Army could buy more mine-protected trucks

March 15, 2007 at 3:22 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army is only buying 700 bomb-resistant vehicles this year, a number the service's top general said was driven by finances rather than manufacturing.

The service has identified a need for $2.25 billion in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected combat vehicles -- each of which costs about $1 million, according to Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomacher -- but has only asked Congress for $770 million to begin producing them this year.

MRAPs offer ground troops more protection from improvised explosive devices and mines than standard up-armored Humvees can, in large part because of its V-shaped undercarriage, which distributes the blast away from passengers.

In 2004 the Army and the Pentagon were assailed by Congress and the media for failing to maximize production on up-armored Humvees. Some 70 percent of U.S. casualties in Iraq continue to be caused by IEDs and mines.

Schoomacher told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the rate of buying the vehicles was determined by available funding rather than a maximizing production.

"My understanding is this is a matter of funding not capacity," he said Thursday.

Army Secretary Pete Geren, however, said he believes there are production issues that prevent more from being built before the end of the fiscal year in September.

"They don't have a line up and going," Geren said.

Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Congress would provide whatever funding is needed to maximize production.

"We're going to provide whatever's needed. This is an area we've taken an awful lot of losses in," he said.

The U.S. military in February identified a need of nearly 7,000 of the vehicles. Some 200 prototypes have been produced so far for the U.S. Marine Corps by Force Protections Industries of S.C. Also producing versions of the vehicle are Oshkosh Truck Corp., Protected Vehicles Inc., BAE Systems, and General Dynamics Land Systems.

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