Home » Ground » Ground Vehicles » A Primer in MRAP Variants

A Primer in MRAP Variants

by Ward Carroll on October 23, 2007

MRAP-variants.jpg

MRAP is an unusual program that involves rolling purchases of a wide range of vehicle types, all meeting the same basic mobility and protection requirements.

The requirements do not specify how a vehicle should meet them, so manufacturers take different approaches, with some embracing a monocoque style that combines the hull and chassis in a single piece, and others bolting an armored hull to a separate chassis, perhaps with a “belly plate” to protect the drive train. All hull designs are V-shaped, though some are flatter than others to maximize interior space.

The manufacturers give their vehicles model names like “Cougar” and “Alpha,” but the MRAP program office tends to refer to them only by category. The three categories in the program each describe a different weight class and size and are intended for different missions. The roughly 7,800 vehicles ordered as of August are split between the four main military services and Special Operations Command.

The following is a summary of the categories, vehicle types, key performance specifications, design strengths and weaknesses, and mission information for the MRAP vehicles procured by the Pentagon.

Category I: approximately 7–15 tons; at least 4 passengers, plus 2 crew; urban transport.

Category II: approximately 15–25 tons; up to 8 passengers, plus 2 crew; road escort, ambulance and bomb-disposal missions.

Category III: approximately 25 tons; at least 4 passengers, plus 2 crew; bomb disposal.

Category I

Cougar H 4 X 4: Force Protection Industries Inc. (Ladson, S.C.). Weight: 16 tons. Passengers: 4 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 785 + several for testing. Cost: $475,000. Features: Monocoque, flattened V-shaped hull extended to engine compartment; 330-hp. engine; dual air conditioners; rear door.

Reality check: Widely considered the “gold standard” of MRAP designs, the Cougar enjoyed considerable sales success even before MRAP. Force Protection built a small number of Tempest vehicles-basically early Cougars-for British Army engineers in 2002, followed by several hundred Cougars for the U.S. military between 2003 and 2006, mostly for engineer and bomb-disposal units. In April, Force Protection, citing military statistics, claimed that despite some 300 attacks targeting Cougars in Iraq, not one Marine died while riding in one. Force Protection builds Cougars at its main factory in Ladson as well as in a new facility in North Carolina, and has signed co-production agreements with General Dynamics and BAE Systems (for Iraqi army Cougars). The vehicle’s major weakness is poor off-road mobility, a consequence of its relatively heavy weight resulting from a high degree of protection. The design minimizes the use of glass to improve survivability, at the cost of passenger visibility.

RG-33 4 X 4: BAE Systems North America (Rockville, Md.). Weight: 14 tons. Passengers: 4 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 201 + several for testing. Cost: approximately $300,000. Features: Monocoque, flattened V-shaped hull that stops short of engine compartment; rear door.

Reality check: The RG-33 is a cousin of the RG-31, which itself is based on the South African Mamba design that incorporates a German-designed Unimog chassis. The RG series of vehicles makes extensive use of armored glass to improve visibility, with a slight penalty in survivability. Perhaps the design’s greatest weakness is its vulnerability to a “mobility kill” that destroys the lightly armored engine and leaves the crew stranded. RG-33s are manufactured on two lines in York, Pa., another in Texas and a fourth at a BAE-owned factory in South Africa. BAE’s acquisition of Armor Holdings LLC this summer significantly boosted the company’s ability to “up-armor” its MRAP designs. BAE representative Doug Coffey says that live-fire testing at Aberdeen, Md., proved the RG-33 to be the overall most survivable MRAP vehicle. He added that stockpiling adequate raw materials, especially armor-grade steel, was the biggest obstacle to fulfilling orders. RG-33 has an extensive combat record. U.S. Army and Marine Corps units use the vehicle in Iraq and Afghanistan for bomb-disposal and route-clearance missions.


MaxxPro 4 X 4: International Military and Government LLC (Warrenville, Ill.). Weight: 16 tons. Passengers: 4 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 1,955 + several for testing. Cost: $548,000. Features: Commercial truck chassis with a bolt-on V-shaped armored hull; 330-hp. engine; rear door.

