Marine Corps opts to tweak some of its MRAPs for Afghanistan
By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent
To Protect and Save
Instead of buying a lot of the new
M-ATVs, the Marines are modifying
about half of the smaller MRAPs
they already have to make them
usable in Afghanistan, at about one-third the cost.
“The favorite vehicle in Afghanistan is the MTVR [Medium Tactical
Vehicle Replacement]; the 7-ton
trucks,” Conway told a May Center
for Strategic and International
Studies (CSIS) forum in Washington. “We’re putting MTVR suspension on the MRAPs to give them
better off-road mobility.”
The MTVRs, produced by
Oshkosh Defense, a division of Oshkosh, Wis.-based Oshkosh Corp.,
have an independent suspension system (ISS) that provides better stability and endurance than the solid axles
on the MRAPs. So the Marine Corps-managed program
is installing the Oshkosh ISS and other modifications on
the Category 1 MRAP, called the Cougar, which is operated by all the armed services.
The need in Afghanistan for the MRAPs, which have
a higher ground clearance, V-shaped hulls and underbody armor to better deflect the blast from mines and
IEDs, is shown by the rapid rise in the use of such
weapons there. U.S. Central Command documented 736
IED incidents in June, more than double the number in
June 2008. Those attacks killed 23 coalition personnel
and wounded another 166, a 73 percent jump from May.
The origin of the modification “was a request that
came out of theater,” said Kim Yarboro, deputy program manager for the Cougar Team at Marine Corps
Systems Command, Quantico, Va. “A number of vehicles’ axles were failing, based on the enhanced conditions, the need to go off road,” she said.
Because of the harsher conditions in Afghanistan, “we
knew we needed to do something differently to improve
The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles used by
Marines in Iraq to counter the threat of improvised explosive
devices are ill equipped to handle the rugged terrain in Afghanistan.
■ Instead of buying all new models of a lighter version of the vehicle,
at a cost of about $500,000 each, the Corps is modifying some of the
MRAPs it already has at an average cost of $161,000 per vehicle.
■ A new independent suspension system provides better stability
and endurance than the solid axles typically found on MRAPs.
■ The retrofit will be made to the Corps’ MRAPs already in the
Central Command theater and to training vehicles at bases in the
United States and Japan.
Over much of its history, the Marine Corps has taken a sort of perverse pride in its ability — frequently driven by budgetary necessity —
to get more warfighting bang for the taxpayers’ buck.
The Corps is demonstrating a bit of that penny-pinching trait once again in its effort to get a vehicle to
better protect its Marines against the escalating threat
of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan.
The ponderous Mine Resistant Ambush Protected
(MRAP) vehicles, which were rushed into service to
counter IEDs in Iraq, have been breaking down with
alarming frequency and are prone to rollovers in the
rugged terrain and unpaved roads of Afghanistan.
To overcome that problem, the Army decided to buy
nearly 2,600 — and may order as many as 5,000 — of a
new, lighter vehicle, called the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle
(M-ATV), at a cost of about $500,000 each. When all
associated costs are applied, the total price tag could
reach as much as $1.4 million each.
“We’re a little more frugal than that,” Gen. James T.
Conway, Marine Corps commandant, told defense
reporters in Washington in January.