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Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles
The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) has caused more castualties in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other threat. Soft-skinned vehicles were completely vulnerable and even up-armored vehicles were not protective against larger and newer forms of IED. The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles emerged by 2007 as the solution to this problem.
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles: Background
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles were developed to counter the threats of the 21st century fluid battlefield. When the U.S. military entered Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom - 2003) most of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps tactical vehicles were unarmored. Trucks and HMMWVs were soft-skinned because there had been no requirement for armor in past operations. There had been no threat that offset the weight gain and loss of situational awareness of armor protection.
The enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan quickly discovered this weakness and soon the leading cause of casualties in those theaters was the improvised explosive device (IED) or, later, more sophisticated shaped charges. Initially the threat was from roadside IEDs that created a blast effect and shrapnel to the side of the vehicle. The military response to that was the up-armored HMMWV as well as additional armor for cargo vehicles (doors, side panels).
Again, the enemy adapted, migrating the threat to shaped charges (EFP = Explosively Formed Projectiles) capable of penetrating light armor and use of higher powered explosives directed at the underbody of the vehicle. By the early part of 2006, there was a clear need for something more than the up-armored M1114, HMMWVs w/MAK (Marine Armor Kit), M1151 and M1152 HMMWVs. (See up-armored HMMWV.)
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles: Procurement
The formal MRAP program, one of the largest and most rapid procurement programs since WW II, began in October of 2006. Small numbers of MRAP-type vehicles were already in use, and a sole-source contract was awarded to Force Protection Industries, Inc (FPI) on 9 Nov 06 to bridge requirements until full production. The urgency of the MRAP program increased dramatically in 2007. On 26 January 2007, Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) awarded nine Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts and a first delivery order for the testing, production and sustainability of an initial 36 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles for testing with possible delivery orders for up to a total of 4,100. This pace was increased in April 2007 when the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps committed to buying nearly 6,800 MRAP vehicles by March 2008. At that point, with orders from USAF and Special Operations Command added, MRAP was a 7,774 vehicle program. Once source projected an Army requirement for another 17,000 blast-resistant vehicles of its own by 2010.
In order to accelerate the procurement cycle, DoD worked with multiple vendors simultaneously. The focused goal of the parallel effort was to ramp up and deliver quantities of MRAP vehicles in-theater. Full evaluation and standardization were deferred. This approach increased immediate and long term costs as well as added to future logistics headaches, but troop protection was delivered sooner rather than later.
Contracts were awarded to the following manufacturers for prototype vehicles for test and evaluation in 2007:
Each of these companies delivered prototypes or additional vehicles of types already in use. Those that pass tests went into production. The various MRAP vehicles competed through field use toward an ultimate reduction in the total number of vehicle types. See MRAP Prototypes and Production for more information and photos.
Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup:
MRAP II Procurement
On 31 July 2007, the USMC issued a request for proposal for the MRAP II Enhanced Vehicle Competition, based on an enhanced performance specification and statement of work. The MRAP II was intended to better address the threat of Explosively-Formed Penetrators (EFPs), a type of stand-off improvised explosive device that employs a shaped charge against the sides of vehicles. In December 2007, MRAP program officials announced that only two companies — BAE Systems and a team led by Ideal Innovations, a consultant based in Alexandria, VA -- were selected to provide six test vehicles each for evaluation. MRAP II vehicles were split into 4x4 and 6x6 vehicles, designated Category I and Category II rsepectively. Delivery of MRAP II vehicles was anticipated during FY 2008 to FY 2013.
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles: Categories
There are three categories of MRAP vehicles with one or more vehicles in each category. Click on the link for more information and photos of a specific vehicle.
EOD = Explosive Ordnance Disposal
MRAPs can be operated individually for secure transportation, but MRAPs also work together in route clearance teams (RCTs), with a combination of vehicles, each with its specialized role. For example, in mine clearing, the Husky works as a mine detector on wheels. Once it finds and marks a possible IED, the Buffalo moves in to interrogate the area and neutralize any IED found. On the same operation, a Cougar or RG-31 could protect and carry a security team or other personnel. (Photo, above)
As of mid-2010, these models of MRAP vehicles were active and supported in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Limitations of the MRAP
MRAP has acquired a well-deserved reputation as the "most survivable" vehicle, with casualty rates at a very low six-percent. However, the heavy weight and large size of the MRAP imposes limitations, including: