"The Marines and the Army are buying MRAP vehicles and had planned to gradually add them to the fleets of Humvees in use in Iraq."
From the Baltimore Sun
Marines to replace Humvees in Iraq
Switch to blast-resistant vehicles aims to reduce deaths from roadside bombs
By David Wood
February 15, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Marines in heavily armored Humvees are being killed by powerful roadside bombs at such a rate that the Marine Corps intends to replace all its Humvees in Iraq with specialized blast-resistant armored vehicles, according to senior Marine officers.
The Army will continue to rely primarily on its armored Humvees in Iraq, senior Army officers said yesterday.
The decision to scrap the Marines' Humvees in Iraq, after years of trying to protect their crews by adding armor plate, was made by Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of Marine forces in the Middle East.
It will cost an added $2.8 billion for the V-hull armored vehicles called MRAPs, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, that are being delivered in small numbers to Iraq, and it will take years to complete the replacement.
The Marines and the Army are buying MRAP vehicles and had planned to gradually add them to the fleets of Humvees in use in Iraq.
More than 700 Marines have been killed in Iraq since the war began almost four years ago. Almost two-thirds have been killed in Humvees, Marine officers said. Experience with the 65 MRAP vehicles the Marines have in Iraq shows that their crews are four or five times more likely to survive a blast than those riding in armored Humvees.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, defended the service's decision not to replace its Humvees with MRAPs, though he acknowledged yesterday that the effort to protect soldiers by adding armor to Humvees seems to have reached an end.
"We have maximized what a Humvee can do," he told the House Armed Services Committee.
Schoomaker, who is retiring this spring after four years at the head of the Army, seemed to reflect the frustrations of trying to protect soldiers from bomb blasts, especially in a bitter and bloody war in which insurgents can invent different and more lethal bombs faster than the Pentagon and U.S. industry can devise protection.
"We are equipping with the best we have," he said. "We are losing not only Humvees, but we're losing tanks, Bradleys and Strykers" fighting vehicles.
Rep. Gene Taylor, a Mississippi Democrat, accused the Army of "dragging its feet on getting more MRAP-type vehicles to Iraq." He said Congress is eager to fund more MRAP vehicles, even at a cost that can reach $700,000 each. "We would much rather spend the money on the MRAP ... than have one kid needlessly buried at Arlington or one kid needlessly without their arms or legs."
Schoomaker insisted that "we are aggressively pursuing the MRAP program." But he said it made more sense to wait for a new design to eventually replace all of the Army's Humvees.
Meanwhile, the Army is shipping 71,000 sets of fire-resistant uniforms to Iraq so that soldiers will have a better chance to survive the fires that often consume Humvees hit by roadside bombs.
But senior Marines said yesterday that they cannot wait for a new design to replace the Humvee. Insurgents increasingly are planting powerful new types of bombs directly in the roads and detonating them beneath Humvees, causing such losses that a new approach is needed, they said.
Even the most heavily armored Humvees are vulnerable to such blasts because their flat-bottom chassis break apart or transmit the deadly force of the blast upward to passengers. Particularly vulnerable are turret gunners who are often thrown from the vehicle by the explosion.
In the past two weeks, at least five soldiers were killed when roadside bombs detonated near vehicles, Pentagon records show.
In contrast, V-hull vehicles, many of them originally designed in South Africa decades ago, deflect such explosive forces upward and outward. They have heavy-duty shock absorbers, and some models have seats suspended from the ceiling to further protect crews from blasts.
Together, the Army and Marines have about 465 MRAP vehicles deployed in Iraq, mostly used by bomb-disposal squads. But last fall, commanders in Iraq reported a growing need for MRAP vehicles for patrolling and convoys.
A spokesman said Mattis was traveling and could not be reached for comment.
But Marine Brig. Gen. Michael M. Brogan said in an interview yesterday that "the threat has changed, and we have to change with it."
