The U.S. is loaning
France a hundred RG-31 (nicknamed Nyala) armored vehicles for the additional French
troops being sent to Afghanistan. The RG-31 is a very popular vehicle in
Afghanistan, with Britain, Canada, the Netherlands (who borrowed some from
Canada) and the United States already using them there.
Most of the RG-31s in Afghanistan have
special equipment installed, like jammers (to prevent roadside bombs from being
detonated via a wireless device) and remotely (from inside the vehicle) operated 12.7mm machine-guns. There
were problems with the installation of the special equipment. The machine-gun
system had some software glitches. When the jammer was turned on, most of the
RG-31s found that their alternators quickly burned out. These problems were
eventually eliminated. Otherwise, the RG-31s have given good service. Those
that have encountered Taliban bombs, provided good protection for their
passengers. One RG-31, after getting hit by a powerful roadside bomb, was able
to get home under its own power, with a crew that was shaken, but not injured.
The RG-31 is a South African vehicle,
costing about up to million dollars each (depending on accessories), that was
designed to resist landmines and roadside bombs. It was developed from the
earlier Mamba armored personnel carrier, and has an excellent track record. The
wheeled (4x4) RG-31 weighs eight tons and can carry up to eleven people. Some
models, like the RG-31M, usually operates with a crew of five, plus a cargo
area in the back. The RG-31 is a MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected), and is
preferred in Afghanistan because the bad roads make it easier for the top heavy
MRAPs to flip over. The smaller RG-31 is less prone to this problem.
The UN and the United States were the
first major users of the vehicle. Although armed only with a .50 caliber
machine-gun, the Nyala earns its way by being the first one down roads where
mines or roadside bombs may be encountered. The Nyala is becoming popular with
NGOs operating in dangerous areas, as it does not look particularly military
(especially if the machine-gun is removed), even though it is definitely a
combat ready vehicle in Afghanistan.