Armor: Afghans Make A Case For Free MRAPs


July 18, 2016: Afghanistan recently went public with a problem it is having getting armored vehicles from the United States. The problem is that the Afghan security forces are suffering higher casualties since the end of 2014, when foreign combat troops and most of their air support left. The Afghans asked for the air power to remain but that was refused, although in 2016 the U.S. agreed to increase the amount of air support it would provide to Afghan forces. But what would really help is better protected armored vehicles. By 2013 the Afghans had received 600 American MSFVs (Mobile Strike Force Vehicles), a vehicle with about the same protection levels as an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle but more mobile. The Afghans had asked for 300 more in 2013 and said this was urgent especially if the Americans would not provide previous levels of air support.

The Afghans pointed out that the enemy (mainly the Taliban) were using the weapons (mines and roadside bombs) against Afghan forces because, like Western troops, the Afghan soldiers were more effective in ground combat. When confronted with this problem the enemy began using the mines and roadside bombs heavily and avoiding direct combat. The Taliban knew these weapons would be more effective against Afghan troops who did not have MRAPs. By 2009 Western troops had found that MRAPs (and MSFVs) reduced casualties from mines and roadside bombs enormously. As the Afghans noted, you were five times more likely to be killed by mines and roadside bombs if using armored hummers instead of MRAPs. This was crucial because up to that point over 60 percent of casualties among Western troops were because of mines and roadside bombs. Once MRAPs and MSFVs were in wide use by 2010 casualties from mines and roadside bombs declined by more than half.

The Americans admitted that they did not want to provide the 300 additional MSFVs in 2013 because the armored hummer cost only about 70 percent less than an MSFV. The U.S. has been trying to reduce their military spending and Afghans don’t vote. Instead the U.S. sent the Afghans more armored hummers plus hundreds of heavy trucks the Afghans didn’t even want. As the Afghan casualties grew, mainly because of mines and roadside bombs their desperation to get the MSFVs grew and they took the issue public.

The MSFV is actually a version of the American M1117 ASVs (Armored Security Vehicles), which proved so popular with Afghan police that the manufacturer upgraded the vehicle (with more protection from bombs) and by 2012 had provided 600 of the MSFVs (improved ASVs) to the Afghan Army. These were paid for by the United States and were being used, as were American Army M1117s, mainly for security duties. M1117s are basically scout and patrol vehicles, carrying only four troops. These vehicles can mount either 12.7mm machine-guns or Mk19 40mm automatic grenade launchers in their turrets. The vehicles cost about one million dollars each. One thing about the M1117 that appeals to the Afghans is that the vehicle can withstand hits by RPG rockets. The RPG is the favorite Taliban anti-vehicle weapon. The ASV is also smaller than the MRAPs, favored by NATO troops, and is more nimble. The MSFVs are also able to withstand many roadside bombs.

The ASV was, in effect, one of the first MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) to get to Iraq (although it no longer qualifies as a proper MRAP). Originally developed in the 1990s, for use by American MPs (Military Police) in combat zones, only a few were bought initially. It was found that for Balkan peacekeeping, existing armored vehicles were adequate, and that in the narrow streets of Balkan towns, the ASV was too wide to be very maneuverable.

Then came Iraq and suddenly the ASV was very popular. The U.S. Army got lots more because military police like these vehicles a lot. The MPs originally wanted 2,000 ASVs but before Iraq were told they would be lucky to get a hundred. After 2003, the MPs got all they wanted. The M1117 soon became popular in Afghanistan as well.

The ASV is a 15 ton 4x4 armored car that is built to handle the kind of combat damage encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ASVs are, unlike armored hummers, built from the ground up as an armored truck. ASVs are 6.5 meters (20 feet) long and 2.75 meters (8.5 feet) wide, making them a bit larger than hummers. The ASV is heavy enough to survive most roadside bombs and keep going. The ASV is bullet and RPG proof. The turret is the same one used on the U.S. Marine Corps LAV wheeled armored vehicle. When the marines went shopping for armored trucks, however, they passed on the ASV. This is believed to be mainly because most armored trucks have more room inside. The ASV normally carries a crew of three. Over 2,400 have been delivered (some to foreign customers) so far. Bulgaria, for example, has some M1117s in Afghanistan. U.S. troops have hundreds of ASVs in Afghanistan, and Canada has ordered several hundred enhanced (like MSFVs) models as the TAPV (Tactical Armored Patrol Vehicle).




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