Armor: MRAPs In Distress


March 4, 2009: The first MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) wrecker has appeared. Navistar, which makes the MaxxPro MRAPs, now provides a variant equipped with a 50 ton capacity boom and the ability to haul just about any MRAP out there, back to base. The MaxxPro Wrecker needs a 2-3 man crew.

MRAPS break down or get damaged in combat, and they need a tow. But these heavy vehicles are a bit much for most wrecker vehicles designed for trucks, and there aren't that many tracked wreckers (designed for use with tanks) around. Until the MaxxPro wrecker showed up, troops had to improvise, depending on what was wrong with the distressed vehicle. This often involved one or more MRAPs providing a tow, perhaps in cooperation with a heavy truck wrecker.

MRAPS are basically 7-25 ton trucks that are hardened to survive bombs and mines. They are built using the same construction techniques pioneered by South African firms. The vehicle uses a capsule design to protect the passengers and key vehicle components mines and roadside bombs. The South African technology was imported into the U.S. in 1998, and has already been used in the design of vehicles used by peacekeepers in the Balkans and elsewhere.

There have been some problems with the MRAPs. First, they are, after all, just heavy trucks. And the capsule design produces a high center of gravity, that makes the vehicles prone to flipping over easily. They are also large vehicles, causing maneuverability problems when going through narrow streets. Most MRAPs don't have a lot of torque, being somewhat underpowered for their size. And, being wheeled vehicles, they are not very good at cross country movement (especially considering the high center of gravity.)

The U.S. is shifting its MRAP vehicle deliveries from Iraq (where nearly 10,000 have been delivered) to Afghanistan (where nearly 1,500 have been flown in so far). In the face of increasing Taliban use of roadside bombs, MRAPs are seen as a way to keep U.S. and NATO casualties down. Some MRAPs originally headed for Iraq, are being diverted to Afghanistan. The main delivery limitation is the need to fly the MRAPs in, and that requires a large aircraft (C-17, C-5 or leased Russian equivalents.)


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