Magazine article National Defense

Roadside Bombs Spur Cry for Armored Civilian Vehicles

Magazine article National Defense

Roadside Bombs Spur Cry for Armored Civilian Vehicles

Article excerpt

The emergence of roadside bombs as a terrorist weapon of choice has caused a worldwide explosion in demand for up-armored civilian vehicles, says Gary Allen, president of Centigon, a recently created subsidiary of Armor Holdings Inc.

Based in Jacksonville, Fla., Armor Holdings manufactures vehicle armor systems for military services, law-enforcement and homeland-security agencies. In September 2005, it established Centigon by combining the civilian vehicle-armoring operations of its Mobile Security Division, including AMS-France, AMS-Germany and O'Gara & Eisenhardt.

Centigon, headquartered in Fairfield, Ohio, has eight manufacturing plants and 1,500 employees in seven countries in North America, Europe and Latin America.

The armor industry currently is evolving as to counter a growing threat to civilian vehicles, Allen said. Before the September 2001 terrorist attacks, he said, threats against civilian vehicles came primarily from handguns wielded by drug traffickers and gangs. After 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, the threat focus shifted to assault rifles. Currently, in Iraq, the emphasis is on improvised explosive devices. "Now it's not only a ballistic threat--it's a blast threat," Allen said.

In May, 2005, insurgents used IEDs about 700 times to attack U.S. forces in Iraq--the highest number since the 2003 invasion--Allen said. About 30 IED attacks now occur each day in Iraq, accounting for as many as 70 percent of all U.S. deaths, he added.

"I can tell you, based on my experience, I have never seen the kind of growth of the threat that we've seen in the past year," said Tony Russell, Armor's chief technology officer.

One result has been "explosive growth" in demand for armor protection for civilian cars, trucks and vans in the Middle East and particularly in Iraq, Allen said.

Centigon is marketing a package called the IE-Defense System. It can be applied to the Toyota Land Cruiser, Chevrolet Suburban and Silverado, Ford Excursion and F-Series, commercial truck cabs and any other vehicles with a one-ton capacity or greater.

The most requested conversions are for the Land Cruiser, Suburban and Excursion, Russell said. Primary customers are governments, private contractors and non-governmental organizations. The package includes:

* Large steel components welded together prior to heat treatment for stronger structural integrity. …

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