Improvised vehicle armour

Improvised vehicle armour

Improvised vehicle armour is vehicle armour added in the field that was not originally part of the design or centrally planned.

Improvised vehicle armour has appeared on the battlefield for as long as there have been armoured vehicles in existence. In World War II, U.S. tank crews welded spare strips of tank track to the hulls of their Sherman, Grant, and Stuart tanks.Moran, Michael. [ "Frantically, the Army tries to armor Humvees: Soft-skinned workhorses turning into death traps,"] "MSNBC", April 15, 2004.] In the Vietnam War, U.S. "gun trucks" were reinforced with sandbags and locally fabricated steel armor plate.Gardiner, Paul S. [ "Gun Trucks: Genuine Examples of American Ingenuity,"] "Army Logistician", PB 700-03-4, Vol. 35, No. 4, July-August 2003, Army Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Virginia. ISSN 0004-2528]

More recently, U.S. troops in Iraq have armoured their Humvees and various military transport vehicles with scrap materials: this came to be known as "haji" armour by Iraqis and "hillbilly" armor by the Americans.Hirsh, Michael; Barry, John and Dehghanpisheh, Babak. [ "'Hillbilly Armor': Defense sees it's fallen short in securing the troops. The grunts already knew,"] "Newsweek", December 20, 2004.]

World War I

In effect the first armoured cars to see combat were entirely improvised although this soon changed as the war continued. A few were used by the Belgian army during the German invasion . The British Royal Naval Air Service received reports of this and converted some of their own cars. Improvised conversion continued until December 1914 when the first standardized design entered service.cite book |last=Livesey |first=Jack |title=Armoured Fighting Vehicles of World Wars I and II |year=2007 |publisher=Southwater |isbn= 9781844763702|pages=pp.12-13 ]

World War II

Most armies involved in the conflict adopted some form of improvised armour at some point. The Home Guard in the United kingdom equipped itself with a number of vehicles with improvised armour. Later in 1944 some Churchill tanks had sections of track attached to their existing armour to provide extra protectioncite book |title=World War Two Tanks |last=Forty |first=George |year=1995 |publisher=Osprey |isbn=1855325322 |pages=pp.9] . M8 Greyhound crews would sometimes line the floors of their vehicles with sandbags to provide extra protection against landmines.cite book |last=Livesey |first=Jack |title=Armoured Fighting Vehicles of World Wars I and II |year=2007 |publisher=Southwater |isbn= 9781844763702|pages=pp.71 ] .U.S. tanks sometimes had spare strips of track welded to their the hulls. This was done with the Sherman, Grant, and Stuart tanks.Moran, Michael. [ "Frantically, the Army tries to armour Humvees: Soft-skinned workhorses turning into death traps,"] "MSNBC", April 15, 2004.]


In the Vietnam War, U.S. gun trucks were armoured with sandbags and locally fabricated steel armour plate.Gardiner, Paul S. [ "Gun Trucks: Genuine Examples of American Ingenuity,"] "Army Logistician", PB 700-03-4, Vol. 35, No. 4, July-August 2003, Army Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Virginia. ISSN 0004-2528]


In post-invasion Iraq, improvised vehicle armour is colloquially referred to as "Hillbilly armor", "farmer armor" or "haaji armor" by American troops

When American troops first took Baghdad, only the U.S. military police had fully armored vehicles. [ "U.S. to boost armored Humvee output: Pentagon ups order after soldier's question causes stir,"] "NBC News", December 10, 2004.] During the occupation that followed the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, insurgent forces deployed roadside bombs and snipers with small arms to attack military vehicles on supply convoys and other known routes.

To protect themselves from these threats, American troops began reinforcing their Humvees, LMTVs and other vehicles with whatever was available, including scrap metal, kevlar blankets and vests, compromised ballistic glass and plywood. In some cases they relied on Iraqis to assist them in these efforts, and referred to the result as "Haaji" armor. They were also officially advised [ "Bush: Soldiers' equipment gripes heard: To colleagues' cheers, soldier complained about armor to Rumsfeld,"] "MSNBC", December 9, 2004.] to line the floors of their Humvees with sandbags to deaden the impact of land mine explosions. A similar practice was common among M8 Greyhound crews during WW2.cite book |last=Livesey |first=Jack |title=Armoured Fighting Vehicles of Would Wars I and II |year=2007 |publisher=Southwater |isbn= 9781844763702|pages=pp.71 ]

Some officers in Iraq were disciplined over their refusal to carry out missions in what they considered improperly armored vehicles.Currey, Richard. [ "Waiting For Justice: The Saga of Army Lt. Julian Goodrum, PTSD, Hillbilly Armor, and Whistle-Blowing,"] "The VVA Veteran", March, 2006.]

