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thedrifter
07-17-07, 07:58 AM
Letter: Add-on armor too heavy for MRAPs
By Tom Vanden Brook and Peter Eisler - USA Today
Posted : Tuesday Jul 17, 2007 7:12:35 EDT

WASHINGTON — Armor intended to protect the Pentagon’s new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles against the most powerful roadside bombs is too heavy to use, says the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The add-on armor known as Frag Kit 6 could overwhelm all MRAPs unless they undergo “major redesigns,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The newly disclosed June 19 letter reveals that the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, issued an urgent request in January to require MRAPs to withstand explosively formed penetrators. These weapons use explosives to propel a metal disc, reshaping it into a slug that can penetrate armor. U.S. commanders allege that many of the weapons come from Iran; the government of Iran denies this. The Marines made a similar request in January, USA Today reported in May.

Levin urged Gates to examine armor produced by some contractors to defend against EFPs.

“I believe it is imperative that [the Department of Defense] act decisively to incorporate protection against EFPs in at least a major portion of the MRAP fleet,” Levin wrote.

The Pentagon has approved an Army plan to buy as many as 17,700 MRAPs, whose raised, V-shaped hull withstands underbody blasts better than Humvees.

The Pentagon declined Monday to comment on the letter.

Also Monday, members of Congress responded to stories published Monday in USA Today that showed Pentagon officials were reluctant to respond to requests to buy MRAPs. Gates recently called sending MRAPs to troops in Iraq the Pentagon’s top priority.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said during a news conference he was troubled by the newspaper’s findings that some Iraqi troops received the vehicles before Americans.

Reid said he was disturbed by the revelation that some Pentagon experts had recommended back in 2003 that “the MRAPs would work better” but the Defense Department didn’t buy them.

Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss, said he will raise questions about the delays in fielding MRAPs when Army and Marine officials appear Thursday before the House Armed Services subcommittee he chairs.

“I will be raising all of this ... the lack of a sense of urgency, the lack of accountability, and most of all the lack of their willingness to articulate a desire to do better — the attitude that this is the cost of war,” Taylor said.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said he asked Gates two months ago to explain delays in deploying MRAPs but has not received a response.

“This isn’t about accountability for the past — it’s about saving lives and limbs now,” Biden said. “Because it’s happening again, with protection against explosively formed penetrators.”

The Pentagon must answer whether troops received substandard equipment because of the flaws in how the vehicles were obtained, said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Rules Committee.

Slaughter, who requested a Pentagon’s Inspector General report released last week, said the Marine Corps had given MRAP contracts to companies that couldn’t produce the vehicles fast enough.

Ellie