The US Army is making a huge investment in MRAP, the new Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected armoured vehicles in an attempt to reduce casualties from roadside and culvert bombs in Iraq.
On Saturday the first US soldier was killed inside an MRAP (Type and Manufacturer unknown) . A gunner was killed and three crew members were wounded when a vehicle drove over a homemade bomb buried beneath a road southeast of Baghdad - it is reported to be a 300lb fertiliser based bomb triggered by pressure of the 18 ton behemoth. (picture above is another attack - none available up to press)
They vehicle and crew were taking part in an operation clearing Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia (?) insurgents from southern Arab Jabour, a rural, overwhelmingly Sunni area less than 10 miles southeast of Baghdad on the Tigris River.
100,000 pounds of bombs had been dropped prior to the attack to clear the ground because of the known dangers of buried bombs and IED's. (!)
Forensic bomb teams examined the site and the vehicle to see iof they could detect any design flaws in the vehicle and as they do with every such device to learn about devlopments in bomb desig, placement and triggering.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates singled MRAP's out in his holiday-season message in December, saying, “To ensure that troops have the best protection available on the battlefield, MRAPs became the military’s highest acquisition priority, and thousands of these vehicles are in production and en route to theater.” In May , Congress authorized $4 billion for a project.
Only last week Gates toured an assembly facility for MRAP's at Force Protection's plant in Charleston, S.C., where they are the 2nd largest employer turning out 200 vehiclesMRAP vehicles a month - basically an extremely heavily armoured MAC truck chassis, a month.
Gates has described them as “a proven lifesaver on the battlefield.” He cited Army reports that there had been 12 attacks on the vehicles with homemade bombs since a push began last summer to send more of them into combat zones, mostly in Iraq. No soldiers died in those attacks, he said.There are more than 1,500 MRAP's of them in Iraq now, and the military plans to purchase more than 15,000 of them at a cost of $22.4 billion.
Since last summer, however, Force Protection Inc. (FRPT) a startup company who were early into the market for MRAP's with 2 vehicles , the Cougar (UK version called Mastiff) and the Buffalo, (US$600K - 800K per pop) based very much on previous South African designs for bomb proof people carriers. FRPT has steadily lost market share to larger rivals managed by veterans in the manufacturing industry. Navistar (NAVZ ) and BAE Systems now rank as the leaders of the multibillion-dollar MRAP program. CEO Gordon McGilton cashed out most of his Force Protection stock early last year, when he exercised 1 million options -- right after they vested -- selling the underlying stock at - ($US30) nearly five times the current share price . He retains just a minor stake in the company and the company announced his retirement 8th January he retires from the Company effective January 31, 2008.
FRPT announced a $74,130,482 million contract for integrated logistics support (ILS) on the Company’s Cougar MRAP Category I and Category II vehicles with the US marine Corps on Thursday 17th January 2008.
Previous posts by Lord Patel on MRAP
UPDATE 12.45 EST This story has already been visited by West Point, Raytheon and Batelle amongst others.... and the House of Representatives has spent many ahappy hour rooting about inthe cellar.
See this article about a visit to the Force Protection plant last week. "The MRAP's size and weight also makes it difficult to chase the enemy down narrow roads, over unstable bridges, or across rough terrain. Citing those reasons, along with the improved security environment in western Iraq, the Marine Corps will buy just 2,300 of the vehicles instead of the 3,700 it initially planned on. The Army still wants 10,000 MRAPs, but like the Marine Corps plans to keep its more mobile Humvees" the article aso claims At least 487 U.S. troops died in Iraq last year from IEDs, roadside bombs, cars bombs and other explosives.
The Cougar can hit 65 at full speed. In Iraq, where temperatures run high, drivers don't go more than 55 to avoid overheating the tires. The truck gets about six miles to the gallon.
The Cougar and a much larger Force Protection-built MRAP called the Buffalo have been attacked more than 3,000 times. There have been only 3 recorded American fatalities. (So the headline may be wrong) In one case, a service member who was not wearing his seat belt was killed when the bomb exploded near the vehicle....
Tuesday, January 22, 2008