Officials Showcase Armored All-Terrain Vehicle
(Source: U.S Department of Defense; issued November 2, 2009)
WASHINGTON --- Senior Defense Department officials today showcased a more agile, downsized version of the military’s family of super-armored vehicles now arriving in Afghanistan.

Because Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain requires a more agile vehicle than the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles used in Iraq, the MRAP vehicle was modified to produce a lighter, all-terrain vehicle known as the M-ATV, said Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

The new vehicles will replace up-armored Humvees.

Like the version used in Iraq, the new trucks feature armor and V-shaped hulls to deflect roadside-bomb blasts, Carter. M-ATVs “will similarly be a live-saver in Afghanistan,” he added.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pushed to develop the new vehicle quickly, Carter said, noting the first production order was provided to Wisconsin-based manufacturer Oshkosh Corp. in June. Vehicles already are arriving in Afghanistan, Carter said, noting he has test-driven an M-ATV. “These are superior vehicles,” he told reporters.

The military is planning to buy more than 6,500 M-ATVs, Carter said, with about 690 having been accepted.

“We will continue to make changes in the MRAP-ATV as we get feedback from soldiers [on] how to improve it,” Carter said.

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are training with the first 41 M-ATVs that have arrived there, said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Va. Marines, too, will get M-ATVs, he said.

The M-ATV weighs about 5 tons less that the 40,000-pound regular MRAP, Brogan said, noting the new vehicle also features an independent suspension and a shorter wheelbase to better negotiate Afghanistan’s rocky hills.

The M-ATV “was designed from the ground up to have mobility that’s roughly equivalent to an up-armored Humvee, yet retain the survivability features that are inherent in the baseline MRAP vehicles,” Brogan said. The major contributor to the M-ATV’s increased mobility, he said, is its four-wheel independent suspension.

“That’s what provides that off-road capability,” Brogan said, noting that the baseline MRAPs have rigid-axle suspensions that perform poorly on uneven, hilly terrain.

Meanwhile, Brogan said, early-production MRAPs, called “Cougars,” are being taken out of theater and having their rigid suspensions replaced with suspensions better-suited for Afghanistan’s lack of roads and challenging geography.

Brogan noted differences between the terrain in Iraq and that in Afghanistan. “The terrain in Afghanistan is significantly more formidable,” he said. There is far less infrastructure, and that infrastructure that does exist is more austere.”

The base cost for the M-ATV is about $437,000 per vehicle. As fitted with the necessary equipment for deployment, each vehicle costs about $1.4 million, shipping to Afghanistan included, Brogan said. (ends)



US Deploying New Armored Vehicle to Afghanistan
(Source: Voice of America; issued November 2, 2009)
The U.S. military has begun deploying a new generation of relatively light-weight all-terrain armored vehicles to Afghanistan, which have enough armor to protect troops from deadly roadside bombs but are not too heavy for the country's relatively undeveloped road network.

This report is about the latest effort to reduce the record and rising casualty levels among U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama considers sending tens of thousands more troops into harm's way. But it comes with a consumer advisory label: Warning, the following story unavoidably contains military acronyms and technical terminology.

The story really begins in Iraq several years ago, when insurgents first began using home-made roadside bombs against the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or Humvee, the main vehicle the troops were using.

The soldiers and marines quickly realized the light-weight Humvees did not have enough protection against the bombs, so they added some armor. That helped but not enough, and at the same time the bombs got bigger. So, the military created a new armored vehicle, a sort of cross between a Humvee and a tank, and called it the MRAP, the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protect vehicle. Officials say the vehicles have saved hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives along Iraq's well-developed road network.

"MRAPs are lifesavers," says Assistant Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. But, he explains, the MRAPs did not work so well in Afghanistan. "The terrain in Afghanistan is different from Iraq, it's more uneven, the roads are less easy to traverse. And for that reason, we've had to create an all-terrain version of the MRAP," he said.

The challenge for designers was to create a vehicle with the protection provided by an MRAP but about 25 per cent lighter. And so, an acronym within an acronym was born - the M-ATV, or MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle.

"This vehicle here will similarly be a lifesaver in Afghanistan," he added.

And the U.S. military needs a 'lifesaver' in Afghanistan. American casualties have jumped from fewer than 40 per month until June of this year, to 70 or more every month since then. Officials say like in Iraq, the main killers are roadside bombs.

"It has a lot more survivability than other vehicles that are in Afghanistan right now, a great deal more. Believe it or not, it's very easy to drive. So it's a wonderful vehicle and it's going to be a lifesaver," he said.

Although smaller than the MRAP, the M-ATV is still an imposing vehicle, half-again as tall as the average person and weighing in at 18 metric tons.

They look like an extra-large version of the World War Two jeep, but enclosed, with small blast-proof windows, a protected machine gun position on top and a variety of high-tech gear inside and out. The U.S. military is buying more than 6,000 of the M-ATVs, at a cost of nearly a million and a half dollars each, including all their equipment, spare parts and transportation to Afghanistan. U.S. officials say other countries with troops in Afghanistan want to buy some of the vehicles, too.

The MRAP and M-ATV project director, Marine Corps Brigadier General Michael Brogan, says the new vehicles will protect troops on Afghanistan's roads, without destroying the roads or getting stuck on them. He says it will also enable the troops to be less predictable in their movements, and get away from areas where the bombs are planted.

"This is really designed to get us off the road network, to be able to go cross-country, to go the places that up-armored HUMVEEs go, not be stuck to the road network, which makes us predictable," he said.

General Brogan says because of some technical innovations M-ATVs are not nearly as cumbersome as MRAPs, but rather are almost as maneuverable as the much lighter and more lightly armored Humvees, even in the sands of Afghanistan.

"The tires are larger than you would find on a HUMVEE, so the ground pressure, which is really what matters, isn't all that much different from an up-armored HUMVEE," said Brogan. "The fact that this four-wheel independent suspension, the amount of horsepower in the engine, the tractive effort that's delivered to the drive train allows the vehicle to go off road in soil and terrain characteristics similar to what an up-armored HUMVEE can carry. So this is a very capable platform," he added.

For security reasons, officials will not say how large a bomb the M-ATVs can withstand. But they expect the arrival of hundreds, and eventually thousands, of the vehicles in Afghanistan will help reverse the trend of U.S. casualties, and will enable the troops to travel safely throughout the country.

-ends-




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