Brogan, the Marines' chief purchasing officer, said the up-armored Humvees that Marines are using in Iraq "are the third generation" the Marines have produced to respond to the increasing threat of roadside bombs. "But they don't protect us from under-body explosions, and now that the threat has shifted we are shifting to this new class of vehicle," he said.
Some of the newer bombs found by Marines along their convoy and patrol routes consist of several heavy artillery shells wired together with an "accelerant" and buried in the roadbed.
"The enemy has adapted and begun to use more powerful IEDs," Marine Lt. Gen. Emerson Gardner said yesterday, referring to improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs.
Last month, The Sun reported that despite the increasing number of soldiers and Marines being killed in Humvees, the 21,500 additional troops ordered to Iraq by President Bush would not have access to MRAP vehicles because they are in such short supply.
Noting that article, Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut wrote to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Jan. 15 expressing their concern that the shortfall of MRAP vehicles in Iraq "is endangering many of our troops and appears to be yet another in a litany of failures to provide adequate armor to the troops."
"I'm encouraged to hear that the Marines will be ordering better protected vehicles, but I continue to be outraged that the Pentagon has been so slow to respond to this obvious urgent need," Kennedy said in a statement yesterday. "It makes no sense whatever to keep ordering our troops into combat without the armor they ought to have to protect themselves."
Designed in the late 1970s, the Humvee has been known to be vulnerable to roadside bombs since at least 1993, when four American soldiers were killed in Mogadishu, Somalia, when their Humvee ran over a land mine. But U.S. troops deployed to Iraq initially were given unarmored Humvees with canvas side doors.
These quickly proved inadequate against improvised bombs largely built from explosives stolen from Iraqi arsenals left unguarded after U.S. forces invaded in March 2003, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
The decision to replace Humvees means the Marine Corps will increase its purchase of MRAP vehicles to 3,700 from the 1,022 it had said only last month that it needed. The Army, which has almost 110,000 troops in Iraq, still plans to buy 2,500 MRAP vehicles.
Brogan said the first of those MRAP vehicles are being delivered now and will be shipped to Iraq by April. Production will be increased to 100 per month or more under a Marine Corps initiative to authorize up to nine companies to begin manufacturing versions of MRAP vehicles. As many as 15 versions could be operating in Iraq next year.
"I am moving fast on this, and I am taking some risks" in complicating the supply lines for different versions of the vehicles, Brogan said. "But I can sleep at night knowing I have gotten the equipment to the troops in the fight."
All Credit to David Wood and The Baltimore Sun |
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles
Current operations have proven that USMC unarmored ground vehicles are unsuitable to support combat operations. Mine warfare is nothing new to the US. In WWII and Korea, the US lost about 5 percent of its casualties to mines and ambushes. However, mine related casualties skyrocketed to 33 percent during Vietnam and 26 percent for Somalia.
In Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, RPGs, mines, IEDs, and small arms fire have been responsible for over 30 percent of Marine Corps level III and IV casualties. According to audiotapes released in November 2004, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ordered his followers to "Block off all their main and secondary supply lines for these are their main arteries and ambush them along those routes for they are exposed and easy prey." The Corps was responding to the threat slowly because it took time for industry to build what is needed. As a result the enemy adapts before the Corps gets a chance to protect Marins. As of 2005 the enemy was inside the Corp's OODA loop and had the Marins chasing their tales.
The Marine Corps responded to these guerilla tactics by with a proactive-reactive strategy in order to increase the survivability of vehicles. Marines began armoring vehicles with steel from whatever source was available, and then as the threat grew and evolved, we followed this ad hoc armor with factory produced Marine Armor Kits (MAK) for HWWMVs and Marine Armor Systems (MAS) for MTVRs. This was then followed with the acquisition of the ultimate in HMMWV protection, the Up-Armored HMMWV. These armoring efforts have provided an immediate response to the threat that has saved lives and reduced casualties, but it does not correct the deficiencies that still exist with the current ground tactical vehicle fleet. The MAK and MAS kits should afford the time we need to launch a counter-attack aimed at the heart of the problem: the vulnerability of the current ground tactical vehicle fleet.
