March 6, 2009:
In Afghanistan, the trend is toward smaller, and less top heavy MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles. Thus the United States is testing new models, like the European M-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicles). This is a nine ton wheeled vehicle that is built lower to the ground than most MRAPs, and has a suspension and other mechanical components that make it more agile when off roads.
Several countries are already using the similar RG-31 (nicknamed Nyala), which was designed and manufactured by the same company (BAE). The RG-31 is a very popular vehicle in Afghanistan, with Britain, France Canada, the Netherlands and the United States already using them there. It's a South African design, costing about up to million dollars each (depending on accessories), built to resist landmines and roadside bombs. It was developed from the earlier Mamba armored personnel carrier, and has an excellent track record.
The wheeled (4x4) RG-31 weighs eight tons and can carry up to eleven people. Some models, like the RG-31M, usually operates with a crew of five, plus a cargo area in the back. The RG-31 is a MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected), and is preferred in Afghanistan because the bad roads make it easier for the top heavy MRAPs to flip over. The smaller RG-31 is less prone to this problem.
Most of the MRAPs in Afghanistan have special equipment installed, like jammers (to prevent roadside bombs from being detonated via a wireless device) and remotely (from inside the vehicle) operated 12.7mm machine-guns.
The UN and the United States were the first major users of MRAPs. These vehicles are becoming popular with NGOs operating in dangerous areas, as they do not look particularly military (especially if the machine-gun is removed), even though they are definitely a combat ready vehicle in Afghanistan.