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.

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Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles: Background

MRAP compared to HMMWV
MRAP compared to HMMWV.

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:

  • Armor Holdings Aerospace and Defense Group (Sealy, TX) (Acquired by BAE, 31 Jul 2007)
  • BAE Systems (Santa Clara, CA)
  • Force Protection Industries, Inc. (Ladson, SC)
  • General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada (Ontario, Canada; manufactured in York, PA)
  • General Purpose Vehicles (New Haven, MI)
  • International Military and Government LLC (Warrenville, IL)
  • Oshkosh Truck Corporation (Oshkosh, WS)
  • Protected Vehicles, Inc. (North Charleston, SC)
  • Textron Marine and Land Systems (New Orleans, LA)

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:

SGT Neil Fucci (right) rides in a 6x6 Cougar armored vehicle along the Iraq-Syria, late 2005.  Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.
MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV).  The MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) was designed to meet emerging Theater requirements. The M-ATV provides better overall mobility characteristics than the original MRAP variants, while providing better survivability characteristics than any variant High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). The M-ATV provides small unit combat operations in complex and highly restricted rural, mountainous, and urban terrain. It supports mounted patrols, reconnaissance, secutiry, convoy protection, casualty evacuation, data interchange, and command and control functions.
MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) configured as an Ambulance. The new ambulance features are produced as complete vehicles at the factory or as a kit for field installation.
Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle (CAT II A1).  The FPII CAT II A1 MRAP vehicles are Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) vehicles designed from the ground up to reduce casualties and increase survivability for personnel subjected to mine explosions, Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) detonations, and Small Arms Fire. The mission of the CAT II A1 MRAP is to support small unit combat operations in urban or confined areas such as mounted patrols, reconnaissance, communications, and Command and Control.
US Army Soldiers eat their Thanksgiving meal, on Combat Outpost Cherkatah, at Khowst province, Afghanistan, 26 November 2009. The Soldiers are deployed with Delta Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.  MRAP vehicles in background.
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles undergo testing at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The terrain here is very similar to the harsh mountainous conditions found in Afghanistan. The MRAP Joint Program Office is also working on a new vehicle to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). Yuma Proving Ground photo, 2009.

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

Company B, 391st Combat Engineer Battalion, on a route clearance patrol over rugged terrain near Naka, Afghanistan, in support of Task Force Fury, 2006.  As in this photo, a Husky mine detection vehicle is the lead vehicle in all patrols, here followed by a 4x4 RG-31
Company B, 391st Combat Engineer Battalion, on a route clearance patrol over rugged terrain near Naka, Afghanistan, in support of Task Force Fury, 2006. As in this photo, a Husky mine detection vehicle is the lead vehicle in all patrols, here followed by a 4x4 RG-31.

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)

Family of MRAP vehicles, MRAP Joint Program Office, February 2010. Click for larger image
Family of MRAP vehicles, MRAP Joint Program Office, February 2010. Click for larger image.

As of mid-2010, these models of MRAP vehicles were active and supported in Iraq and Afghanistan:

  • Navistar MaxxPro
  • Navistar MaxxPro Plus
  • Navistar MaxxPro Dash
  • Force Protection Inc. (FPI) Cougar Cat I (4x4) and Cat II (6x6)
  • Force Protection Inc. (FPI) Buffalo A1 (USMC MRAP)
  • General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada (GDLS-C) RG-31A1 Mark V
  • General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada (GDLS-C) RG-31A2 Mark 5-E
  • BAE Systems RG-33 (4x4) Cat I MRAP MMPV
  • BAE Systems RG-33L (6x6)
  • BAE Systems RG-33L Plus
  • BAE Systems RG-33L Heavy Armored Ground Ambulance (HAGA)
  • BAE-TVS (BAE Tactical Vehicle Systems, former Armor Holdings) Caiman
  • BAE-TVS (BAE Tactical Vehicle Systems, former Armor Holdings) Caiman Plus
  • Oshkosh MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (MATV)

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:

  • Poor maneuverability makes it difficult, sometimes impossible to use in an urban environment
  • Poor off-road performance
  • Prone to tipping
  • 70% of world’s bridges can’t hold MRAPs
  • Too wide for many roads
  • High fuel consumption—approximately 3 mpg
  • Can only be airlifted by U.S. Air Force’s C-17 and C-5, and Russia’s AN-124
  • Do not fit on the Marine’s pre-positioning ships
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