Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Good Idea Fairy

GovExec reports:

House Armed Services ranking member Ike Skelton, D-Mo., has asked the Pentagon to consider using existing M-113 armored personnel carriers to protect forces in Iraq while troops await the delivery of armored Humvees.

In a Monday letter to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, Skelton said that while light weight Humvees in Iraq struggle under the weight of add-on armor, the M-113 chassis easily can accommodate such a burden without causing significant maintenance problems. Skelton asked Myers to consider using the 700 M-113s the Army is speculated to have in Kuwait.

Skelton acknowledged that the M-113 has its drawbacks -- without additional armor, a new M-113 could prove useless against improvised explosive devices like those used by insurgents in Iraq. But an armored M-113 could "certainly provide better protection than soft-skinned vehicles" like light-weight Humvees, Skelton wrote, adding that they "provide no protection at all."

I'm an aviator, so I don't claim to know much about ground vehicles, but I think this is ridiculous for a few reasons:

1) The source. The request is from a congressman, not from commanders on the ground in Iraq (I don't know much about Congressman Skelton, but his bio indicates that his career is law and politics - no military experience, which makes me wonder why he's the ranking Democratic member of the HASC).

2) Logistics. 113s are old, and they break down. You can't just give a unit a bunch of vehicles without giving them spare parts and mechanics who know how to work on them.

3) Visibility. The driver's visibility is very limited in a 113, the TC can see when he's out the hatch behind the gun, but everyone else is inside and blind to the world.

4) Speed. A 113 can't keep up with wheeled vehicles in a convoy.

5) As the Secretary Rumsfeld pointed out at the beginning of this fiasco, THEY WILL STILL BLOW UP.

If anyone can set me straight on why this is a great idea, please do so. Otherwise, I maintain that the professional politicians should leave the good ideas to commanders.

Update: Captain Sterbo sheds the light of experience on the subject and corrects some of my errors:
The 113 has 2 inches of aluminum armor on the sides, on top of tracks. Rich, there's a 3 foot by 4 foot hatch in back (in addition to the driver's and gunner/commander's personal hatches), so the people inside can stand up and look out.
I think that an IED would make one fly to pieces - not based upon any scientific knowledge, just on my own impression of riding around in one for too many days. Even a basic RPG would probably rip one up.
Top speed is probably 25 mph.