Armor: Vector MRAPed


July 3, 2010: Britain is buying another 37 Mastiff MRAPs. These are modified versions of the American Cougar vehicle. Britain began buying these Cougar variants four years ago. Before the new Mastiff order, 277 Mastiffs, 90 Wolfhounds and 157 Ridgbacks were ordered or in use. The Mastiffs and Wolfhound are variants of the 6x6 Cougar, while the Ridgeback is based on the 4x4 Cougar.  

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 up to a million dollars each, fully equipped. The British versions had electronics and weapons commonly used in the British army.

The rush to buy more Mastiffs is in response to the poor performance of the first mine resistant vehicles Britain sent. Four years ago, the British Army decided to buy the Pinzgauer Vector 6x6 armored trucks. But two years ago, it was clear the Pinzgauer Vector was not up to the task. Now this vehicle is being removed from Afghanistan, and replaced with MRAPS (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected).

The Vector vehicle protected its passengers from rifle bullets and some roadside bombs. This was accomplished with a Kevlar floor, bullet proof glass and tires that will run when flat. But this proved inadequate against the growing number of roadside bombs encountered in Afghanistan, especially the larger ones that became more common.

The MRAPs are heavier (at 7-19 tons), and have a V shaped underbody that deflects the force of an explosion. The pressurized passenger cabin also keeps out blast effect, as well as a lot of the noise. This unique South African design has greatly reduced the effectiveness of roadside bombs. The Taliban frequently avoid using roadside bombs against troops using MRAPs. Most of the attacks there are now directed at soldiers and police who do not have MRAPs.

The Pinzgauer Vector trucks, which cost $788,000 each (about the same as an MRAP), were developed, in the early 1970s, by the Austrian firm Steyr-Daimler-Puch. This new cross country truck design proved very popular with the civilian market, and then with military users. Cheaper and, to their users, more versatile and reliable than trucks from the larger military vehicle manufacturers, there are now over 30,000 Pinzgauers in service in 24 countries. The 4x4 wheel drive models carry up to 1,090 kg/2,400 pounds, the 6x6 1,500 kg/3,300 pounds. Each can carry twelve troops comfortably (and more than twice as many uncomfortably.) The Pinzgauer has kept up with the competition. When the American Humvee appeared two decades ago, the Pinzgauer design was modified to create a wider, lower vehicle (a feature of the Humvee that proved very successful). The Pinzgauer isn't cheaper than the Humvee, but is considered a better value and, for nations with anti-American leanings, makes them feel better.

Many military truck manufacturers rushed to copy the hummer after September 11, 2001, and quickly adopted the armored hummer design as well. But when the Iraqi terrorists began using thousands of roadside bombs a year, and larger ones at that, it soon became evident that a better protected vehicle was needed. The MRAP had already been in use by the Americans since the 1990s (in the Balkans), and over 10,000 were soon on their way to Iraq and Afghanistan. The British Vector vehicles are rarely used now, with British troops preferring their new MRAPs. Thus the Vectors are being withdrawn from Afghanistan.





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