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Of MRAPs, IEDs and M1114s

humvee-afghanistan.jpg

I participated in a roundtable interview last week with Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the deputy commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force and the on-the-ground commander (until last month) of operations in Anbar province.

It was a wide ranging discussion, but what I’d like to share with everyone here is something that bolsters my original argument about countering IEDs and looks toward the future of how we’re going to get our arms around the threat of roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

Kelly said trying to counter IEDs with high technology proved to be a never ending cycle of counter and counter-counter. First it was command detonation by wire; then it evolved into radio detonation with primitive signals such as garage door openers, then it went to cell and telephone detonation, then pressure plates, IR beams and on and on.

But in the end, what cleared the roads and wrapped up the networks were boots on the ground.

“It became an infantry, on the side of the road, going through the bushes kind of fight. The kind of fight that America has tended to stay away from because we have all of the technology. … And everything they did that we tried to defeat … they would just come up with a solution to that.“

Kelly went on to applaud the AM General M1114 Humvee, adding that the MRAP, while effective, is virtually useless off road — a virtual No Go for remote Anbar and Afghanistan.

“The 1114s are very effective, particularly from side blasts — they’re remarkably effective for side blasts. They’re weaker underneath, we all know that. So the next thing was the MRAP. The trade off with the MRAP is that it’s the best in the world at taking an under-carriage attack but it’s also a nearly useless vehicle unless you’re on a hard-surface road. Off road — even on a dirt road — you can move them maybe one or two miles per hour. Cross country they have zero ability. Are the troops protected inside, they are, and under … all circumstances that’s important — but if you’re going to surrender tactical mobility simply to keep people from getting hurt, there’s a trade-off.“

Kelly went on to say the Corps resisted the knee-jerk impulse to replace all Humvees in theater with MRAPs, since the M1114 is “actually quite good off road” and “quite good from an armor point of view,” instead replacing about half the Humvees with MRAPs.

What ultimately defeated the IED threat and saved lives? Killing the IED network with intelligence-based, targeted operations and surveillance. It’s like I started to say after my month in Ramadi in 2005: the best IED armor is a sniper team.

Kelly’s thoughts on defeating IEDs and armoring against them are even more relevant to the Afghan debate. Let’s not fool ourselves — the same gang that wanted to pull out of Iraq during the toughest time there are now in charge of the Afghan fight. We can debate the larger issues in this later, but what do you think will happen when more pictures and videos of twisted Humvee hulks and four dead Soldiers and Marines are streamed in even greater numbers than they are now back in the U.S.? The up-armoring cabal will be back on the pulpit, insisting that everyone ride in tanks or MRAPs. And predictably, many DT readers will yell at me when I point out how stupid that idea would be.

And, oh yeah, how many miles of hard-surface road are there in Afghanistan? Armored Humvees have a hard enough time weaving their way safely through the Wadis and rickety bridges. How do you think even the lightest MRAP would fare?

Well, at least Kelly and I agree — and some others (Dakota Wood) — that protection from IEDs doesn’t come from hunkering down inside a bank vault on wheels, it’s about mobility, intelligence and eyeballs. Thank goodness the Corps (and some Army units) pushed back on the MRAP hysteria, ending up on the right side of the argument after all.

– Christian

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Wembley March 3, 2009 at 3:22 pm

You’re not really naive enough to claim that the IED threat has been defeated in Iraq, are you?
It’s all about politics, and once it was clear that the US was withdrawing and the Iranians were allowed into the process, the rest was a natural progression.

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soonergrunt March 3, 2009 at 4:59 pm

We had M1151s in Afghanistan. They took a good vehicle in the M1114 and made it better and more reliable. I took a couple of close IEDs and we did alright.
There were M1117 Guardians at Bagram. Never saw them off the base. That would’ve been nice to have.

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jim March 3, 2009 at 6:00 pm

There won’t be a media meltdown about IEDs in Afghanistan. The media attacks about Iraq were for one purpose — to smear George Bush, which worked . Now that the media’s hero Obama is the big cheese, the media has no interest in the wars. Nothing that reflects poorly on Obama will be allowed to dominate the news.

