Military Seeks Modified MRAP Vehicle For Afghan Terrain

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
USA Today
September 12, 2008
Pg. 2

By Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today
QUANTICO, Va. — Increased roadside bomb attacks and the hilly, rocky terrain in Afghanistan have led military commanders to push for a hybrid armored vehicle for troops there, according to a top military official and Pentagon documents.
Steep roads and untracked rural areas limit the use of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in Afghanistan. Attacks from roadside bombs, also known as improved explosive devices, that have killed or wounded U.S. and coalition troops there have risen from 48 in January to 99 in July. That's according to the Triton Report, a survey produced by the British firm HMS and used by the Pentagon.
The new vehicle would provide the type of protection provided by an MRAP but with the "agility, maneuverability and mobility" of a Humvee, the military's lighter workhorse vehicle, according to a Pentagon solicitation released in late August.
Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, who leads the Pentagon's MRAP effort, said in an interview that demand for MRAPs in Afghanistan "is definitely on the rise." He said officers at Central Command, which oversees troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, are preparing an urgent request for the hybrid vehicle.
Last week, the Pentagon awarded a $752 million contract to Navistar to build 822 smaller, lighter MRAPs.
There are about 6,900 MRAPs in Iraq and more than 800 in Afghanistan.
The MRAP's crew compartment sits high off the road and its armored, V-shaped hull protect troops from roadside bombs. But that height gives it a high center of gravity, and the armor's weight makes it less nimble.
"You can take a Humvee damn near anywhere," Brogan said. "You can't do that with an MRAP."
Dakota Wood, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said outfitting troops with the right vehicle for Afghanistan presents a challenge for the Pentagon. "The rugged terrain and limited road networks of Afghanistan will place a premium on off-road mobility," he said.
Many accidents involving MRAPs, Brogan said, could be eliminated by better training. Most troops first drive the vehicles in a week-long course in the war zone. Eventually, more vehicles will be placed at domestic bases for enhanced training, he said.
Fielding the MRAPs was more important than pre-deployment training, because the roadside-bomb threat forced the Army to "get metal and improved protection between the soldier and the blast as fast as you can," said Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, deputy chief of staff for Army programs.
The Army also is developing a trainer that simulates rollovers so soldiers can learn how to avoid them, said Lt. Gen. James Thurman, deputy Army chief of staff for operations.