Remember MRAPs? How They Survived Massive Explosions and Saved Lives in War
VIDEO: Army & Raytheon Build New AI-Empowered EW "Jamming" System
by Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven
Fire, flying metal fragments and burning hot explosive materials could not stop them… despite being on the receiving end of a massive roadside bomb attack did not kill soldiers at times riding in the now-famous Mine Resistant Ambush Protected blast-deflecting war vehicles.
The arrival of these vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan was heralded as a defining moment for soldiers facing enemy fire in war every day.
The innovations fundamental to MRAP vehicle construction and engineering, and the pace at which they flew from concept to war struck many as a small miracle of life-saving proportions. The circumstance gives new meaning to the famous “necessity is the mother of invention” saying, and its impact cannot be understated.
How did this happen? And how did it happen so quickly? The first MRAPs emerged in the early to mid-2000s, and in 2007 former Secretary Robert Gates made the now-famous comment that acquiring MRAPs was the Pentagon’s highest priority. Within just a few years, thousands of MRAPs were built and delivered.
Getting these vehicles, especially in this kind of time frame, took enterprising methods of engineering and acquisition. MRAPs were built such that in the event that the vehicle had to absorb a massive IED hit, the core capsule or chassis of the vehicle would stay intact. The wheels may come off, various pieces and components may get destroyed, yet the soldiers riding inside... survive.
This was in part accomplished by engineering vehicles with advanced suspension, greater ground clearance and of course the famous V-shaped hull able to send explosive fragments out onto the sides of an attacked vehicle. Ground clearance also proved invaluable based upon a simple scientific principle that bomb materials are less destructive when they have farther to travel off the ground to actually reach a vehicle.
The arrival of these vehicles happened by virtue of several key factors such as the rapid flexing of the U.S. industrial base and the sheer number of MRAP builders. Perhaps most of all, the vehicles were successfully fast-tracked through innovative new acquisition procedures. The idea was to truncate, condense or simply accelerate otherwise lengthy and spread apart milestones. For example, former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who was the Pentagon’s acquisition chief during many of the MRAP years, found a way to accomplish testing, development and safety certifications concurrently. No crucial steps were missed, and MRAPs were massively fast-tracked due to the urgency of the war.
It also helped that Congress was pouring money into the program. Multiple variants and MRAP builders were yet another reason for the rapid response, as MRAPs were built by Navistar, Armor Holdings, BAE Systems, Force Protection, General Dynamics and others. The success of MRAPs even spurred the Pentagon to quickly build more mobile MRAP variants, called MRAP-All Terrain Vehicles, engineered with improved speed and suspension as smaller, faster IED-defending platforms able to go off-road. The M-ATVs, which were ultimately built by Oshkosh Defense, came rapidly into existence following an urgent needs statement from Commanders in Afghanistan asking for a mobile, off-road capable MRAP variant. I once sat inside a BAE Systems RG33 large MRAP years ago when reporting on the program, and it seemed like an armored living room.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest*. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.*