MRAP Developments: Lessons Learned


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Scott Blaney, Chief of C-IED at US Center for Army Lessons Learned, gives Defence IQ a comprehensive overview of the performance of MRAP vehicles in Afghanistan and Iraq, and provides insight into the brand new MRAP Handbook being released in October 2010.

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MRAP Developments: Lessons Learned

  1. 1. International Armoured Vehicles 2011 Defence IQ: Scott, you’ll be travelling to see us next year, all the way from Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, to specifically explore the Scott Blaney, US Army, CALL IED threat and the direction armoured vehicles are taking in combating this problem. And you’re also contributing to the new MRAP handbook due to be released at the end of the year, which I believe is an update of the previous 08-30 handbook released by September 2010 CALL two years ago. We’ll come back to that later on, but for now I’d just like to start us off with a look at the general issues relating to the MRAP field. What can you tell us about the evolution of the IED threat, and its hand in influencing the development of upgrades for Scott Blaney, Senior Military the MRAP and the M-ATV [MRAP All Terrain Vehicle]? What would Analyst and C- IED Chief at you say are some of the key advances, and has the rapid the US Army’s Centre for integration of lessons learned played a large part in this? Lessons Learned (CALL), speaks with Defence IQ on the Blaney: Okay, we’ll start at the beginning. Of course, this whole performance of MRAP (Mine programme, as most of the listeners will understand, started with Resistant Ambush Patrol) in hillbilly armour back in 2005 and 2006, and it took a soldier talking the Iraq and Afghan conflicts. to Secretary Gates and saying, “Why can’t we do better?” And that’s when the programme jumped into high gear, and that explains a lot of different configurations of the current programme and the configuration of the current vehicles. That push, to get those vehicles that were more highly survivable than the flat- bottomed Humvees and the up-armoured Humvees that were being gradually brought into the system through the normal… Well, a little bit different but… the normal acquisition process was kind of, not cast aside, but it was moved into a more rapid acquisition process. And looking to buy more commercial, off the shelf vehicles that were more survivable due to underbelly blasts, and side blasts, and Defence IQ 1
  2. 2. things like this – that was the genesis of the programme back in some of the rapid add-on kits that have come about are due to 2007. enemy threats, such as, the RKG3, the Soviet designed anti-armour hand grenade. And as you see, America has thrown a lot of money at the programme and has gotten very good results, really, at the expense The Soviets designed that thing to burn through 200mm of armour, of lots of different variants, because we had to use many and it does just fine at doing it. And, of course, the armour on the manufacturers, based on the fact that to produce that many MRAP isn’t that thick, so we had to develop, through the Army Test vehicles quickly, the physical plants weren’t out there to go ahead and Evaluation Committee, a rapid programme for a device that and produce that rapid number of MRAPs to meet the operational would be bolted to the vehicle that would actually repel and deflect needs of the commanders. That being said, as we’ve all watched those grenades prior to them being able to hit with sufficient force to the programme go, with the six variants that are out there – some set them off. So this is an example of a rapid development and will say seven – there’s multiple sub-variants in there all due to the acquisition programme to meet a specific threat, as was the add-on fact of, in some cases, mission requirements. In other cases, armour, to defeat the Explosively Formed Penetrators [EFP] being they’ve just evolved through the different manufacturers, as the used by the Shia insurgents in areas of Baghdad. input from the field has come back through a couple of different sources. These also were developed rapidly, and not at little cost either. They were developed rapidly but the testing that was done was As soldiers would see these, they would effective, and they went into production, and they do defeat most of “It took a soldier test them prior to going into combat and the common EFP sizes that are there. Now, what happens when it they’d make some changes there, either misses the armour? It definitely damages the MRAP. But these talking to on the production line or thereafter. Once are just some examples of the progression of the programme to Secretary Gates they get them in combat that’s the real date, and it’s continuing on. There’s constant feedback from the and saying, environment. The soldiers will assess field, there’s constant improvements, especially when it comes then „Why can‟t we these and they’ll send comments back to the safety arena – pinched fingers, broken elbows, and things through the AMC, the Army Material like that. So, hydraulics assists have been added to doors, different do better?