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MRAPs Take Over for Humvees Off Base

by Greg on May 24, 2010

Our own Christian Lowe is embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan through June 1 and sends us this dispatch from FOB Sharana in eastern Afghanistan.

By Christian Lowe

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan — In one of the most conspicuous shifts in policy since the war in Afghanistan began, local Army commanders have ordered that Soldiers must be in heavily armored IED-resistant vehicles when leaving the confines of any base in eastern Afghanistan.

Up-armored Humvees, the go-to patrol truck for troops here since 2001, have been relegated to driving within forward operating bases or were donated to the Afghan army and police.

The Pentagon is sending so-called “mine-resistant, ambush-protected” vehicles, or MRAPs, to the theater at a fevered pitch, with planeloads of the heavy trucks arriving daily at FOBs in this region.

The motor pools now feature a hodgepodge of MRAP trucks, including the Navistar International-made MaxxPro; the BAE Systems-made RG-31 Nyala; and the most recent arrival, the Oshkosh-built M-ATV.

Soldiers here say each has its advantages and disadvantages.

“I love the M-ATV,” said Staff Sgt. Philip Burchfield, platoon sergeant with 1st Platoon, Angel Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment. “It can take us places we can’t go with the MaxxPros or RG-31s.”

Battalion officials here want more of the nimble M-ATVs. Their lighter weight, lower profile and more forgiving suspension give unit commanders greater flexibility in supporting troops who have to patrol remote villages situated along roads that better support tractors and livestock than they do trucks.

But what the M-ATVs gain in agility, they give up in protection against IEDs. Soldiers here say the M-ATV protects against roadside bombs better than an up-armored Humvee, but not much.

“If we hit an IED, it’s still going to mess this thing up,” one Soldier said during a recent vehicle patrol.

Sitting in a M-ATV is like strapping into a cockpit. The four contoured seats each have five-point seatbelts and a communications suite. Gunners wear heavy-duty harnesses clipped to a fixed point inside the vehicle to avoid being thrown from the turret in a rollover or explosion.

The tight confines are more akin to a Humvee than anything else. But being strapped in and linked by i-comm to the rest of the vehicle gives its own sense of security.

Though it offers more protection than a M-ATV, the ride in a MaxxPro or RG-31 along most of the main routes between bases here is brutal, with the stiff suspension taking every bump and furrow like a trampoline. But despite the rough ride, Soldiers are glad to have the marginal addition of protection that these vehicles give from increasingly sophisticated IEDs.

However, while IEDs remain a huge concern, Soldiers are more worried about the number of armor-piercing rocket-propelled grenades that are winding up in the hands of insurgents.

One Soldier with Angel Co. was severely wounded last month when an RPG entered the driver’s side of the vehicle, slicing right through the MRAP’s armor. While some MRAPs have the RPG-catching “bird cages” attached to the exterior for added protection, some of the RPGs still find their way through.

Commanders here clearly prefer the M-ATV to the other varieties of MRAPs, but even with the added mobility the smaller vehicle provides, getting from Point A to Point B can take an agonizing amount of time and the conditions force drivers to go slower, leaving them more vulnerable to command-detonated IEDs and RPG shooters.

And with combat outposts separated sometimes by as much as an hour-and-a-half drive, there’s little chance one platoon can rush over to offer support to another.

But the Soldiers make do. And despite all the drawbacks, one Soldier who’s on his second deployment to Afghanistan — and his first using the MRAPs — said he wouldn’t leave on a patrol in anything else.

“I like MRAPs way more than the Humvee,” said Spc. John Johnson, an infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3–187, during a recent mission riding in a MaxxPro. “It’s the IEDs that scare me the most. And this thing can take an IED a lot better than a Humvee.”

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim May 24, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I know it's nitpicky, but they're called MaxxPros and M-ATV's.


Jeff Fraser May 24, 2010 at 3:46 pm

what are these armed with? For their size we should stack a few M2s on there…maybe a Mk.19 too


Randall May 24, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I drive a flatbed truck for a living. I've seen these a few times up close and even hauled two of these once. They're big but like Christian said, the M-ATV'S aren't that large. So I imagine, being the arm chair strategist I am, (and I'll admit it) you can really only have one mounted weapon system at a time. Not a few of anything. Anyone with first hand knowledge let me know.

