WASHINGTON -- New 5-ton armored "gun trucks" fielded in Iraq are providing U.S. troops with effective protection against insurgents' improvised explosive devices and small-arms fire, a senior military researcher said on Capitol Hill.
Currently, "there are 31 5-ton gun trucks in Iraq, and they are saving lives," Steven J. DeTeresa, an engineer from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., told members of the House Armed Services Committee.
DeTeresa said the Army used gun trucks during the Vietnam War. The Livermore lab and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, he noted, have worked since December 2003 to jointly develop a modern version of the gun truck concept.
Take a gun truck's standard 5-ton heftiness - heavier than a Humvee -- then add armor and multi-weapons capacity -- including hard-hitting .50-caliber machine guns - and you've got "a much more serious convoy protection platform," DeTeresa explained.
DeTeresa cited the experience of a gun truck crew in Iraq that survived an IED explosion, thanks to the truck's two layers of steel armor augmented by ballistic fiberglass.
The gun truck was damaged beyond repair, but "all the crewmembers survived with relatively minor injury," DeTeresa pointed out. The totaled vehicle's armor, he said, was removed and put onto another gun truck.
The fiberglass component of the armor "provides additional protection both from IED threats and small-arms" fire, DeTeresa said.
Gun trucks are also fitted with transparent ballistic glass shields, DeTeresa noted, so gunners can scan for enemy activity while gaining added protection.
Also at the hearing was Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va. Mattis, who commanded Marines in Iraq, noted U.S. troops in Iraq now find "40 to 60 percent of the IEDs before they are detonated."
Added vehicle armor is a good thing for protecting troops in Iraq, Mattis agreed, but he cautioned not to use armor "to encase the soldiers and Marines so well that they cannot see what's going on outside."