MRAP glut on the way?

09 March 2012 by defenceWeb

The world military vehicle market will likely soon be glutted with surplus Mine Resistant Armour Protected (MRAP) V-shaped hull armoured vehicles.


The Washington Post says the MRAP’s signature V-shaped undercarriage helped deflect the impact of blasts from improvised explosives and made the armoured vehicle exactly what troops needed in Iraq. In 2007, the military began ordering almost 28 000 MRAPs, most of which went to Iraq, though some were designed for Afghanistan and its more challenging terrain.


“The military had little intention of keeping the vehicles over the long term,” the paper says. But to get them to the battlefield as quickly as possible, the Pentagon ordered multiple versions from six manufacturers, drawing from the war funding appropriated by Congress.


The number includes several hundred RG31s built at BAE Systems’ Benoni plant in South Africa.


“At the time we bought MRAP, it was pretty clear to most people that this was a short-term buy for the current wars,” said David Berteau, senior adviser and director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ defense -industrial initiatives group. But, Berteau said, “when you buy that many variants, it becomes a long-term nightmare.” What to do with the vehicles now is a complicated matter, particularly for the Army, which owns most of the MRAPs, and the Marine Corps, which has a sizable number.


David Hansen, programme manager with the office set up to manage the MRAP initiative, said none of the military services has decided how many to keep, the Post reports. Although the Army has completed two studies on the issue, one of its top officials recently sent staff “back to the drawing table” to take another look, he said.


The military will certainly keep some for training at US bases so troops know how to operate them, but most of the vehicles will probably be placed in some form of war reserve. Older models that haven’t been upgraded are likely to be shed, Hansen said.


The Defense Department will consider selling some of the vehicles to foreign countries or moving them to other federal agencies. Under one idea, some could be used by units patrolling the nation’s borders. “President Obama’s mantra for the future is versatility, flexibility, agility,” Thompson said. “None of those things sounds like an MRAP” or seems suitable for a future characterised by drones, cyberwarfare, and intelligence and surveillance technology.


The military is paying a high price to keep MRAPs up and running. Last year, Navistar Defense received a US$133.7 million contract to service vehicles in Afghanistan and Kuwait, and Fairfax County-based ManTech received a contract this year worth up to US$507 million over 10 months to repair battle-damaged MRAPs and make upgrades. Once the vehicles are off the battlefield, maintaining them is expected to cost less, but they will still require regular maintenance, such as checking fluids and batteries, the Post says.


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