The Army MRAP has been the subject of intense defense budget debates, most of which trend toward austerity. The options have run the gamut of scrapping the 26,000 strong fleet, selling to willing buyers like Israel and Saudi Arabia, or even to re-invading Iraq, with limited success. However, some recent advancement in robotics technology have offered the Pentagon another means of preserving the MRAP fleet as what can only be described as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Walkers (MRAP-W).
The initial $5.7 million plan from BAE Systems calls for the retro-fitting of 4 heavy armor fifty-foot legs in place of the already gargantuan wheels. There were also new offensive weapons mounted into the front of the walker, so as to provide offensive means both forward and underneath the vehicle. An unnamed official at the Pentagon stated the plan was “the most efficient and bitchin’ thing we’ve seen since the first MRAP rolled off the line.”
The Osh Kosh Corporation is also planning to introduce a smaller Mine Resistant All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV), a two-legged version for the Marine Corps later this year.
“We’re extremely excited,” said Kevin Fahey, a contractor with U.S. Army Program Executive Office on a recent tour of Red River Depot. “This vehicle has saved a lot of lives. While that was its intended purpose, with the mission in Iraq over and the drawdown in Afghanistan well under way, we had to pull out all the stops to not only save the program, but increase the vehicle’s overall effectiveness, and strike terror into hearts our enemies. That’s a twofer.”
Veteran commanders of the Iraq War are also expressing their optimism. Major General Rick Lynch explained the original 14-ton MRAP was responsible for saving countless Soldier and Marine lives in Iraq. Due to the time consumed in devising Improvised Explosive Devices to counter it, the vehicle allowed Coalition Forces more time to catch them in the act. “Think of the intimidation factor alone,” said Maj. Gen. Lynch. “This will also have all sorts of conventional warfare cross over appeal as well. I wouldn’t want to be a North Korean or Chinese infantryman, if this thing came stalking on to the battlefield. That alone makes it worth the exorbitant cost.”
At the troop level, the old MRAP had received mixed reviews. It’s complex, contractor-only maintenance and increased rollover tendency, not to mention almost uncanny ability to get stuck on undeveloped roads made it the subject of derision — but it’s low casualty rate made it indispensible. The new design however, has the doubters beginning to see the light.
“We didn’t really use it for situations that would entail contact,” said Staff Sergeant Manuel Ramos, an Army Cavary Scout who deployed to Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division in 2007. “This however, could be a game changer. You’d solve the rollover problem and maybe this trap door in the bottom, with some rappelling line would solve any egress problems. Plus, you’d scare the shit out of people, so right there, you have more offensive capability than the old design.”
There have been some challenges in the early tests of the new MRAPs. The four legged variant suffered a nasty accident, tripping over local power lines. The two legged variant failed to negotiate a rugged terrain course of rolling logs. Neverthless, BAE says it is on schedule to deliver the first MRAP-Ws by Fiscal Year 2025. Osh Kosh Corp. has said their two-legged variant design will be fielded no later than FY 2020.
In a related story from the Taliban, intelligence officials have intercepted recent purchase orders for far less expensive “speeders with harpoons and tow cables” from Iran.