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Monday, November 07, 2016

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Weapons of the War in Afghanistan: Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles, Part II

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan

In the world of war, weapons and technology are ever changing, each war is characterized by the weapons and tactics used to fight it. As new environments and enemies are encountered, the parties to those wars develop new - more effective tactics, technologies, and weapons to counter and defeat their adversaries. The ingenuity seen in war has existed since (and most certainly before) the first wars of recorded history and continue to this very day. 

Keeping with that theory, let’s take a look at the weapons that have characterized the wars and conflicts that the United States has been a party to over the course of it’s history. During the course of this series, I aim to breakdown the weapons used in each conflict by their classification, and to which party they were employed by. Having served in combat operations in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, I would like to start our series with the War in Afghanistan. 

For our fourteenth installment let's take a look at the most common Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles of the war in Afghanistan. MRAP is an American term for vehicles that are designed specifically to withstand improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and ambushes. Armored vehicles designed specifically to counter the land mine threat were first used during the Rhodesian Bush War; the technology subsequently matured with the development of the South African-designed Casspir armored fighting vehicle, which inspired the United States MRAP program and was the basis for some of the program's vehicles. From 2007 until 2012, the Pentagon's MRAP program deployed more than 12,000 MRAPs in the Iraq War and War in Afghanistan.


Part II: The United States

BAE Caiman
The Caiman is an armored vehicle with a V-hull design based on the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) and Low Signature Armored Cab (LSAC), initially developed by Stewart & Stevenson. Stewart & Stevenson was later acquired in 2005 by Armor Holdings, which developed the Caiman from the FMTV and LSAC designs. Armor Holdings also owned O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt (which had exclusive rights to the up-armor kits the U.S. Military selected for their Humvees) and Integrated Textile Systems (who had an ultra high molecular weight polyethylene fiber called Tensylon that is processed into composite armor) at the time.

The Caiman completed testing by the US Military at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in July 2007. On 13 July 2007, Armor Holdings received a prime contract award by the US Navy on the behalf of the US Marine Corps for $518.5 million under the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle program. The contract specified delivery of 1,154 Category I MRAP vehicles and 16 Category II MRAP vehicles by the end of February 2008.

BAE Systems acquired Armor Holdings in 2007.

Caiman is based on the chassis and automotives of the MTV variant of the FMTV and features:

  • 10-man crew capacity
  • Tensylon composite armor
  • Armor enhancement capable
  • Accepts all types of manned and remote weapons stations
  • 85 percent parts commonality with standard FMTV models (40,000 of which are already fielded)
  • Full-time all wheel drive
  • Fully automatic transmission
  • Electronic Central Tire Inflation System (CTIS)
  • Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
  • Class V Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETM)
  • In August 2009, the U.S. Army announced that Oshkosh Defense had been awarded the FMTV A1P2 rebuy production contract. This award did not include the Caiman.

In September 2010 BAE Systems has been awarded a $629 million contract from the U.S. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Joint Program Office (JPO) to upgrade 1,700 Caiman MRAP vehicles to Caiman Multi-Terrain Vehicle - Caiman MTV standard. The upgraded vehicle integrates a refurbished and improved armored capsule from an existing vehicle with a new high-power automotive power train, chassis and independent suspension made by ArvinMeritor. Greater survivability is achieved through an enhanced monolithic floor, a strengthened chassis frame and better blast absorbing seats.

Starting in October 2013, local police and sheriff offices throughout the United States began assuming control of many Caiman 6x6 MTVs. The US Federal Government offered these vehicles to local jurisdictions as the need for them greatly decreased after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars ended. The Caiman MTV normally costs $412,000 but is sold for only its transportation costs to the local jurisdiction.

The RG-33 is a mine-resistant light armored vehicle initially designed by BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa (formerly Land Systems OMC) a South African subsidiary of BAE Systems. BAE Systems in the US extensively modified it with additional protection, new power train and suspension systems. It was built in a number of locations including York and Pennsylvania. It was one of several vehicles being fielded by the US Armed Forces in Iraq under the MRAP program.

It is based on the RG-31, which itself is based on the Mamba APC, although it is roughly twice the weight of a RG-31. There are two variants, the standard RG-33 has four wheels and weighs 22 tons while the extended RG-33L variant has six wheels, can carry twice as many people in the back, and weighs 26 to 37 tons depending on the version.

It was selected to be the sole producer of the US Army's $2.88 billion Medium Mine Protected Vehicle program. The initial contract is worth $20 million. BAE representative Doug Coffey says that live-fire testing at Aberdeen, Maryland, proved the RG-33 to be the overall most survivable MRAP vehicle.

The RG33 is manufactured in several configurations including the category I 4×4, category II 6×6, the heavy armored ground ambulance (HAGA) and the special operations command (SOCOM) vehicle.

It features a monocoque armored v-hull, for maximized interior space, seats and footrests suspended from the ceiling, run-flat tires, and an optional armored glass turret (Gunner Protection Kit or GPK), for maximized visibility and protection. The monocoque hull does not extend under the engine like some other armored vehicles. The engine compartment is a separate moncoque structure that bolts to rest of the hull. The vehicle is notable for its extensive use of TRAPP armored glass in the crew compartment. Like the Buffalo, it can be equipped with a robotic arm.

The U.S. has fielded 259 RG-33 4x4 variants in a Special Operations Command (SOCOM) configuration with remote weapon stations, two extra seats, and a rear door assist. The U.S. has also fielded 16 RG-33L 6x6 variants in a Heavy Armored Ground Ambulance (HAGA) configuration.

The Pentagon has future plans to add the Crows II remote weapon station, Boomerang anti-sniper system, and the Frag Kit 6 anti-EFP armor.

The Buffalo is a wheeled mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) armored military vehicle built by Force Protection, Inc., division of General Dynamics. It is the largest vehicle in Force Protection's line-up, followed by the Cougar MRAP and the Ocelot light protected patrol vehicle (LPPV).

The Buffalo vehicle was designed based on the successful South African Casspir mine-protected vehicle. The Casspir is a four-wheeled vehicle, while the Buffalo has six wheels. Buffalo is also fitted with a large articulated arm, used for ordnance disposal. Both vehicles incorporate a "V" shaped monohull chassis that directs the force of the blast away from the occupants.

Buffalo is also now equipped with BAE Systems' LROD cage armor for additional protection against RPG-7 anti-tank rounds. Glass armor is sufficient at 6 inches thickness. Run-flat tires are mounted on all six wheels. The Buffalo combines ballistic and blast protection with infrared technology to detect the presence of dangerous ordnance and a robotic arm to disable the explosive ordnance. Personnel operate the Buffalo’s 30-foot robotic arm and claw from within the armored hull via a mounted camera and sensory equipment, to safely dispose of mines and IEDs.

In 2004, the United States had a limited number of Buffaloes in service, with an order for 15 more, at a cost of $10 million. On June 6, 2008 Force Protection, Inc delivered its 200th Buffalo to the U.S. Military.

In 2009 Force Protection started producing the A2 version, with major changes in the Axle Tech rear axles, Cat C13 engine, Cat CX31 transmission, and suspension, along with additional upgrades to the HVAC system, hood and front bumper. The easiest way to identify an A1 version from the A2 version is that the front bumper of the A2 has a larger profile. The last Buffalo A2 MRAP truck 795 was completed in June 2014. Force Protection was acquired by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) in 2011 for $350 mil.

AAF / ACM Fighters: None

Shawn G in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:

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Shawn in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."


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