Home » Ground » Ground Vehicles » The MRAP Cage Fight

The MRAP Cage Fight

by Ward Carroll on July 18, 2007

Defense Tech is keeping its eye on MRAP developments and well report back the take-aways of an upcoming press conference at the Pentagon this morning. But we wanted to pass along a couple things to our readers in the interim.

First, the Pentagon asked Congress yesterday for permission to shift $1.3 billion in 2007 funds to buy MRAP vehicles more quickly. The vehicle programs manager, John Young, and the Army and Marine Corps top MRAP officials, Lt. Gen. Speakes and Brig. Gen. Brogan, will address the shift and program pace at the presser today.
LROD-web.jpg

In other MRAP news, DT received a release from BAE Systems yesterday describing a product theyve developed for the Army and Marine Corps MRAP fleet called the Lightweight RPG Protection Kit, or LROD. Ill leave DT readers to draw their own conclusions on this, but it seems interesting that a vehicle that is supposed to protect troops against powerful roadside bombs needs to wear a cage around it for RPG protection. But then again, so does the Stryker, which is a highly protective vehicle in its own right.

The BAE release follows:

LROD is a lightweight, modular bar-armor system composed of an aluminium alloy that provides protection against RPGs without compromising the operational capabilities of the vehicle. Weighing less than half of comparable steel designs, LROD bolts onto the vehicle without welding or cutting, and can be repaired in the field.

The Army will procure 12 additional LROD kits for delivery this year to operational units in response to an Army Operational Need Statement. The Army has expressed interest in procuring additional kits for the entire RG31 and RG31A1 fleet. The RG31 was developed by BAE Systems in South Africa.

The LROD system provides lightweight, low-cost RPG protection that is easily adapted to virtually any armored vehicle, said Dr. Jim Galambos, director of business development for BAE Systems Advanced Technologies.

LROD was developed in response to increased threats from rocket-propelled grenades in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. It also is a candidate for use on the DoDs mine-resistant, ambush-protected family of vehicles.

BAE Systems originally developed the system as part of a fast-response Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to provide RPG protection for high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles. Army officials conducted more than 50 live-fire tests to validate the performance and optimize the engineering design. The modular design proved effective at preserving the integrity of the vehicle and safety of the crew in those tests.

Based on its success with Army and Marine Corps combat units, BAE Systems is designing LROD kits for other combat vehicles, including the Light Armored Vehicle BV-206 and the Amphibious Assault Vehicle both manufactured by the company. Small boats also could be protected by the LROD system.

LROD is standard equipment on the Army Buffalo explosive ordnance disposal vehicle. BAE Systems has delivered more than 100 LROD kits to the Army, with additional kits slated for the Marine Corps Buffalo vehicles. BAE Systems also is completing LROD designs for the company’s RG33-series mine-protected vehicles.

Stay tuned for further MRAP updates…

– Christian

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

demophilus July 18, 2007 at 11:04 am

Ahzee:
I'd say the Stryker or the various MRAPs are "highly protective" compared to the Humvee.
I still don't know why we sent guys in to police the world's largest ammo dump in Humvees, and I'm saddened that throwing a billion dollars at MRAPs years after the fact can be considered "progress." I mean, the South Africans and Rhodesians started building MRAPs decades ago; they've been the state of the art for battling IEDs since I was a kid. IIRC, the Stryker was designed for OOTW/SASO/MOUT/COIN, too, even though we could have modified M113s or Bradleys for those jobs.
Maybe hindsight is 20/20. IMHO, foresight is pretty good, too.
You make some cogent points. "50 lbs TNT blasts, two-stage RPGs, and .50 rounds all together" makes for a bitch of a baseline; it's way beyond my ken. Don't know there is a solution, but FWIW, let me offer the following.
Sometimes a solution comes from the top down, and sometimes from the bottom up. I've been looking at some of the "hillbilly armor" applied as field expedients to HEMTTs, 5 tons, etc., or for that matter, the old Viet Nam "gun trucks". I'm wondering if that sort of ingenuity shouldn't be leveraged — i.e., provide an asymmetric response to the asymmetric threat.
If you can provide modular MRAP solutions to existing vehicles, like the Livermore Labs "gun box" systems, you'd theoretically have supply columns that could look like armored columns, and vice versa. You could run a shell game on Johnny Jihad, disrupt his targeting cycle. The only way he'd know what he's shooting at would be to pull the trigger.
Basically, you'd ship armor, etc. to theatre in containers, maybe even cut those down for armor on site. Configure vehicles to the threat nearer to the customers, maybe vary configurations as necessary: e.g., to hide capability. Adapt. Hopefully, survive.
In short, field expedient armor/camo might help us get somewhere that armor alone can't. MRAPs seem to do the job, they really do, but they pretty much announce their capabilities and weak points the second they show up. Don't know that showing your hand like that is the way to go.
Turning trucks into APCs is the only way I can see to further mechanize the Army without making it "a lot smaller, or vastly more expensive" — I mean, apart from refurbing/upgrading 113s, which is pretty much a dead letter.
Modular MRAP kits are also a flexible option; we can pull and store the armor kits once peace breaks out. If ever.
That'd be my $0.02. Hope it's worth more.