The current ground tactical vehicle fleet does not have the survivability needed to support and sustain operations on the modern battlefield. While the US has superior intelligence collection, training, and tactical skill, the enemy continued to exploit the vulnerability of Marines in the current vehicle fleet. The most likely threat the Ground Tactical Vehicle Fleet (GTVF) will encounter under ship to objective maneuver (STOM) scenario is a combination of mines and small arms employed by unconventional forces operating in a non-contiguous battlespace. The legacy GTVF was not designed to withstand this threat. The GTVF was designed to support the Cold War linear battlefield.
The Marine Corps must develop a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) combat vehicle fleet capable of sustained operations in a chaotic, mine-infested, non-linear battlespace. Marines can no longer disregard survivability in favor of reliance on the ability to predict and neutralize threats. Unprotected vehicles result in unnecessary casualties that degrade operational readiness and that are politically untenable. There is a fleeting opportunity to skip a generation in research and development and move directly to a mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle designed from the ground up that gives us an order of magnitude increase in survivability.
A Baseline Survivability Index would be similar to how the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration establishes Federal Highway Safety Standards to protect vehicle occupants. If the Marines established a BLSI for every Marine Corps Vehicle, it would mitigate and reduce risk associated with combat and non-combat killers. Every vehicle system would possess the same Base Line Survivability Index. Every Marine is a rifleman, every vehicle system is a weapon system. If it going to go into harms way, if someone is going to shoot at it with real bullets, it needs to be protected from that threat. The BLSI will specify key performance parameters that will protect every Marine operator to a specified minimum level. That level should be established in combat because it will be the goal to ensure that every vehicle system becomes a combat vehicle system. The end result would be a Ground tactical vehicle fleet that became a Ground Combat Vehicle Fleet that is survivable, adaptable and supports operations across across the range of military operations.
This would created a Multi-mission Mult-role Family of Vehicles: RECON, C2, Cargo Truck, Fighting Vehicle. It must be capable of fighting and sustaining among non-linear battlespace. It must be strategically agile and tactically mobile to enable broad range of big M and little M operations. Getting to the battlefield only to by stymied by mines is not good enough. Adversary countries are already purchasing this capability.
The requirement for MRAP is not limited solely to combat operations. The mine and IED threat is pervasive throughout most of the developing world and the vulnerability of US ground tactical vehicles is a liability any time the US deploys. According to the International Committee to Ban Landmines, over 87 countries have a significant landmine or unexploded ordnance (UXO) problems. This coupled with the easy accessibility of mines and other ordnance on the world arms market makes MRAP essential for every Marine vehicle. The enemies of the United States will spare no expense to kill Marines whenever they are given the opportunity.
MRAP vehicles exist today. Companies abroad and in the United States produce MRAP systems, and both Army and Marine Corps engineers are successfully exploiting this technology in Iraq and Afghanistan. MRAP-equipped units that before required dedicated infantry support to complete their mission would now be equipped with a survivable, offensive weapon system that would enable independent operations. MRAP vehicles are inherently offensive in character, built from the ground up to survive a combination of mines, RPGs and small arms fire, and would better support Marine concepts of Ship to Objective Maneuver and the emerging concept of distributed operations.
