By on July 23, 2011

The NYT reports that, having fallen out of favor in the Afghanistan campaign for its vulnerability to roadside bombs, the HMMWV is making a comeback. The Humvee was being replaced by mine-resistant armored personnel carriers called MRAPs,

But recent blast tests show that Humvees built with the new chimney could provide as much protection as some of the heavier, and more costly, mine-resistant vehicles that have replaced them in many uses.

And if the final tests go well, the invention could save billions in new vehicle costs and restore much of the maneuverability that the Army and the Marines have lacked in the rugged terrain in Afghanistan, military officials say. Engineers say the chimney, which rises through the passenger cabin, releases some of the explosive gases — traveling at twice the speed of a fighter jet — that have mangled and flipped many of the vehicles.

Pentagon officials have said little about the 11 blast tests so far, in which the prototype vehicles are engulfed by a cloud of smoke, dust and fire, but the passenger cabin remains intact.

It turns out that adding armor hurts the maneuverability that makes the HMMWV so prized, and is less effective than the new chimneys which deflect blast forces around and away from the passenger compartment. The military will conduct five more blast tests and could request bids for the new generation of HMMWVs sometime this fall.

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12 Comments on “The Humvee Is Back!...”


  • avatar

    Google David Tenenbaum. He’s a friend of mine that was working for the US Army as an armor engineer. He was working on a program in the late 1990s that was beginning to identify shortcomings of the HMMWV in terms of armor and protecting its crew and how to improve their protection.

    Unfortunately, a disgruntled coworker accused David of being an Israeli spy (David was partly hired to work with Israeli military liasons, he’s fluent in Hebrew, and when his team traveled, he stayed in hotels that were walking distance to synagogues, all apparently were considered reasons to suspect him). The government deliberately leaked the news of the investigation against him, they raided his home on the Jewish Sabbath, carrying out even his kids’ computers, and the program he was working on to improve survivability in the HMMWV was killed. Eventually Tenenbaum was completely cleared and the Dept. of Defense issued a statement acknowledging that anti-semitism was a factor in the accusation and investigation. However, his career was effectively ended. He still gets paid, but they won’t give him any substantive work to do.

  • avatar
    sushytom

    So, when we get Hummers with chimneys for North America, then it will make sense to drive them to the mall?

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    The original Humvee wasn’t designed to survive any sort of blast. It was (relatively) light and mobile, especially good at climbing and getting through loose sand, as I recall from my Ft Hood and Gulf War 1 daze.

    The up-armored versions are fine – but the original chassis wasn’t designed for armored weight. And there was no foil hat grade conspiracy to keep armor away from troops. This light, mobile vehicle just wasn’t made for policing an insurgency armed with IEDs.

    • 0 avatar
      sushytom

      sigh. This is more than I needed to know. I just want to know if I will survive a IED blast on my way to the mall in Chandler, Arizona.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        sigh..for those of us that have been overseas and have had to put our lives in the trust of these, I’m glad your biggest concern is your drive to the mall.

        Ihate…so very, very true. I work on uparmored variants of these that carry anti-mortar equipement…the chasis just isn’t set for the type of weight the extra armor places on them. They weren’t meant to be tanks, but replacements for the old jeep. In that role, they were stellar. But the 1st gen MRAPSm though beautifully effective, proved cumbersome and unwieldy. While the next-gen MRAPs are much more maneuverable, I can imagine that the guys outside the wire would appreciate the added agility of a HMMWV, as long as it could withstand more punishment. And if it costs less than the MRAPs, more the better.

  • avatar
    gettysburg

    I don’t understand why details like this get published. Now the enemy can start figuring out how to circumvent this defensive capability, long before the the first vehicle ever hits the ground Afganistan or Iraq.

    Why not build and test this in secret. After that deploy it and let the enemy blindly try to figure out why IED’s aren’t effective.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    This design would be ineffective in any of the blasts I encountered. Protection against the blast itself is only part of the equation. Every time I was hit it was by a type of IED known as an EFP or explosively formed Projectile or Penetrator. This type of IED functions like a HEAT round in that the energy of the explosion is used to throw a molten projectile at you. We have armor that reduces the effectiveness of this type of IED, but it is pretty heavy for a HMMWV. From what I understand this type of IED is not as widely used in Afghanistan as it was in Iraq, however as the drawdown continues I am sure they will become more prevalent over there. So unless they up the power to carry this sort of armor, I am not impressed. As a Combat Engineer doing route clearance I wouldn’t touch a HMMWV except for running errands on the FOB.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    So many thoughts about this. My first thought was what a wonderful simple idea which I hope saves many soldiers lives.

    After reading the above comments my second thought was I hadn’t realized what a panty waist the original Hummer was.

    My third thought was that even as a panty waist the Hummer saved many soldiers’ lives because it replaced the badly designed 1/4 ton (Jeep) which fell over easily.

    My final thought was this is just part of the history of warfare. One side comes up with an advantage and the other side overcomes that advantage.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Your second thought should have been, “I hadn’t realized the explosives were that powerful.” Destroying a vehicle by setting off an artillery shell under it doesn’t necessarily equate to “panty waist.”

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        Also, the survival of the vehicle is not the main idea. It’s the survival of the troops inside that counts. And if they are injured and taken out of the fight for weeks or months, then “the terrorists win.”

        I believe that a large number of injuries suffered from IEDs are related to being tossed around. So a very strong, rigid vehicle might survive, but may not really accomplish the goal, which is to protect the squishy folks inside.


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