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springbored July 18, 2007 at 10:54 am

I know that most RPG warheads in Iraq are the old RPG-7, but percentage of attacks are made with those sneaky dual warhead RPGs? Are they becoming more common or are they still scarce? And who produces them? Gotta be some reason why the chicken wire armor hasn’t taken..

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Ahzee Dahak July 18, 2007 at 11:46 am

We’re now referring to the Stryker as a ‘highly protective vehicle in its own right?’ Really? Against what threats, exactly? The design spec and the manufacturers only claim that the engine and crew boxes will stop .50/14.5mm gun rounds. I don’t see a lot of direct fire from .50s happening right now.
I will agree that an MRAP is lightly armored in comparison to a Stryker, as it only designed to defeat 7.62 x 51 mm. However, both are light armored vehicles, each with some glaringly huge weaknesses when faced with an enemy who considers APCs and supply trucks as a primary targets. The MRAP folds under M2 fire, the Stryker folds under IED / sharp turns. Neither can handle the two stage HEAT warheads in an RPG-7V2 or RPG-29, even with a cage. The cage-style armor would work against some attacks by older single warhead RPG-7s and lone guys with baseball bats. That’s about it.
I’d like to point out that the Stryker is $1.9 million, compared to an MRAP’s $400,000 per copy. I’d also like to point out that neither is very easily transportable, can take full advantage of appliqu

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Christian Lowe July 18, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Thanks Ahzee Dahak…
I say “highly protective” because I have close friends who have survived IED blasts in them. Was not meaning to say they were any better or worse than other similar APCs.

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Jan013001 July 18, 2007 at 1:18 pm

How do the MRAP return fire? Should every model we send over there have a CROW System on top of it? I don’t think I have seen any of these things that are armed.

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Ahzee Dahak July 18, 2007 at 5:58 pm

I agree with Demophilus that both the MRAP and Stryker are very highly protected compared to even the most up-armored of Hummvees. And definitely, the idea of using glorified trucks or SUVs in lieu of APCs in a war zone is… extraordinarily tactically unwise.
As for what kinds of vehicles exist now that are designed to handle these kinds of asymmetric threats, the answers are not surprisingly coming from Israel.
For a while now the IDF has had a handful of Merkava Mk.1 (MBT) variants called Nemmera that dispense with the turret and instead can carry dismounts. Following the loss of a couple of M113s to RPGs, they’re thinking seriously about restarting production as the Namera. The IDF is going to withdraw from service its older Mk.1 Merkavas in favor of the Mk. 2-4 MBTs. This may provide them with chassis to refurbish into Namera APC/IFVs.
Of course, that’s expensive, and the IDF isn’t putting all their eggs in one basket. The L-VAS armor upgrade to their M113s is rolling out, costs $75,000, and provides protection against RPG-7Vs and 20mm AP rounds. This pushes the weight up to 17 tons, which is still a far cry from the portly Stryker.
Potentially the Namera might fare well against IEDs, but the L-VAS would still share the M113′s flat-bottomed weaknesses to roadway mines.
I think a part of the problem here is an attempt to respond incrementally with iterative improvements to a disruptive, asymmetric threat. We can no longer field a force of half a million soldiers to take and hold territory mile by mile, as was done for centuries. We are now trying to work around this fundamental structural change through mechanization. The problem with using 60s style APCs or uprated trucks for this task is that now we’ve concentrated our ground forces into small, lightly armored boxes in a world where shaped charges can be built by any yokel with a machine shop. The situation is very much reminiscent of the kind of panic, losses, and force protection efforts that came about as a result of the torpedo.
The torpedo opened the floodgates to torpedo boats, essentially a yacht with the firepower to destroy a capitol ship. This was followed by air power, which allowed one and two man craft to do the same thing, but much faster. A hundred years later, ‘capitol ships’ have gone the way of the dodo, replaced by either smaller destroyer / frigate navies, or very large carrier battle groups.
This is what I’m afraid we as a nation and military aren’t looking at. I’m afraid the billions spent on Giant Trucks With Armor is just the first Maginot Line of the 21st century.