‟” Command, through their logistics stops, different lighting kits on the inside to aid…if the vehicle gets assistance representatives, and through rolled over and is in water…to aid the soldiers in finding the correct our theatre observation detachment direction to the egress point, and things like that. officers and NCOs, of the insufficiencies, and they would get back to the programme managers and they would then go ahead and Defence IQ: With the recent withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, I investigate how to make changes. Some examples were upgrades assume the MRAP is being transferred to Afghanistan. Will the in electrical systems, and things like that. And on the combat side effectiveness of these vehicles’ performance in Iraq be transferred Defence IQ 2
  3. 3. to Afghanistan as well, and how many more units will the Afghan spot, and they are laagered there with crews still maintaining them, campaign be benefiting from? to stay with them, and their heavy weapon systems like the M2 machine gun, Mk 19, do provide overwatch and fire support if Blaney: Yes… now, I’m not exactly sure on the transfer numbers. needed, while the guys are on ground patrol. That changes all the time, and the PM-MRAP controls that. Some are being transferred over there. Not all of them though, because Defence IQ: We’ll come back to that a bit later on, but first of all, they are being filled to the units that need and can use those how much investment would you say that the US has made into the particular variants over there. But the M-ATV, the MRAP All Terrain MRAP programme – or the M-ATV programme – over the last fiscal Vehicle, built by Oshkosh truck company, is the purpose-designed year, or perhaps in IED training, on the whole? Are you privy to that vehicle for Afghanistan, and those are being chucked out by the information? factory and shipped directly by air to Afghanistan, to fill those needs. And eventually, we want to have all MRAPs there and have Blaney: Well, not the exact numbers, but it’s been reported by no one going outside the wire into the operational environment in various offices as $3 billion for this fiscal year in 10… so US $3,000 any flat-bottomed vehicle, such as the up-armoured Humvee. million is a lot of money. But these are not cheap vehicles. They Those just do not take the underbelly blasts well at all, and they cost half a million in change each, so you see that that is a relatively usually result in casualties, and deaths, and things like that. So, the large expenditure, but the payoff is fewer casualties due to roadside M-ATV is going to be, and currently is, the combat unit’s prime bombs, and improvised explosive devices, and direct fire and vehicle for out and around on patrols in the narrow valleys, and indirect fire attacks on our troops riding in these vehicles. things like this. Defence IQ: Understood. And you mentioned there General Now, the all terrain vehicle aspect, it isn’t truly “all terrain”, it Petraeus renewing the counter-insurgency strategy, and stressing depends on the terrain! There are just physically some places it hearts and minds as a priority… and you also mentioned there that cannot go, and that means that the soldiers will have to plan their MRAPs sort of go hand-in-hand with the get out and walk tactic... mission, and balance their mission with the ride to the operational but how is that actually balanced, because there is, from what I area, and then walk, or get out and patrol. It will have to be a understand, a lot of concern as to the possible contradiction there blended mission, in that they will have to plan that, and resource the may be in deploying MRAPs, and taking that approach? soldiers with enough materials and supplies to be able to go ahead and accomplish that. So they ride to where they are going to go, Blaney: Yeah, I’ve heard that too, and in my experience, from and get out and patrol, if that’s the objective. And with General reading the materials, and the reports from the troops, there was a Petraeus’s strategy of secure the people and minimise civilian concern that these were big intimidating vehicles and people would casualties, a lot of foot patrolling is done, a lot of face-to-face be scared of them. Well, it turns out, if they don’t like you it doesn’t meetings are done, and the MRAP is used. It’s taken to a certain matter if you show up on a magic carpet or an MRAP – they don’t Defence IQ 3
