New MRAPs to Resist Insurgent Super-bombs

07.11.07

Categorie: Industry, Iraq, Vehicles |

The second round of purchases of V-shaped, blast-resistant trucks for the U.S. military in Iraq is focused on defeating what is perhaps the most dangerous weapon to emerge in the five-year-old war: explosively formed penetrators (EFP) that can punch through even the thick armor of a main battle tank. EFPs account for no more than five percent of explosive devices used against U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq, but in July caused a third of all fatalities and more than ten percent of injuries.

Despite much hype, it’s not clear that the latest MRAP designs are up to the EFP challenge. And programmatic changes have got at least one industry official worried that the potentially $20-billion MRAP scheme is becoming more rigid, while insurgent bomb-makers continue to demonstrate remarkable adaptability. Most of the roughly dozen MRAP makers polled in September said they would submit vehicle proposals ahead of MRAP II’s October 1 deadline, but only two would talk specifics. While unverifiable, it’s generally assumed that EFP protection involves layered armor that attempts to tumble or slow the penetrator.

31061.jpgCalifornia-based Ceradyne has partnered with Wisconsin truck-maker Oshkosh and Ideal Innovations, Inc., in Virginia to offer the “Bull” MRAP, a vehicle reportedly designed from the ground up to defeat EFPs. Details about Bull’s design are held closely, and the vehicle has appeared in public only as a mockup at the October Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington, D.C. Sources say that Oshkosh and Ceradyne delivered two test models to the Army in March – and that the resulting EFP simulations were so successful that the military quickly adapted the Bull’s armor into the so-called “Frag 6” armor kits that have been kluged onto MRAP I vehicles that were already on their way to Iraq.

Despite its apparently superb performance, Bull received no orders in MRAP I. Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich) and Joseph Biden (D-Del) took up Bull’s cause. Levin wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Gates promoting the vehicle and Biden asked, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee event, why the military hadn’t ordered the vehicle, according to USA Today. The delays are consistent with the lead-up to MRAP and with the conduct of the program itself. Troops in the field had been begging for blast-protected vehicles for two years before the Pentagon moved to purchase them; when the Defense Department finally launched MRAP, it ultimately saddled the program with unwieldy procedures. Ceradyne vice president Marc King praised MRAP I for its rolling purchases that ran parallel to testing. But MRAP II abandons that flexible approach for a traditional single deadline.

King says the military shouldn’t conceptualize MRAP II as a typical competition. “What are we competing here? We should just be looking at the technologies. Competition is when have one or two or three approaches to something and you’re looking for the most cost-effective solution. [Instead] we should be looking at all the technologies that can be applied over a given period of time. “What they [the MRAP program] should do is say, ‘We’re not waiting for a particular date. When you’ve got something, bring it to me. I will test it, and if it works, I will buy.’” It would be an “open solicitation,” King adds.

But even better bureaucratic processes, resulting in better vehicles fielded faster, won’t solve the EFP problem. EFPs are cost-effective – just a few tens of thousands of dollars apiece – and can be scaled upward to defeat better armor. When asked in August if insurgents could just build bigger EFPs to kill MRAPs, program manger Mike Brogan, a Marine Corps brigadier general, said, “Yes.”

Read on in the latest issue of Defense Technology International.

Related:
MRAPs an emotional debate
The MRAP that got away
Military breaks own MRAP press rules
General: reporters are a risk to MRAPs
MRAP lawsuit!
MRAP contenders whittled down
How to build a bazillion MRAPs
MRAP losers keep mum
Force Protection ramps up
Afghans get MRAPs, too

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7 Responses to “New MRAPs to Resist Insurgent Super-bombs”

  1. Nicholas Weaver says:

    One comment. An EFP is not “Tens of thousand”, its “hundreds if that”, because its just explosive, a well formed piece of metal, and a plastic container to hold it all together.

    “ten thousand” buys self aiming smart EFP munitions like the Cans o Whup Ass, which shread through tanks like tissue paper.

  2. Terry says:

    EFP armor does exist, but as you have noted heavy, too heavy for a Hummer and enter the MRAP. Along with funds for the MRAPs are funds for EFP armor kits for the rest of the vehicles that can handle them.

  3. Terry says:

    My complaint is that your doubt is because you are ill informed. MRAP initially was not designed for EFPs but can ….(why tell the enemy more). MRAP II requires that the manufacturer state how they changed their design to include EFPs. All MRAP II vehicles are being “blast tested” to prove that point. All other MRAPs will be given EFP armor kits.

    DoD add on armor kits universally use the same technology…(why tell the enemy more). The DoD believes in it so well they are in the process of procuring international sources for material since out domestic production cannot fulfill needs immediately.

    The Bull cites EFP protection but is on the heavier side because of it. The Cougar cites EFP protection and an optional 150,000 armor kit.

    The bombs that have been able to defeat MRAPs….(classified why tell the enemy more).

    But notice the RG-31 is no longer being bought as of the last set of conracts.

  4. David Axe says:

    Terry,

    I think you’re a bit optimistic about armor proving impervious to EFPs. As Brogan said, you can always build bigger EFPs for much cheaper than it costs to add more armor.

  5. Terry says:

    David,

    About bigger and better EFPs and bombs. The DoD is open to submittals of armor material for use, so if any improvement to the armor material is found it will be looked at.

    Every manufacturer has their own proprietary armor solution, so there lies another doubt. Which is the best.

    And yes each evolvement will be better. As the enemy changes we are expected to change. Such as MRAP I testing and now MRAP II testing. The move from uparmored hummers to MRAPs. The people and procedures are in place. Steps have been taken which is what you may expect.

    Not doubting the enemy, underestimating the enemy is a mistake. But changes have been made and will be made in the future.

  6. James says:

    what the hell are those things on the front of the EOD?/MP? RG-31′s in that picture? They look some cross between an Auxiliary Power Unit and a wood chipper!

  7. David Axe says:

    James,

    I have no idea. Wondering that myself.

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