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demophilus July 18, 2007 at 8:29 pm

More good points, AD.
To continue the colloquy, I wouldn’t call Giant Trucks With Armor the 21C’s first Maginot Line. That honor’s got to go to the procurement cycle behind it. If success in combat means shortening your OODA loop, targeting cycle, etc., it behooves us to shorten the procurement cycle, too. Adopting South African (or by your post, Israeli) designs years after the fact doesn’t cut it.
Too little, too late’s a bitch. Too much too late isn’t much better. The wrong tool for the job is a grunt’s nightmare. It’d be a super bitch if MRAPs just garner us more and/or improved EFPs.
As to those Israeli innovations, they’re a tough sell. The Merkava/Namera common chassis is a good idea, but the IFV variant works by dint of the stern ramp, which works by having the engine up front. We can’t do that with the M-1, unless someone figures out a way to flip the tranny and run it backwards. IIRC, the Israelis did something similar with Merkava prototypes based on M48 or M60 hulls.
Even then, don’t know if putting a turbine in the front is a good idea. Works for a diesel banger, but I’m not sure about those spinning blades. Still might be worth a design study, if only because DEW may require vehicles that generate a sh*tload of power. The Abrams hull can do that.
As for the M113, well, our Army just seems to hate them. Agitation by groups like combatreform.com hasn’t helped. It’s too bad. You could put a V hull and/or spall liner inside the box; that might help the flat bottom/roadway mine problem. You can also weave down the road, or leave it altogether. Sometimes your best armor is TTP.
Truth is, you can hide just about anything in a 113 box, or put a new top on the chassis that looks like the old box, but isn’t. It could be anything, manned or unmanned, and we’re not lacking the parts.
Ditto for the Bradley. Taking the turret off to explore other options would make for an interesting design study at least. I’d be surprised if some Colonel hasn’t already PowerPointed it out.
I wouldn’t stop at lessons learned from the Israelis or South Africans, either. The British spent a long time patrolling Northern Ireland, and Yemen, etc., dealing with IEDs. They didn’t do it in Humvees.
As for parts/compatibility issues, the old South African designs started with a common chassis: the Mercedes-Benz Unimog, IIRC. Don’t know if/how the current MRAP contenders use HEMTT, FMTV or 5 ton parts or systems, but that might come in handy. Otherwise, they might spend a lot of time inside the wire. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad; they could still be used as commo nodes, or bunks.
How many do they sleep?

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Roy Smith July 18, 2007 at 9:43 pm

Go to Defense Update & read the article “IMI Introduces the ‘Urban Fighter’ Upgraded,Up-armored M113″ in the Armored Vehicles section.They put a cage around the frame all the way up to the raised armored fighting position like the Improved Kasman M113 of Israel.I’d try to post the picture of it,but I don’t want to violate any copyright laws.
It has armored glass windows that the driver can look out instead of the periscopes in the hatch & it has armored glass windows at the sides on the top with firing ports underneath.The article says that Up-Armoring & upgrading an M113 like this would cost one-tenth of the cost of an MRAP.Also,I read elsewhere that increasing the armor on an MRAP,I guess like that cage pictured,would give it weight problems like the Hummer has encountered with up-armoring it.In fact the article said the MRAP couldn’t handle the weight increase without a major redesign of the vehicle.

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Ahzee Dahak July 19, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Demophilus- I think that shorting the procurement cycle is one very good answer to the problem. But I think we’ve got a systemic problem, and those usually require lots of changes, and not just one big one.
One issue with shorted procurement time is the incredible expense of procuring several divisions of hardware. Right now, we equip each of our divisions with essentially identical gear, so units can fall in on equipment already in theater. If we dispensed with prepositioning ships, and committed to enough sea/airlift to get men and equipment into the fight, we could move away from an equipment monoculture. We could change tack with one division, get them into the fight with quickly procured variant gear, and expand or cut procurement from there.
I think another issue is the incredible tail our forces drag with them. Our vehicles are terribly fuel inefficient, and our desert/tropical BDUs are based around upping water intake to compensate for temperature. Then there’s the ancient mistake of building large fortified garrison posts, which geographically limits us, allows a dispersed insurgency to take the initiative, and lets them know exactly where to hit us. It sounds like the recent loss of two F-16s might be attributable to this problem. And these garrisons eat up still larger supply lines.
You asked how many people can sleep in an M113. The A4 variant (not purchased) can fit 12 as an IFV, or 5-6 bunkable. The M113A4 has also been used as a testbed for Hybrid drives, greatly extending range and endurance. My gut instinct leans toward independently deployable companies, with a light enough supply line to be air-fed, roving around their deployment zone. This would fly the flag, act as a patrol-in-force, and move us part way to avoiding commonly used supply/patrol routes on which it’s trivial to emplace IEDs.