  4. 4. like you. So the balance there is to transport the troops safely to where you must do the patrol and face-to-face with the Afghan people, dismount, have your key leader engagements, have your meetings with the folks, and get their concerns. And also, part of the mission that General Petraeus has charged our folks with is securing the population. So that means helping the population to weed out the Taliban and turn the Taliban out of the villages, so that the villagers have a more secure environment and they are not victims of the Taliban’s intimidation. And it’s so widely publicised that it’s just a fact of life in that particular kind of uncertainty over there, and in Petraeus’s mission All-most Terrain: The US Marine Corps to secure the people and minimise civilian casualties, the MRAP Cougar MRAP navigating sandy hills. always contributes to that, in that our soldiers can get to the villages, make the patrols, and show up better equipped and in better shape to conduct that face-to-face to do those patrols Blaney: Yeah, that’s true. I’d say, maybe not 75%, but the bottom through the villages, and things like that. You don’t have to take the line is it can’t continue to grow much larger, because physically, MRAP to villages, you can actually dismount and bypass the you’d have to have such a large drivetrain and these vehicles would village, especially with the M-ATV, and then patrol through the get out of control, as far as weight is concerned. As we’re talking village. So there’s a number of different techniques that are used right now the weight is substantial, no doubt about it. They are, and by the ground troops charged with those missions to do that, secure just to give you an example… I’m going to mouse on down in my the people and disrupt the Taliban, and things like that. new MRAP handbook here… and we’re talking about some various categories – just the CAT1 and the CAT2 MRAP, not the category Defence IQ: It seems also that the level of protection correlates three, which is the big Buffalo, and M-Route clearance vehicles – with the size and the weight of the vehicle, and as such, MRAPs they are running weights, in this case right here, the M-ATV is continue to grow bigger and heavier. How far can this go before the running 37,000lbs of gross vehicle weight, or you know, halve that vehicle becomes too slow, or immobile, to actually retain its for kilos. usefulness in theatre? I think I read a statistic that claims 75% of the world’s bridges wouldn’t actually support the average MRAP. But the point is that these vehicles, on some of them, with especially the add-on armour, approach the weight of a commercial truck, close to 80,000lbs, so some of these… I may be off a little bit on that, I have to check the figures, but I’m looking at the gross Defence IQ 4
  5. 5. weights here and half the weight of a commercial truck. If you take are alternatives being turned to, such as, dispersal armour, or an 80,000lbs commercial truck in the States, these vehicles run up advanced detection, and that sort of thing? to about maximum 45,000-50,000lbs, give or take, with soldiers’ gear, and everything else. So I’d say that’s probably not exactly the Blaney: Because, I’d say, the ATEC [Army Test and Evaluation case, but if you go to the Third World countries you might find Command] folks and the JIEDDO [Joint IED Defeat Organization] bridges are not of the same standard they might be in Great Britain, folks are constantly looking at better detection methods to find and the European Continent, and North America. So you might find that mitigate, destroy, render safe, the IEDs that are out there. I mean is an issue, but they are able to ford certain steams without a we all do; the army and the joint services. It’s broken into three problem, up to 35 or 40 inches, depending on the depth, and different areas, basically. You attack the network that sets up the current, and things like that. IED, the leaders, the planners, the financers, the logisticians, and the in-placers, and then you also defeat the device. That’s the So, yes, it’s an issue that the drivers have to know. It’s called “good detection piece. That’s mitigating the blast effects with better route recon”, on a map, and also knowing your INTEL, such as armour. Of course, any type of better armour you make, you will what the bridge classifications are, what the culvert classifications find that there’s a price to be paid, unless we can ever come up with are. It all goes into the pre-mission planning, so once you know that magical armour suite that only weighs, you know, 10lbs per sq that there are workarounds for all of this stuff. What they did find ft, and will defeat all known projectiles that travel at high velocity. was that when they did take the original MRAP, like the MaxxPros, off the road in Iraq, they found that with the speeds, the faster