Mine Resistant Ambush Protected or MRAP vehicles belong to a collection of armored fighting vehicles in the United States. The MRAP vehicles are specially designed to withstand and endure both attacks from improvised explosive devices or IED, as well as ambushes. In Iraq, the majority of deaths are due to attacks using improvised explosive devices. More specifically, about 63% soldiers die because of IEDs. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles do not have a general or regular design. Manufacturers of these armored vehicles compete with one another by providing their respective MRAP vehicles with certain unique qualities such as tougher armor or better tactical electronics protection warfare systems.
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The United States Marines Corps are in charge of the production, quality control and program on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. More specifically, Brig. General Michael Brogan is the overall head or in charge of the MRAP program and aimed to replace all M998 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles or Humvees in the battlefield or on hot zones in Iraq. Due to the high demand for these vehicles in the war in Iraq, an emergency budget was allotted for the mass production and assembly of MRAP vehicles. May 5, 2007, the production and assembly of MRAP vehicles was prioritized by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Consequently, this allowed a higher budget around US$1.1 billion for military operations, particularly for MRAP vehicles (USA Today, 2008). In July 31, 2007, the budget for the MRAP vehicles was increased to US$ 2.55 billion while the demand increased by another 3,126 units (U.S. Department of Defense, 2008).
Aside from the high demand and priority on MRAP vehicles, there are also numerous criticisms or disadvantages about the MRAP program and MRAP vehicles. The MRAP program, having no regular or standard design for MRAP vehicles imposed a wartime logistical challenge. In addition to this, despite having a huge budget and demand, only few MRAP vehicles were delivered and used in Iraq and in Afghanistan. MRAP vehicles indeed survive IED attacks, however, they are having hard time surviving or withstanding explosively formed penetrator attacks. Having built with a need for better and thicker armor, the vehicle’s size and weight were questioned. The quality of its armor had negative impacts or consequences on its mobility. Oftentimes, the MRAP vehicles had hard time maneuvering off main roads, over bridges as well as in urban areas. It is also hard to bring the MRAP vehicles on the actual battlefield or war zone on time because of the restrictions imposed by its weight on C-130 cargo aircrafts. Three MRAP vehicles can be lifted or carried by one C-130 cargo aircraft. However, the airlifting cost is too high that the demand for MRAP vehicles was reduced. For comparison, MRAP vehicles via airlift cost $750,000 per vehicle while it only costs $13,000 per vehicle via sealift that requires around three or four week’s delivery time.
On the other hand, the MRAP vehicles still present certain advantages aside from better protection or survivability against IEDs making it one of the most requested armored vehicles by generals or commanders. Even if there are no regular or standard designs on MRAP vehicles, it is a common feature for MRAP vehicles to have “V” shaped hulls. This design strongly supports the capabilities of MRAP vehicles in deflecting away explosive forces. Advantageously, this further strengthens its defense against explosions which originate under the armored vehicle. Most of these explosions come from land mines and IEDs. Consequently, the “V” shaped hull protects its passengers, as well as the vehicle itself. The MRAP vehicles also have tactical electronics protection system using optical and infrared techniques. This allows the MRAP vehicles to successfully detect land mines and IEDs. It also provides better control, guidance and communication from one MRAP vehicle to another. Some designs of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles include active electronic warfare equipments. This tactical electronics protection system helps in the countermeasures against enemy detection.
Today, the other vehicles used in Iraq are MASTIFFs and Bulldog vehicles. Specifically, the FV430 Mk3 Bulldog vehicles were recently deployed in Iraq. Having better characteristics or features, it has been favored more than the MRAP vehicles particularly in carrying out patrols. The Bulldog vehicles, as compared to the MRAP vehicles, have thicker armors and better platings. This results to better protection or safety for both the pilots and the passengers inside it. In addition to this, it also has an electronically controlled air conditioning system that provides better comfort and atmosphere inside the vehicle. Both the transmission and the engine were also upgraded and improved to provide better performance and reliability especially in long battles or missions in Iraq.
As compared to the MRAP vehicles, the Bulldog vehicles’ maneuverability was improved and has the “ability to turn around within its own length” (Ministry of Defense, 2008). It weighs 18 tons and capable of carrying a total of eight people (including two crew) and has a maximum speed up to 50 mph or 80 kph. Consequently, this provides the Bulldog vehicles with better flexibility and agility and gives the pilots with more choices in taking routes and in maneuvering against enemy troops and tanks. In addition to this, because of its maneuverability, unlike the MRAP vehicles, the Bulldog vehicles are able to move in narrow streets. It also has both a general purpose machine gun, as well as a 7.62 machine gun. With its agility and power, it provides better chances of escape or ambush attacks against enemies.
Interviews on Bulldog pilots and passengers confirm these advantages. According to Keith Murphy, a rifleman who was inside the Bulldog vehicle in the war in Iraq, “the vehicle hit with a roadside bomb, exploded, hit the body armor but didn’t penetrate through” (Ministry of Defense, 2008). On the other hand, Bulldog vehicle pilot Stuart Strachan, also a rifleman, states that “it’s a lot easier, very quick and simple just like driving a Go Kart” (Ministry of Defense, 2008). While Corporal Scott Hodgkinson, a war veteran with huge experience in the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq, states that “it (Bulldog vehicles) out rates all the other vehicles I’ve been in before in my whole army career whether it be Snatch, Saxon or normal Landrover” (Ministry of Defense, 2008).
On the other hand, the armored vehicle MASTIFF just like the MRAP vehicles also had huge demand. Specifically 27 ton of vehicles, were assembled, upgraded and delivered in the battlefield in Iraq. Being a heavily armored vehicle, it has a reinforced armor plating which provides better protection against attacks and makes it a preferable vehicle for convoys and patrols. The MASTIFF is a “6×6 wheel-drive patrol vehicle from Force Protection Inc.” (Ministry of Defense, 2008). Just like the Bulldog vehicle, it is capable of carrying a total of eight people. However, it has better maneuverability and reaches a maximum speed of 55 mph or 89 kph. It also has more weapons as compared to the Bulldog vehicle; “a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher or 50 mm canon and machine gun” (Ministry of Defense, 2008).
All of these armored vehicles, the MRAP, Bulldog and the MASTIFF, all provide certain features that come handy depending on the situation faced by our soldiers. In addition to this, the armored vehicle to be used depends on the mission objectives. For all these vehicles, one thing is certain; whether you use a MASTIFF, Bulldog or MRAP vehicle, security or protection always comes first.
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