Military-supplied "up-armor"

The Army began deploying 'up-armor' kits to better protect military vehicles in August 2003, two years before the Marine Corps would. Three levels of up-armor were implemented:

*Level I: fully integrated armor installed during vehicle production or retrofit (including ballistic windows)
*Level II: add-on armor (including ballistic windows)
*Level III: locally fabricated armor (interim solution, lacking ballistic windows)

The process of up-armoring all vehicles was to be complete by mid-2005. [ "Special Defense Department Briefing on Uparmoring HMMWV,"] U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), News Transcript, December 15, 2004.]

As recently as February 2006, the Army was welding additional armor onto the armored Humvee variant M1114 and 5-ton MTV in Iraq.] "The San Diego Union Tribune", February 17, 2006.]

The United States Marines developed their own Marine Armor Kit (MAK), consisting of bolt-on armor for the crew compartment, ballistic glass, suspension upgrades, and air conditioning. However, the kit was not fielded until early 2005, and even then only to certain specified units.Crum, R. USMC Maj. [ "New Marine Armor Kit to Upgrade 'Hummers',"] "Transformation", December 2, 2004.] The armor was made available for MTVR's, LVS's and HMMWV's. Level I armor kits are now phasing out MAKs for MTVR's and M1114 HMMWV's.

Rumsfeld questioning incident

The practice of U.S. troops reinforcing their vehicles with improvised armor became well known after a U.S. soldier questioned U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the need to salvage armor from scrap materials on December 8,, 2004 at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.Burns, Robert. [ "Soldiers criticize lack of armor,"] "Associated Press", December 9, 2004.] [ "Rumsfeld Responds to U.S. Soldier's Grilling: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Tries to Quell the Firestorm Over the 'Hillbilly Armor' Issue,"] "ABC News", December 9, 2004.]

Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles? We do not have proper vehicles to carry us north.

The question was met with cheers from fellow troops, and Rumsfeld's response:

I talked to the general coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they're not needed, to a place where they are needed. I'm told that they are being ... I think it's something like 400 a month are being done. And it's essentially a matter of physics. It isn't a matter of money. It isn't a matter, on the part of the Army, of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it.

As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate they believe ... it's a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment.

I can assure you that Gen. Schoomaker and the leadership in the Army and certainly Gen. Whitcomb are sensitive to the fact that not every vehicle has the degree of armor that would be desirable for it to have, but that they're working at it at a good clip.Sonnenfeldt, Helmut and Nessen, Rob. [ "You Go to War with the Press You Have,"] "Washington Times", December 30, 2004.]

Rumsfeld was paying a visit to approximately 2,300 troops on the eve of their deployment across the border to Iraq. Specialist Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team (Tennessee Army National Guard) asked the question, but it was later revealed that Lee Pitts, an embedded reporter for the "Chattanooga Times Free Press", had askedIt was widely reported that Wilson was "asked" to make the inquiry by Pitts or somehow "pressured" by him. Tom Griscom, executive editor of the "Times Free Press", wrote the following in a December 10, 2004 editor's note: "Questions have been raised as to whether Mr. Pitts used the soldier or put words in his mouth. While Mr. Pitts states that he discussed the armor question with the soldiers, Spc. Wilson chose to ask the question."] Wilson to make the inquiry. [ "Reporter planted GI's question for Rumsfeld: Says issue of unarmored vehicles wasn't being covered,"] "CNN", December 10, 2004.] "I have been trying to get this story out for weeks—as soon as I found out I would be on an unarmored truck," said an email from Pitts to "Times Free Press colleagues" that was posted by Jim Romenesko on the Poynter Institute website. "It felt good to hand it off to the national press. I believe lives are at stake with so many soldiers going across the border riding with scrap metal as protection."Pitts, Lee. [ Email from Pitts to colleagues, December 8, 2004,] posted on Poynter Institute website by Jim Romenesko, December 9, 2004.]

