EFP Mines? Ceradyne & i3 Say “Bull!”
“More MRAPs: Navistar’s MaxxPro,” covered the growing threat of EFP (Explosively-Formed Penetrator) land mines in Iraq, which fire into the side of a vehicle like a tank round. PVI & RAFAEL’s MRAP Cat-II Golan vehicle is already prepared to counter them – if fitted with explosive reactive armor that’s designed in from the outset as an invisible upgrade over conventional armoring. Other MRAP manufacturers have also been scrambling to find solutions via bolt on kits, or even different armoring schemes entirely.
With or without the kits, those MRAP vehicles will certainly help soldiers and specialists on patrol – but what about the logistics & support forces delivering fuel and other key supplies, who must move most of it by road? Why not give them a similar level of protection? In March 2007, the US Army’s Ballistic Protection Experiment underwent testing, as the final step in a $2.1 million September 2006 contract funded in part by the US Army Rapid Equipping Force.
After sponsoring several proof-of-principle shots at Aberdeen to ensure the armor would work, the contract asked Ideal Innovations Inc. and Ceradyne Vehicle Armor Systems to build 2 trucks in 5 months, with the ability to defeat threats that included EFP land mines, while demonstrating desired driving durability & mobility. The partnership finished on time and on budget. More important, their vehicles passed the tests, and gave birth to a new integrated truck up-armoring system dubbed BULL. It’s an MRAP-II program contender for troop roles, and an offer has also been made to equip American logistics vehicles in theater.
Our last update addressed rumors that their vehicle has failed MRAP-II testing at Aberdeen. Normally, that’s a rumor that can’t be answered – but we thought we had one. That seems to have been the correct answer, because they have just received an order…
Ideal Innovations Inc. (i3) and the US Army Research Lab devised the armor, Ceradyne is the vehicle integrator, and Oshkosh Trucks is now a partner, bringing the MTVR platform that serves as the US Marines’ medium truck mainstay. I3 CEO Bob Kocher had been involved in 1991-93 development and fielding efforts for the up-armored Humvee. He was also part of the team that developed the boron-carbide armor now used in Interceptor body armor vests – and produced, in large part, by Ceradyne.
The BULL is a full armoring system that completely replaces the truck’s cab; while the engine and steering wheel remain, everything from the firewall back is replaced. Depending on the specific conversion requested, it may also involve significant modifications to the remainder of the vehicle. This would make adding BULL armoring to an existing MRAP vehicle a full reconfiguration/ redesign effort, rather than a bolt-on job. For obvious reasons, a simple military-grade truck chassis requires much less effort.
Every armored vehicle is a compromise; the key is knowing what the compromises and priorities are for each. The BULL armoring solution is v-shaped, which has a lower “mobility kill” threshold than a true monocoque v-hull because the chassis and drive train aren’t under armor. Even a monocoque v-hull isn’t a perfect solution, of course, and an “added-on” approach is inevitable in any upgrade package that seeks to improve survivability for off-the-shelf vehicle types. The BULL system is designed around a focus on saving the crew from mine blasts of various types (including EFPs), and then on protecting them from incoming fire via the top level of ballistic threat protection for vehicles of its broad class.
The final weight class of a converted vehicle tends to be comparable to MRAP Category II vehicles, with Gross Vehicle Weights around 35,000 – 40,000 pounds (circa 18,000 kg) and a similar cost range. Ceradyne V.P. Armor Operations Marc King says that the BULL’s special armor system & crew capsule can go on any truck chassis that can carry the weight.
Indeed, given the compressed 5 month time frame, one of their biggest challenges during the Ballistic Protection Experiment was finding commercial trucks and truck axles in North America that were readily available from dealer inventory, could burn JP-8 fuel (an Army requirement), and met their specifications re: axle strength. Military orders are generally produced with heavier axles, but there’s a US tax on commercial axles that take more than 13,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight. This is efficient from the standpoint of road repair bills and pay-for-use, but it means that dealers don’t usually carry items that can attract extra operator taxes. We suspect that there’s an on-line business model in there somewhere…
Ceradyne says that: “Future procurements of the BULL are under discussion with several government agencies, in addition to the Department of Defense, who have expressed interest.” King acknowledges that the BULL system is a specialty up-armoring approach, aimed at specific threats, and carrying a specialty price tag. Their current proposal, he says, is to place vehicles protected vehicles with the BULL kit where the worst threats are, as a limited replacement for logistics vehicles with more basic up-arming kits.
