3,500 MRAPs will Protect US Forces in Iraq by Year's End

Update: Three MRAP Producers will Share future Orders Worth $8.2 Billion

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The Pentagon plans to deploy about 3,500 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to Iraq by the year's end, to help protecting US troops battling improvised explosive devices. The armoured trucks, designed with raised chassis and a V-shaped undercarriage are built to withstand the devastating effects of buried IEDs, mines and roadside IEDs. Initially, completed MRAPs will be air transported to Iraq. Further shipments will be delivered by sea, utilizing the sea voyage to install some of the mission equipment and government furnished equipment (weapon stations, radios, IED jammers, etc. on the 'plain' vehicles.

The Pentagon is asking Congress for the approval to fund the urgent acquisition of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles by transferring nearly $1.2 billion, in addition to the four billion already earmarked for the program, to speed up production and delivery of vehicles to US troops in Iraq by the year’s end. The additional funding will enable the program manager to expedite orders for 2,650 ahead of schedule, bringing the department’s total MRAP order to 6,415. “By the end of the year, we hope to have delivered 3,935 vehicles” said John Young, director of defense research and engineering and chairman of the Defense Department’s MRAP task force. Factoring in the time required to equip those vehicles with jammers, communication equipment and other gear and to deliver them to the theater, Young estimated that about 3,500 of the MRAPs will be in Iraq by Dec. 31.

Congress already has shown solid support for MRAPs. The legislators added $1.2 billion to the department’s initial $2.6 billion request for the program for fiscal 2007, Young said. If approved, the fund transfer to the MRAP program will make it the Defense Department’s third-largest acquisition program, he noted. Only the missile defense and Joint Strike Fighter programs will be bigger.

Four companies currently producing MRAPs have increased their production rates to keep up with demand – a joint venture by Force Protection and General Dynamics Land Systems, International Trucks and Engines, BAE Systems and Armor Holdings' Stewart Stevenson. Protected Vehicles International and Oshkosh Trucks have also received pilot orders for less than a hundred vehicles each. According to Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, another company could soon join the effort if its prototype model measures up.

One of the program's challenges was to develop the supply chain to support the sudden increase. For example, the tire industry was able to produce only about 1,000 of the large, heavy-duty MRAP tires per month in June. To keep pace with plans to build about 1,300 MRAPs per month by December, at least 6,000 tires a month would be needed. “We have taken steps to help two vendors increase their ability to build tires, and we are buying tires as fast as they can produce them so that we don’t have a shortage,” Young said. The task force faced similar issues with steel, axles, engines and other MRAP components, and is taking similar measures to ensure they’re available, he said. To help their efforts, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates assigned the MRAP program a “DX” rating in June to ensure other defense programs don’t interfere with MRAP production, said Young. DX ratings are reserved for top-priority defense acquisition programs. “The DX rating provides MRAP the highest-priority access to components and materials if supplier capacity cannot meet the demand from all programs,” Young explained.


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