Frag Kit 6 to go on MRAPs

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OK folks, dont say I hadnt told you so.

Remember that vehicle that we were supposed to frantically throw billions of dollars into, throw all previous tactical vehicle programs into a tailspin, hurriedly ship them to Iraq, buy them from anyone and everyone and, oh yeah, they were supposed to defeat the most lethal roadside bombs...?

Remember that one? The mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle?

Well, it seems that vehicle isnt all its proponents claim.

USA Today reports this morning that the general in charge of fielding the MRAP to Iraq has decided to add on armor that can protect the vehicle against Iranian-made explosively formed penetrator bombs. Wait, I thought the MRAP could already do that?

Nope.

The Marine general in charge of the program to send new armored vehicles to Iraq says the Pentagon has developed "a solution" to protect the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks from the deadliest type of armor-piercing roadside bomb, called explosively formed projectiles, or EFPs.

The Pentagon's method for combating EFPs involves adding armor to the sides of MRAPs, Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan said in an interview with USA TODAY. The armor is a modified version of what the military calls Frag Kit 6, Brogan said. "I have a solution for EFPs, and I'm going to put it on the trucks I've already bought," Brogan said.

The Frag Kit 6. Really? Didnt we already learn that the Frag Kit 6 is so cumbersome, you need a mechanical device to close the door and a driver cant even tell how wide the vehicle is? Thatll be fun for the troops. Getting the Frag Kit 6 equipped MRAP wedged into an alley during a raid in Dorah.

The MRAP's V-shaped hull and raised chassis help protect troops inside the vehicle from the force of makeshift bombs known as improvised explosive devices.

Brogan dismissed concerns from some military contractors - raised in an online discussion - that the added armor would make the vehicles too wide to operate on U.S. highways.

"They're going into a combat zone," Brogan said. "So, yeah, they're going to be wider than would be permitted if you were going to drive up Interstate 95."

This week, contractors will have an opportunity to submit other solutions to the EFP threat for testing. But their armor will have to rival the current solution to merit consideration. "I've got great trucks," Brogan said. "And I can put additional armor on those great trucks. ... You've either got the solution or you don't."

How are you going to get them out of that crunch, Sen. Biden?

And, oh, Inside Defense reported last week the Joint Requirements Oversight Council had decided to basically shelve plans for the development of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle the Humvees replacement.

At [acting Pentagon acquisition executive John]Youngs direction, the Army and Marine Corps are preparing a revised JLTV acquisition strategy that includes a robust technology demonstration phase to be presented to the Office of the Secretary of Defense as soon as practical, according to the acquisition executives Sept. 10 guidance to the services, a copy of which InsideDefense.com reviewed.

Youngs guidance effectively jettisoned the JLTV acquisition strategy the Army and Marine Corps proposed on Aug. 22 to OSD, seeking permission to issue requests for proposal to industry this fall and decide on a trio of vehicle makers for the first batch of humvee replacements in April 2008.

As I predicted, it looks like frantic MRAP procurement is squeezing out the Humvee replacement the services really need. Iraq involvement will wane, MRAPs will be sitting unused in motor pools and the troops will be riding around in 1980s-era Humvees for another decade at least.

OK, OK, I know Im going to get several mortar barrages about how heartless I am. But lets look at the numbers. Only 400 of the 1,500 MRAPs that are supposed to be shipped to Iraq this year have arrived. Other than Marines whod already had some in-theater, I have yet to hear of a commander that has the number hed requested. So, how is it that IED attacks are way down and that U.S. casualties have dropped like a rock over the last month?

U.S. military deaths in Iraq fell to their lowest point in more than a year in September, figures show, a continuation of a four-month decline in combat casualties that has analysts debating why...

The decline parallels a drop in casualties caused by roadside bombs, the No. 1 cause of deaths for Americans in Iraq.

According to icasualties, only 27 American troops died from improvised explosive devices, or IEDS, in September, down from the year's peak of 88 in May. The last month when IED casualties were that low was February, when IEDs claimed 27 American lives; 81 U.S. troops died in Iraq that month.

Those statistics include EFPs, explosively formed penetrators, which can pierce armor. Top military commanders in Iraq have said those devices are coming from Iran.

Maybe theres more to protecting troops against IEDs than adding more and more armor.

-- Christian

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