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.
Realizing 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.
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.
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.
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.
The most lethal weapons being used against US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are improvised…
by Rich Grassi / Dec 3, 2008