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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Seeks More Armor for Humvees

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army is working to fill a shortfall in Iraq of thousands of advanced Humvee armor kits designed to reduce U.S. troop deaths from roadside bombs that are now inflicting 70 percent of the country's casualties in Iraq, U.S. military and civilian officials say.

The additional protection is needed for thousands of U.S. reinforcement troops flowing into Baghdad, where primarily Shiite insurgents have been using devastating weapons known as "explosively formed penetrators," or EFPs, which have been linked to Iran.

U.S. Army units in Iraq and Afghanistan lack more than 4,000 of the latest Humvee armor kits, known as FRAG Kit 5, U.S. officials say. The Army has ramped up production of the armor, giving priority to troops in Baghdad, but the upgrade is not scheduled to be completed until this summer, Army officials said. That is well into the timeline for major operations initiated last week to quell violence by Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, which the U.S. military now views as the top security threat in Iraq.

"Those who need FRAG Kit 5 are receiving FRAG Kit 5 based upon theater requirements and priorities," said Army Brigadier General Charles Anderson, director of force development for the Army deputy chief of staff. The Army is supplying the life-saving kits "as quickly as we can," he said in an interview and in written responses. "Kits are being flown to theater."

The Army declined to disclose details on the number of kits installed and where the shortages exist.

Shiite forces in recent months have stepped up their targeting of U.S. soldiers in Baghdad with sophisticated EFPs, described by one official as like "a spear that rips right through the vehicle."

Iran rejected U.S. accusations Monday that the highest levels of Iranian leadership have armed Shiite militants in Iraq with armor-piercing roadside bombs, The Associated Press said.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a televised interview aired Monday that his country was opposed to conflict and bloodshed in Iraq and that problems in Iraq should be solved with dialogue, not the use of force.