September 26, 2008: The U.S. is
loaning Poland 40 Cougar MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles for
use in Afghanistan. These will enable the 1,900 Polish troops there to conduct
patrols and convoys more safely, in the face of increasing Taliban use of
roadside bombs. Polish troops will receive 30 Cougars next month, and the rest
early in 2009.
Cougar is a 12 ton truck that is hardened to survive bombs and mines.
The bulletproof Cougars are built using the same construction techniques
pioneered by South African firms that have, over the years, delivered over
14,000 landmine resistant vehicles to the South African armed forces. 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. The Cougar
comes in two versions. The four wheel one can carry ten passengers, the six
wheel one can carry 16. Poland is getting the four wheeled version.
The vehicle uses a capsule design to protect the passengers and key
vehicle components mines and roadside bombs. The trucks cost about $730,000
each, fully equipped. The Cougars have proved very popular with the troops.
Poland, however, is on a tight budget.
They have spent a lot of money upgrading their armed forces, in order to meet
NATO standards. Having troops in Afghanistan is not popular back home, and
Polish casualties makes the public even more negative. So 40 Cougars on loan
helps all around.