WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov.15 - Production of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles continues ahead of schedule, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said here today.
"For the month of October, we had hoped to produce 431 vehicles," Morrell said during a news conference. "We have produced 452. That's 21 more than we had anticipated, which puts us overall, year-to-date, program-to-date, 34 ahead of schedule."
The vehicles are state-of-the-art defenses against the leading killers of American troops in Iraq - improvised explosive devices and explosively formed penetrators. The V-shaped armored hull deflects explosive blasts from mines, IEDs and EFPs away from the crew compartment.
Variants of the vehicle are being produced for different mission needs, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has said there is no more important program than getting the vehicles to combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army and Marine units use the vehicles.
The Defense Department is airlifting the vehicles into the U.S. Central Command area of operations once technicians at the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in Charleston, S.C., outfit the vehicles with radios, jammers and other equipment allowing crews to communicate inside the vehicle and identify enemy or friendly forces.
"We are also showing some progress with regards to the outfitting of these vehicles down at SPAWAR in Charleston," Morrell said. "The time it takes to equip these vehicles with all the government-furnished equipment ... has been cut down to 21 days. I think when we started this, it was about 30 days."
He said command officials believe they can continue to refine processes and ultimately get the outfitting done in seven days. "It's ambitious, but they feel as though they are on course to do that," he said.
There are now 760 MRAP vehicles in theater, and the department believes it is still on target to get 1,500 of them to soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of the year. "The last two months of production are tough ones," Morrell acknowledged.
The November quota is just under 1,000 vehicles, and the December quota is about 1,200. "It's more than doubling what we did this past month," he said. "So we've got a lot of work to do, but we feel as though we are on the right track."