'Panther' designed to keep troops safer

June 23, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- On Tuesday, "The Panther" received a rock star welcome with fog, high adrenaline music, disco lights and a military escort.

The Panther, the name officially given to the new medium mine protected vehicle, soon will be shipped to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers say its addition to the U.S. Army's line of vehicles provides much improved safety around improvised explosive devices.

"We're all extremely excited to see this vehicle roll off. ... We're taking a huge hit in this IED fight," said Col. Robert A. Tipton, who served as the keynote speaker at the Panther's unveiling.

Final assembly of Panther vehicles occurs at Letterkenny Army Depot north of Chambersburg through a partnership with private companies BAE Systems and PM Assured Mobility Systems.


One-hundred-and-sixty-two orders have been placed for the vehicles, which come in several varieties for different types of missions. One opens in the back to release a robot.

Tipton, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, talked about a sergeant's death when a rocket-propelled grenade cut through a M113 Armored Personnel Carrier "like a knife cutting through hot butter."

"We said, 'We've got to fix this,'" he said.

Mark Colley from PM Assured Mobility Systems recalled IED explosions during his time in Tikrit, Iraq.

"I remember thinking somebody's got to do better than this. ... Looking at this truck, we've done better," Colley said.

The six-wheeled vehicle has a V-shaped hull. It's billed as having "large ballistic windows, a 360-degree situational awareness suite (and) NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) overpressure system."

Mechanics and other uniformed and civilian people involved with the Panther's development and construction were applauded during the ceremony.

"The care that's gone into it just warms my heart," Tipton said.

Letterkenny Commander Col. Steven Shapiro said he recently received an e-mail from a friend deployed in Iraq. The friend saw what happened when an IED detonated under an armored vehicle with V-shaped hull.

Three soldiers and an interpreter suffered bruises and bleeding, but no debilitating injuries.

"He said, 'I think the V-shaped vehicles are made by God,'" Shapiro said, saying he thought that, no, they're made at Letterkenny.

Signs posted around the building feature soldiers' remarks about Letterkenny-produced equipment saving their lives.

"Letterkenny hopes to have many more years of doing work like this and getting stories like that," Shapiro said.

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