Armor: Airborne Armor For Afghanistan

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October 24, 2008:  The U.S. is shifting its MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle deliveries from Iraq (where 9,400 have been delivered) to Afghanistan (where 1,100 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.)

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.)

Some new MRAPs, like the MaxxPro Dash are lighter, shorter and have the engine and drive train tweaked to provide more power. Over 800 of these are going to Afghanistan, where many of the roads aren't much better than dirt tracks. But the roadside bombs in Afghanistan tend to be weaker than those used in Iraq, and the MRAPs provide excellent protection. In any events, many of the roadside bombs are set off near residential or commercial areas, and most of the victims are civilians.

 


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