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MRAPs ASAP.

The Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle, more popularly known by its acronym, MRAP, has proven to be a valuable asset in saving soldiers' lives since the Department of Defense (DOD) launched the MRAP program in earnest in October 2006. By May 2007, and at the direction of Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, a task force was formed to integrate planning, analysis, and actions to accelerate acquisition. Soon after, procurement of the MRAP was given top priority following only behind missile defense and Joint Strike Fighter programs. At a pre-Christmas briefing, DOD Press Secretary Geoff Morrell remarked that contract orders had increased to just under 12,000 with an end total objective of more than 15,000 vehicle units. Now that production is in full swing, momentum focuses on delivery to the troops. Deployment is top priority.

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As this issue of the Defense Transportation Journal goes to press, 1300 MRAPs are in theater; another 180 are en route by sea aboard the USNS Pililaau, operated by Military Sealift Command, and an additional 15 MRAPs are in the air headed to Iraq. All told, it is estimated that $750 million will be spent this year to deliver MRAPs produced by four commercial manufacturers: Force Protection, International, BAE Systems, and General Dynamics Land Systems Canada.

Pentagon budget documents calculate the cost to fly one MRAP (from Charleston AFB) to Iraq at $135,000 compared to $18,000 to deliver by ship. In terms of time spent, it requires either one day by air or between 20 and 30 days by sea. Depending upon vehicle configuration and the type of aircraft used, two to four vehicles can be loaded on board versus upwards of 100 vehicles on an oceangoing vessel.

THE "3 CS"--COORDINATION, COLLABORATION, AND COOPERATION ARE PIVOT POINTS

Initially, MRAPs went by air because this was the most expeditious means prior to production ramp up. Russian crews were even contracted to provide airlift via the Antonov 124 (An-124). This made good sense in the beginning--it saved wear and tear on our C-17 and C-5 fleets and maintenance costs. It also alleviated significant risks. The C-5, for example, is capable of hauling a heavy load, but if a single aircraft were lost to wear, accident, or incident, our military capability would be seriously compromised.

The US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) team looked at the right mix to manage the increased volume and expand options, and that would combine sea and air scenarios and strategically utilize commercial and government assets. Sealift is an especially efficient form of transportation because a single ship has the capacity to carry more than a month's worth of the vehicles ferried by air. In all scenarios, however, the "3 Cs"--Coordination, Collaboration, and Cooperation--help synchronize shipments.

FROM BOTTLENECKS TO BREAKTHROUGHS

Program critics argued that the process to develop and produce the MRAP moved too slowly in the beginning. Now that vehicles can be counted on, the challenge is to avoid similar criticism and ensure that the military men and women serving in harm's way receive protection. On average, as companies are working flat out, it takes about a week to produce a single vehicle; however, USA reports that "bottlenecks lurk everywhere in the process. One manufacturer depends upon components from at least eight states and several foreign countries, including armor from Israel and tires from France." On the up side, the Army and the Marine Corps jointly agreed to purchase common items, rather than customize their orders, a decision that reduced complications of installing separate service-unique items.

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On another positive point, the MRAPs are fundamentally large, heavy trucks, which shortens the operational learning curve. A spokesperson for the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, the first Army infantry unit to receive the MRAPs in October 2007, explained that "All motor transport trained personnel are fully capable of maneuvering them in tough situations S'right out of the chute.'" Training takes place in theater, which means soldiers can get behind the wheel more quickly and operate with confidence.

Once the vehicles arrive in theater, CENTCOM's distribution system moves the vehicles to receiving units.

INDUSTRY RESPONDS--SETS BENCHMARK DELIVERY

General Schwartz, USTRANSCOM commander, emphasized the need to create additional reliable, cost-effective transportation options in order to meet increased production demands. Furthermore, lives were on the line. Bob Wellner, Executive Vice President and COO of Liberty Global Logistics (LGL), recalls the special request that came to the company from the Department of Defense to accommodate the first surface (ocean) move of MRAPs from the US to the Mid East in mid-October this year. "After making some adjustments to the MV Alliance New York's schedule, cargo obligations, and configuration, we were able to respond. Due to the sensitivity and importance of this load, timing was critical, and the Alliance New York was asked to expedite its operations and estimated arrival to Kuwait. In addition to commercial cargo, the vessel initially lifted unit cargo in Beaumont, Texas. Thanks to the efforts of the 841st TTG, the departure time was accelerated."

Wellner continues, "Unfortunately, as the vessel left Beaumont, she encountered Tropical Storm Noel, which delayed arrival in Charleston, South Carolina, where we took on the MRAPs." All MRAPs, regardless of where they are produced, end up Charleston where they are finally outfitted with navigational systems, jammers, and specialized instrumentation at the SPAWAR Systems Center. "Once more, as a result of the great effort from the 842nd TTG, the vessel's departure was expedited. All MRAPs--there was a total of 48 vehicles available at the time--were loaded on November 3, and the vessel set sail the next day. Following a 21-day, nonstop voyage, the MV Alliance New York arrived in Ash Shuaibah. The 599th TTG and 1173 TTBN helped to discharge the MRAPs on November 25, six days ahead of the Required Delivery Date (RDD).

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"The overall operation was made a success through the joint efforts of US-TRANSCOM, DLA, and SDDC and set the benchmark for establishing new transportation options for the command and for expeditious and reliable delivery of critical equipment to the warfighter."

Liberty Global Logistics (LGL), a US company, provides logistical services and marine transportation alternatives to shippers of cargo, worldwide. LGL is a US and non-US Flag vessel operator, charterer, and manager, with special emphasis on Pure Car/Truck Carriers and Con-Bulkers, transporting government cargoes and government-impelled cargoes such as rolling stock, vehicles, trucks, trailers, heavy equipment, Mafis, helicopters, tracked vehicles, fork liftable cargos, household goods, containers, and all break and loose bulk commodities. LGL can provide a wide array of logistical and transportation services and will accommodate services point to point.

RESOURCES

DOD Briefing presented by Director Defense Research and Engineering John Young, Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources; LTG John Castel-law, Deputy Chief of Staff USA G-8; and Commander Marine Corps Systems Command Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan. July 18, 2007

"Sealift of MRAP Vehicles Begins"

Cynthia Bauer

USTRANSCOM Public Affairs

November 30, 2007

"Journey Long, Demand High for MRAP"

Tom Vanden Brook

USA Today

December 18, 2007

And special thanks to Liberty Global Logistics for sharing their story.
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Author:Schmitt, Karen
Publication:Defense Transportation Journal
Date:Feb 1, 2008
Words:1194
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