However it's probably armed with M240's most of the time.


Donnell May 24, 2010 at 4:40 pm

They all use a common weapons turrent which can be mounted with all the infantrys crew serverd weapons.ie M2 .50cal, M240B, Mk19 or a M249 Saw. No unit will ever have only one type of weapon mounted on all there vehicles. Its best to have a mix.


TMB May 24, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Caveat: One weapon system at a time. There's only the one firing position.


PFC>Ritchie January 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm

the platoon that is attached to us has a primary 50 cal in the turret and behind em or beside them they have a 240B on a spindle so yes u can ,ount more than one weapon on a trucks turret


Bob May 24, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Sounds like we are really on the defensive, and have been restricted in leaving our operating bases. That suggests that we have lost. Being on the defensive does not equate with winning. Victory is achieved through an aggressive offensive posture.


Kristian M Lewis May 24, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Thanks for the fortune cookie definition.


TMB May 24, 2010 at 5:04 pm

1. Being on the defensive doesn't mean you've lost or you're losing either.

2. We're not on the defensive. We're protecting ourselves because the roads are constantly mined. Its not like they've stopped us from leaving the FOB.


Lee May 24, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I got blown up in one of the M-ATVs, actually. takes a blast very very well. i still have a broken ankle, but if i was in a humvee, me and the other three marines in my truck would be scattered liberally over southern afghanistan.


MadMike May 24, 2010 at 10:41 pm

I'm glad that you and your buddies made it, Lee and proud to know that my fellow cheeseheads in Oshkosh had something to do with it. As a veteran (Desert Storm) my prayers are with you every day.


SPC Marts Robert June 21, 2010 at 2:37 am

We were hit by two RPG’s, and 762mm on June 3th , they hit the top of the truck near the turret, none of them penetrated the roof thanks to the angle design. I am in a scout platoon and do missions everynight, I feel more safe in the M-ATV.


Jim Davis May 24, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Yeah. The Afghans can pay us with poppies.


STemplar May 24, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Probably costs less to give them to the Stanis than to ship them home and reset them.


Jeff May 24, 2010 at 9:54 pm

I was aware TMB, I meant possibly make more firing positions and add on more weapons, since they're getting much more attention now.


TMB May 25, 2010 at 2:13 am

I saw a SOCOM humvee where they removed the doors and made each seat its own gunner position. With how big the OGPK turret is I imagine you'd have to strip out the passenger compartment in order to add any more external weapons.


StevenDDeacon May 30, 2010 at 6:52 pm

How did we get here? The WWII jeep was designed as logistical equipment to move infantry and a small amount of gear behind our conventional warfare lines. However, during WWII the Brits turned the jeep into a Bren Gun carrier to complement their Universal Bren Gun carriers and the US modified their jeeps to mount M2 .50 Caliber MG,s (machine guns). This allowed the jeeps to confront enemy troops behind our lines, perform scouting missions or in the case of the Brits, it was also used as an offensive surprise strike vehicle. The HMMWV was designed to replace the jeep as a logistical vehicle roomier and capable of stowing much more gear. But soon the HMMWV began to sport everything from M2 MG’s, grenade launcher MG’s, Tow Missile Launchers, Surface to Air Missile Systems, and God knows what else, with no appreciable armor upgrade. Now the HMMWV was not only used for scouting missions, but dealt with unconventional warfare missions, and used at the front as if they were APC fighting vehicles. What were our military leaders thinking? More on the MRAP, M-ATV, etc. etc. etc. and the billions of dollars thrown at the armor problem which is still a problem!


PFC.Ritchie January 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm

we just hit an IED in a MATV the other day and i was in the turret and i will tell every who doesnt agree with these trucks .. i trust them with my life now the cab was not harmed even after 300 lbs of Homemade Explosive (HME) on a pressure plate rocks that truck


Joe Schmoe January 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Stay safe, good to hear that it worked as advertised.


TMB May 24, 2010 at 2:01 pm

It means they can do more patrols on their own. The more they do on their own, the less we have to do for them and we can go home. If they afford to actually buy them, I'm sure we'd be negotiating that.


TMB May 24, 2010 at 2:01 pm

If it makes you feel better we've been SELLING a fair amount of hardware to the Iraqis for a few years now.


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