Armor: A Tough And Agile Cat


January 24, 2010:  British vehicle manufacturer, Supacat, which supplies high mobility vehicles for industry and the military, has developed a new, highly mobile, MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle. The SPV400 is a 7.5 ton, 4x4 armored truck with a V shaped hull. The vehicle can carry up to 1.5 tons, is bulletproof, and can seat six.

The SPV400 attempts to fix the annoying, and sometimes dangerous, quirks and flaws of earlier MRAPs. The list of problems here was large, and included poor off-road performance, difficulty maneuvering along narrow village and city streets, high fuel consumption, too high (exposing turret gunners getting snagged by wires, often electrical ones, and more prone to tip over), and poor internal design (for example, the drivers seat was often too cramped for a soldier wearing armor). On the plus side there are fewer casualties, and higher morale as a result, when using MRAPs. Troops went into harms way with more confidence, and were more effective as a result.

Fixing the shortcomings of these vehicles was difficult. Their height, weight, large size and high fuel consumption are essential in protecting passengers from bombs and mines. Problems with the internal layout can be fixed, and largely have been in vehicles like the SPV400. Maneuverability problems are addressed somewhat by better driver training, although Supacat has developed a lot of little changes that make even an MRAP class vehicle nimble while off the road.

Commanders of units equipped with MRAPs were taught the best tactics and techniques (based on a growing body of user experience) to get the most out of these vehicles. Smaller MRAPs (like the SPV400), that are better off the road, less liable to tip over and easier to take through narrow village roads, are being sent to Afghanistan.

Over 10,000 MRAPs are in use, mostly in Iraq. But all of the new ones are now going to Afghanistan. MRAPs cost about five times more than armored hummers or trucks. These vehicles are more expensive to operate, and less flexible than the hummer. MRAPs use a capsule design to protect the passengers and key vehicle components mines and roadside bombs. The bulletproof MRAPs are built using construction techniques pioneered by South African firms that have, over the years, delivered thousands of landmine resistant vehicles to the South African armed forces. These were a great success. 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.

One of the most common of these early MRAPs was the Cougars. Basically, the Cougar is a 12 ton truck that is hardened to survive bombs and mines, and comes in two basic versions. The four wheel one can carry ten passengers, the six wheel one can carry 16. The trucks cost about $730,000 each, fully equipped. MRAPs are also being supplied by other manufacturers, but their designs are very similar to the Cougar. 

Meanwhile, Supacat has also equipped British commando and infantry units with a unique four ton MRAP,  MWMIK 4x4. This vehicle is armored on the bottom to give protection from mines, but is largely open up top. The vehicle mounts 12.7mm and 7.62mm machine-guns, as well as a 40mm automatic grenade launcher. The Supacat chassis has been around for a while, and comes in 6x6 versions as well. It has excellent cross country capabilities. Top speed of the MWMIK is 80 kilometers an hour, and the vehicle normally carries four people. These were initially bought for the SAS commandos, who were quite pleased with the vehicle.




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