The Pentagon expects to deliver only 1,500 mine-proof armored vehicles to Iraq by the end of the year, less than half the number promised a month ago, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Press secretary Geoff Morrell said the Pentagon will not be able to meet its goal of delivering 3,500 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles by the end of the year.
“If we could get 1,500 to theater by the end of this year that would be a positive development,” he said.
Morrell said production of the vehicles will ramp up through December, and the Pentagon still hopes to meet its production target by the end of the year.
But it takes about 50 days to equip and ship a vehicle to Iraq, too long to get the bulk of the newly produced vehicles to Iraq by the end of the year, he said.
“We’re trying very hard to condense the time it takes to equip these vehicles and get them to theater,” he said.
Morrell initially attributed the delays to not being able to line up enough vendors to meet the production goal, which he described as a “best case scenario.” But he later told reporters that was wrong.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the MRAPs the Defense Department’s top acquisition priority after learning that not a single marine has been killed in one.
On July 18, the Pentagon announced plans to use a 1.2 billion dollar boost in funding accelerate production of the million dollar vehicles.
Assistant Secretary of Defense John Young said then that the Pentagon hoped to produce 3,900 MRAPs by the end of the year, and deliver 3,500 of them to Iraq.
The MRAP’s raised chassis and V-shaped hull is designed to deflect explosions outward, offering greater underbelly protection against roadside mines than Humvees.
The Marines have only about 200 of the vehicles in theater. The army, which had resisted buying more because of their greater weight, has only about 300 similarly designed armored vehicles in Iraq, Pentagon officials said.