MRAP: Survivable Rides, Start Rolling
Western militaries have have increasingly adopted vehicles designed from the outset for blast-resistance against land mines and even car bombs. A collective realization is sinking in that up-armoring flat-bottomed vehicles which aren’t designed to take that kind of weight, and which have strict limits on the level of protection they can ever provide, is an inadequate response. While existing vehicles will remain in inventory, patrol vehicles will and do need more. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the USA has fielded thousands of up-armored Hummers as a stopgap measure, even though their design is the very definition of the problems described above. In fairness, it has also placed hundreds of orders for genuinely blast-resistant vehicles like Force Protection’s Cougar and Buffalo, Textron’s M1117 Guardian ASV for its military police, and BAE OMC’s smaller RG-31 Nyala/Charger.
In late December, the US military stepped up the pace and announced a new program called MRAP, a tri-service procurement effort that could end up fielding 4,100 or more Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles in both patrol and squad carrier sizes. There were 9 approved competitors, and DID will cover the entire competition very soon – but even before testing has begun, Valentine’s Day 2007 orders went out to BAE Systems and Force Protection. These vehicles won’t be headed for the test range, but for the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. BAE’s newest offering is about to receive its trial by fire.
The Contracts & Vehicles
These are advance orders by Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA, who currently leads the MRAP acquisition effort; they represent approximately 5% of the expected total of all MRAP orders. Work is expected to be complete by June 2007. These Limited Rate Initial Production (LRIP) orders are “being issued to accelerate the production of lower risk proposed vehicle material solutions in advance of testing and production orders. Vehicles procured under these delivery orders will be deployed to and supported in Iraq and Afghanistan” [emphasis DID's].
Category I MRAP vehicles are patrol vehicles designed to carry around 6 troops, including the driver; to date, the USA’s preferred purchase in this category has been the RG-31 from BAE OMC and General Dynamics Canada, or the Cougar 4×4 from Force Protection.
Category II MRAP vehicles are squad vehicles designed to carry up to 10 troops including the driver, and also serve as heavy vehicles for EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams. They may also perform other key roles like ambulance et. al. To date, the USA’s preferred purchase in this category has been the larger Cougar 6×6 from Force Protection. The Cougar has become the de facto standard MRAP vehicle in the Iraqi theater to date, selected by the USA, Britain (Mastiff), and the Iraqi army (ILAV).
Force Protection Industries, Inc. in Ladson, SC received a $67.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order under previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract # M67854-07-D-5031 for 125 MRAP vehicles: 65 Category I, and 60 Category II. Force Protection release.
While Force Protection recently introduced the Cheetah vehicle as a dedicated Category I offering, the MRAP program office informs DID that this order is going with the proven option of 65 Cougar 4x4s as the Category I purchase, and 60 Cougar 6x6s under Category II.
BAE Systems Ground Systems Division in Santa Clara, CA received a $55.4 million firm-fixed-price delivery order under previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract # M67854-07-D-5025 for 90 MRAP vehicles: 15 Category I, and 75 Category II. All will be built in York, PA.
DID has talked to the MRAP Program Office, who confirms that BAE will be delivering 75 of their new RG-33Ls as the Category II delivery order.
The RG33L is a 6×6 vehicle designed to maximize interior space and visibility, while remaining well-protected and transportable by C-130 Hercules. The robotic arm is probably its most recognizable feature, allowing the vehicle to probe, remove, and/or place destruction charges near possible land mines from a safe distance. The RG-33L’s standard armor and its monocoque v-hull designed to deflect blasts away from the vehicle offer protection against IED land mines and enemy fire up to medium machine guns. Its windows use TRAPP transparent armor, and the vehicle is equipped to handle the weight of additional tailored armor packages if desired. It is also equipped with run-flat tires, multi-positional mine protected seating, and other survivability equipment such as extinguishers.
An hydraulic ramp, a transparent armor gunner’s shield, dedicated space for equipment stowage, and enough power generation to operate mission electronics and air conditioning round out the RG-33L’s key features. That last item may seem like a luxury, but when it’s 110 degrees outside the vehicle and you’re wearing body armor or a full explosives protection suit, air conditioning is necessary in order to arrive in a fit state to perform one’s duties… like defusing touchy explosives.
The MRAP program has also ordered 15 smaller Category I patrol vehicles from BAE for immediate deployment. The program office informs DID that BAE’s 15 Category I vehicles will be the RG-33, a smaller version of the RG-33L. See the picture at left, which shows a smaller 4×4 vehicle with many similar basic design features but without the RG-33L’s robot arm. BAE Systems claims 90% commonality between the two systems.
The RG-33 was publicly unveiled at the March 2007 AUSA conference in Fort Lauderdale.
The MRAP program eventually encompassed almost 16,000 vehicles, from several manufacturers.
- DID FOCUS Article – Cougar Armored Trucks to Stalk Mines on the Battlefield (updated). Covers Force Protections Cougar & Buffalo offerings, including pre-MRAP and foreign orders, as well as buys under the MRAP program.
- DID Spotlight Article – More MRAPs: Navistar’s MaxxPro. Finished #1 in MRAP-I orders.
- DID Spotlight Article – BAE’s Diverse MRAP Orders. Covers RG-33 family and FMTV Caiman orders. BAE eventually finished #2 in MRAP-I orders.
- DID Spotlight Article – General Dynamics Wins MRAP Orders of Its Own. Sort of. They’re actually BAE OMC RG-31s from South Africa.
- DID Spotlight Article – M-ATV: A Win, at Last, for Oshkosh. Oshkosh was shut out during MRAP-I, but this win for MRAP All Terrain Vehicles ends up being big.
- Defense Review (March 17/07) – DefRev First Look: BAE Systems RG33 Series MRAP Vehicles. At AUSA 2007; includes multiple pictures.
- DID (March 6/07) – MRAP Advance Purchase #2: Oshkosh, PVI & GD. Includes full details re: PVI/RAFAEL’s Golan vehicle, which has unique levels of protection against RPG rockets and EFP mines.