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Making MRAPs a priority: military speeding development, deployment of mine resistant, ambush protected vehicles.

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As has become apparent to anyone paying attention to current events, the greatest danger to U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have been roadside bombs, known more precisely as improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Because of that, the Pentagon has undertaken a fast-track procurement program to provide protection that is much improved over that provided by armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (Humvees). Over time, Humvees will be replaced by Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles designed to protect against IEDs, as well as mines and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG).

The MRAP program, managed by the U.S. Marine Corps, is a joint Marine and U.S. Army acquisition program with Rapid Deployment Capability authority. MRAP vehicles will be delivered and deployed with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq in significant quantities within a few months of contract award.

The initial procurement calls for a total of 4100 MRAP vehicles for service with the Marine Corps, Army and Navy. As many as 17,000 to 20,000 heavily armored MRAP vehicles could be acquired in the Iong run to replace the armored Humvees now in use that offer only limited protection against insurgent attacks.

There is no common MRAP design with the several contractors supplying their own off-the-shelf designs with minimal modifications to meet the MRAP requirements. Indeed, because of urgent need and limited production capability, some vehicle types are being built by multiple contractors. Several vehicles are based on proven designs from Israel and South Africa, leaders in armored vehicle technology.

There are actually three categories of MRAP vehicles. The Category I Mine Resistant Utility Vehicle (MRAP-MRUV) is the smaller and lighter, designed for urban operations. These are mainly for use by the Marines and the Navy. The larger and heavier Category II Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle (JERRV) is designed for U.S. Army missions like convoy lead, troop transport, ambulance, explosive ordnance disposal and combat engineering.

The Buffalo, supplied by Force Protection Inc., is currently the only MRAP Category III vehicle. Powered by a 400 hp Mack ASET Al-400 diesel engine and Allison HD 4510P transmission, it is fitted with an articulated arm for ordnance disposal and mine clearance.

One common feature on most MRAP designs is their V-shaped hull. Originally developed in South Africa and now used by military forces worldwide, the design has proved very effective in deflecting blasts upward and outward, thus protecting occupants against mine or IED blasts from below. The MRAP may not be effective against Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFP), which use a shaped charge to form a hypervelocity jet of metal, capable of cutting through thick armor. Fortunately, EFP weapons have seen limited use in Iraq. The Marines estimate that the use of MRAPs could reduce the casualties from IEDs by as much as 80%.

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Part of the procurement will consist of more of the MRAPs that are already in front-line service. Currently, there are just a few hundred mine resistant vehicles, but they have proven to be very effective in saving lives. These are mainly the Cougar protected trucks from Force Protection Inc., which incorporate chassis built by Spartan Motors. The Cougar comes in two versions--the MRAP Category I Cougar H 4x4 and Category Cougar HE 6x6 JERRV. Both Cougars are powered by Caterpillar C7 diesel engines rated 330 hp mated to Allison HD transmissions.

The RG31 Pathfinder, manufactured under partnership between BAE Systems Land Systems OMC in South Africa and General Dynamic Land Systems--Canada, is being used as a defacto Category I MRAP vehicle in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also with a Spartan Chassis, it is powered by a Cummins QSB diesel engine rated 275 hp driving an Allison 2000 series automatic transmission. There are currently over 400 Pathfinders in service with the U.S. Army and U.S. Special Operations Command in Iraq and Afghanistan, including over 250 uprated RG31 Mk5 versions that include an Allison 2500SP Gen 4 transmission. BAE Systems has received an order for advanced tactical wheeled vehicles based on the RG-31. There are both RG33 4x4 Category I MRUV versions and RG33L 6x6 Class II JERRV vehicles.

Navistar International Corp.'s International Military and Government LLC subsidiary is supplying Category I and Category II MRAP vehicles (see related story elsewhere in this issue).

Like other MRAP vendors, International is working with Israeli armor protection expert Plasan Sasa, who is supplying its multistage system design that includes a buffer between the floor and the vehicle's armor, the attachment of flooring to the vehicle's body in order to disperse blast effects, a shock-absorbent foam floor, a patented collapsible seat, and a Suspended Mine Blast Resistant Seat that isolates the seat occupant from direct shockwaves. International plans to assemble the armor kits at its Armor Integration Center in Mississippi.

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There are two MRAP vehicles developed by Protected Vehicles Inc., the Category I PVI-Alpha and the Category II Golan. While PVI will build the Golan, Oshkosh Truck will build the PVI-Alpha. PVI will provide Oshkosh with armored hulls outfitted with its advanced armor technology. The Alpha is a 13 ton, 4x4 armored vehicle with room for eight occupants. It features ShieldAII armor technology which, while weighing 37% less than steel armor, is capable of stopping multiple armor-piercing projectiles exceeding 0.3 in., the company said. When combined with PVI's other armoring, the complete system is capable of stopping threats from 50 caliber armor-piercing shells without the weight associated with conventional metal or ceramic armor, according to the company.

The Golan, designed under a joint Israeli-Rafael and Oshkosh Truck development, uses a Cummins QSL diesel engine rated 315 hp and an Allison automatic transmission.

Bill Siuru, PhD, PE, is Diesel Progress field editor based in Temecula, Calif.
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Title Annotation:MILITARY EQUIPMENT
Author:Siuru, Bill
Publication:Diesel Progress North American Edition
Date:Dec 1, 2007
Words:953
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