you And it’s almost like it’s that Holy Grail of armour, the electric armour, went the more likely you were to damage your drivetrain and bend and things like that that have been talked about – dispersal armour. your rear axels. So once the designers saw that, they “plussed up” They may have future applicability if there’s advance in the by increasing the sizes of the rear axels, slowing the vehicles down, technology, but currently, right now we talk about “attack the and putting the warnings and cautions in the operator’s manual. network, defeat the device”. And then, of course, what you’ll do So, you know, it’s a compromise versus protection – you have to with the training part of that is adapt the force, where you will train compromise on one thing to get something else, so you’re maybe your soldiers and your marines to go ahead and deal with that IED compromising on weight and speed, for protection. So historically, laden environment, deal with the nuances of driving a heavy truck the casualties are far lower than they would have been had we just vehicle like the MRAP, manoeuvring through small streets with stuck with the up-armoured Humvees in our current combat overhead wires, and things like this. So no one ever said it’s operations, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. simple, this is a complicated process, but as you can see, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, our soldiers and marines have adapted, and Defence IQ: Okay, and in line with compromising, at the point accomplished the mission. where perhaps the weight does make the vehicle unmanageable, Defence IQ 5
  6. 6. Defence IQ: What about the fuel concern? I mean the size of these vehicles necessitates a huge well of energy. But does it get only six or seven miles to the gallon? You betcha. In “To get fuel to the Blaney: Right. some cases, less. But the fact MRAPs takes 7,000 remains, the fuel tanks are there and Defence IQ: And the argument is that the increased number of they are such that they are not inside gallon tankers – light armoured vehicles needed to convoy, to fill them up actually the crew compartment, and if the and it is a long heightens the risk of IED incidents. What’s your view on this – is it vehicle is involved in a huge supply line into something that we could overcome in the short-term? explosion, the tanks are blown apart, Afghanistan. It‟s a and away, and the fires that are Blaney: Well, we get back to the physical thermodynamic laws, there usually aren’t that… they are fact of life, but how it takes so many calories of energy to move so many pounds of serious fires, but some of the most we‟re dealing with something so far. And all of our MRAP vehicles we have produced, serious fires are when the tyres it.” or have had produced for us by the various contracts, have the catch on fire from the fuel. Now, requirement to go 300 miles on a single tank of fuel. And we we’ve accommodated that. I mean discourage carrying fuel externally. So again that goes back to that we’ve taken that into consideration by commercial off-the-shelf fire leader planning that mission such that there’s, either a re-supply packs that are available in the States [secured] through a couple of point somewhere along the route, or in the worst case, you carry different companies, that will, if you take four fully engulfed tyres, external fuel, because external fuel and being involved in an IED like a Stryker tyre, that have been set on fire, one of these foam- incident, that’s really, literally a fuel on the fire type of thing, over compressed air packs will extinguish the tyres, to the point so…yes, of course, the issue of a logistics trail is a serious issue. where they will not reignite. It’s like, just in the same way as if you had a light infantry division, And we have lost a number of MRAPs, just because the tyres have what’s the fuel requirements for a light infantry division versus a caught on fire. The guys have got out all right, they’ve got their heavy armoured division? The logistics trail for one versus the equipment out all right, but eventually, because the small other are, by a factor of ten or so, different, and greater in the case extinguishers that come as government furnished equipment on of the armoured division, because of the fact you need the fuel to them wasn’t adequate to put the fire out. So we have now gone to move the vehicles that have that maximum punch, that power. And buying these commercial off-the-shelf manpack foam-over in the case of the MRAP, not only do they have punch and power, compressed air that more than adequately deals with these types of and that they have the gunner’s weapon up on top – that’s the fires. It’s a good thing to have, even if you happen to have a fuel power. The protection is there from the armour and the rapid fire from a ruptured tank it helps put those out. We are always mobility provided by the vehicle itself. constantly looking at what’s happening in the combat operational Defence IQ 6
