France is sending fifteen Aravis armored vehicles to Afghanistan. The 12.5 ton MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) is six meters (18.6 feet) long, 2.5 meters (7.8 feet) wide and high. The Aravis can carry up to eight people (six is more common) and will be used by combat engineers to scout roads for roadside bombs and mines. The Aravis is considered superior, in terms of protection, to most current MRAPs. The vehicle is based on the commercial Unimog U5000 vehicle.
As roadside bombs became more of a problem in Afghanistan, French troops found themselves without any MRAP vehicles. So, two years ago, the U.S. loaned France a hundred RG-31 (nicknamed Nyala) armored vehicles for the additional French troops being sent to Afghanistan. The RG-31 is a very popular vehicle in Afghanistan, with Britain, Canada, the Netherlands (who borrowed some from Canada) and the United States already using them there.
Most of the RG-31s 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. Those that have encountered Taliban bombs, provided good protection for their passengers. One RG-31, after getting hit by a powerful roadside bomb, was able to get home under its own power, with a crew that was shaken, but not injured. The Aravis is armed and equipped in much the same way as the RG-31s the French have been using.
The RG-31 is a South African vehicle, costing up to a million dollars each (depending on accessories), that was designed to resist landmines and roadside bombs. It was developed from the earlier Mamba armored personnel carrier, and has an excellent track record. The wheeled (4x4) RG-31 weighs eight tons and can carry up to eleven people. Some models, like the RG-31M, usually operates with a crew of five, plus a cargo area in the back. The RG-31 is a MRAP, and 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.
The UN and the United States were the first major users of the vehicle. Although armed only with a .50 caliber machine-gun, the Nyala earns its way by being the first one down roads where mines or roadside bombs may be encountered. The Nyala is becoming popular with NGOs operating in dangerous areas, as it does not look particularly military (especially if the machine-gun is removed), even though it is definitely a combat ready vehicle in Afghanistan. The Aravis, with its superior explosion protection, is also being offered for export.