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paul March 3, 2009 at 6:45 pm

All you do is look to South Africa for 35+ years of v hull mine resistant vehicles. What doesn’t our military industrial complex not understand? Flat bottom low to the ground= dead Gi’s. I’m speaking from 20+ years in the Army. Taking a cold war relic the 998, keep adding more armor is NOT the solution. If we could KILL the enemy they wouldn’t be IED’ing our guys so much. Time to throw away the ROE, and go Crusader on their you know what. Until the PC crap goes away, build a new mine resistant vehicle.

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Valcan March 3, 2009 at 9:55 pm

You’re not really naive enough to claim that the IED threat has been defeated in Iraq, are you?
It’s all about politics, and once it was clear that the US was withdrawing and the Iranians were allowed into the process, the rest was a natural progression.
Posted by: Wembley at March 3, 2009 03:22 PM
———————————
Yea keep telling yourself that running away is the best option. i name the Fwench. Letting the Iranians into a peace process is like letting the SS into Poland things might be quiet for a week or two but for all intents and purposes you just put the ppl in chains. Course guys like you dont think about that.
One of my giggest things about the mrap is the offroad issue. MRAPS are plain and simple peace keepers rides ment to ride in towns and cities with good bridges roads and wide open areas. Also its a freaking BUS seriously its huge. I figure do what ppl ussualy should do find the ballance between weight and protection.
In the end it all devolves to the oldest soldiers in the world…the infantry let the ruskies and euros think armor will forever win a battle america is and always will be a nation of infantry.

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Valcan March 3, 2009 at 9:57 pm

AZ u cain cee hucket on fonics wurked fur mee

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WyoChris March 3, 2009 at 11:41 pm

After serving half my tour in iraq with humvees, and switching to MRAPs for the second half of the tour, im a supporter of MRAPs. Sure, they have their downsides. However, they ain’t that bad offroading. In addition, the gunner sits high enough he can see over walls for people trying to throw RKG grenades and what not at vehicles. They can also hold more dismounted troops than a humvees…. which is awesome when conducting a cordon and search. Also, the biggest threat we have out in iraq these days are deeply buried IEDs on dirt roads. I’ve seen plenty of units get it by these and without MRAPs it would have been a catastrophic kill with 5+ KIAs…. instead there were just 5x WIA.
I say stick with the MRAPs, but keep the units with a couple humvees for when they need to go in tight alleyways and what not.

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Valcan March 4, 2009 at 12:17 am

After serving half my tour in iraq with humvees, and switching to MRAPs
Im not saying that your wrong but the terrain in iraq and afphganistain is very different. very few roads those that are there are in bad shape lots of off road.

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sgt March 4, 2009 at 4:04 am

>It’s all about politics, and once it was clear that the US was withdrawing and the Iranians were allowed into the process, the rest was a natural progression.
Yep they are really are that naive. It’s like Poland deciding they really wanted to learn German after all and declaring victory as Warsaw was flattened.
The reality is that US military hasn’t won even a small war since 1945 and doesn’t know how to. It’s replaced winning with spin.

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SCHEP March 4, 2009 at 4:32 am

The MRAP has saved my life more than once in Afghanistan. The MRAP is not as wide as the 1151 which is a good thing. If there could be a cross between and MRAP and an 1151. Keep the “V” shaped hul obviously, make it as thin as an MRAP but maybe shorter due to the top heaviness, but still a good distance from the ground…NOW that would be a vehicle!!

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RocketMan March 4, 2009 at 7:54 am

Hello Christian and fellow commenters, I love the attitude Christian is taking. I totally agree with the General and Christian.
Gen 1 Mrap I believe is roughly 14 tons, and MRAP-II will be even heavier. To me this is “World War One” mentality.
Perhaps very soon, I can work with Christian in showing folks what we’ve been working on. Christian knows how long I’ve worked on this stuff and its in the patenting process now….Once I have a number, I may, (and for reasons of OPSEC) be able to disply this. I just would like to check further into what is appropriate and whats not…..
Best “Rocketman” < as Christian “dubbed me” a while back.