  7. 7. theatre, what we call the operational environment, and then how we Handbook”. There’s ten chapters in there… a programme overview can improve various soldier safety issues, vehicle performance with the vehicle descriptions, to include capabilities and limitations, issues, such as the fuel consumption, but again we are right up the technical descriptions, such as, the size, and weight limits, and against that physical barrier. things like that. We’re going to cover the MaxxPro CAT1, MaxxPro Plus, the Dash, the RG-31 Alpha 2, the RG-33 Lima, the RG-33 How many Btus [British thermal units] are in that gallon of fuel? Lima Plus, the HAGA, which is the ambulance version, and the What’s the requirement to move how much equipment how far? HAGA plus. The Caiman, the Caiman Plus, the Cougar CAT1 and And there’s no magic carburettor, there’s no magic fuel formulation CAT2, and the M-ATV, and the M-ATV with the Common Remote to go ahead and minimise that. And the heavier you go the more Operated Weapons System 2 on it, which is a fabulous device that fuel you use. The faster you go the more fuel you use. So again, allows the gunners to go ahead and gun from inside the vehicle, that comes down to operator or leader planning, and saying, “okay, protected inside the vehicle…and it has a tremendous weapon sight we will take this and we are going to not exceed 15mph”, and you on it, and both day and night IR, and direct view. This is real accommodate that, and you operate in that environment to popular with the troops, because it does have such good visionics conserve your fuel. Now, if you have to make a fuel stop you’ve got that often times you can see disturbed dirt that may indicate a to make accommodation for that. Either you fly it in, or in some buried IED. cases, you can catch up with a tanker that already has a fuel supply there. But there’s no doubt about it, to get that fuel to that area The mission equipment packages will be covered in this, so that takes tankers – 7,000 gallon tankers, contract tankers – and we you’ll have the various radios and crew devices for electronic lose some of those, and it is a long supply line into Afghanistan. It’s warfare. There’s actually a good section on operations, so we have a fact of life, but we’re dealing with it. crew duties, responsibilities, driver selection processes and training, operating speeds, local stations, restrictions, and tactical manning. Defence IQ: Okay, so no silver bullet, but hopefully some options And we have an accompanying CD that has all the operator will present themselves soon. Now, the lessons and data that manuals, the technical manuals at the organisational level and the you’re revealing in this upcoming handbook, which I believe you are direct support level, and the parts manuals, along with the driver clutching at the moment, and of course your presentation at IAV training programme from the Combat Readiness Centre at Fort next year, is all going to be of huge interest to international forces in Rucker, Alabama. And a number of other things like, on the heat, helping them to make their procurement decisions. Can you tell us and the role of the trainer will be in there on the CD. So when a what the handbook will offer, and how the information that’s gone soldier is out there with his MRAP handbook and he needs to get a into it was actually put together? Dash Ten he can’t go online, but if he pops the CD into his computer and he has that Dash Ten, that Dash Twenty, Twenty Blaney: Right. Now, this handbook will supersede the 08-30 Three, right there on his computer screen to help him with any other MRAP handbook. It’s going to be titled “The MRAP and M-ATV issues he may have. Defence IQ 7
  8. 8. as the damage reporting to the National Ground Intelligence Centre, Another chapter is going to be on the employment considerations, the Anti-Armour Taskforce, because what the Anti-Armour operational vignettes on mountains, deserts, wetlands, and urban Taskforce does is, every MRAP that’s damaged through enemy areas. These will be actual experiences from various units – how action gets reported back to them. They have a database where they operated, how they got coverage as far as dead space, and they analyse how it was damaged, and then the manufacturers how they manoeuvred, both urban and in rural areas. Force have that database available to them, to go to the National Ground protection and survivability will be covered, such as what happens Intelligence Centre to help them design better armour, or better when you do have to go in and recover a battle-damaged MRAP, countermeasures against these anti-armour devices that they are and