The cost of acquiring a MRAP vehicle fleet will be significant. However, it is militarily and financially less expensive to acquire MRAP vehicles than to continue to suffer casualties in excess of Vietnam's historical loss rates. Protecting people is cheaper than replacing them in an all-volunteer service. Research by the Math and Statistics branch of the Naval Safety Center incicates that the financial costs associated to casualties should be adjusted upward no less than 250% from its current 1988 baseline to account for the real dollar costs of care and replacement. Adjusted enlisted casualties average $500,000 dollars while officers, depending upon their military occupation range from one to two million dollars each. This means the average light tactical vehicle with one officer and four enlisted personnel is protecting 2.5 million dollars of the DOD's budget. This $2.5 million is real O&M dollars. The argument that "we can't afford armored vehicles" is specious. The opposite is true, at 2.5 million dollars of precious cargo each, the Corps cannot afford UN-armored vehicles.
The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force requested 1,169 MRAP vehicles. There are different variants such as, multi-mission combat vehicles, ambulance variant vehicles, troop transport vehicles and so on. The MRAP vehicle’s final design and manufacturer has not yet been determined. As of 10 June 2005 MRAP was one of a dozen USMC Urgent Universal Need Statement (UUNS) awaiting DWG review or require solution resolution. The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle UUNS requested an MRAP vehicle capability to increase survivability and mobility of Marines operating in a hazardous fire area against known threats. EFDC was developing a course of action for development of a future vehicle that provides the requested capability.
For graphic: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/images/mrap-image20.jpg
Military services in the market for 4,000 blast-proof vehicles
By Sandra I. Erwin
Expectations that U.S. troops will not leave Iraq for the foreseeable future have prompted the military services to request an additional 4,000 mine-resistant armored vehicles.
Unlike armored humvees, mine-protected vehicles have V-shaped hulls and raised chasses, and are specifically designed to deflect bomb blasts. Side armor and bulletproof glass protect against small arms fire.
The Army and the Marine Corps have purchased several hundred of these vehicles in recent years, but the escalating violence in Iraq led to a decision last fall to boost the inventory.
In late December, vendors submitted bids for the so-called “mine-resistant ambush-protected” vehicles, or MRAP.
The MRAP program will cover a family of three categories of trucks. The Marine Corps currently is managing the program on behalf of the other services. The decision to acquire 4,000 more vehicles was driven by the assumption that these trucks can withstand roadside bombs and sniper attacks better than conventionally armored trucks, explained Capt. Jeff Landis, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Systems Command.
The command issued a request for industry bids in November for 4,060 vehicles — 2,500 for the Army, 538 for the Navy and 1,022 for the Marine Corps.
The Corps got $966 million in last year’s war emergency appropriation to buy 805 vehicles, but is counting on an additional $2 billion this year to acquire all 1,022. The other services also are expected to receive emergency war funds to pay for the vehicles. The price of each truck ranges from $400,000 to $750,000.
Three types of vehicles will be acquired under the MRAP program.
One is a mine-resistant six-passenger utility vehicle. It would be slightly larger than an armored humvee, with a V-shaped hull, ballistic glass, gun turret, undercarriage armor and a raised chassis. The Army plans to buy 463, the Navy 415 and the Marine Corps 538.
The second category is the 38,000-pound Cougar troop transport. The Cougar is a multipurpose, 12-ton mine-protected armored patrol vehicle that comes in 10-passenger and 16-passenger variants. Anticipated orders for this vehicle include 2,037 for the Army, 113 for the Navy and 420 for the Marine Corps.
The third category is the 45,000-pound Buffalo mine-clearing vehicle currently used by explosive ordnance disposal units. The Navy and the Marine Corps each will order 10 and 64 Buffaloes, respectively.
The MRAP program is billed as a competitive award, but two of the three categories of vehicles — the Cougar and the Buffalo — currently are made by one company, Force Protection Inc. At least 300 Cougars and Buffaloes have been deployed to Iraq so far.
“We wanted to open it up for competition to get the best available technology,” Landis said.
The Marine Corps Systems Command selected nine companies, each of which will provide four test vehicles -- two for category one and two two category two. The companies are Armor Holdings Aerospace and Defense Group, BAE Systems, Force Protection Industries, Inc., General Dynamics Land Systems, General Purpose Vehicles, International Military and Government, Oshkosh Truck Corporation, Protected Vehicles, Inc. (a joint venture of Force Protection and General Dynamics) and Textron Marine and Land Systems.
