TCS Daily

"Send it, and We'll Figure Out How to Use It."

By Russell Seitz - December 21, 2004 12:00 AM

What could a soldier in Iraq possibly do with a slab of armor plate or bulletproof glass? More than a defense procurement bureaucrat in Washington; hence the wise words of General De Long, USMC, Ret. on MSNBC last week: "Send it, and we'll figure out how to use it."

He was expressing the wisdom of military experience going back to the day Ugh the Grunt discovered his trusty jade ax; besides braining cave bears, could deflect the flint spears tossed by his irascible Neanderthal neighbors.

Soon this Neolithic genius studded a mammoth hide with clamshells, and composite armor was born. Within a hundred generations, Ugh's descendants were pinching Saigon man hole covers to put under their helicopter seats, and complaining to Congressmen about late flak armor deliveries. Today, plus ca change,

many complain, but few deliver.

Middle America has a heartening tendency to actually do things for troops in the field. When grunts wrote home noting it was 140 degrees inside their tents, but that the Revolution In Military Affairs provided them with electricity to power tactical laptops, good people mobbed Walmart's to send $99 air conditioners to the nation's sons and daughters using one of the DOD's Really Good Things : The APO . It delivers parcels, even those containing air conditioners, to war zones with FedEx speed at 4th Class prices.

So what could Santa deliver to good kids spending the holidays under fire?

The stores are bare of humvee armor kits, or this essay would be pointless. Having already exhorted the Beltway denizens to twist the arms of the Scrooges managing our stay-at-home Euroallies' arsenals, here are a few thoughts on the right stuff to fill Kevlar stockings in record time. They range from off the shelf -- or out of the scrapyard -- to industrial processes whose speed takes precedence over economy.

Hillbilly Electronic Countermeasures

The Islamists' latest attempt to blow up Pakistan's president with roadside explosives ran afoul of a handy gadget called a VIP2 Road Ranger -- an electronic jammer that keeps radio controlled bombs from being triggered while their intended target is within lethal range. The Pentagon may pay about ten grand for gold-plated Mil Spec models, but the free market price of the same technology is closer to a microwave oven -- or a gray-market traffic radar jammer.

Used Tires

Not just any ones, and not the whole donut. What's needed is a program to round up and skive off the Kevlar belts that rim the nation's mountains of balding aircraft radials. This would spare our landfills while affording ingenious Gunnies a prime raw material for spanning hard to fit gaps in improvised explosion shields.

Glass Ceramics

Good old Corningware bowls bounce off concrete, but its ballistic resistance pales in comparison to the tougher stuff that glass makers transform into well named hard discs for computer memory drives. Cheap and readily manufactured, such materials approach the fracture toughness per unit weight of honest to gosh armor ceramics. Adding cesium to the precursor melt beefs up the computer grades, and mass production -- were' talking stovetops and windowpanes here -- can turn them out faster than silicon or boron carbide.

Scrap Kevlar Cloth

Any kind of aramid -- twaron, Kevlar, Whatever -- and almost any high tenacity fiber webbing or scrim, from Spectra to Nomex, are vast improvements on the lack of it for those with time and glue on their hands to reinforce their motley improvisations.


Duct tape kills. If you want to save a lot of lives for a little money, fast, investing it in seriously good epoxies and elastomers with energy absorbing fillers like microballoons is a highly portable way to go. If I sent one thing to Iraq, it would be high tenacity ways and means of enhancing the bonding of the catch as catch can vehicle armor people in theater improvise.

Small Halon Fire Extinguishers

The kind you can no longer buy, because they are hell on the ozone layer. So are third degree burns on human skin. If you've got 'em, in your closet or kitchen, send 'em, They are needed and they work so well that I would not want to be the DA who tries invoking the Montreal Convention to keep them out of vehicles going in harm's way.

The author is a frequent TCS contributor.


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