When Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles the top priority, manufacturers quickly provided America’s war-fighters with thousands of these rolling bomb shelters. Anyone doubting the United States’ ability to crank out massive amounts of high-tech vehicles for its warfighters saw those fears vaporize in July 2008: That’s when the 10,000th Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle rolled off U.S. assembly lines, only 14 months after Gates declared the manufacturing and acquisition of MRAPs to be “the highest priority” for soldiers and Marines fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

mrap.gifGates gave that order in May 2007 after analysts concluded 63 percent of all U.S. casualties in Iraq resulted from IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and other roadside bombs. Such numbers made it clear that the military’s primary fighting vehicle, the Humvee/HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle)—even when up-armored, couldn’t adequately protect its drivers and passengers from IEDs. Unlike the MRAP’s V-shaped armored undercarriage that deflects explosions away from the vehicle, the Humvee’s flat underside exposes more surface area to blasts. As a result, shock waves violently reverberate back and forth between the vehicle and ground.

The MRAP’s bomb-deflecting design is working as advertised, its V-shaped hull cutting and dividing bomb blasts like a V-hulled boat slicing through ocean waves. Only a few hundred MRAP vehicles were in Iraq when the United States ramped up acquisition in May 2007. But by late summer 2008, about 10,000 MRAPS of several makes and models were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, with most serving in Iraq. Even so, as of Summer 2008, less than 10 service members had died in blasts targeting these vehicles. In fact, according to Force Protection of South Carolina, maker of the Cougar and Buffalo, its MRAPs were hit by explosives more than 3,200 times between March 2003 and February 2008, but only five service members died in those blasts.

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