The contracts for the 36 test vehicles are worth $34.6 million. Vendors are expected to deliver the vehicles by April, and the Marine Corps intends to complete the tests by January 2008. The government plans to select one or more companies for long-term production contracts. "Several of the awarded contract vendors indicate they could initially deliver start-up production rates between 30, 60 and 90 days after receipt of production orders," said Paul Mann, program manager for MRAP.
Several industry representatives contacted for this article privately voiced frustration about the market dominance of Force Protection Inc. as the sole U.S. provider of mine-protected vehicles. They also wondered whether this new round of vehicle buys could be handled by the small company, whose manufacturing capacity is said to be about 40 vehicles per month.
A spokesman for Force Protection declined to comment for this article. A number of public announcements in recent months reveal that the company is trying to expand its manufacturing capacity by signing up partners to help produce the Cougar. Force Protection is a subcontractor to BAE Systems for the production of the Cougar for the Iraqi army. The company subsequently signed partnership deals with General Dynamics Land Systems and with Armor Holdings for the production of the Cougar for the U.S. military. Under the agreement, General Dynamics will build armored cabs as a subcontractor to Force Protection. Most recently, both companies created a joint venture to offer Force Protection’s Cougar 4x4 and 6x6 armored vehicles.
The succession of industrial alliances built by Force Protection creates a “very confusing picture” of the company’s actual capabilities to manufacture large quantities of vehicles, said one industry source.
In November, the Marine Corps awarded Force Protection a $125 million contract for 100 Cougars and 44 Buffaloes, which are scheduled to be delivered in November 2007. Another $69 million contract in December asked for an additional 100 Cougars. It expects to receive additional orders for several hundred more vehicles under the MRAP program. Force Protection also is producing Cougars for the U.K. military.
The Marine Corps will test one or more of the bidding contractors’ vehicles in the coming months.
As a possible competitor for the category one MRAP, Force Protection designed the Cheetah light tactical truck, which weighs 14,000 pounds, and is heavier than the 9,800-pound up-armored humvee.
Another vehicle expected to vie for the MRAP award is BAE Systems’ RG-33L six-wheel, 22-ton mine-protected vehicle. Raj Rajagopal, vice president and general manager at BAE Systems, said the RG-33L was jointly developed with the company’s OMC subsidiary in South Africa. General Dynamics is the U.S. distributor of smaller versions of that vehicle, the RG-31 and RG-32. “South Africans have led the world in mine-survivable vehicles,” Rajagopal told reporters.
The Army recently awarded General Dynamics a $77 million contract for 169 RG-31 Mk5 mine-protected vehicles, with options for nine more. BAE Systems’ OMC division in South Africa will manufacture the vehicles. Deliveries will begin in June 2007, General Dynamics said. The Mk5 is the latest version of the RG-31 vehicle family. The Army bought 94 RG-31 Mk5s in 2006 from General Dynamics, at a cost of nearly $43 million.
The RG-31 Mk5 is a contender for the category-one vehicle in the MRAP program, said a General Dynamics spokesman.
BAE Systems, for its part, is supporting the manufacture of the Cougar armored truck for Iraq under its partnership with Force Protection. Insiders point to the close similarities between the Cougar and the RG-33.
Also bidding in the MRAP program is Oshkosh Truck Corp., which has the rights to produce the Australian Bushmaster armored vehicle. The Bushmaster is in the same category as the RG-33 and the Cougar.
The Marine Corps Systems Command will proceed with the evaluation of the vehicles, but it is not yet clear that the Army will agree with the selection made by the Marines, industry sources said. “The Army isn’t putting money on the table. It’s waiting for the Marine Corps to select a vehicle and then they’ll decide,” an industry official said.
