Armor: Lessons Of Afghanistan Return To Iraq

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June 30, 2016: In June 2016 Iraqi troops received their first M-ATV (MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle) armored trucks. The M-ATV is one of the more popular of the growing number of refurbished late-model American MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) that saw some service in Afghanistan and are now being given away or sold cheap. M-ATV was found to be among the most effective MRAPs for counter-terrorism work. The ones showing up in Iraq are with the commandos of the Iraqi CTS (Counter-Terrorism Service). The few thousand troops of the CTS are among the most effective available to Iraq and have spearheaded recent offensives against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) forces in Anbar (western Iraq.) Now they have been seen outside the ISIL held city of Mosul in northwest Iraq. This is the last major ISIL stronghold in Iraq and the Iraqi government has promised to liberate it from ISIL control by the end of 2016.

The M-ATV was developed from lessons learned using MRAPs in Iraq and first saw combat in 2010 in Afghanistan. The M-ATV was also designed for Afghanistan, where MRAPs are more effective if they have good cross-country mobility. M-ATV is a 15 ton, 4x4 (with independent wheel suspension) armored vehicle. Payload is 1.8 tons, and it can carry five passengers (including a gunner). Top speed is 105 kilometers an hour, and road range on internal fuel is 515 kilometers. The M-ATV is slightly larger than a hummer. An M-ATV costs about $800,000. The ones showing up in Iraq appear to be equipped with more electronics for detecting and jamming (when needed) roadside bombs. The CTS also received some older MRAP models fitted with additional armor and equipment for clearing bombs, mines and booby traps.

After 2009 several thousand MRAPs were sent to Afghanistan and troops found that the M-ATV could safely handle a lot of cross country travel that would be dangerous for a conventional MRAP. But, like taking a tracked vehicle (like a tank) off road, you can't just drive it anywhere. Even a tracked vehicle will flip, or lose a track (hit an obstacle that will tear the tracks from the wheels) if you don't drive carefully. Same deal with the M-ATV. Off the road, this is a more stable and forgiving MRAP, and commanders are coming up with new tactics to take advantage of it. The enemy can no longer assume all MRAPs will stay on the road.

The M-ATV design improved on the fact that all other MRAPs were, after all, just heavy trucks. The basic MRAP 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.) The M-ATV was designed to deal with all of these problems.

The rush to get MRAPs to Afghanistan was all about reducing casualties. Anyone in these vehicles is much less likely to be killed by a roadside bomb. The math is simple. If all the troops who encountered these bombs were in a MRAP, casualties would be about 65 percent less. About two-thirds of all casualties in Afghanistan are from roadside bombs. Thus these vehicles reduced overall casualties by about a third.

Iraqi CTS is not the first to receive refurbished M-ATVs, In February the U.S. began delivering twenty M-ATVs to the 21,000 AU (African Union) peacekeepers in Somalia to provide peacekeepers with additional protection while patrolling areas where mines and roadside bombs are still a problem. These MRAPs will replace older (late 1980s vintage) and lighter Casspir vehicles. These are from South Africa which is where the modern MRAP design was invented and for over a decade Casspir vehicles were among the best MRAP type vehicles you could get.

 


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