Army Wants Lots of Lightweight MRAPs

Army Wants Lots of Lightweight MRAPs

The Army has requested bids from industry for up to 10,000 lightweight versions of its Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, dubbed MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). It’s supposed to be a lighter, off-road capable and more maneuverable vehicle than the monstrous MRAPs the Army bought to shuttle soldiers around Iraq. The Army has already bought some 12,000 of the larger MRAP.

The pre-solicitation request says builders must deliver five test vehicles in a timely manner, points will clearly be given to the company or companies that can deliver a new vehicle the fastest. An accelerated test and evaluation period will eventually narrow contestants down to a single M-ATV builder, although the Army may place orders with more than one firm. The request says the Army wants anywhere between 2,080 and 10,000 of the new vehicles, and wants to know if any vendors have assembly lines with enough juice to crank out up to 1,000 vehicles a month.

The “off-road mission profile” part of the request comes from a joint urgent operational needs statement from commanders in Afghanistan struggling to manuever on the country’s absolutely atrocious to non-existent road network. As the Pentagon plans to send up to 20,000 more troops to Afghanistan, it has belatedly realized that the MRAP is too large and cumbersome for operations there.

Dry river beds often substitute for roads in Afghanistan’s mountain valleys, terrain that is barely navigable by Humvee and definitely not by the MRAP that weighs up to 24 tons and has a very high center of gravity. The MRAP was optimized for patrolling Iraq’s highly developed road network. “The M-ATV will maximize both protection levels and off-road mobility & maneuverability attributes, and must balance the effects of size and weight while attempting to achieve the stated requirements,” the request says.

Roadside bomb attacks by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan have shot up over the past two years. The Army request says the M-ATV must protect its occupants from both the deadly armor-piercing explosively formed penetrator bombs and rocket propelled grenades. The only way to get any kind of RPG protection in a vehicle with a target weight of 7 to 10 tons would be with add-on slat armor, similar to that affixed to the Stryker.

One of the potential problems the Army has not adequately addressed is that none of the MRAP vehicles are front-line vehicles, in the sense that they cannot operate in an environment approaching mid– to high-intensity combat. They can and do prove useful in stability and counterinsurgency operations, particularly in urban areas that require troops to conduct lots of presence patrols.

But in an environment where an enemy is equipped with large numbers of man-portable anti-tank weapons, of even the omnipresent low-tech RPG-7 variety, these vehicles are not survivable. They don’t have the armor protection and are very big targets. While it makes sense in wartime to build vehicles tailored for specific combat environments, one has to wonder if the service has any kind of long term strategy for all these new heavily armored trucks it keeps buying.

The Stryker vehicle is not a front-line vehicle either and is only survivable in an RPG environment with the addition of slat armor cages. Yet, it still lacks protection against anything much heavier than a 14.5mm machine gun. Its armor is much too thin to protect against 20mm, and up, auto cannons which are very common battlefield weapons, equipping pretty much every Russian built APC commonly found in world armies.

At the Army association gathering in DC this year, Army chief Gen. George Casey said future foes will be equipped similar to Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon in 2006, with lots of advanced, man-portable anti-tank missiles. If he’s correct in that assessment, the MRAP is not a viable vehicle for that type of combat and the Army will need something with much heavier armor protection. Look at the Israeli army and you can see what they’ve done in response to high numbers of RPGs and heavier anti-tank missiles, their APCs are very heavily armored, often built from a tank chassis with the turret removed. Then they slap on a layer of reactive armor tiles to defeat shaped-charge warheads.

This is a point made in an excellent new book by RAND historian David Johnson on Medium-Armored Forces in Past Military Operations. Medium weight vehicles are great in a low intensity conflict environment (I know I’m using dated terminology but I have yet to see a good alternative), but in the face of enemies equipped with anti-tank weapons fighting in cities or mountains, medium armor is not survivable.

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Good article Greg. I took vacation time to wait on an overdue contractor who isn’t showing up so time to vent.

I found Mr. Johnson et all’s RAND study yesterday on AKO and it can also be found via google.

While interesting, it makes the same erroneous assumptions that most folks make. FCS is NOT a medium armored force. The sole FCS vehicle not better protected and more capable than anything in a heavy brigade combat team is the tank. Even the FCS mounted combat system has better top attack and all around protection than the M1, and an equal 120 mm gun that has a round that can reach out farther than the current Abrams.

