Fleet overhaul: army seeking $34 billion for new, upgraded trucks.

Author:Erwin, Sandra I.

Senior Army officials have okayed a $34 billion plan to refurbish the service's truck fleet. Between now and 2018, the Army would acquire 70,000 new vehicles and upgrade more than 200,000 from the existing inventory.

The proposal, which also lays out a strategy to equip every truck with armor, was heavily influenced by the Iraq experience. By the military's own account, the lack of armored trucks at the outset of the conflict contributed to hundreds of casualties, who were killed or maimed by roadside bombs.

The Army spent the past two years rushing to Iraq thousands of armored Humvee trucks and applique armor kits. Now that most of the urgent hardware needs have been filled, officials say it is time for the Army to commit to a long-term effort that will prevent it from getting caught flat-footed again.

The 12-year plan, code-named "tactical wheeled vehicle fleet transformation strategy," would expand the Army's inventory from 235,000 to 280,000 trucks. The growth is attributed to the conversion of the Army's 10 divisions into 77 independent brigades. Each brigade will need to deploy with its own logistics assets, and no longer will rely on division- or corps-level support. The upshot is a sizeable increase in the number of trucks required to outfit each brigade, explains Army Lt. Gen. Claude V. Christianson, deputy chief of staff for logistics.

A light brigade support battalion, for example, would grow from 92 to 584 trucks. The logistics battalion for a heavy brigade would expand from 539 to 657 trucks. The ranks of truck drivers consequently will grow by nearly 15,000 within the next four years.

Although Christianson cautions that the numbers still are being refined, there is little question that the Army's truck fleet will be substantially larger.

Under the modernization plan, every truck will be manufactured with a common frame specifically designed with hooks and hinges to hang armor, if needed. Add-on kits would be made in enough quantities to equip up to 20 brigades. According to preliminary designs, each kit would provide armor appliques for the truck's roof, door, belly and side, in addition to transparent armor for windshields and windows.

"The technology is available for most of this," says Maj. Gen. Brian I. Geehan, chief of Army transportation.

This approach to armoring makes sense because not every truck needs the same level of protection, he asserts. Funding for the kits, which would cost between $7,000 to $11,000 each, is not included in the $34 billion modernization plan.

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