The HMMWV (High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) is the U.S. Military’s all-purpose, modern-day jeep. With four-wheel drive and automatic transmission, this diesel-powered off-road multi purpose vehicle is among the most capable all-terrain vehicles in the world. Like the versatile jeep it replaced, the Humvee has many configurations, including troop carrier, command vehicle, ambulance, weapons platform (Stinger, .50 Cal, MK-19 Automatic Grenade Launcher, TOW, etc.) and psychological operations vehicle.
Standard armor on the Humvee makes it many-times more safer than the jeep it replaced. However, guerilla tactics employed by the Iraqi resistance have caused a great deal of controversy for the Humvee. Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs) employed by the resistance have damaged and destroyed a number of Humvees and killed many American military personnel. Additionally, Humvees are susceptible to AK-47 fire at close range and RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades).
However, even though the U.S. Military has been planning for urban warfare for the last two decades, the employment of Humvees as part of an occupying force may have never been adequately thought out. Humvees were never designed for front-line combat, though weapons platform variants were designed for near-front-line combat as overwatch or standoff weapons platforms (TOW, .50 Cal, etc.). As such, Humvee armor was designed to protect mainly against shrapnel from indirect weapons such as mortars and artillery, and from far-away fire from AK-47-type caliber weapons.
In Iraq there are no front lines. The entire area is a combat zone. The widespread use of Humvees by the U.S. Military has placed a large number of vehicles in a position they were never designed for. Because of this, troops have been adding supplemental “hillbilly armor” to Humvees. And the U.S. Military is currently “uparmoring” Humvees. Unfortunately, these “uparmored” Humvees are not designed for the additional weight of the supplemental armor, which often consists of thousands of pounds of steel bolted to the chassis of the vehicles. This in turn is causing excessive mechanical and wear problems, rollovers, vehicle accidents and continued susceptibility to guerilla tactics.
[ad#Google Adsense 300×250]
The current controversy over the use of Humvees in Iraq is not due to inadequacies inherent in the vehicle. The problem is the continued reliance on Humvees in the Iraqi Theater of Operations when other more heavily-armored vehicles should be employed (Stryker, Bradley, Abrams tank, etc.).
For the last several decades the U.S. has been designing a military based on high-mobility and rapid response. As such, U.S. armored vehicles have in many instances been “downsized” to be transported by air or other means. (For example, the Army’s Stryker was designed to be transported by C-130s, however the Army has had a number of problems actually making this happen.)
In response to the deficiencies in the HMMWV Humvee encountered in Iraq, the US Military is attempting to replace as many Humvees as possible in Iraq with new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, however the process will be slow and costly.