Thousands of pounds of armor added to military Humvees, intended to protect U.S. troops, have made the vehicles more likely to roll over, killing and injuring soldiers in Iraq, a newspaper reported.
"I believe the up-armoring has caused more deaths than it has saved," said Scott Badenoch, a former Delphi Corp. vehicle dynamics expert told the Dayton Daily News for Sunday editions.
Since the start of the war, Congress and the Army have spent tens of millions of dollars on armor for the Humvee fleet in Iraq, the newspaper reported Sunday.
That armor - much of it installed on the M1114 Humvee built at the Armor Holdings Inc. plant north of Cincinnati - has shielded soldiers from harm.
But serious accidents involving the M1114 have increased as the war has progressed, and the accidents were much more likely to be rollovers than those of other Humvee models, the newspaper reported.
An analysis of the Army's ground accident database, which includes records from March 2003 through November 2005, found that 60 of the 85 soldiers who died in Humvee accidents in Iraq - or 70 percent - were killed when the vehicle rolled, the newspaper reported. Of the 337 injuries, 149 occurred in rollovers.
"The whole thing is a formula for disaster," said Badenoch, who is working with the military to design a lighter-armored vehicle to replace the Humvee.
Army spokesman John Boyce Jr. told The Associated Press on Sunday that the military takes the issue seriously and continues to provide soldiers with added training on the armored Humvee.
The Army also made safety upgrades to the vehicle, including improved seat restraint belts and a fire suppression system for the crew, he said.
There are more than 25,300 armored Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
When Humvees do roll, the most vulnerable passenger is the gunner, the soldier who operates the weapon mounted in the vehicle's top.
Gunners were killed in at least 27 of the 93 fatal Humvee accidents since 2001, according to the newspaper's analysis.