U.S. armored MRAPs vehicles are symbolic targets: general
By Andrew Gray
ABERDEEN, Maryland (Reuters) - New armored vehicles that give extra protection to U.S. troops in Iraq are becoming symbolic targets for insurgents, the top military officer in charge of acquiring the vehicles said on Friday.
The Pentagon says the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, which have V-shaped hulls to disperse the impact of bomb blasts, will save the lives of many U.S. troops and is rushing them to Iraq.
But Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan suggested the hype surrounding the vehicles was putting them at greater risk, pushing insurgents to see them as a challenge to be defeated.
"As we field these things, because of what all you are doing and how much you are touting the fact that they protect our troops ... these are becoming symbolic targets," he told reporters at an MRAP demonstration organized by the U.S. military.
"That in and of itself is not a good thing," he said.
The boxy, truck-like MRAPs, which come in various sizes and were originally developed in South Africa, give much greater protection than the Humvee vehicles used by many U.S. troops in Iraq against bombs planted on or beside roads.
The Pentagon says 6,415 MRAPs have been ordered and more than 225 have been fielded.
Brogan did not give examples of incidents in which he believed an MRAP had been targeted because of its status. He said he was reluctant to give many details of the program for fear that they could be useful to insurgents.
"Imagine if I'm a football coach and I've developed a play that's going to score every time I run it," he said.
"I sure don't want to hand it on in writing to the opposing defense," Brogan said at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground test site in Maryland.
The Pentagon said on Wednesday U.S. troops in Iraq would receive at least 1,000 fewer MRAPs this year than previously announced due to shipping constraints.
It said defense contractors were expected to produce 3,900 MRAPs this year but only 1,500 would make it to the war zone -- down from a previous shipment target of 2,500 to 3,000.
Brogan said the military and its contractors were working as hard as possible to get MRAPs to Iraq.
"We're going to get them there as quickly as we can," said Brogan, the head of Marine Corps Systems Command, which is in charge of procuring the vehicles for the military.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made MRAPs the Pentagon's top procurement priority. In June, he said scores of Americans would die for every month of delay in getting MRAPs into the field.
The U.S. death toll in Iraq since the 2003 invasion has reached 3,725. Of those, 1,593 troops were killed by an improvised explosive device, or IED, according to Web site icasualties.org, which tracks coalition deaths in Iraq
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