Armor: Let Me In, Dammit


April 18, 2010: In Afghanistan, the M-ATV (MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle) has become an increasingly common, and popular, combat vehicle. But this is the first combat use of M-ATV, and some problems have developed. The most annoying one is the tendency of some of the outside door latches to not work. There are two side doors and one in the rear. Over half the vehicles in some units have at least one M-ATV with a door latch problem. This hasn't gotten anyone killed yet, but it is a hassle for the troops to, first, find that they can't get back in via the door they just came out of, and then have to scramble around the vehicle to use another door. The manufacturer is all over the latch problem, and promises to have it fixed real quick.

Another problem, which the troops have been able to fix themselves, somewhat, is the lack of storage space inside the vehicle. Troops have made their own adjustments to remedy this. A third problem is the small size of the front seat windows. This is only a major problem for artillery forward observers (FOs), who have to sit in front where all the electronics and radios are. The windows on the two side doors are too small to see all the FO has to see to do his job. Some FOs get creative and rig the vehicle electronics so they can operate from the back seats, which have a much larger window. But most FOs simply climb into some of the older, and larger, MRAPs that are still found in Afghanistan.

The M-ATV is a $587,000, 15 ton, 4x4 (with independent wheel suspension) armored vehicle. Basically, it's an armored truck with a V shaped bottom. Payload is 1.8 tons, and it can carry five passengers (including a gunner). Top speed is 105 kilometers an hour, and road range on internal fuel is 515 kilometers. The M-ATV is slightly larger than a hummer.

Unlike earlier MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle designs, the M-ATV was designed to operate off roads, particularly in Afghanistan. Troops have found that the M-ATV can safely handle a lot of cross country travel that would be dangerous for a conventional MRAP. But, like taking a tracked vehicle (like a tank) off road, you can't just drive it anywhere. Even a tracked vehicle will flip, or lose a track (hit an obstacle that will tear the tracks from the wheels) if you don't drive carefully. Same deal with the M-ATV. Off the road, this is a more stable and forgiving MRAP, and commanders are coming up with new tactics to take advantage of it. The enemy can no longer assume all MRAPs will stay on the road, and are finding that these vehicles are much more aware of the surrounding area than in the past.





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