The history-based study also admitted that with adequate artillery and air support a less armored force can succeed against a heavy armored force. He cited the effectiveness of Stryker and LAV III in Desert Storm and OIF, Russian attacks against Grozny II, all the way back to the P-51 supporting our armor in WWII. He could have just as easily cited that Germany largely lost the war due to inadequate fuel at the right place/time on both fronts…caused in part by gas guzzling larger tanks and tank destroyers.

In addition, RAND’s point that we have no forcible entry armor capability, ignores the reality that even when we had Sheridans, we had no forcible entry capability against ANY well-armored, highly capable force with effective air defenses. Try conducting an airborne drop against Chinese or Russian S-300s. Try an amphibious assault against mainland China.

Both types of forcible entry and even sealift are always assumed, in a giant leap of faith, to be quasi-survivable due to historical precedents that lacked effective current air defenses, long range air-to-air radar missiles, modern sea mines, and quiet sit-and-wait diesel subs. Amphibious assaults are a vestige of island hopping and assault of a continent completely controlled by the enemy. Airborne attacks were conducted against Normandy AAA guns shooting somewhat at random with no guidance.

The reality is we can nearly always find an ally in friendly territory with airbases and sea ports available for our unopposed or barely dangerous entry ala OIF C-17s into northern Iraq. We are buying joint high speed vessels and C-17s in numbers that make future FCS early entry highly feasible close to the enemy…and close is all we need.

Nobody is saying that we should throw out the heavy brigade combat team. But we certainly don’t need so many of them given that arguably, one squadron and one heavy brigade did all the heavy lifting for V Corps in OIF. All the rest were largely a penalty or protection force for our logistical effort to support the heavy tip of the spear.

As this article points out, we have lost far more logisticians and regular Army/Marine types in Iraq and Afghanistan who weren’t in invincible M1 tanks. It’s time to consider protecting other lives of everyday Joes before we cry too hard because not all future tankers will have as much armor surrounding them.

MRAP-light is one potential solution. But agree with Greg and others that a lower profile and less rollover/stuck, prone JLTV is a better future solution. I certainly hope we don’t pay more than $400K for MRAP-lights because every cent spent now will probably be lost later. Contrary to Sec of Defense Gate’s philosophy, it isn’t always better to accept a poor compromise now rather than hold out for the better product later…especially if that product will be around a long time whether good or bad.

If we really want to protect our troops now, send more lift helicopters and do more by air and drive less in Afghanistan. Set up more combat outposts complete with parked M1 Abrams or Bradleys protecting provincial reconstruction teams. Use more air and well-armored QRFs parked somewhere strategically for the day to assist/overwatch Afghan and coalition lighter ground forces. The Canadians and Dutch have tanks there. Why not us?

The Army already has a vehicle for this purpose, called the M113 Gavin. Upgrade 10K of the ones we already have in storage. It will available more quickly, will be more reliable, have better over ground mobility, carry more troops, have a proven record of durability in combat conditions, need less of a supply tail (less maintenance), and be less expensive.

Why are IEDs such a threat? Because our Army is becoming roadbound (or in this article, riverbed bound), so the enemy knows what our routes are going to be. Getting MRAPs only gives us a more survivable roadbound vehicle. Employing more tracks will keep the enemy off balance.

What this author seems to forget is that our military remains supremely capable of destroying a conventional military force that would be capable of creating a “high threat” environment for our soldiers. It’s almost unthinkable that enemy APCs with 20-mm-or-larger cannon would be able to survive for long against the onslaught of Hellfires, Mavericks, Javelins, or depleted urananium penetrators they would most surely face. RPGs, snipers, and mines remain the primary threat to our ground forces for the forseeable future, because we dominate in all other areas.

Hey, why not call South Africa — their mine resistant vehicle (from couple of decades ago) was so effective the bombers gave up on trying, they have been rehabbed, I think the price was like $150,000 each. Admittedly US contractors won’t make a bundle, but you could put the difference into other .….…..

I hate going down this road again, but are we ever going to give Komatsu a shout? Their LAV has been out there for years and could be easily upgraded.



Am I not understanding something here? Isn’t this redundant to the JLTV program or is this a different vehicle with a different mission? If they are close shouldn’t they be combined? Could someone clear this up for me?

