To equip the troops to be adequately prepared for the conditions and attacks of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military demands enormous resources – including cutting edge equipment and vehicles. The manufacturing of much of this equipment requiring specialized technology is outsourced to various U.S. corporations that specialize in weaponry and equipment, such as General Dynamics Corp. in Virginia and Force Protection Inc. in South Carolina.
Several of these vendors are currently involved in the manufacturing of an evolving series of armored fighting vehicles designed to endure IED and roadside ambushes. These new technology vehicles are largely replacing the Humvee and other light trucks to support combat operations.
Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs)
The military expressed a need for a new and improved Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected Vehicle, or MRAP. The older version of the vehicle, which moved from conception to deployment in a mere two years, wasn’t designed to handle the rocky terrain of Afghanistan, and its excessive weight made it difficult to transport to areas where it is most needed.
The MRAP’s are vital to the current U.S. campaigns and protecting troops from roadside blasts (the #1 cause of combat death and injury in Iraq). Over 8,000 MRAPs are currently being used in Iraq and 900 in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon recently announced finance plans to increase their fleet of MRAP vehicles from 2,300 to 17,700 by Spring 2009.
The U.S. Marine Corps has trumpeted an urgent call for an MRAP light, a vehicle which would offer the same protection as the MRAP, but with increased maneuverability. General Dynamics and Force Protection, Inc. are both working with the Marine Corps to determine whether the existing MRAPs should be modified to better suit the needs of the military, or whether an entirely new vehicle is necessary, and the developers have set quickly upon their work.
On September 5, Force Protection, Inc. announced receipt of a $7.2 million contract from the Marine Corps for urgent development of lighter MRAP vehicles.
BAE Systems, a British company with a manufacturing plant in Fairfield, Ohio, just launched its new, lighter MRAP- the Caiman Light at the beginning of this month. The Caiman Light is a five-man, 4X 4 version of the 6X6 Caiman MRAP Vehicle offering comparable protection at two-thirds of the 18-ton gross vehicle weight of the original.
Multiple other arms and defense companies are clamoring for a piece of the finance pie, as the military demands both the protection of the MRAP and the maneuverability of its smaller counterparts. Stay tuned.