MRAP Vehicles

The most lethal weapons being used against US troops in…

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The most lethal weapons being used against US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are improvised explosive devices and roadside ambushes with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machineguns. The objective of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) program is to create vehicles that can survive either form of attack. The Department of Defense’s (DoD) program to rapidly procure combat-ready MRAP armored vehicles is a remarkable example of short-circuiting the usual long program to procure a new type of combat vehicle.

mraps.gifRealizing the urgent need to produce and deploy large numbers of MRAPs to the troops in the field, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates short circuited the usual procurement system and instead simply issued a specification indicating what a MRAP has to do and its capabilities are to withstand certain elements with no other requirements. Since a MRAP is basically a heavy-duty truck that has been modified to have an armored body and a special V-shaped bottom to its hull, any company could contract to build MRAPs so long as they met the basic specifications without regard to details of construction.

Seven companies submitted their designs, which were approved for expedited production and large orders for all of the different designs were issued. As a result, large numbers of MRAPs have been produced and issued to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, saving large numbers of lives. The US Army plans to increase its fleet of MRAP vehicles from the initial 2,300 to 17,700. The Marines’ allocation will remain at 3,400 and special operations forces will receive about 300 (170 have already been ordered). This plan will virtually phase out the HMMWV (high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle) from use in combat patrols and high-risk missions.

MRAP Program
The initial joint services program was expected to cost over $2 billion and is being managed by the US Marine Corps. However, given the poor performance of lightly armored vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the realistic requirement for MRAP rose to over 7,700 vehicles, worth an approximate $8.4 billion. Some 3,700 MRAPS will go to the USMC, while the Army plans to buy 2,500. The Army is expected to get much more than what it currently plans, as priorities are changed and additional funding allocated.

MRAP is the “highest priority Department of Defense acquisition program,” Defense Secretary Gates wrote in a memo sent in early May 2007 to the secretaries of the Army and Navy. Current forecasts based on urgent requirements directed by the Department of Defense call for the rapid acquisition of 17,000 to 20,000 heavily armored MRAP vehicles, replacing armored HMMWV currently operating in theater. Manufacturers are producing the vehicles at full capacity and it is doubtful if they can increase production further in the near term in spite of the demand.

Previous MRAP models, including Cougar JERRV (Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle) and Buffalo mine-protected trucks, are currently in service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the original 4,100 vehicles, 1,500 will be Category I mine resistant utility vehicle (MRUV) for the US Marines and US Navy, while 2,600 will be Category II JERRV for US Army units.

The current MRAP, considered to be better protected against IEDs, mines and RPGs (rocket propelled grenade), is expected to significantly improve the protection of troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The vehicles will use bulletproof armor and are designed with V-shaped hull, deflecting the blast effect created by mines or IEDs.

MRAP Overview
The armor protection of the vehicle includes mine protection, ballistic protection, and full roof protection from overhead airburst as well as side protection against fragmentation and blast. The transparent armor windows will have protection levels equal to or greater than that of the ballistic armor on the vehicle and will have built-in gun-ports. RPG protection could also be an option.

MRAPs are heavily armored trucks that weigh up to 52,000 pounds. Equipped with V-shaped hulls on raised chassis, they help deflect explosive blasts. Originally used by explosives ordnance disposal teams, they have performed so well in Iraq and Afghanistan that DoD has placed very large orders to expand their use for all types of units and missions.

IEDs and the even more lethal explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) produce approximately 65 percent of the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. MRAP acquisition and delivery is the priority. More than 1,525 of the MRAP vehicles have been delivered to the US Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan so far and have helped save many lives.

Force Protection’s Cougar
Due to the tight procurement schedule, only commercially available designs were considered. The vehicle should be designed for off-road and highway mobility, and be configured for personnel, cargo, and litter transportation. Two versions of the larger truck size vehicles are considered: a Cougar sized, 38,000-pound (17-ton) vehicle with a payload capacity of 5,000 pounds (2.25 tons) that will be able to carry six to 10 troops (about 2,000 vehicles required).

The vehicle will be configured to carry existing gunner protected turrets or remotely controlled weapon stations, enabling the gunner to load, operate and engage targets from fully protected positions. To improve recovery after mine damage, the vehicle will be built of modular components that could break away from the vehicle in the case of a blast. Its energy-absorbing seats should be capable of withstanding the accelerative effects of mine blasts. The truck sub-category also includes a 45,000-pound (20-ton) armored truck (Buffalo size).

Oshkosh and IET
Two truck manufacturers, Oshkosh and International Engines & Trucks, were selected among nine companies, each providing two Category I and two Category II vehicles for testing. The Category I is the smaller of the two vehicles, intended for urban operations and referred to as the MRUV. The Category II is a larger platform, designated as the JERRV, and is designed to carry up to 10 passengers on multiple types of missions.

International Engines & Trucks (IET) teamed with the Israeli armor expert Plasan Sasa to provide MRAPs at its armor integration center in Mississippi. International’s trucks will utilize a modular concept to armor its trucks for the MRAP bid. The design maintains the standard chassis to ensure commonality and enable worldwide support, while assembling the modular, V-shaped crew compartment hull on top.

