Armor: Why Pinzgauer Lost Out To The Foxhound

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October 6, 2013: Britain is buying another twenty-four Foxhound 4x4 MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) light patrol vehicles. These are seven point five ton armored trucks that can carry up to four passengers or two people and up to a ton of cargo. Several hundred Foxhounds (out of 396 ordered) have served successfully in Afghanistan.

Early on (2006) Britain developed a family of 4x4 and 6x6 Mastiff MRAPs based on the American Cougar MRAP. The Mastiffs and Wolfhound are variants of the 6x6 Cougar, while the Ridgeback and Foxhound is based on the 4x4 Cougar.  Basically, the Cougar is a twelve ton truck that is hardened to survive bombs and mines and comes in two basic versions. The four wheel one can carry ten passengers, the six wheel one can carry sixteen. The trucks cost up to a million dollars each, fully equipped. The British versions had electronics and weapons commonly used in the British army.

The rush to buy these Cougar derived vehicles was in response to the poor performance of the first mine resistant vehicles Britain sent to Afghanistan. In 2005, the British Army decided to buy the Pinzgauer Vector 6x6 armored trucks. But by 2008, it was clear the Pinzgauer Vector was not up to the task. That vehicle was removed from Afghanistan and replaced with Cougar based MRAPS. The Cougars used a V shaped bottom (to deflect the force of an explosion), more shock absorbing materials to protect those inside the vehicle, and were heavier. This all made a huge difference.

The Vector vehicle protected its passengers from rifle bullets and some roadside bombs. This was accomplished with a Kevlar floor, bullet proof glass, and tires that will run when flat. But this proved inadequate against the growing number of roadside bombs encountered in Afghanistan, especially the larger ones that became more common.

MRAPs designs are heavier (at 7-19 tons) and have a V shaped underbody that deflects the force of an explosion. The pressurized passenger cabin also keeps out blast effect, as well as a lot of the noise. This unique South African design has greatly reduced the effectiveness of roadside bombs. The Taliban frequently avoid using roadside bombs against troops using MRAPs. Instead, most of the attacks were directed at soldiers and police who do not have MRAPs.

The Pinzgauer Vector trucks cost $788,000 each (about the same as an MRAP) and were developed in the early 1970s by the Austrian firm Steyr-Daimler-Puch. This new cross country truck design proved very popular with the civilian market and then with military users. That was in part due to adaptability. When the American Humvee appeared two decades ago, the Pinzgauer design was modified to create a wider, lower vehicle (a feature of the Humvee that proved very successful). The Pinzgauer isn't cheaper than the Humvee but is considered a better value and, for nations with anti-American leanings, makes them feel better.

Many military truck manufacturers rushed to copy the hummer after September 11, 2001, and quickly adopted the armored hummer design as well. But when the Iraqi terrorists began using thousands of roadside bombs a year, and larger ones at that, it soon became evident that a better protected vehicle was needed. The MRAP had already been in use by the Americans since the 1990s (in the Balkans), and over ten-thousand were soon on their way to Iraq and Afghanistan. The British Vector vehicles are rarely used now, with British troops preferring their new MRAPs.

 

 


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