United States Army HMMWV (Humvee) – Click above for high-res image gallery

We never really thought of the HMMWV (aka the Humvee) as a military vehicle with a "flat bottom, low weight, low ground clearance and aluminum body," but to American soldiers using the heavily-armored machines as their main source of transportation, those descriptors apparently apply all too well. In fact, the Humvee is downright dangerous in certain situations, namely when facing a roadside explosion from a remotely-detonated Improvised Explosive Device, or IED, which are the number one killer of soldiers in Iraq.

As such, the military went looking for a vehicle more appropriate for modern warfare, and what it found is called the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP for short. These heavily armored machines are raised high up off the ground and sport a V-shaped hull underneath to help divert blasts away from the passenger compartment.

The result: "Commanders consistently report that MRAPs, with their V-shaped hulls and added armored protection, are saving lives and reducing casualties," reports Major General Thomas Spoehr in testimony he recently submitted to Congress. The Pentagon expects there to be 5,250 MRAPs in use in Afghanistan by September.

So, 2010 marks the end of an era in military Humvee use. The Army will reportedly purchase about 2,600 more Humvees in 2010, which will be added to the current fleet, rounding the total number of units to 150,000. The last new Humvee will be ordered sometime in April. These remaining Humvees will be used primarily in non-combat situations and in parts of the world where IED use isn't an established battle tactic.

Interestingly, though, USA Today reports that Marine Corps Commandant James Conway has said the Marines are investigating ways to retrofit a V-shaped hull to the classic Humvee. Might there still be life left in the old bird?

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[Source: USA Today]