“Currently the Marine Corps has acquisition authority for the Army and the Navy,” said Landis. “We purchase MRAP vehicles for them using our contracting officials and expertise with the program to fulfill their vehicle requirements. Funding simply gets funneled through us, but we handle the contracting aspects and simply add their requirement numbers. The Army has purchased Cougar and Buffalo vehicles before,” said Landis. However, he added, the MRAP “has not been declared a joint program yet. There may possibly be a joint Army-Marine Corps acquisition board in the near future.”
Landis also noted that the MRAP category one vehicle should not be interpreted as the replacement for the humvee. “This is incorrect,” Landis said. “They each have very different missions.”
—Additional reporting by Harold Kennedy
IN THE NEWS
Force Dynamics Announces $67 Million U.S. Marine Corps Contract
Publisher: Force Protection, Inc.
Ladson, SC – Force Dynamics, LLC—a joint venture between Force Protection, Inc. (NASDAQ: FRPT) and General Dynamics Land Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE: GD)—today announced it has received a $67.4 million contract award from the U.S. Marine Corps to produce 125 vehicles for its Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle program.
Under this latest delivery order, Force Dynamics will produce 65 Category I and 60 Category II MRAP vehicles that will be used by all branches of the armed forces. Force Dynamics also announced it will deliver the vehicles within the next 120 days. The MRAP competitive action for the first year’s estimated requirement for 4,100 vehicles has an approximate value of $2 billion.
“This is a huge development for Force Dynamics,” said Force Protection COO Raymond Pollard. “This joint venture was formed precisely for this purpose: to mobilize quickly on any action item announced by the Marines as the MRAP program moves forward. With advanced proprietary vehicle designs and significant manufacturing capacity, Force Dynamics has the capability to make an immediate and strategically important impact on the war on terror while establishing itself as a leader in the U.S. defense industry. We look forward to further supporting this program as it issues future contracts.”
“Our team is committed to the rapid delivery and fielding of Mine Resistant Armor Protected vehicles to the Marine Corps,” said General Dynamics Land Systems’ Ground Combat Systems Senior Vice President Mark Roualet. “The joint venture management team is in place; our processes are established and tested; we look forward to supporting this critical effort.”
Force Protection’s Cougar and Buffalo vehicles have been deployed with U.S. and Allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. The vehicles have withstood more than 2,000 IED and mine attacks, and are credited by soldiers with saving lives.
“These vehicles are a highly effective, proven solution to counter IEDs and other explosive threats,” said Marine Corps Systems Command Captain Jeff Landis. “No other vehicle has matched those of Force Protection for troop safety in the field.”
About Force Protection
Force Protection, Inc. manufactures ballistic- and mine-protected vehicles through its wholly owned subsidiary. These specialty vehicles protect against landmines, hostile fire, and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs, commonly referred to as roadside bombs). Force Protection's mine and ballistic protection technologies are among the most advanced in the world. The vehicles are manufactured outside Charleston, S.C. For more information on Force Protection and its vehicles, go to www.forceprotection.net.
About General Dynamics
General Dynamics Land Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), designs, manufactures, and supports land and amphibious combat systems for the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and allied nations. Headquartered in Falls Church, Va., General Dynamics employs approximately 81,100 people worldwide and expects 2006 revenue of approximately $24 billion. The company is a market leader in mission-critical information systems and technologies; land and expeditionary combat systems, armaments and munitions; shipbuilding and marine systems; and business aviation. More information on General Dynamics can be found online at www.generaldynamics.com.
This release contains forward-looking statements, including, without limitation, statements concerning our business, future plans and objectives and the performance of our products. These forward-looking statements involve certain risks and uncertainties that ultimately may not prove to be accurate. Actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. The company cautions that these forward looking statements are further qualified by factors including, but not limited to, those set forth in the company's Form 10-KSB filing and other filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (available at http://www.sec.gov) and the company’s public statements. The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any statements in this release, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.