Afghan MRAP Wars: IEDs Vs. Mobility

Afghan MRAP Wars: IEDs Vs. Mobility

Our colleague Christian Lowe is embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan — In one of the most conspicuous shifts in policy since the war in Afghanistan began, local Army commanders have ordered that Soldiers must be in heavily-armored IED-resistant vehicles when leaving the confines of any base in eastern Afghanistan.

Up-armored Humvees, the go-to patrol truck for troops here since 2001, have been relegated to driving within forward operating bases or were donated to the Afghan army and police.

The Pentagon is sending so-called “mine resistant ambush protected” vehicles, or MRAPs, to the theater at a fevered pitch, with planeloads of the heavy trucks arriving daily at FOBs in this region.

The motor pools now feature a hodgepodge of MRAP trucks, including the International Truck-made Maxpro, the BAE Systems-made RG-31 Nyala, and the most recent arrival, the Oshkosh-built MAT-V. Soldiers here say each has its advantages and disadvantages.

“I love the MAT-V,” said Staff Sgt. Philip Burchfield, platoon sergeant with 1st Platoon, Angel Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment. “It can take us places we can’t go with the Maxpros or RG-31s.”

Battalion officials here want more of the nimble MAT-Vs. Their lighter weight, lower profile and more forgiving suspension give unit commanders greater flexibility in supporting troops who have to patrol remote villages situated along roads that better support tractors and livestock than they do trucks.

But what the MAT-Vs gain in agility, they give up in protection against IEDs. Soldiers here say the MAT-V protects against roadside bombs better than an up-armored Humvee, but not much.

“If we hit an IED, it’s still going to mess this thing up,” one Soldier said during a recent vehicle patrol.

Sitting in an MAT-V is like strapping into a cockpit. The four contoured seats each has five-point seatbelts and a communications suite. Gunners wear heavy-duty harnesses clipped to a fixed point inside the vehicle to avoid being thrown from the turret in a rollover or explosion.

The tight confines are more akin to a Humvee than anything else. But being strapped in and linked by i-comm to the rest of the vehicle gives its own sense of security.

Though it offers more protection than an MAT-V, the ride in a Maxpro or RG-31 along most of the main routes between bases here is brutal, with the stiff suspension taking every bump and furrow like a trampoline. But despite the rough ride, Soldiers here are glad to have the marginal addition of protection that these vehicles give from increasingly sophisticated IEDs.

However while IEDs remain a huge concern, Soldiers are more worried about the number of armor-piercing rocket propelled grenades that are winding up in the hands of insurgents.

One Soldier with Angel Co. was severely wounded last month when an RPG entered the driver’s side of the vehicle, slicing right through the MRAPs armor. While some MRAPs have the RPG-catching “bird cages” attached to the exterior for added protection, some of the RPGs still find their way through.

Commanders here clearly prefer the MAT-V to the other varieties of MRAPs, but even with the added mobility the smaller vehicle provides, getting from point-A to point-B can take an agonizing amount of time and the conditions force drivers to go slower, leaving them more vulnerable to command-detonated IEDs and RPG shooters.

And with combat outposts separated sometimes by as much as an hour-and-a-half drive, there’s little chance one platoon can rush to offer support to another.

But the Soldiers make do. And despite all the drawbacks, one Soldier who’s on his second deployment to Afghanistan -– and his first using the MRAPs – said he wouldn’t leave on a patrol in anything else.

“I like MRAPs way more than the Humvee,” said Spc. John Johnson, an infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3–187, during a recent mission riding in a Maxpro. “It’s the IEDs that scare me the most. And this thing can take an IED a lot better than a Humvee.”

Join the Conversation

Not MAT-V, M-ATV… Not Maxpro, MaxxPro…

Thanks Jim! And what do the M-ATV and the MaxxPro have in common?

I like the part about our donating humvees to the afghan army and police, happy to see my hard earned money being spent on such things (yeah right!!!!). Purposely shorting our supplies to justify purchasing replacements in the form of even higher priced things. It doesnt matter what our guys are traveling in, these things are called anti tank weapons for a reason, slat armour was OK until the bad guys figured it out, now in many instances they double up on the RPG’s both aiming for the same spot, first one may stopped but not the second. Adapting to conditions is constant and our enemy is good at it because we trained them well in the 80’s against ruskies, which is why when we uparmoured everything they just started making IED’s bigger to compensate for it. I would rather have more speed and mobility to get past IED’s before they detonate and harder to track with an RPG than move like a turtle and be an easy target.

I don’t like sinking money and not getting a return, but giving the Afghans our humvees means they can spend more time outside the wire and patrol their own country. Right now they do it in pickup trucks. The better they are at doing their own fighting the closer we are to going home.

That is one way to give it a positive outlook.

Folks, HUMVEE’s the Afghan’s get are Not new production. Many of them are repaired (reset) equipment. DOD has 150,000 in service right now.
MaxxPro is a product line from Navistar. The Dash version was sent to Afghanistan. Mrap-All Terrian Vehicle is made by Oshgosh.

None of the humvees are new, have not been for a while now, many have been reset a number of times from 6.2 to 6.5 to 6.5 turbo, from 3L80 trans to 4L80 trans, to uparmoured and so on, very expensive toys to be giving away, But as TMB pointed out — if it gets them doing thier own job sooner so our troops can come home then so be it. But in reality they will most likely wind up in the bad guys hands once we are gone.

Don’t think either side can afford the diesel bill anyways.

Glad to see the M-ATV’s are showing up over there. I have watched them go by on Hwy 151 out of Oshkosh every day for quite a while at the start of the journey. I would not quibble too much about one vs the other; last weekend I reminisced with another vet from my firebase about what a buried 8 inch round does to a deuce and a half full of troops, anything is better than what we had back then.

Instead of giving them our stuff, we should show them how to make their stuff better so they’re more self reliable.


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