Reality check: Commercial truck-maker International was a surprise winner in the first round of MRAP purchases; MaxxPro scored more orders than any other type. Assistant General Manager Bob Walsh credits the company’s huge factory capacity and support base, as well as MaxxPro’s two-piece design. “It does a very good job of redirecting energy [from bomb blasts].” Repairability: “Being cab-on-chassis, you’re able to pull off this body and slide a new chassis in.” The successful German Dingo vehicle embraces a similar design philosophy, but there’s a reason most MRAP types feature single-piece monocoque hulls: On a bolt-on design, a powerful blast might separate the hull from the chassis, resulting in a mobility kill that strands the crew. MaxxPro chassis are manufactured in Garland, Tex.; hulls are made in West Point, Miss.

Caiman 4 X 4: Armor Holdings LLC (Jacksonville, Fla.). Weight: 14 tons. Passengers: 4 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 1,154 + several for testing. Cost: $443,000. Features: Family of medium tactical vehicle (FMTV) chassis with a V-shaped armored hull; rear door.

Reality check: Armor Holdings has released few details about the Caiman design, stressing only that it is lighter than many MRAPs. Caiman has chassis components common to the FMTV utility truck, a feature that should simplify maintenance and support. The design reportedly boasts better off-road performance than the heavier Cougar. Work is performed in Sealy, Tex., and Fairfield, Ohio.

Alpha 4 X 4: Oshkosh Truck (Oshkosh, Wis.). Weight: 13 tons. Passengers: 6 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 100 + several for testing. Cost: $306,000. Features: Monocoque layout with V-shaped armored hull; rear door.

Reality check: Despite being one of the biggest builders of military utility trucks, Oshkosh designs have fared poorly in the MRAP competition. Alpha was intended to be a smaller, lighter MRAP in order to facilitate rapid shipping and improve urban maneuverability. But testing at Aberdeen, as well as limited field testing with combat units, proved Alpha to be more vulnerable than other designs-this despite special armor co-developed by Battelle and Protected Vehicles Inc. The Marine Corps informed Oshkosh that it would not order more than the initial batch of 100.

RG-31 Mk 5 4 X 4: General Dynamics Land Systems Canada (London, Ont.). Weight: 9 tons. Passengers: 10 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 10 + several for testing. Cost: approximately $300,000. Features: Monocoque, flattened V-shaped hull that stops short of engine compartment; rear door.

Reality check: The U.S. Army and Canadian forces used the relatively lightweight RG-31 in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it has proved popular but somewhat less survivable than the Cougar. Canadian RG-31s have been involved in several fatal bombings and have suffered mechanical problems. Mechanical faults also drove the British Army to retire a handful of RG-31s it purchased in the 1990s. GDLS is partnered with BAE in South Africa on RG-31 production. The Army continues to purchase the model for route clearance outside of the MRAP program. RG-31s in Iraq have been fitted with cage armor to protect against rocket-propelled grenades.

M1117 4 X 4: Textron (Providence, R.I.). Weight: 12 tons. Passengers: 8 + 3 crew. MRAP I orders: 4 for testing. Features: Flattened V-shaped hull; side door; 260-hp. engine. Cost: $690,000.

Reality check: Textron pitched this stretched variant of its successful Armored Security Vehicle, more than 1,000 of which have been ordered by the U.S. Army for convoy escort duty in Iraq. The M1117 is lighter and has a flatter hull bottom than the other contenders, and these liabilities apparently doomed the vehicle. The Marine Corps bought only four test examples. The New Orleans factory that makes ASVs was heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina in 2005; there were doubts that Textron could increase production to meet MRAP demand, even if the vehicle had proved survivable enough. The M1117 also is more expensive than other Category I MRAPs.

Category II

Cougar HE 6 X 6: Force Protection Industries Inc. (Ladson, S.C.). Weight: 24 tons. Passengers: 10 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 920 + several for testing. Cost: $644,000. Features: Monocoque, flattened V-shaped hull extended to engine compartment; dual air conditioners; rear door.

