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WASHINGTON — The military is rushing armored vehicles with specially designed hulls to Iraq and Afghanistan to limit the damage from roadside bombs, the No. 1 killer of U.S. troops.
The bombs, which the military calls improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have killed or wounded thousands of troops and shredded conventional military vehicles. The new vehicles have a V-shaped hull, which disperses the force of an explosion and helps keep the vehicle from flipping over.
"It's just going to be the standard for any vehicle on the battlefield over the next 10 years," John Pike, a military analyst at GlobalSecurity.org in Alexandria, Va., said of the V-shaped hull.
Not only are lives at stake, but also millions — and potentially billions — of dollars.
The Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization is spending nearly $3.5 billion this year to combat IEDs. Pentagon records show that since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, 1,074 troops have been killed and 11,513 others wounded by insurgent bombs.
A major Pentagon supplier of V-shaped vehicles is 9-year-old Force Protection of Ladson, S.C. The Pentagon says the number of the company's Buffalo and Cougar V-shaped vehicles in Iraq is classified, but public records show the military has bought almost 300. That compares with more than 35,000 Humvees, the military's main multipurpose vehicle, in Iraq. The Buffalo vehicles cost $750,000 apiece, about five times the cost of an armored Humvee, which is smaller.
Force Protection says nobody inside a Buffalo has been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan despite encountering thousands of IED blasts.
Retired general Montgomery Meigs, head of the anti-IED organization, said the Buffalo's armor and shape make it "a lot more robust than the Humvee."