The chassis types selected for the bid include commercial trucks built to carry heavy loads, therefore accommodating the weight of protective armor built into the truck design. This design maintains the vehicle’s maneuverability even under full combat loads.

MRAP Future
There were 11,900 MRAP vehicles under contract as of December 2007, with a goal to build at least 17,770 MRAPS for the Army, Marines, Special Operations Forces, Navy and Air Force. The vehicles cost between $500,000 and $1,000,000 depending on which of the 16 different variants is ordered. In addition to the supplemental funding, Secretary Gates has received approval from Congress to shift $1.2 billion from other defense programs to the MRAP effort. MRAP spending for the year 2007 totaled around $5.4 billion.

MRAP production goals are demanding. Though steel, axles, engines, ballistic glass, tires, and transmissions have not been diverted from other armored vehicle production and repairs, supplies are monitored closely. DoD has been aggressive in helping industry ramp up production capacity. For example, the Defense Logistics Agency is buying enough tires and steel to avoid shortages that could delay the program.

In addition to vehicle manufacturers, materials, and parts suppliers, there are many other types of firms that participate in the MRAP market. Weapons mounts, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and radio frequency jamming equipment are also applied to a range of MRAP variants. The Naval Warfare System Center team in Charleston, South Carolina, installs the required government-furnished equipment.

MRAP purchases will continue through 2008. Contracts for other tactical vehicles of all types for the US military and allied governments are expected to be valued at over $10 billion over the next five to seven years. Industry participants that can continue to build effective teams will have an advantage. Programs such as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR), and FMTV ensure that vehicle manufacturers and suppliers will be busy for years to come. The current MRAP procurements are a precedent for government acquisition changes that increase fielding speed, and partnerships with industry.

The MRAP program is an outstanding program that has dispensed with many bureaucratic procedures and has delivered thousands of life-saving vehicles in record time to our troops who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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  • Mitchel Eisenstein

    Its good that usual procurement protocols at the defense department were short circuited for the purpose of bringing vehicles into the field that actually protect our troops. Too many soldiers have been gravely wounded due to soldiers having to travel in convoys inside humvees; a vehicle whose time has come and gone. Armored vehicles with excellent ballistic protection for troops, gives them a fighting chance in the current war scenarios of inside city battles where enemies lurk high and low, mixed with civillians, and surrounded by IEDs and suicide bombers. v shaped hulls to deflect upward explosions are a great advancement. That combined with greater effectiveness in dealing with locals in a way which does not create enemies, and promotes friendship is the way to go. we need to find a way to deal with the wide spectrum of islamic beliefs and the people who hold them, and find a way to leverage the moderates away from the extremeists. we have to isolate the extremeists and encourage the moderates. but we have to do it in a way which does not abandon the moderates when times get rough. American has a history of abandoning disposable allies when times get tough. we cant do that any more if we expect to win against the radical islamic fundamentalist cancer that is infecting up to a billion people. we keep missing the mark. In china we encouraged capitalism thinking it would bring democracy, but the jury is still out on that. the hard core communist dictatorship is still well in control, and infinitely richer than ever, and with a strong political influence in american economics and therefore politics. what we succeeded in doing in china was to bring us very cheap goods at the expense of american jobs, and now high commodities prices which will even result in making those once cheap goods expensive. all we created was a communist competitor that we cant compete against, but creating a windfall for multinational corporations and their stockholders who are the very richest. we have leveled the playing field by bringing america down to the level of communist china. we are on the verge of having our debt rating cut to AA from AAA which will turn the united states into a second class nation with rampant inflation and drastically lower standards of living. Countries will be irrelevent as the world stratifies into the countrieless super rich and the countryless very rich, the countried rich, and the rest of us in layers of wealth poverty and misery, irregardless of national origin. World power will be up for grabs with China very likely to grab the reins and global instability very high. Islamic fundamentalism is I think encouraged by Christian fundamentalism. Since we cannot any longer repress those ideologies we do not like, we need to encourage those ideologies we support, and do business with them. All these guns i see on these pages, are they the answer? Killing someone is a very personal act. It changes you and ruins you. Even being mean to another human being is harmful to us. How are we going to get anywhere, anywhere at all if we are going to continue to live like animals. We cant seem to stop it. Its in our blood to have more than others, to take what we can, to share only with family, to hate as much as to love. We are in a very precarious predicament. We are slipping into chaos. I can feel it. I can feel the lust for revenge and punnishment rising up in our hearts. I can feel the damage of the unrepentent. I can feel the cost of lack of knowledge. greed is much more profitible than love. and so we are drifting over the precipice. gathering speed into the abyss. slipping into the vortex of self destruction. what if we dont have enough energy, or enough water, or enough jobs, or enough food? WAR! WAR! WAR! is comming for us. War is comming for you! And the enemy will be you yourself! And your neighbor! and your children! Who will you shoot first?