Armor: MRAPs Left To Rot


March 21, 2012: In the last decade the U.S. military (mainly the army and marines) bought some 20,000 MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles. Once American troops were out of Iraq many of these vehicles were found unsuitable for Afghanistan, where there are fewer roads and a special new MRAP design was found more suitable. Eventually, most of these armored trucks will be out of work. Some will go into storage, but many will be put up for sale, cheap. The trouble is, there doesn't seem to be many buyers.

At first it was thought peacekeeping operations might provide a market. Security is often a problem in disaster or disorderly areas and MRAPs were seen as a potential solution for the many NGOs and nations that have problems with security. In reality, peacekeepers rarely go into areas where there is a lot of combat. That is considered peacemaking and it is far less popular, and frequent, than peacekeeping. In other words, any crises zone that needs MRAPs is an area peacekeepers and aid groups will tend to stay away from.

Another downside of MRAPs is that they are expensive (over $10,000 a year) to operate. This is another disincentive for those who participate in peacekeeping operations. While MRAPs are ideal for areas where bandits or terrorists are a threat (via mines and roadside bombs), such places are in need of combat forces, ready to fight, not peacekeepers or relief workers.

American combat troops like MRAPs as long as they are fighting a foe that does not require U.S. combat vehicles to travel cross country a lot. MRAPs do roads but their high center of gravity makes them too unwieldy for off-road operations.

Since the U.S. has sworn off wars like Iraq and Afghanistan for the moment, U.S. troops are now back to training for more conventional combat, meaning lots of vehicles moving off roads. That leaves most of those 20,000 MRAPs without a job and few potential buyers. Most will end up in storage, which costs a few hundred dollars a year per vehicle. But after a decade or so of that, many MRAP components deteriorate, making the cost of getting them ready for action very expensive. Their unique design (the V shaped underside) makes them expensive to convert to commercial use (by removing the armor and remaining military components). So it looks like MRAPs will be left to slowly rot for a while and then scrapped. Nearly a third of the million dollar value of your average MRAP consists of military equipment that can be removed and used in other vehicles. But for the most part, the MRAPs will end up being a $10 billion wartime expense that, like many wartime vehicles, could find no purpose once the fighting was over.


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