precautions against glass, the powder that may be left over attacking us with. from the ballistic glass being blown, if you get entangled in a power line, and things like that… precautions, and those types of things. And, of course, we have the entire – in annex one – the MRAP, the TTPs, and battlefield towing and recovery of the MRAP, produced And we have load planning. There was a lot of testing done on the by Aberdeen Proving Ground, the proponent for the MRAP recovery M-ATV and load planning, because loads themselves, in the event process. And trust me, when you have a vehicle that weighs of an IED explosion, become a secondary projectile – a flying 40,000lbs, hooking up a tow chain like you would to your ordinary missile that has killed soldiers. Because if a load isn’t secured and Jeep Cherokee, or whatever the case is, it’s far more complicated you do, all of a sudden, have to go from zero ft per second to 2,000, than that, because of the weight involved, the terrain, and things 3,000 ft per second, in the process of being blown up by an IED, all like this. So doing a recovery at the unit level, and even at the that loose equipment, rifles, and ammo cans – especially ammo direct support level, is touchy business, especially when you have cans – if they go from zero to 2,000 ft per second and if your battle damaged vehicles. And people have been hurt in this forehead is in the way of one, trust me, that ammo will win. So load process, so we’re doing our best to make sure that they have this planning is extremely important, and also, you know, load planning, product in their hands, and in every MRAP, so they can do the part of it is how to ride in the M-ATV. You don’t want to have any recovery with the proper equipment, and properly, without getting part touching the frame, if you can avoid it, because again that zero anybody further hurt or injured, or damaging more equipment in the ft per second acceleration, in the event of an explosion, to 2,000 or process. So you want to be sure you have the right vehicle to tow 3,000 ft per second, it will shatter your elbow, or anything you have that downed MRAP, otherwise you could find them both lost, and in contact with the frame. loss of life, if you don’t do it correctly. There’s a chapter on casualty evacuation procedures. The Defence IQ: Outstanding. CASEVAC conversion kit for the M-ATV, that’s covered, as well as, chapter nine, which is really going to be… It covers recovery Blaney: That should be available on the Web here by the middle of basics, towing, either battle damage assessment and repair, as well September to the end of September. The hard copy will probably Defence IQ 8
  9. 9. be out just before the end of the year – I’m looking right now at the middle of October for the hard copy to come out. Now, the people that are in the US Military, both army and marines, and anybody [The original podcast for this interview can be found at else that has MRAPs in the US Military, and DoD, can go to the] CALL website and download it, and they can request it. Now, CALL products are… right now we build them and produce them so that any of our NATO ISAF partners can get them, as well as the folks, of course, in NATO ISAF. That includes Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as, in some cases, even the GCTF folks can get these products, to help them. © IQPC International And in most cases – and this, right here we’re talking about the MRAP – the US, probably, the US Forces are the only ones who will have them, unless we lend them to someone else, so it will be available for folks to use – but does it replace the Dash Ten? No, it doesn’t, but it does give you in one handbook these topics we just International Armoured Vehicles will be taking place between February 7- talked about, so you don’t end up going all over the place on the 11 2011. You can find out more by visiting Internet, and searching your library, and doing “what ifs” and trying, and by subscribing to our weekly to find stuff, as far as these other issues we’ve just discussed. So online newsletter providing you with the latest news and resources in this field in the run up to the event. You can also email it’s a good process and we’ll see. It will be available, like I said,, or call us on +44 (0) 207 368 9300. easily within a month. We’re to the point now where it’s going to editing, and doing some final little “happy glad” things, so it should work out all right. Related links: Defence IQ: Fantastic. It certainly sounds exhaustive. Scott, we very much look forward to seeing the results of that project, and, of course, can’t wait to have you with us in February. Many thanks for Attend International Armoured Vehicles 2011 your time. Article: USMC Cougar survivability upgrade begins Blaney: You’re quite welcome. Interviewer: Richard de Silva Defence IQ 9