An up-armoring project is usually part of
a more comprehensive upgrade program, where the vehicle's automotive
system undergo adaptation to carry the extra loads, better handling
weight distribution which may not have been the same as originally
designed, particularly when the vehicle carry the new armor
and full mission load.
In the past, US forces considered armor protection only necessary
for combat fighting vehicles, including armore personnel carriers,
leaving most of the rest combat service and support elements
virtually unprotected. Unlike current vehicles, armor upgradability
was not designed into these vehicles at all. When necessary,
light armor was fielded with specific vehicles (such as the
armored security vehicle, used by military police for road security
This albeit shortsighted approach determined the requirements
for curbs weight, (CVW) payload and gross vehicle weigh (GVW)
of tactical and support vehicles, such as the HMMWV, FMTV HEMTT
and other vehicles. The HMMWV was an exception, as it was also
designed as a weapon carrier (missile carriers, reconnaissance
vehicles) for specific combat roles and therefore, had provisions
to receive add-on armor despite its inherent, limited load capacity.
Yet, restricted by weight and design limitations, the armor
used with HMMWVs provides good protection against some threats
but leaves much to be desired against others.
The growing demand for armor protection emerged as coalition
forces realized the increasing threat encountered during the
new asymmetric conflicts erupting in Southwest Asia and the
Middle East. All combat vehicles, armored and unarmored, had
to go through upgrades process to encounter the new threats.
Modifications included some unorthodox means, such as spray-on
ballistic armor, which was thought to offer an 'instant' protection
from small-arms, application of sandbags for side and top protection
and slat cages, widely deployed with almost all light combat
vehicles in theater. Another concept offering rapid installation
and replacement of armor tiles is the LAST
armor, utilizing innovative hook-and-loop (Velcro like)
attachments fasteners to keep the tiles in place. Most up-armoring
upgrades are made of kits of armor tiles externally added to
the vehicle's body parts, using welded bolt mounts. This method
enables rapid repair in the field by the replacement of combat
damaged armor tiles. Similar applications are used for slat
armor, which offer 'statistical' protection from shaped-charge
threats, significantly enhancing the vehicle's survivability
to RPG attacks.
Various concepts of armoring are used to minimize the down-time
vehicles undergo in the process of armor installation. Trucks
are particularly quick to receive added protection, replacing
the original cabins with armored cabs. Much more work has to
be done on light vehicles, such as the HMMWV, to fit armor on
a structure that was never designed to carry these extra loads.
In fact, the up-armor kit consists of considerable 'dead weight',
designed to carry the heavy doors, or keep all elements in place.
The manufacturer of the HMMWV, AM General began to produce armored
versions of the vehicle last year in an effort to expedite the
delivery of protected vehicles to the combat troops.
The US military identified this weakness even before the current
conflict, and outlined its Long Term Armor Strategy (LTAS) to
define mandatory protection for all future wheeled tactical
vehicles. These included new generations of scout cars, command
vehicles, troop carriers, logistical and support vehicles. LTAS
defines vehicle protection in two levels – a 'baseline'
protection designated 'A-kit' and 'improved' add-on system known
as 'B-kit'. The baseline protection will protect from firearms,
as well as mines and blasts. All military vehicles will be produced
with this capability, enabling efficient air mobility, minimizing
vehicle wear and improving life cycle cost. To operate in contingencies
where more substantial threats exist, vehicles will be provided
with an appropriate 'B kit' as required to meet the specific
threat. This method will enable the military to match the vehicle
protection to specific threats and even rotate 'B-Kits', between
units deployed to the theater of operation, without having to
build new armored vehicles for each conflict.
The first family of vehicles designed to LTAS standards from
the start is the Joint Light
Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), a family of new combat and combat
support vehicles designed for all contingencies, offering the
use of threat-adaptive 'B-kit'. All JLTVs will have V shaped
hulls, protecting from explosions and mines, as well as basic
bulletproof armor. Since the baseline armor is part of the vehicle,
additional armor weight will facilitate net protection, since
all the structural elements and attachments carrying the appliqués
armor kit will already be provided in the baseline. LTAS concepts
have partially been applied to existing vehicles upgrades, including
the FMTV family of medium trucks (FMTV), and Heavy Expeditionary
Transporter (HEMTT/HET), M939, M915 and HET and, to some extent,
to the HMMWV. Yet, the current designs and limited payload capacity
are limiting the full utilization of the new strategy.
This strategy is also implemented into the Pentagon's MRAP
acquisition program. Responding to the urgent need of heavy
armor in Iraq, the initial 6,000+ vehicles produced under the
current MRAP program do have the full protective suite expected
to be fielded in the future model. The Marine Corps Systems
Command already embarked on a follow-on MRAP program called
MRAP II, offering better protection and mobility. This new program
will open new opportunities for manufacturers that have not
been qualified for the first MRAP program. Armor upgrades will
also be applicable to all MRAP vehicles. Some of the armor upgrades
of MRAP II are expected to be retrofitted to the early production
batches MRAP vehicles.