Saturday, July 14, 2007

Supporting the Troops - with armor.

If you don't read Crooks and Liars for the articles, read it for the comments. The comments thread on this article is bipartisan as all hell, with even Force Protection weighing in.

Crooks and Liars » Report: DoD No Bid Contracts Has “Put Troops At Risk”

The study, which was requested by Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York, found that since 2000 the DoD has awarded “sole-source” contracts valued at $2.2 billion to just two companies, Force Protection, Inc.(FPI) and Armor Holdings, Inc (AHI).

Inspector General auditors found that the Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) made these two companies the sole providers of armored vehicles and armor kits for troops, despite knowing that other suppliers may have produced the equipment so desperately needed in Iraq substantially faster. Both manufacturers fell far behind delivery schedules, while AHI also produced inadequate and faulty equipment.

The consensus seems to be that the Force Protection builds the best and perhaps only suitable unit for the job - and that they can't build enough of them. While one intended role of the Cheetah would be convoy escort, there simply aren't enough in theater to do the job.

And as soldiers testify, the lack of a suitable convoy escort doesn't mean you get a less capable convoy escort. Bupkis is what you get.

Iamthehendrix Says:

Marines got their armor made for them? We had to make our own armor for our vehicles. I was a gunner for convoys a couple weeks ago (just got back) and our turrets were hand made Haji metal welded toegether by some 92A (paper pushers). It got so bad that we had to make our own weldshop to armor up our vehicles. We got metal from the locals and welded them together. The armor was so weak that the glass was better protection than the armor. We called them: Haji Turrets, because the guys shooting at us probably sold us the metal. The metal was rusted/corrodid/etc beyond imagination, some even warped and riddled with holes (just welded another peice behind it). Turrets looked like cardboard boxes really. Man… i cant type anymore.

The Red Ball Express didn't get any respect in WWII, either. Logistics just ain't sexy, even though it wins wars.

But the devil is in the details. Is Force Protection the villain, or simply a victim of it's own success?

President PNACcio Says:

Wait a minute. I really need to set the record straight on this. Force Protection’s mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles are vastly superior to any other being manufactured anywhere, including countries like Israel and South Africa. That’s the reason the DOD gave the entire contract to them. Ask any soldier what kind of vehicle he wants to be in, the unanimous answer is the Cougar from Force Protection. Armor holdings builds them under license from Force Protection. General Dynamics is also working with Force Protection to expand production.
The Buffalo mine clearing vehicle is the only vehicle in its class and is the baddest truck you have ever seen. It has a liitle crane mounted to the front with a camera that is used to dig up mines and IEDs. The Buffalo units have saved countless lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, only two soldiers have been killed in Force Protection vehicles.

The reason the troops haven’t gotten these vehicles sooner is the DOD waited too long to order them. They are expensive to build, and weigh so much they are expensive to transport. Remember, Donald Rumsfeld thought he could conquer the Middle East on a budget. Going to war with the army you have, and all that bullshit.

It is true that Force Protection’s management overpromised and underdelivered. But the other side of the coin is, no one else makes these things, and the DOD didn’t start ordering them until at least two years after they knew they were facing a new type of threat.

Others argue the classic "I don't want it perfect, I want it TUESDAY" argument against "toughing out" long production delays to get the best equipment for this war just in time for the next one, pointing out that former SADF vehicles (which the Force Protection vehicles are based on) are availible in large numbers and going for a song.

But, speaking of the "next one," in seeking out a photo for this post, I ran into this bit of hype about one of Force Protections newest vehicles, obviously intended as a competitor to the HumVee.
The Cheetah is Force Protection's newest vehicle series.. It is designed specifically for reconnaisance, forward command and control, and urban operations, and combines state-of-the-art ballistic and blast protection with the mobility of a unique light-armored vehicle. Its speed and road handling make it ideal for homeland security missions.
Hm. Expecting many IED attacks in Nebraska? What do you know that I don't?

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