Cooler Heads on MRAP

Its cool for a July day in the nations capital, so Im ready to do a few laps in a pot of boiling oil!

Inside Washington Publishers which publishes the best-known defense newsletters dubbed colloquially The Insides has been following the development of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle and the explosion of interest in this lifesaver since it erupted with the new congress in January.MRAP-giambast.jpg

For the record, as our readers will certainly remember, Defense Tech has voiced skepticism over the utility of the MRAP vehicles and the wisdom of procuring tens of thousands of these vehicles instead of using the resources to build a future Humvee with innovations in armor, power, armament, communications and crew comfort/protection that will last as long as the current one (remember the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Program?).

Well, The Insides have been tracking each iteration of the MRAP program very closely and have published some interesting findings recently that shows the services may be backing away from the rush to procure so many of the vehicles that will have only limited utility as Americas involvement in Iraq draws down as the 2008 approaches.

From Inside Defense:

A high-level Pentagon panel avoided locking the Army into a long-term, and very expensive, commitment to acquire all of the entire 17,700 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles sought by commanders in Baghdad, opting instead to back aggressive near-term acquisition strategy coupled with periodic reviews of the situation in Iraq to curtail purchases as conditions permit.

In what participants described an unorthodox approach, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council -- headed by the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the four service vice chiefs -- on June 28 endorsed in principle the Army's need for more than 2,500 MRAP vehicles acknowledging that the service may eventually need enough of the blast-resistant vehicles to equip 20 brigades.

However, participants in the meeting said the requirements panel did not formally recalibrate the MRAP requirement, which currently is 7,774, to the possible 23,044 vehicles, had the Army's entire requirement been adopted.

"They are still working toward what the right number is," said Lt. Col. Gary Tallman, a Joint Staff spokesman.

And earlier, outgoing vice chief of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, downplayed the MRAPs ability to resist the most lethal threats in Iraq, Inside Defense reports.

One of the U.S. military's most senior officers is concerned that the intense focus on acquiring a new fleet of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles designed to protect against the blast effects of roadside bombs has created an unrealistic expectation that everyone who rides in one will be protected from a catastrophic hit.

Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was a regular passenger in MRAP-like vehicles on recent trips to Iraq, aimed in an interview to lower public expectations for the ability of the new vehicles with v-shaped chassis to protect all troops from insurgent attacks.

"No matter how much armor you put out there, all of this stuff at one point or another can be defeated," said Giambastiani, who is retiring this summer, in a June 5 interview with InsideDefense.com. "What we don't want to do is make the expectation out there that we're going to save every single individual that we put in one of these vehicles because we're putting a cocoon around them. You simply can't do it. There are weapons and techniques that can be used to defeat literally everything, including M1 tanks, Bradleys and the rest of it. So that's the bottom line."

Defense Tech as been in touch with various MRAP sources whove provided more information that indicate the program may need to slow down and take a more deliberate approach to finding a solution that will save lives over the long term. Stay tuned in the coming days and weeks for more gouge on MRAP development and procurement.

(Photo: Adm. Giambastiani with MRAP vehicle at Aberdeen Proving Grounds)

-- Christian

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