Reality check: The roomier six-wheeled Cougar variant is prized by bomb squads for its ability to carry an ordnance-disposal robot and controls with room to spare; many of the pre-MRAP 6 X 6 orders were placed by the Navy on behalf of the military bomb-disposal community. The British and Iraqi armies were first to embrace the 6 X 6 for other missions. In 2006, Force Protection sold 400 Cougar HE variants to the Iraqi army and 108 to the British Army. The British “Mastiffs,” as they are called, reportedly boast superior protection against explosively formed penetrator bombs.

RG-33L 6 X 6: BAE Systems North America (Rockville, Md.). Weight: 22 tons. Passengers: 12 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 330 + several for testing. Cost: approximately $630,000. Features: Monocoque, flattened V-shaped hull that stops short of engine compartment; rear door, exportable power; robotic claw arm.

Reality check: This stretched and widened RG-33 variant is fitted for the same roles as the Cougar HE, with the addition of a robotic arm like that on the larger Buffalo MRAP, used to probe suspected explosive devices. The RG-33’s lower height compared to the Buffalo will probably make it an inferior arm platform.

RG-31E 6 X 6: General Dynamics Land Systems Canada (London, Ont.). Weight: approximately 20 tons. Passengers: at least 10 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 610 + several for testing. Cost: $559,000. Features: Monocoque, flattened V-shaped hull that stops short of engine compartment; rear door.

Reality check: A stretched RG-31 variant, the E model has yet to appear in public and the manufacturer has released only basic details, but it should be broadly similar to the RG-33L.

MaxxPro XL 4 X 4: International Military and Government LLC (Warrenville, Ill.). Weight: 18 tons. Passengers: 10 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 16 + several for testing. Cost: $540,000. Features: Commercial truck chassis with a bolt-on V-shaped armored hull; rear door.

Reality check: A heavier, stretched MaxxPro. As with many Category II MRAPs, the MaxxPro XL uses the same engine as its smaller, lighter Category I counterpart, meaning slightly degraded performance.

Golan 4 X 4: Protected Vehicles Inc. (North Charleston, S.C.). Weight: 15 tons. Passengers: 10 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 60 + several for testing. Cost: $623,000. Features: Monocoque, V-shaped armored hull; rear door.

Reality check: PVI was a subcontractor to Oshkosh on that company’s failed Alpha MRAP; PVI’s own Golan has fared little better. There has been no indication that the Pentagon will order any beyond the initial batch of 60. While awaiting orders, PVI has cut its work force in half, and is currently fighting a lawsuit relating to issues about the departure of PVI founder Garth Barrett from rival Force Protection Inc., where he was president. Force Protection claims Barrett stole a hard drive containing confidential data. Barrett is countersuing. Executive representative Drew Felty says the lack of interest in Golan is not due to survivability. “We have what we call a triad solution: we’ve got protection against IEDs-including fragmentation, EFP (explosively formed penetrator) and RPG, all in one vehicle.” The design features modular armor blocks on the sides and cage armor over the windows. PVI has the advantage of being located near the Navy’s SPAWAR Systems Center, which integrates turrets and electronics in MRAPs, and Charleston AFB, where many MRAPs embark for flights to Iraq.

Caiman 6 X 6: Armor Holdings LLC (Jacksonville, Fla.). Weight: 24 tons. Passengers: approximately 10 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 16 + several for testing. Cost: approximately $600,000. Features: FMTV chassis with a V-shaped armored hull; rear door.

Reality check: As with the Category I Caiman, Armor Holdings has released few details about this vehicle, only stressing its FMTV utility truck chassis.

Category III

Buffalo 6 X 6: Force Protection Industries Inc. (Ladson, S.C.). Weight: 25 tons. Passengers: 4 + 2 crew. MRAP I orders: 58 + several for testing. Cost: $856,000. Features: Monocoque, flattened V-shaped hull extended to engine compartment; 400-hp. engine; rear door; robotic claw arm.

Reality check: The Buffalo is the only vehicle qualifying for MRAP Category III, owing to its unique features: greater size, weight and height, which make it cumbersome but extremely survivable, and an excellent platform for the robotic arm used to prod suspected bombs. Buffaloes in Iraq have been seen fitted with cage armor to protect against RPGs. Buffalo is a direct descendant of the South African Casspir design that is in widespread military and civil use for mine-clearance.