The JLTV is the HMMWV replacement. 6 or fewer seats depending on the version. Bolt on armor depending on the mission. This M-ATV is a wheeled APC. Not clear what the seating capacity will be. Armor will be an integral part of the design, although additional armor might be an option.
The M113 has never been designated “Gavin”. It is no better armored than the many other tracked or wheeled APCs of it’s weight made around the world. It was known for it’s vulnerability to anti-tank mines during the Vietnam War. Anyone who suggests that you’re better off with tracked vehicles than wheeled ones probably never had to maintain them. Counter-insurgency warfare puts lots of miles on vehicles.

It is not hunks of Iron or body armor that win was it troops that have a canco attatude and the primission from above to carry out the objective.
The Army and most services have forgot that the tax pyer payes for this crap.
We fought the Vietnam war with 2 1/2 trucks for point middle gurard and a tow truck bring up the rear. We had Ied called land mines and men shooting bullits at flack jackets that stope nothing. I understand the plight of the war they are fighting and should never ingaged in an the men responsibal should have a fair trile then hanged by the neck till dead. The coward is this very moment drawing up his climency while troops are still going to prisons for none crimes. If OBOMA DOES NOT TURN THIS CRININAL OVER TO THE HAGE FOR TRILE THE WORLD WILL LOSE ALL RESPECT FOR US AND OUR FORME OF JUSTICE. WE ARE ALREADY HATED BY ALMOST EVERYONE AND THIS WILL BE THE END. A NATION WITHOUT INTEGERTY IS NOT A NATIONA NATION WITH NOLEDER IS A MOB.

Why not order off GSA.…the Lenco BearCat has been saving lives and saving dollars for years.
The Army is so fat they can’t see their toes…they even own a few of these.…Fort Carson and Fort Riley.…duh.…the new Lenco BearCat G4 is in the $300k range and has more off road prowess than any MRAP truck.

I have to say, why does it take someone like me/or someone with enough common sense, over these big-budget/bigger is better, etc. gurus in high positions to figure out.. that not only in vehicles, but in anything.. time-tested and proven things work the best. I.E. the AK-47 over the M-16 or M-4, the RPG over the L.A.W. or AT-4, and something like the British have like the Land-Rover vehicle.. Cuuuuuummon! the AK has better capability, the RPG has better capability, and something like the Land-Rover (even though some improvements could be incorperated) is better. Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeello top brass, wake up! quit spending more money on JUNK, stuff that gets our soldiers killed so “buddies” of top brass/senior officials can get richer because they’re the one’s who have part ownership in the companies that supply our armed forces. QUIT BEING STUPID. point made.

What companies will be hiring for MRAP program.I was a DOD contractor for three years in Iraq and looking for work.If anybody had any info please email at you

I worked on the South Africa version in Iraq.The Mumas and Pumas,and Casspir,they are very capable and cost less.

The M-113 as used in Vietnam was a tracked flaming coffin. Aluminum hulls prone to spalling from anything of .50 cal and up, and gasoline powered. The Israeli’s are still using them but they look a whole lot different now. Take a look here.
I agree with with OP. These would be better than another overpriced MRAP. They can move over rough terrain at a much higher speed and with greater safet for the crew inside.
I hate to speak unkindly of a brother Marine but your letter was one of the most idiotic I have read from anybody, anywhere. I agree on the wrongness of putting troops on trial for doing their jobs. Murtha should be on trial, not the Haditha Marines. I have to advise you that “War Crimes” are a matter of violations of the Rules Of Land Warfare and the Geneva Conventions, none of which have been violated by our goverment. You can’t try people for non-crimes. To do so would be doing excatly what you just kvetched about.
When we went to war in Iraq it was against a man who was committing crimes against humanity and with the backing of about 40 UN decrees. We stopped and executed mass-murderers and mass-torturers and freed several million people. Is there something wrong with that in your mind? Same can be said of throwing the taliban out of Afghanistan. There’s also a lesson there for Russia: We can do what you couldn’t and with 10’s of thousands fewer troops. Watch out if you’re thinking about messing with the US.

I think the US could do worse than the Australian designed and built “Bushmaster” not one fatality recorded despite being used by Australian British and Danish troops in Iraq & Afghanistan. Certainly several vehicles have been totally written off due to RPG & IED attack but not one death.….


