Armor: Hummer Evolves


March 25,2008: For the past four years, U.S. troops in South Korea have been trying to get some of the new armored hummers. Commanders in South Korea have noted new uses for these vehicles, and want to equip their troops accordingly. During those four years, the U.S. Army decided to replace about 40 percent of its 115,000 hummers with a new model, the M1151, that is built to handle the additional weight of armor protection. The troops in Korea want about 14 percent of their hummers to be armored, but, so far, only two percent are. That's because Iraq and Afghanistan get priority on the armored hummers. But now, with thousands of MRAP armored vehicles going to Iraq, and fewer hummers getting destroyed or worn out there, Korea is getting the number it needs.

The key changes in the M1151 are a stronger suspension and a larger engine (a 6.5 liter turbo-diesel). This allows the vehicle to easily handle an additional 1,500 pounds of armor. More importantly, the armor is easily installed, or taken off. This allows the hummers to operate more efficiently, most of the time, without the armor.

For the last three years, the army has been buying 14,000 M1151s, and another 8,000 M1114s (with permanent armor installed). One major problem with the armored hummers is that they have more difficulty operating in mountainous areas like Afghanistan and Korea. Iraq is largely flat, at least the areas where armored hummers are needed.

The M1151 has removable armor. The M1151 will also have some armor underneath, but will otherwise look exactly like the M1114. The armor in the M1114 is added at the end of the production process, and requires special skills and tools to remove. Currently, the U.S. Army has over 10,000 M1114s. But the M1151 began replacing the M1114 last year.

The M1114 has been around since the 1990s. Originally designed for peacekeeping operations, it was meant for dangerous places like the Balkans. In 1998, only about 200 M1114s a year were being produced. The M1114 was based on a earlier armored hummer, that had served in the 1991 campaign in Kuwait.

The M1114 is basically an armored car, with a crew of four and a payload of one ton (plus two tons that can be towed.) A 190 horsepower engine gives it a top speed of 80 kilometers an hour and a max range (on one tank, on roads) of 480 kilometers. All the armored protection (against 7.62mm machine-guns and rifles, bombs, landmines and nearby bursting shells of up to 155mm) has more than doubled the cost of the M1114 ($165,000 compared to $65,000 for an unarmored model.)

The problem with putting two tons of armor on a hummer is that is causes more wear and tear to the vehicle, and they burn more fuel as well. This is especially true for a vehicle that is used day after day, in hot and dusty conditions. The extra weight is also in places that the vehicle designers did not plan on having additional weight. So the vehicles ride differently when armored. Drivers have to get used to it. The army would like to get rid of the armored hummers, and is working a new vehicle design to replace the hummer.




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