MRAPs on the march
By Shaun Connors
The acronym MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) has its origins in a US Marine Corps (USMC) programme established in November 2006 to deliver a vehicle for use in Operation 'Iraqi Freedom' (OIF) and Operation 'Enduring Freedom' (OEF) that offered troops on the ground higher levels of protection from emerging threats than their then current uparmoured versions of the beleaguered High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (Humvee).
From its beginnings as a far lower-profile Marine Corps project, the programme, in fewer than 12 months, had grown exponentially to become the US Department of Defense's third largest acquisition programme behind missile defence and the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
Such is the global profile of the MRAP programme that it has understandably received extensive coverage across the media. That coverage has seldom been as accurate, informed or as impartial as it could and perhaps should have been.
Prior to the original indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) MRAP contracts that were issued to nine contractors in January 2007, both the US Marine Corps and army had in fact procured, and were using on deployed operations, vehicles of types that are now referred to as MRAPs.
The US Army's preferred choice had been the BAE Systems Land Systems OMC RG-31, and from an initial purchase of three Mk 3 vehicles in 2003, the service would eventually receive 468 vehicles (Mk 3 and Mk 5). The final pre-MRAP delivery order was placed in January 2007 for 169 Mk 5 vehicles. All US Army RG-31 contract awards are to BAE Systems' North American licensee, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) Canada.
The leading provider of MRAP-type vehicles to US armed forces before the MRAP ID/IQ contract awards was Force Protection. This company had supplied around 400 of its Cougars (4 x 4 and 6 x 6), plus 90 of its Buffalo dedicated mine/improvised explosive device (IED) route-clearance vehicles to the army and marines before January 2007 and, according to the company, these had totalled in excess of 2 million combat hours in Afghanistan and Iraq and had survived at least 2,000 blast attacks. The Buffalo was first deployed in Iraq by the US Army in July 2003, while the Cougar was first used by the USMC in Iraq in October 2004.
The MRAP ID/IQ contracts initially called for four vehicles (two each of Category 1 and Category 2 MRAP designs) from each of the nine contractors involved - BAE Systems Tactical Vehicle Systems (now BAE Systems Mobility and Protection Systems); BAE Systems Ground Systems; Force Protection Inc; General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada; General Purpose Vehicles; International Military and Government LLC (now Navistar Defense LLC); Oshkosh Truck Corporation (now Oshkosh Defense); Protected Vehicles Inc; Textron Marine and Land Systems.
The following vehicles were eliminated from the competition: the Textron M1117 Armored Security Vehicle (ASV), the Oshkosh-offered Thales Bushmaster, the GPV offering, and following small low-rate initial production (LRIP) orders: the PVI-offered Rafael Golan and Oshkosh (PVI-designed) Alpha, would all be eliminated from the competition. The bulk of the 60 Golans and 100 Alphas ordered have since been declared excess property by the marines and will be employed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Image: Current orders for the BAE Systems Caiman MRAP stand at 2,876 (US DoD) 543 of 3,467 words
- Philippine air chief says Italy will provide attack helicopters
- Germany axes Euro Hawk
- Boeing poised to begin flight-testing Advanced Super Hornet features
- The Ford-class aircraft carrier, the future US Navy: Enabling the distributed force
- Boeing unveils Phantom Badger
- Rheinmetall debuts Oerlikon Revolver Gun Mk 2
- US Army trains with SpotterRF's man-portable radar
- Al-Qusayr battle is critical for Syrian government
- Northrop Grumman tests B-2 anti-jamming satcomms system without USAF's preferred radio
- India fails to make progress with AW101 inquiry