Meanwhile, Ceradyne is taking a somewhat counter-trend approach, and looking at even heavier versions. Ceradyne’s King says that a “more-weight-in” solution might allow the company to avoid specialty metals like high-hardness steel, which takes them out of the waiting line for supplies. While the resulting vehicle probably wouldn’t be transportable by the C-130 Hercules with its 20-ton limit, the reality is that these vehicles are brought into theater by ship and then drive to wherever they’re going. If a higher weight class means faster production, then even arriving by ship and road could end up being a lot quicker for the people on the front lines.
Will the US Army bite? Will other contracts close beyond the BPE? Time will tell.
Contracts & Key Events
Note that the MRAP-II is still run by the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA, and is considered a subsidiary effort within the MRAP program generally.
Dec 18/07: This should put those rumors to rest. Ideal Innovations, Inc. in Arlington, VA received an $18.1 million firm-fixed-priced, delivery order under previously awarded contract (M67854-08-D-5000, #0001) for MRAP-II test vehicles, with ordering options for production quantities under a $12.5 billion indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity multiple vendor contract. The submitted vehicles will be the smaller 6-soldier MRAP Category I variant. Work will be performed in Wixom, MI; Costa Mesa, CA; and Oshkosh, WI, and is expected to be complete by July 2008. This contract was competitively procured.
The initial testing at Aberdeen served to disqualify vehicles that didn’t meet the standard. Competitors who did not receive MRAP-II orders include Force Dynamics (reinforced Cougar), GDLS Canada (upgraded BAE OMC RG-31), Navistar subsidiary IMG (upgraded MaxxPro), and Protected Vehicles, Inc. (upgraded Golan vehicle, with improved side doors and different armor; arrived on last day). More copies of the winning test vehicles will now be delivered to Aberdeen Test Center for comprehensive testing, and the 2 MRAP-II contracts also contain ordering options for production quantities.
Dec 12/07: DID has been hearing rumors et. al. from folks on Wall Street that The Bull had failed MRAP-II testing at Aberdeen. After waiting for a little while to see if a counter-release was forthcoming, DID asked. The question was addressed during the Nov 27 investors’ call, but we keep hearing it, so we’ll point out the implications more directly. DID asked Ceradyne VP Marc King for a response. He said:
“The vehicles have been returned to us since the government has concluded all scheduled testing for source selection and the government never paid for the vehicles so we own them and it is proper that they be returned to us. On the record: The Bull is still in source selection and an announcement by the Program Office is expected before Jan 31, 2008.”
That’s all he can say, within the bounds of what’s allowed. But if the vehicles have been returned because testing is complete, and the vehicle is still in source selection, the clear implication is that it passed the testing. Otherwise, standard practice is either to keep testing, allowing the manufacturer to re-submit with fixes – or to fully disqualify that product and take it out of source selection (vid. Textron’s M1117 ASV, PVI’s Alpha).
Oct 2/07: Ideal Innovations, Inc. (I-3), Oshkosh Truck Corporation, and Ceradyne, Inc. announce that they have delivered both 6-person and a 10-person version of The Bull to the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center, for further service evaluation under the MRAP-II (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) contract. Joint release.
Aug 2/07: Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that the US Department of Defense is preparing to further evaluate The Bull in anticipation of buying around 100 armored vehicles.
July 27/07: Oshkosh Truck Corporation, Ceradyne, Inc. and Ideal Innovations, Inc. (I-3) announce an agreement to further develop, produce and market the Bull(TM) armored vehicle. Oshkosh Truck release.
As one can see from the photo in the Updates section, the rest of the pictures accompanying this article are projections of the BULL design, modified from photos of the actual vehicles used in the Ballistics Protection Experiment or done as straight drawings. As noted above, the BULL system can be added to any truck that can take the load. The pictures are designed to illustrate the fact that the resulting combination can be configured as a utility transport vehicle, or as a specialty logistics vehicle for the transport of cargo, fuel and other supplies.
Additional Readings & Sources
- DID appreciates the efforts and time of I3 CEO Bob Kocher, who called from in-theater, and Ceradyne V.P. Armor Operations Marc King.
- Ideal Innovations, Inc.
- Defense News (Oct 1/07) – MRAP II Deadline Passes
- Ceradyne (June 7/07) – Ceradyne and Ideal Innovations, Inc. Announce Introduction of High-Threat Vehicle, the “BULL”