Of course there is also the Australian M113(AS4)
The M113A4s will have greater firepower, protection, mobility and habitability than the existing M113A1 fleet. This will be achieved through the following:

The new M113’s have also been stretched 666mm or just over 2 foot

A powerful EURO III four-stroke DaimlerChrysler-MTU engine coupled to a six-gear ZF automatic transmission will improve speed and mobility.
Yoke steering with true pivot turn and natural steering input in reverse.
Upgraded vehicles will have base-level protection enhanced by external appliqué armour and spall curtains for increased vehicle and crew protection
A new Tenix-designed and manufactured turret will provide a platform to ensure superior firepower.
Day/night sight, including a unity vision periscope channel.
New electric powered turret drives with stabilisation as a future growth capability.
New M2 HB QCB 12.7mm machine gun.
Revised seating and stowage layouts in the M113AS4s providing improved habitability for crew and passengers.
Hull reinforcement to improve mine-blast protection.
The fleet will comprise seven vehicle variants: armoured personnel carriers (APC); fitters track; recovery; mortar; command; ambulance and logistic vehicles.

David, with respect I don’t know of too many people outside the US who hold the view that the war in Iraq was about liberation of an oppressed people. if that was the case the there are many many other countries with greater need to be saved than Iraq. Only they don’t have a huge pool of oil under their soil.

Why cant they American troops a mode of operation that is they act of using less tract routes, employ the use of sniping positions. Movement can be done mainly at night in such a deceptive form, keeping the insurgents at suspense. Trucks that can resists IEDs is not the solution. Because the more trucks you produce the more destructive the IEDs will be each day that passes.

M113? I don’t think was EVER gas powered.. It had a CAT Diesel in it.

The M114 had Chevy Small Block in it, waaay underpowered.

The M113A3 can keep up with a Bradley on the road, making it fast enough to get out of trouble, but tracked giving it the ability to go most anywhere. It’s also capable of bolt on reactive armor making it RPG resistant, much more than an Armored Car or a bearcat will ever be.

M113 has a LOT of potential if upgraded for armor protection.. they are exceptionally easy to maintain, parts and logistics are in place a HUGE savings from new program development, and there are 10’s of thousands in surplus.

Track vehicle maintenance isn’t much worse than armored wheel vehicle maintenance, but maybe there is some need for further research and development on improved, longer lasting tracks.

The Bearcat, and the like, one single RPG will turn them into smoldering SMALL piles of melted metal.

The original M-113’s were indeed gasoline powered. In Vietnam they were famous for catching fire and burning, though I guess it was technically melting, to the point where there was nothing left but the (steel) tracks and drive train components.

On a side note, M-113’s are only rated to withstand 7.62mm. We were told that the A2 models that I rode in the 80’s would be penetrated by 12.7mm (.50 cal) at less than 100 meters. 14.5mm could do the job out to 300 meters. As someone mentioned above glancing shots

Sorry — glancing shots would cause spalling in the troop compartment.

Greg Zurbay has made a very good point. Wat are the S. Africans using? Thier vehicles are mine resistant, fast, and have been effective. It all comes down to politics, and we have enough MRAP’s. Too little too late, though. The procurement process, from assault rifles to aircraft needs to be changed. The M-113 is an aluminum coffin. No place on the battlefield as is. No way. Find another use for them, since there are thousands.

The M113A3 with the RISE power pack and armor package and external fuel tanks is not the lightly armored bucket of yore. That’s why they are still being modded and reset when they rotate back from Iraq.
It would be easy to further v-hull this simple design, add the successful Soucy band tracks the Canadians are using, and go places heavier rides cannot.
If your weight means you cannot go to the fight, having awesome firepower doesn’t mean much.

Concerning the M-113, I remember that it was a vehicle that could go literally anywhere. Once my commander told be to go off a real steep sand embankment through heavy brush through a swamp to get to our next point. I had my doubts since tanks have thrown tracks in a lot less. But the M-113 took the terrain like it was nothing. It was a real all-terrain moment and we were just feeling invincible at it’s ability. Then he brought us back to earth when he took his pocket knife and jammed it into the aluminum armor to remind us that we weren’t as invincible as we thought.


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