The rural communities surrounding Nashville, TN are quiet, unremarkable places. We know: we’ve been there. But now the city of Gallatin will be confronting its citizens with a $658,000 armored military vehicle that, like many of the young men in this country’s increasingly militarized police forces, has seen serious action.
Overseas, the “MRAP” is the symbol of American power on the move, a bizarrely self-parodying vehicle that attempts to encase its soft-shelled occupants from a world full of people who despise us and who will, increasingly, sacrifice their own lives to take ours. Nothing quite says “Us And Them” like rolling in an MRAP. It was developed for a world where everyone outside its reinforced-steel walls is a subhuman enemy to be killed at will.
So what does it say that four of the cities around Nashville are pleased as punch to take delivery of one?
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 MRAP s,
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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