Aviation Week’s DTI

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Roy Smith October 23, 2007 at 4:34 pm

I noticed one vehicle omitted from this list which confirmed to me that it wasn’t an MRAP & makes me ask again,what is an Armet “Ghurkha” LAV good for anyway? Maybe Sen. McCain should investigate this MRAP fiasco with the zeal he seems to show with the Air Force Tanker & Combat Search & Rescue Helicopter programs.

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Trent Telenko October 23, 2007 at 5:17 pm

Christian,
This:
>Caiman 4 X 4: Armor Holdings LLC (Jacksonville,
>Fla.). Weight: 14 tons. Passengers: 4 + 2 crew.
>MRAP I orders: 1,154 + several for testing.
>Cost: $443,000. Features: Family of medium
>tactical vehicle (FMTV) chassis with a V-shaped
>armored hull; rear door.
…is incorrect information.
The US Military did not elect to purchase the 4 x 4 version of the Caiman for the Cat I mission.
Both the Cat I and Cat II Caimans are based on the 6 x 6 vehicle with the difference between the two versions being the number of seats versus cargo room in back.

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Patron Vectras October 23, 2007 at 6:45 pm

I agree with the consensus so far:
Why are they ordering SO MANY DIFFERENT TYPES?
Interchangeable parts is what makes modern warfare the most modern, how can they forsake that? Think of all the training for drivers and mechanics.
Of course, even if they decide to hold a big contest to get one answer to their problems they still will end up with multiple results.
out there must be an answer.
someone please tell me: is the classified armor too heavy for MRAPs?

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Paul Grove October 23, 2007 at 9:34 pm

The funniest thing about all of these models from a South African viewpoint? All of the companies mentioned above have expat’s on their design teams that mention somewhere in their cv a stint working for Armscor. The first lot of Cougars used in Iraq were probably captured Iraqi Casspirs, that the same gentlement worked on! I sometimes feel like I’m in that old Chevy Chase movie about the arms trade.
But hey, as we say here in darkest Africa – ‘local is lekker!’

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G October 24, 2007 at 12:33 am

Why not just put some reactive armor on the underside of the vehicles? Wouldn’t that work better?

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demophilus October 24, 2007 at 1:05 am

@Patron, D. Alex:
FWIW, there’s a sidebar at the DTI article that says DoD specified common engines, transmissions and axles. The Marine general in charge says they’re “just trucks”, and that we’ll be able to maintain them as long as we have “parts and manuals”.
Maybe. Maybe any NCO with some hard time at Pep Boys before he or she mustered in can keep MRAPS out of the motor pool and outside the wire. But, I’m getting a faint whiff of mice and men, just the same.

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Patron Vectras October 24, 2007 at 12:57 pm

thanks, demophilus.
I guess that’s why we have the ASVAB.

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Hammer October 25, 2007 at 1:25 am

I would take an MRAP over an M1 Abrams for a deep buried IED any day(one that detonates under the vehicle). I don’t know how well they would fair against EFP’s or good RPG’s but they definately will be an improvement over the humvees. I do have some concerns over how good they will be tactically when used by units that have to do raids but I guess we’ll find out soon.

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Roy Smith October 25, 2007 at 10:23 am

The Merkava is an excellent MRAP because it has a 120mm gun & can also hold 6 infantrymen in addition to its tank crew(which makes it better than the M2 Bradley,which has a far smaller gun).The Merkava,keeping its 120mm gun,can also be configured to be a ambulance & carry litters internally.Sure they CAN be blown up,but it takes a huge bomb placed in a lucky spot for a lucky shot.With the Trophy system,it can withstand anti-tank rockets.Why can’t we have Merkavas? I’m sure it can be proven that it was built with American parts(Buy American First,right?).

