Since replacing the Jeep in 1984, the Humvee has been modified to fill tactical roles for which it was never designed to undertake, perhaps most notably as a transport capable of protecting American troops from attack in the Middle East.
According to statistics from the Washington Post, “The number of IED (improvised explosive device) attacks has steadily risen in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They now account for nearly two-thirds of military deaths from hostile actions in Iraq, and slightly less than half in Afghanistan.” (September 30, 2007).
The Humvee was not originally designed to sustain the sorts of small arm, machine gun or explosive fire it has encountered in the Middle East. Armored versions of the Humvee such as the M1114 do exist and “Up-Armor” kits have been made available for installment, but at its best the Humvee is merely retrofitted for the types of attacks it encounters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its inadequacies were brought to the national spotlight as part of the publicized criticisms of former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld before he eventually resigned his post in 2006.
Now, the US military is working to replace the Humvee in both the short and long term. For immediate use, various prototypes are being developed and tested for standardization and various MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles are already being utilized to fill the duties the Humvee is not adequately equipped for. In particular, a family of vehicles produced by Force Protection Inc known as Cougars are currently seeing action and reports of their resilience to attack have been close to entirely positive.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates requested larger numbers of the Cougars be deployed to Iraq after Marines reported in 2004 that no troops had died in them during more than 300 IED attacks.
The Cougar is equipped with V-shaped hull that extends to the engine bay to help deflect the force of an explosion away from the vehicle and is protected against small arms fire, land mines and IED's. Inside, the cab is cooled by duel air conditioners to keep heavily dressed troops from succumbing to the dangerous Iraqi heat.
For all the success the Cougar has seen, criticisms of the giant vehicle include concerns that it might be too big for it’s own good. Their curb weight can tip the scales at 14-tons, too heavy to cross many bridges and too large to navigate close quartered areas. The cost of production can easily top $500,000 a piece and questions have been voiced as to if there are enough manufacturers of military-approved steel to meet the Cougar’s copious need for armament.
Other possible setbacks include just what will be done with the MRAP’s that do see completion after the end of the conflicts in the Middle East; as vehicles almost specifically designed for the unique battle grounds of the area they might not be useful in other parts of the world.
Regardless of the issues hampering the greater production of MRAP’s it would be agreeable to say that with the infusion of vehicles such as the Cougar in Iraq, US troops are going to better protected than they ever could have been in a Humvee.