Several related questions were asked of Rumsfeld by other troops. Some of Wilson's fellow soldiers and commanders supported his inquiry in later interviews. Col. John Zimmerman, Staff Judge Advocate of Wilson's unit said that 95 percent of the unit's 300 vehicles lacked appropriate armor, and suggested that it was the result of a double standard used to equip the National Guard as compared with active-duty forces. [ "Soldiers Must Rely on 'Hillbilly Armor' for Protection: Troops Scavenge Scrap Metal to Protect Combat Vehicles,"] "ABC News", December 8, 2004.] Schmitt, Eric. "U.S. defense chief taken aback by pointed questions," "The New York Times", December 9, 2004.]

On December 9, 2004, President George W. Bush responded to the incident:

The concerns expressed are being addressed, and that is we expect our troops to have the best possible equipment. If I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country, I'd want to ask the secretary of defense the same question, and that is, 'Are we getting the best we can get us?

On December 10, 2004, it was reported that following the incident, Armor Holdings, Inc., the company producing armored Humvees for the Army, was asked to increase production from 450 to 550 per month—its maximum capacity. Also on December 10,, Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA, House Armed Services Committee) issued a news release harshly critical of the Bush administration and The Pentagon:

The Pentagon's excuses aren't even credible. It's been nearly two years since the war in Iraq began. It's been more than a year since the concerns about unarmored Humvees were raised. It's been more than two months since the company that provides the armor for the Humvees informed the Marine Corps that it could speed up production....

There is no excuse that the production of armored vehicles was not ramped up much earlier. No excuse.... Because of callous negligence on the part of the Pentagon's leadership, our soldiers have had to resort to dumpster diving to improve their chances of survival.

Meehan described the shortage of armored vehicles as "a dangerously exposed center of gravity" of America's military presence in Iraq, and the lack of preparedness for insurgent tactics such as deploying improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as "symptomatic of a headlong rush to war." [ "Meehan Calls for Ramped Up Armoring of Vehicles,"] Congressman Martin T. Meehan (MA05), news release, December 10, 2004.]

On December 15, 2004, the Department of Defense held a special briefing on the issue of up-armoring. Officials stated that the process of up-armoring SPC Wilson's unit was nearly complete on December 8, and was completed within 24 hours of the incident. Brig. Gen. Jeff Sorenson, Deputy for Acquisition Systems Management, stated during the briefing:

You can go back to other particular operations with respect to even the Soviet Union in terms of some of their operations that they had in Afghanistan as well as Chechnya, where they came in in a vehicle configuration that was all buttoned up and all isolated, and in many cases that particular formation was destroyed....

There's an art and science to this.... the whole point of what we're doing there is to win the hearts and minds of that particular population in that country. You don't do that by sitting—staying in a vehicle, not getting out of the vehicle and not being exposed. So there is an art there from the standpoint of what is the balance in terms of protection that is required to that particular vulnerability where we're unprotected....

We're trying to win the hearts and minds of this population, and you can't do that sitting within a closed vehicle. You can't do that in isolation. You have to get out and essentially engage.... it just wasn't going to make sense to win the hearts and minds of a people by having tanks and Bradleys and so forth running up and down the streets. So they tried to put people into vehicles that were less obtrusive as well as an ability for them to engage. However, as a consequence of that, we began to find a threat that we had not anticipated, and we then had to respond to that threat with the protection levels and the capabilities that we have provided.


The way the incident was portrayed by some media outlets—particularly that Rumsfeld's answer to Wilson may have been quoted without sufficient context—and the revelation that an embedded reporter may have "planted" the question received critical reaction in the following days.

The incident sparked criticism of Rumsfeld,Kristol, William. [ "The Defense Secretary We Have,"] "Washington Post", December 15, 2004.] and led some to question the nation's commitment to its troops.Costello, Tom. [ "Lack of armor sign of the times in Iraq,"] "MSNBC", December 9, 2004.]

Non-military use

During the 1984 UK miners' strike, buses used for transporting strikebreakers to work were armoured against attacks by strikers by fitting metal bars to their windows. These improvised armoured buses were nicknamed "battle buses".

See also

* Improvised fighting vehicle


External links

* [ US Soldiers show off Hillbilly Armor] – Video clip from the film "Gunner Palace" (2005)
* [ Hillbilly Armor] – Discussion thread at Glock Talk Forums

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