RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) - A chemical weapons depot in central Kentucky will begin making Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles for use by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
The Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond is one of three facilities picked by the by the U.S. military to produce 1,500 of the vehicles by the end of the year and continue production into 2008.
The vehicle production comes months after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' request in July that Congress give its approval to transfer $1.2 billion to the MRAP vehicle program.
"This is a crossroads event in the history of the Blue Grass Army Depot," said Commander Col. Richard J. Mason, Jr. "MRAP is a high-profile, critical mission with top-level priority that will add invaluable capabilities, experience and value to the depot's ongoing military mission both now and well beyond the completion of this particular effort."
Workers at Blue Grass Army Depot will cut armor with laser beams and a high-pressure water stream that "cuts like a knife" without getting certain metals too warm, said Dave Easter, public affairs officer for the depot.
The depot will also serve as a hub for the other two installations in the production line.
Armor kits produced at the Army's Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois and the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Ga., will be shipped to the depot for final assembly, storage and global distribution.
The depot will undergo some renovations to accommodate the equipment and materials needed to make the vehicles, Easter said.
The depot was given $31 million in seed money from the Department of Defense "just to get things rolling," Easter said.
The Blue Grass depot stores 523 tons of nerve and blister agents in rockets and projectiles. The weapons there and at sites in Colorado and Indiana are being destroyed through chemical neutralization, followed by a secondary treatment onsite. Weapons stored at the other sites are being destroyed through incineration.
Construction on the disposal facilities is starting later at the Kentucky and Pueblo, Colo., sites than elsewhere in the country.
At Blue Grass depot, officials said preparations are under way for the disposal and construction of the main demilitarization building will begin early next year.
Information from: Richmond Register,
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)