Sunday, April 13, 2003

Tank plant speeds armor

Tristate reacts to war

[IMAGE] Rich Dirmeyer (left) and Tom Ralston move the Abrams Rear Protection Unit into a packing crate at the Lima Army Tank Plant.
(Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
Faced with a vulnerable spot on U.S. tanks, Army engineers sketched an idea on a napkin. Seven days later, 20 custom pieces of armor were to be shipped to Iraq on Saturday to protect Abrams M1A2 tanks.

Engineers, cutters and welders at the Lima Army Tank Plant worked around the clock to fix the weak spot - exhaust and air intake vents - that led to the loss of several tanks in the first weeks of the war, said Lt. Col. Damon Walsh, plant commander.

"It's incredible," he said. "Guys in the desert are going to be that much safer because of what they do here."

The custom armor pieces are made of steel louvers that fit over the vents in the rear of the tanks, allowing air to flow while deflecting missiles or grenades, manufacturing programs manager Keith Deters said.

The assignment came too quickly to recall laid-off workers, Deters said, so he asked design and production teams to put in overtime.

"Ever since we've been working in teams, we've been able to get everybody together and say, 'Do you want the challenge?' " he said.

Meanwhile, production on normal orders kept up, Deters said. While crews in Lima began cutting and assembling the armor kits, crews in Aberdeen, Md., tested prototypes by firing rockets at them, he said.

The Associated Press

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