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J. March 4, 2009 at 10:10 am

“Thank goodness the Corps (and some Army units) pushed back on the MRAP hysteria, ending up on the right side of the argument after all.”
You sure about that? After they bought thousands of the MRAPs and are pushing for “MRAP-lites” in AFG? Not sure they have figured this out at all.

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Valcan March 4, 2009 at 2:43 pm

The reality is that US military hasn’t won even a small war since 1945 and doesn’t know how to. It’s replaced winning with spin.
Desert Storm was a resounding success the only thing that made it not a “win’ as you would define it was the fact that Saddam was left in power.
The US has the ability to win wars very well its the poloticians who get in the way.
Sometimes i wonder if we shouldnt go the way the spartans did and have a president of civilian issues and one who has apsolute control of military issues

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Camp March 4, 2009 at 4:07 pm

An inability to adapt in war, often results in a serious & sudden onset of rigor mortis.
Granted, Afghanistan wasn’t built for MRAPs, but there are few places where they can come in handy. So the real question becomes, ‘Do the commanders who need them, have them?’ And in what ways can MRAPs be modified in order to make them more useful to soldiers in the A-stan?
The HMMWV has, to some extent, become the light tank of the military. I do however, wish the Army had a helo that could carry out light armor vertical envelopment. Something like an improved Ch-54 Tarhe or S-64 (which they still make). Not having to rely upon limited roads to infil or exfil an area, would be a rather helpful capability. IMHO.
“Dutch commandos in Afghanistan pt. 1/6″
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDA4qEa417M
“Last fight of the Skycrane 1″
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8j6dbjxEOA

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Dennis March 4, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Hey Folks,
Something good came out of all of this. Check out the new MRAP:
http://www.gizmag.com/bae-delivers-new-mine-resistant-all-terrain-vehicles/11134/picture/70123/
Heavy armor and all terrain ability…..Not sure how this is going to shake out with the Humvee replacement already decided.
-Dennis

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pitbullstew March 5, 2009 at 9:06 pm

regarding MRAPS? I have seen on you tube how an MRAP was very heavily damaged, more like destroyed but? The caccoon? Looked like it did its job!
In so far as dangerous roads go? MRAPS look like they have a place in theater, albeit not everywhere, just like a Humvee would not have survived the likes of the blast that took down the MRAP.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJH_TQnm4SA
Has the MRAP recorded its first fatality yet?

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henry johnson March 6, 2009 at 9:50 am

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WHEN WE HAVE THE MOTOR IN OUR 1951 FORD 1 TON IN A WEEK OR TWO, DRIVE IT SEVERAL THOUSAND MILES, ANYONE WILL UNDERSTAND THE PARADIGM CHANGE.
I know this flies in the face the “laws of physics” however this is a new paradigm; we are using both sides of the magnetic field. The energy we use is only changing polarity on the E-Mags. The P-Mags and centrifugal force do the work; the transformers are 97% separate from the operation of the motor.
This is the first time in recorded history that anyone has a machine that produces more energy than it uses.
THAT’S WHAT WERE SO EXCITED ABOUT!!!!!!!!
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Timm April 15, 2009 at 11:45 am

I am currently in Iraq and we use MRAPs almost exclusively. Their off road capabilities are not terrible on mostly flat ground..
That being said the MRAP has recorded fatalities. I do not know the exact number but we were hit on Easter and lost one, with one soldier losing both arms and legs.
Even thick armor doesn’t stand up to EFP IEDs

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Wynand Meyering October 19, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Well, at least Kelly and I agree — and some others (Dakota Wood) — that protection from IEDs doesn’t come from hunkering down inside a bank vault on wheels, it’s about mobility, intelligence and eyeballs. Thank goodness the Corps (and some Army units) pushed back on the MRAP hysteria, ending up on the right side of the argument after all.
-> Mobility is great - until you run full speed into an ambush or run full speed into a MRAP.
Amateurs.

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Wynand Meyering October 19, 2009 at 2:47 pm

or run full speed into a MRAP … I mean landmine / IED.

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matt February 26, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Does anyone know what is going to be offered for the HMMWV RECAP program?

Reply

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