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demophilus July 19, 2007 at 2:15 pm

A.D.:
All good points, but I was joking about using MRAPs as bunks, dude. Point is, it’s going to be hard to keep parts for 10 different systems in stock in the middle of a war zone. That’s a recipe for making hors de combat yardbirds. WCS, some of our NCOs need to anticipate using them as hard shelter, or improvised fighting positions.

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Ripper July 20, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Hmmm, aluminum alloy cage to lighten the weight? Excuse my ignorance about this, but doesn’t aluminum sometimes ignite? Wasn’t that a problem with aluminum superstructures on ships during the Falkins war? If aluminum ignites then what are we doing putting it on armored vehicles?

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Mike Sparks August 5, 2007 at 4:44 pm

FACTS
1. Light tracked, low ground pressure M113 Gavins offer the best closed terrain, cross-country mobility possible, high ground pressure wheeled Strykers, Humvees and MRAPS are restricted to roads where they will be constantly blown up. You can TALK all day about “TTP” but if you are stuck to roads in wheels you are stuck with fatally flawed routes. The MRAPsters in Congress mean well and they are being forced on the services; at least they are better than flat-bottom Strykers.
2. Our NATO allies and large segments of the U.S. Army now reject the entire wheeled-egomaniac-in-trucks mentality after seeing the Humvees and Strykers get incinerated daily in Iraq/Afghanistan. They should have realized this by reason and thinking ahead and many of us warned them, but 20-20 hindsight beats no hindsight. They now want tracks be it from fantasy FCS, M113 Gavins, Bradleys or Abrams now. They want to win not make excuses and hear prejudices from use-victims about “how great their trucks art”—compared of course to their 5th point of contact.
3. Armored vehicle design is a complex issue, if you cannot hold more than 1 concept/set of facts in your head don’t get involved.
To create a tracked vehicle LIGHT enough to go through closed terrain, it needs to be made of THICK aluminum alloy not thin steel. Furthermore, don’t have the fuel inside like old M113s and present Bradleys have to feed a fire to melt the aluminum. Wheeled trucks made of thin steel even v-shaped will soon meet their high explosive “Waterloo” because they are intrinsically 28% less space/weight efficient than tracks and wheeled suspension/drivetrains simply cannot take the needed extra armor to remain “cat” and not become “mouse”. Go ask the MRAP racketeers how their suspensions are faring with all the weight that is being placed on their vehicles? Wheeled trucks strung-out along roads/trails they must use as the laughing enemy awaits.

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M113FAN October 9, 2007 at 3:07 am

M113′s don’t do well against mines. Hull is flat bottomed and too close to ground.
MRAP vehicles because they are high off the ground and have V hulls aren’t subjected to as much energy from a given mine or IED as the M113.
Some MRAP vehicles will stop a 50 cal. An M113 won’t.
Stryker is not good against mine. Too flat and close to the ground. In general Stryker was a mistake.

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Tankguy August 15, 2008 at 7:42 am

Judas Priest, Mike.
Do you keep that phrase in the cut-and-paste cache permamnently? You are like an uniformed parrot.
Now to debunk your incorrect claims. It is a proven fact that your figures on the survivability of the M113 are spurious at best. The vehicle is not used as frequently as other platforms in Iraq, thus, is not exposed to the same threat. If you would ever answer your AKO mail, you would find a link to the database to prove this. The numbers are staggeringly in favor of the Stryker over the M113 in better survivability. The M113 only offers protection from 7.62mm with base armor, the Stryker offers 14.5 mm protection with it’s base armor.
Your claims of off road maneuverability are simply laughable. You keep making these claims and posting videos of a LAV or Strker stuck in some place or other, but no fact, no figures. I have pulled out way more M113s in my 20+ years in Armor then I ever have for Stryker. I in fact pulled a M113 with a Stryker once. How’s that for ironic?

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