Saturday, 24 May 2014


Although many credit former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is
quoted as telling top Pentagon officials that “the MRAP should be considered the highest priority Department of Defense acquisition program” as being ‘the father of the MRAP’, in truth it’s origins are more likely to be found in a 2004 Kuwaiti ‘morale-lifting town hall discussion” with Iraq-bound troops held by then Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

 Rumsfeld was confronted by angry GIs asking why they weren’t  being given the equipment they needed to protect  themselves and had to listen to stories about improvised armour being scavenged from waste dumps to be fitted on to Humvees. It can be argued that it was this public airing of the reliance on “hillbilly armour” that was the catalyst for the MRAP program.

Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles are armored fighting vehicles designed to surviving improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and ambushes. Ironically, contemporary designs were first initiated during the Rhodesian Bush War, that technology was subsequently inherited and developed by the South African Defence Force. Fortunately South Africa had lost its ‘pariah’ status by the time western nations needed the technology and it was probably not thought useful to contemplate the circumstances of its origin.

A rush program created a huge number of MRAPs separated into different categories according to weight and size. Category I MRAPs, the most common size are classified as Mine-Resistant Utility Vehicle (MRUV), a smaller and lighter vehicle, designed for urban operations. Category II MRAPs or Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Rapid Response Vehicle (JERRV) are designed for missions including convoy lead, troop transport, ambulance, explosive ordnance disposal and combat engineering. The category III models have a dedicated mine and IED clearing function and typically carry up to six personnel.

At least five versions of the MRAP were produced, weighing from 13–28 tons, with the last being the M-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicle) for use on rougher roads in Afghanistan. All the models featured the V-shaped under body to disperse bomb blasts.

The cost for individual production models of the MRAP ranged from $535,000 to $600,000, but field models including spare parts and upgrades came to an average of $1.29 million according to the Pentagon.

In the end a total of 27,740 MRAPs rolled off the assembly lines of seven manufacturers, including BAE Systems, Oshkosh Defense and Navistar, and About 1,570 have been sold to foreign militaries and allies.

During the course of the Afghanistan conflict Canada bought a number of mine resistant vehicles. Most numerous among them were 75 RG-31 Mk3s equipped with the Protector M151 Remote Weapon Station. Another 67 mine resistant vehicles were procured under the Expedient Route-Opening Capability program. Interestingly, it was stated that the RG-31s were to be replaced in Canadian service by Textron Systems TAPV.

The $47.7 billion era of the MRAP came to a close in 2012 at a retirement ceremony at the Pentagon for the production line of vehicles that were rushed into service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Currently the US Army plans to modernize and retain 8,585 of its mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, while divesting itself of another 7,456 MRAPs it no longer wants.  5,036 of the 8,585 MRAPs the Army plans to keep will be stored in prepositioned stocks all over the world, with another 1,073 assigned for training activities. The remainder will be spread among the active force.

Not all militaries are moving so quickly to divest themselves of this capability. The British Army is moving to harden its otherwise light infantry, finding good uses for the almost 2,000 armored vehicles procured specifically for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is also a place for the continuing use of the MRAP in the Canadian Armed Forces. A vehicle optimized to protect soldiers against the three classes of weapons used by insurgents: the assault rifle, the shoulder-fired rocket and the improvised explosive device, roadside or emplaced as mines, will always have its uses.

The surviving RG-31 Mk3s already in service could provide an important starting place for this program. Their ranks could be augmented with units acquired from US surplus stocks, They would not be cheap, the US Army estimates it will spend about $150,000 to reset each vehicle at the Red River Army Depot in Texas, or about $87,000 per vehicle if the work is done at Livorno, Italy, but they could still cost far less then new vehicles with similar capabilities.

As well as having military value there are benefits for Canadian industry to be found if the work of ‘resetting’ used MRAPs if the work is done in Canada. Just as international M113 overhaul, repair and upgrade programs have been an important market for several Canadian firms, getting a footing in this important future market could be important for Canada’s defence industry

James Hasik has argued that the real future for the MRAP market lies in upgrading existing vehicles. "Inside the U.S., the future of the MRAP market is upgrade programs and overhaul because they have some pretty darn good vehicles. It's hard to make the case for new vehicles when you have 20,000 in storage," said Hasik

The best place to retain this vehicle and its capabilities is in the Army reserves. They could take the place of the long departed AVGP as a training vehicle, as well as providing an important and necessary focus for reserve formations. Costs associated with maintenance and operations would be lower then those found in regular formations, adding yet another benefit to the advantages accrued in keeping these formidable vehicles available for future use.

The MRAP: Brilliant Buy, or Billions Wasted?
Troops' Queries Leave Rumsfeld on the Defensive


RG-31 Nyala Mine Protected Vehicle 

Canadian Forces Armour — Expedient Route-Opening Capability

Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle

Pentagon shuts MRAP production line

Majority of US MRAPs To Be Scrapped or Stored

Between MRAPs and "a couple of Nobel Prizes"—reasonable priorities in armored vehicles in the US and the UK

Re-Life / Re-Role

Middle East MRAP Sales Give Hope to Truck Manufacturers