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Bomb-Busting Buffalo

"A few months ago, spray-painted graffiti began appearing on Baghdad walls," reports Defense News' Greg Grant. "'Kill the Claw,'" it read in Arabic.buffalo_dust.jpgThe message was aimed at a new vehicle called the Buffalo, a thickly armored mine disposal truck that seeks out and disposes of deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Its 30-foot retractable arm has a camera, to help the operator inside see what hes doing, and a claw-like rake for finding and detonating the roadside bombs.The insurgents graffiti was not quite the advertising campaign expected by Buffalo manufacturer Force Protection, but it is a testament to how effective the 24-ton vehicle has proven in neutralizing the biggest killer of American troops in Iraq. Since its introduction in late 2003, the Buffalo has become the favorite of U.S. Army combat engineer teams. Grant's right. I spent a fair amount of time with engineer teams in Baghdad this summer, and they all raved about the vehicle. Not just because they were well-protected. But also because the thing had a kick-ass air conditioning system, too. And comfortable seats -- which is important on a 12-hour route clearance shift.However, Grant gets it wrong when he says that "so far, nobody has been injured while riding in one of the vehicles, which have taken repeated IED hits with only minimal damage to exterior components."I talked to several soldiers who had Buffalo-riding buddies injured by the handmade bombs -- and by their own thick skulls. These guys would dig up an explosive with the Buffalo's spindly claw. And then, they'd be so proud of what they found, they'd want to snap a quick picture of their prize. So they'd use the claw to bring the bomb right up to the Buffalo's cab. And then, the IED would go off.

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