The HMMWV (High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle - M1114) is the main utility vehicle used by the US military and allies and is commonly called the Humvee. It was designed to provide tactical mobility to the soldiers. It was not designed as a “fighting vehicle” and has very little ballistic or blast protection.
To address the problem of a lack of ballistic and blast protection, most Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan have been up-armored. Although the additional armor added to the Humvee increases the survivability of soldiers riding in the vehicle there are still frequent casualties. Humvees were not designed as armored vehicles and it is not possible to add enough armor to make them truly mine or IED resistant.
A Humvee normally costs almost $65,000 dollars. An up-armored Humvee cost around $140,000 dollars. Humvees are not designed for the additional weight from the armor. Therefore, the design life of a Humvee that has been up-armored is very low probably less than half that of a normal Humvee. In addition, the motor, transmission and drive train was not designed for the additional armor and the vehicle requires more repairs. Since up-armored Humvees last half as long as normal Humvees and require more maintenance, it is fair to more than double the price tag of the Humvee to $300,000 given that every one that is purchased will need to be replaced very quickly.
Up-armored Humvees are top heavy and roll over more often than Humvees that are not up-armored. Some reports indicate that more than 50 soldiers are killed and over 100 soldiers are wounded each year in Iraq and Afghanistan due to Humvee rollovers. Many of the rollovers would not have occurred if the vehicle were not top heavy due to the additional armor.
When Humvees are destroyed by mines or IEDs, soldiers riding in the Humvees are often wounded or killed. The price of losing any life is incalculable. The cost to taxpayers in dollars for these tragedies is huge. Each person wounded or killed needs to be replaced, insurance needs to be paid and the wounded often require long term disability or rehabilitation. The cost is huge.
The fact that Humvees are easily destroyed means that the vehicles must travel in large groups to provide safety in numbers. This is a very inefficient use of manpower and drastically reduces the area that can be patrolled.
Each time a soldier dies, the moral of civilians and soldiers is harmed and the moral of our enemies is helped. If our enemies are bolstered, this helps them recruit other terrorists.
Using Humvees reduces the militaries efficiency and increases the moral of our enemies by allowing them to have easy victories. These last two costs are more than we can afford.
What are our options? The US military has the possibility of purchasing vehicles that have a large amount of ballistic and blast protection. As a class, those vehicles can be called MPVs (Mine Protected Vehicles). Such vehicles include the Cougar, RG31, RG33L, Buffalo, ASV, Bushmaster and Dingo. Recently a new type vehicle was introduced called the Cheetah that is a smaller and faster MPV intended as a utility vehicle. The foreign made vehicles are the Bushmaster from Australia, the Dingo from Germany, the RG31 is made by GD in South Africa, RG33L by BAE. In the US, Textron builds the ASV and Force Protection, Inc builds the Cougar, Buffalo and Cheetah.
The vehicles with the best safety record are the Cougar and Buffalo made by Force Protection. Those two vehicles have already survived thousands of mine and IED blasts without significant injuries. The Cougar and Buffalo cost less than the competing vehicles.
The Cheetah is a new vehicle from Force Protection. As of yet it has not been deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan and is therefore unproven. The Cheetah is small enough to be used as a utility vehicle. Its size is comparable to the Humvee but with many times the protection for the soldiers riding inside. The Cheetah is less expensive than the all current foreign competitor’s vehicles and offers more protection than any of the competing vehicles.
The Cheetah is fast – can travel up to 89 miles per hour (burst speed) if needed. It has a high level of ballistic and blast protection. Normally configured, it can seat up to six people but can be configured to seat eight if needed. It is possible to mount a remote fired machine gun on the roof of the vehicle as well as firing ports.
Vehicles like the Cheetah will allow the military to mount smaller patrols increasing the efficiency of every soldier in Iraq. Patrols will be able to move faster and travel in more dangerous areas. More patrols will be able to be undertaken. The fact that they our soldiers are much more unlikely to be injured or killed by IEDs and mines will be a major boost to the moral of civilians and soldiers. The efforts of our enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan will become much less effective.
Can the military afford to replace a significant number of Humvees with Cheetahs and other MPVs? The answer is that if all direct costs are compared (the cost of injuries, the cost of replacing vehicles, the cost of Humvee up-armor kits and the loss of efficiency), the direct cost of the Cheetah is less than the Humvee.
In war, the major consideration is not just the price but whether or not something will help achieve victory. The Cheetah is a vehicle that if purchased in large quantities for the troops will not only save lives but enable our soldiers to do their jobs in a much more efficient manner. Other MPVs should be purchased to provide troop transports, ambulances and larger patrol vehicles. Together, this will reduce the effectiveness of our enemies and increase our own effectiveness and reduce the number of US casualties. This will help them achieve victory. email@example.com