Army Captain Richard Hartney of Beef Always Wins has become our faithful Baghdad correspondent. Today he writes:
One of my readers has first hand knowledge of the armor production process, and he informed me:
The ability and capacity to assemble armored vehicles does NOT mean that the upstream suppliers also have the capacity to produce more Ceramic armor plating. I agree — there probably is no shortage of assembly capacity of vehicles — whatever the configuration.
But I do believe there is a shortage of ceramic armor production capacity (Ceradyne is opening a new plant — I understand there was over an 18 mo lead time to manufacture and deliver the furnaces needed for the production — and they are not sourced in the US).
The MSM will mislead by discussing the assembly of vehicles — but that is not where the bottleneck is…I had the opportunity to talk to some of the people at Ceradyne — from what was related during the visit, the bonus potential and contracts are set up to run capacity at 100% 24/7. I just do not buy that if capacity existed along the entire supply chain — we would be artificially limiting production.
Apparently, the furnaces are the hold-up, and there is some serious lag time since the furnaces take 18 months to manufacture. I’m still researching the specifics of the process, and I’ve put some more info in a post on my blog, but your large readership would probably make this much easier if you’re interested…
We are interested, of course, and if our readers have any information that would be of use, we would like to follow up.
UPDATE: Former Army Captain Peter Swanson is my day-job colleague and proprietor of Swanblog. Peter writes with a twist based on his service in the Balkans:
For what it’s worth, I was involved in the training of troops for missions in the former Yugoslavia from 1997 to 1999. I also served six months in the Balkans during that time. Conventional wisdom was that there were 6 million unexploded landmines in the former Yugoslavia, as they were the manufacturer of landmines for all of the Warsaw Pact nations.
The first battalion we sent from Fort Riley had every soldier equipped with a special non-magnetic mine probe in case they were caught in a mine field. They must have determined that to be overkill, because they stopped attaching the probes to their body armor at some point during the mission. All of the Humvees were required to be the type with kevlar composite doors and polycarbonite windows. Sandbags were also placed under the seats and on the floorboards, if possible, to protect against landmines. I am not aware that any of the “up armored” Humvees we talk about today were used in Bosnia during the late 1990s.
I did see a Special Forces guy on a transport plane to Germany who seemed to have a more advanced set of body armor than I did. It looked more comfortable, even if it covered less of the neck and shoulders.
My point is that troops were sent into a country that was believed to contain 6 million landmines. The trucks and Humvees did not have armor that could protect against an explosion from underneath. They had to pile sandbags on the floorboards. The troops did not have the most advanced body armor. Where were the MSM investigative reports on force protection back in 1997?