July 5, 2007:
Army has decided buy a fleet of 17,700 MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected)
vehicles. There are already over two thousand of these vehicles in use, mainly
by bomb disposal troops, and units operating in areas almost certain to have
lots of roadside bombs. People in these vehicles are much less likely to be
killed or injured if they encounter a roadside bomb. Thus if all the troops who
encountered these bombs were in a MRAP,
casualties would be about 65 percent less. Currently, about two-thirds of all
casualties in Iraq are from roadside bombs. Thus the army and marines want to
use these vehicles in areas most likely to have bombs, and reduce overall
casualties by about a third.
But this will be
expensive. The bomb resistant vehicles cost about five times more than armored
hummers or trucks. Thus the 17,700 bomb resistant vehicles will cost about $13
billion dollars. But these vehicles would prevent about a hundred troops a
month from getting killed or wounded.
The most common of these
bomb resistant vehicles are called Cougars. The Cougar, and larger Buffalo, are
more expensive to operate, and less flexible than the hummer. The Cougar and
Buffalo vehicles use a capsule design to protect the passengers and key vehicle
components mines and roadside bombs. The bulletproof Cougars and Buffalos are
built using the same construction techniques pioneered by South African firms
that have, over the years, delivered thousands of landmine resistant vehicles
to the South African armed forces. These were a great success. The South
African technology was imported into the U.S. in 1998, and has already been
used in the design of vehicles used by peacekeepers in the Balkans.
The 7-12 ton Cougar also
has a version called JERRV (joint explosive ordnance disposal rapid response
Vehicles). Basically, JERRV is a 12 ton truck that is hardened to survive bombs
and mines. The Cougar can get engineers into combat situations where mines,
explosives or any kind of obstacle, have to be cleared. The Cougar comes in two
basic versions. The four wheel one can carry ten passengers, the six wheel one
can carry 16. The trucks cost about $730,000 each, fully equipped.
Several hundred of the
current fleet MRAPs are Buffalos. This is a 23 ton vehicle, which is actually a
heavily modified Peterbuilt Mac-10 truck. Costing $740,000 each, they have
added armor protection to keep out machine-gun bullets.
The Cougar is more
expensive to maintain and operate than the hummer. The large number of roadside
bombs are a situation unique to Iraq. Once American forces are out of Iraq, the
military would not need all these MRAPs.
But vehicles like the Cougar and Buffalo are popular with many NGOs, and
nations that have problems with rebel movements. So the U.S. could sell most of
them, at used vehicle prices, to those buyers. Otherwise, they could have to be
put in storage, because the higher operating costs, compared to hummers, would
make for a highly embarrassing issue in the mass media.
It will take two years to
manufacture the entire 17,700 MRAP vehicles, which will be from many
manufacturers. But all will basically be large trucks, with lots of armor,
configured to provide maximum protection from explosions.