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Mutt October 25, 2007 at 5:59 pm

With all due respect Roy, the Merkava is an outstanding main battle tank but we already have one of those. I’ll take an M1A2 over a Merkava any day of the week, but I won’t trade tanks for a high end tank crew. A top notch Merkava crew will outperform an M1A2 with an average crew. They are both top quality pieces of equipment and that’s where the training is the REAL deciding factor.
All that said, we’re talking MRAPs which are vehicles designed for VERY specific missions. MRAPs don’t replace M1′s, Bradleys, Strykers, or M113s. These are combat engineering vehicles and EOD vehicles. They’re not designed to engage enemy combat vehicles, their mission is to counter IEDs and to counter battlefield obstacles.
Our enemy’s weapon of choice is the IED so the MRAPs are the vehicle of choice in this particular battlefield. The MRAPs would have been total crap in 3 ID’s run to Bahgdad.
Choose the right tool for the mission.

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Roy Smith October 25, 2007 at 8:38 pm

What the Merkava has that the M1 Abrams doesn’t is its engine in the front of the vehicle & a BACK DOOR like an APC. It can carry 6 infantrymen in addition to its normal tank crew.It can also operate as an ambulance(tankbulance).Infantry cannot even stand behind an M! because the engine is so hot,it will burn them to death.
The Merkava can combine together the Gun of the M1 with the APC abilities of the Bradley.One Merkava as replacement for 2 vehicles(the M1 & the Bradley) gives you one true “Combined Arms” Battalion.If they could move the engine to the front of the M1 Tank & place a back door & space to carry 6 infantrymen or litters for ambulance evacuation,then yes the M1 would be an even better tank.

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Roy Smith October 26, 2007 at 12:48 pm

Look at a map of Iran.When Alexander the Great fought against Persia,it was on the flat plains of IRAQ!!!! There is nothing flat in the nation of Iran.It is ALL MOUNTAIN.Oh,it does have the very nasty Kavir Desert,where the Desert One rescue mission haad that horrible collision between a C-130 & an H-53 helicopter,right in its center.
Unless you can somehow figure out how to put Amphibious Assault Ships on the Caspain Sea(a land locked Lake,however the largest lake on earth),Tehran is protected by the natural boundaries of the mountains & the Kavir Desert.For all we know,besides being hot with very little or no moisture,the Kavir Desert is most likely like the boggy terrain of the falkland Islands.You are talking about M1 tanks & Bradleys,if they can get through the mountains,sinking in the quicksand of the Kavir Desert,blinded by Haboob dust storms,& no water to cool down our howitzers if we fire them(& if they don’t sink in the sand).Hello,no wonder Iran doesn’t have very many tanks,instead they have a buttload of hovercraft,I wonder why?
My God,look at a map!!!! MOUNTAINS!!!! NASTY DESERT(that swallowed up “Desert 1″)!!!!!! BIG LAKE WITH NO ACCESS FOR BIG U.S. SHIPS!!!!!!! Please,please,surely not everybody here was educated in a public U.S. government school.

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Roy Smith October 26, 2007 at 6:55 pm

I just looked at a map.We can Invade Iran from the Caspian Sea.Oh wait,how do we get our ships to the Caspian Sea? Hmmmm,can we fly them on planes? Do we have any planes that can carry an Aircraft Carrier? What ever shall we do? Those rivers don’t look large or deep enough to send our destroyers through to get to the Caspian Sea. We ain’t talking the Great Lakes here,the Caspian Sea IS LANDLOCKED!!!! I guess we’ll just have to depend on our F-22s & UAVs on this one.

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Rhyno327/lrsd October 30, 2007 at 11:18 am

Who said we are gonna run Abrams tanks and heavy divisions into Iran? If there is to be a confrontation, and it will happen, it will be carried out by the A.F. and Naval air. If they want a ground war, let them come across one the bordering countries we have troops in. I bet before an armored formation gets close to the Iraqi border, it will be lit up by air. Let them come to us. We will destroy all thier nuclear and military sites-by air.

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Pete February 14, 2008 at 6:44 pm

You wouldn’t think it was a waste of money if you were the one whose got to drive around amid IEDs in the meantime…

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bayrak July 20, 2008 at 11:51 am

thank you so much
bayrak
t

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Tim COnnor July 22, 2008 at 12:04 pm

What does th RG in RG 31 stand for?

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oyun July 26, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Thanks so much.

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