February 23, 2010:
The U.S. Department of Defense is buying another 250 RG-31 MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected), for $910,000 each (plus over $100,000 to get them to Afghanistan). The RG-31 earned a favorable reputation in Afghanistan, where the trend was towards smaller, and less top heavy MRAP vehicles. Thus the United States developed new designs (like the M-ATV) for Afghanistan. But the RG-31 was still useful for patrolling the roads (searching for mines and roadside bombs) and guarding convoys. The RG-31 was good enough, and manufacturers could not produce better models fast enough.
The U.S. Marine Corps is the largest user of the RG-31 (over 1,300), while the U.S. Army is the second largest user, with over 500. Several other countries are already using the RG-31 (nicknamed Nyala), which was designed and manufactured by the same company (BAE). The RG-31 is a South African design, built to resist landmines and roadside bombs. It was developed from the earlier Mamba armored personnel carrier, and has an excellent track record. Many RG-31 components are built in South Africa, with assembly done in Canada.
The wheeled (4x4) RG-31 weighs eight tons and can carry up to eleven people (depending on the variant). Some models, like the RG-31M, usually operates with a crew of five, plus a cargo area in the back. The RG-31 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.
When the RG-31 first appeared in Afghanistan six years ago, there were problems. Some of the components did not work as well as hoped, and for the first year, more were out of action more than expected. But that's common with new military equipment, and those problems were overcome.
Most of the MRAPs 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. The RG-31 has a top road speed of 100 kilometers an hour and a range of 900 kilometers on internal fuel.
The UN and the United States were the first major users of MRAPs. These vehicles are becoming popular with NGOs operating in dangerous areas, as they do not look particularly military (especially if the machine-gun is removed), even though they are definitely a combat ready vehicle in Afghanistan.