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Thread: Defeating roadside bomb
05-09-08, 06:52 AM #1
Defeating roadside bomb
MILITARY: Defeating roadside bomb
By MARK WALKER - Staff Writer
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait ---- At this sprawling U.S. military base in the Persian Gulf, hundreds of newly minted, bomb-resistant vehicles bound for Iraq and Afghanistan are being processed every week.
Read Mark Walker's trip snippets from the Middle East
Weighing as much as 23 tons each, the new vehicles are intended to offer protection against the roadside bombs responsible for the majority of U.S. troop deaths and injuries.
But many of the iron behemoths, called Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, apparently are ill-equipped for the insurgents' newest bomb, Marine officials say, so additional armor is being installed on as many of the trucks as possible.
Troops are confronting increasingly powerful bombs called EFPs, short for explosively formed penetrators.
Designed to defeat the V-shaped hulls of the mine-resistant vehicles by detonating from the side rather than from beneath, the bombs are made from high-density metal that delivers a blast of molten shrapnel known as "spalding."
"It hits so hard and so fast that it just melts right through," said Col. George Dallas, chief of staff for the Marine Corps Combat Development Center in Quantico, Va. "That's what's killing people."
Dallas is accompanying Lt. Gen. Samuel T. Helland, commander of Camp Pendleton's I Marine Expeditionary Force and head of Marine Corps forces throughout the Middle East.
Helland is in the region this week to visit his commanders and frontline troops.
To combat the new bombs that military officials contend, but haven't proven, are being manufactured in Iran, workers are reinforcing the armor on the sides of many of the vehicles coming into Kuwait, Kelley said.
Fifty of the "up-armored" rigs have been completed in recent days.
"We're working as hard and as fast as we can to counter the latest threat," he said.
Dallas says it's crucial to meet the evolving threat.
"If we can defeat these EFPs, that is just one less way the enemy can get at us," he said.
Last week, a massive roadside bomb in Iraq's Anbar province killed four Camp Pendleton Marines.
The military stepped up production of the new vehicles last year.
Since November, more than 3,000 have arrived by ship at a nearby port in Kuwait, been completed and sent on to the two war zones in as fast as two days.
The final touches take place inside an 80,000-square-foot facility where completed units roll out the door every few minutes for road testing.
"Our job is to give the war fighter everything he needs, and these are what they need most right now," said Army Col. Mark Kelley, operations officer for the 401st Army Field Support Grade.
For some 11,000 Marines and sailors based at Camp Pendleton serving in Iraq this year, the vehicles are said to provide the best protection available when they move "outside the wire," an unsecured area.
For two Marine contingents now in Afghanistan, including one from the Marine Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, special versions are being made to accommodate the softer and narrower roads in that country.
About 75 contractors perform the final work being done here. With as many as 300 or more vehicles arriving by ship each week, the processing facility on Wednesday had long rows of them awaiting their turn on the assembly line.
Many of those bound for Afghanistan will be completed and on their way for delivery by the U.S. Air Force by the end of next week.
Each vehicle carries a crew of two and up to seven troops.
Contact staff writer Mark Walker at (760) 740-3529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: Staff writer Mark Walker is traveling in the Middle East with Lt. Gen. Samuel T. Helland, commander of Camp Pendleton’s I Marine Expeditionary Force.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
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