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Military hardware wearing faster than expected

Senior U.S. military officials tell NBC News that all major military equipment in Iraq is breaking down or wearing out at a faster rate than first estimated.

Before the war in Iraq, Pentagon officials had predicted that by now, Iraq would be pacified and most American troops would be long gone. But as the war drags on, the toll it's taking is far greater than expected — not only on the soldiers, but their equipment as well.

In fact, senior military officials now tell NBC News all major military equipment — trucks, tanks, helicopters and even guns — is breaking down or wearing out at a faster rate than first estimated.

It's not only due to the harsh desert conditions in Iraq, but the enemy has proven far more effective and resilient than anyone in the Pentagon had imagined. That's putting a far greater load on such equipment as Humvees and tanks — which are working at ten-times the normal rate.

"We're running the tracks off them," says NBC military analyst Gen. Barry McCaffrey (ret.) "They're going, instead of 800 miles a year, 8,000 miles a year and we're not rebuilding it."

It's also putting a tremendous stress on the military’s ability to fix them. The number of tanks requiring major repairs is up 600 percent. Before the war, some 300 Humvees a year would go through a major overhaul. Today that number has skyrocketed to 5,700 — a jump of nearly 2,000 percent.

"Our folks are in a constant cycle of repair, repair, repair to return this equipment to the force," says Gary Motsek, with the U.S. Army Support Operations.

And the cost is staggering. Last year the Army got an additional $1 billion to pay for wartime repairs. This year the price tag is expected to climb to $9 billion.

Even then, it's an increase in military spending that will extend well beyond the war.

"Should the war end today, it would take two years for the United States Army to replenish itself and bring its equipment back to proper state," says Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

But in fact, the war appears nowhere near ending. Friday, Military officials said current plans call for the same number of American troops to remain in Iraq for at least the next two years.