of beefing up vehicles to defend against roadside bombs has left the services with an uphill battle. Future requirements will focus on getting vehicles to fit, like they used to, aboard ships, Bullard said.
“In the space that we could have had four vehicles in the past now we only have three vehicles,” the general said. “We’re trying to come to grips with this . . . We’re having to grapple with what we’ve got in equipment and what we need to put on these ships.”
Marines must be prepared for situations that blur the lines between high- and low-intensity conflict, and may require them to invade lands from the sea, showing up “to the party without an invitation,” Bullard said.
It could be a non-state threat, or it could be a situation on the Korean peninsula, he said.
“We’re going to have to fit on ships,” he said. “That’s how we get there, from the sea.”
A Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) with an unarmored cab that weighs 39,000 pounds requires four tie-down points on a ship. The same vehicle with armor at 49,242 pounds requires eight tie-downs.The larger vehicles take up space and even affect the performance of a ship, Bullard said.
Marines have added armor to vehicles that began their lives as commercial trucks. The MTVR and the even heavier Logistics Vehicle System Replacement (LVSR) were not intended to be beefy armored trucks, said Bryan Prosser, program manager at Program Executive Office Land Systems.
There has been debate about the right amount of armor for vehicles as troops drawdown from Afghanistan. Officials have decided to keep an armored fleet, Prosser said.
But weight has made it more difficult to get out of vehicles during roll-overs and other incidents, Prosser said. So the MTVR and LVSR are receiving upgrades such as emergency egress windows to solve that problem.
Officials also are looking at other means to increase protection without adding weight. PEO Land Systems has begun investigating blast-mitigating floor mats and seats, Prosser said.
Industry also is coming up with ideas.
Force Protection, which recently was bought by General Dynamics, is working on transparent armor that would be able to stop rocket propelled grenades, said lead researcher Bob Cole. Scientist and blast expert Vernon Joynt said that the company is looking for experts in optics and glass to work with its team. The goal would be to make a front window for the mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle that could stop RPGs and still weigh no more than a regular windshield, he said.
The Army is looking to change its approach to armor in the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program. The armor for the new truck will be more integrated into the platform itself as opposed to being “overly kitted,” said Army Chief of Transportation Brig. Gen. Stephen Farmen.
The Army also is turning its long-term armoring strategy into a long-term “protection” strategy.
“That’s the mindset shift we’ve got to make right now,” thinking less about armor and more about protection, Farmen said. The protection strategy hopefully will lead to a more balanced, lightweight and less medieval methodology, he said.
The Army needs to take a layered, “onion skin” approach to protecting its vehicles and soldiers, relying on everything from airborne surveillance to systems right on the trucks to stay out of danger. It’s more than just strapping armor on to prevent “penetration and boom,” Farmen said.
It’s about using a variety technology to avoid reaching a point where such an event occurs, he said.
While now on the same page regarding JLTV, the issue of armor almost kept the Marine Corps out of the program. Generally speaking, Marines still see issues with what have been the Army’s more stringent requirements for armor.
“I need the capability to move quickly,” Bullard said. “Speed, itself, contributes to force protection.”