MRAPs are the family of heavily armored vehicles with unique
V-shaped hulls that were rapidly designed and produced beginning in 2006 to protect against improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which have been the main cause of deaths and injuries to U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, the predecessor personnel carrier, the HMMWV, or Humvee, had an occupancy death rate of 80 percent when hit by IEDs, according to a January 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The MRAP’s fatality rate during the same period was 15 percent, a result that may have saved dozens of lives a month, the CRS said.
In the process of rushing these vehicles to the battlefield, the Pentagon used five manufacturers and created 25 versions that fit into three categories — those for urban combat that can carry seven soldiers; those for security, convoy escort or ambulance duty that can take up to 11 people; and those used to clear mines or IEDs that could handle 13 people.
When the main fighting switched to Afghanistan, about 8,000 of a newer, lighter version called the All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) were purchased. They were designed for that country’s more rugged, mountainous areas, according to the CRS report.
Through 2011, the Defense Department bought and fielded more than 27,000 MRAPs, according to the Government Accountability Office, which on March 31 sent Congress a briefing on how the Army and Marines are trying to determine what equipment designed specifically for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan should be retained and what should be discarded.
MRAPs, in Pentagon jargon, are nonstandard equipment — vehicles that were not found in core Army and Marine units before these wars. The more than $45 billion spent on MRAPs during the past six years came out of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) accounts, which are supplementary funds appropriated by Congress to support war-fighting. The funding didn’t come from the services’ core budgets.
The cost of individual MRAPs has varied, but an average of
$1.54 million a copy has been used in Pentagon budget documents. That figure includes anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million for the base vehicle, with hundreds of thousands more added for computerized electronics, monitors, jammers, radios, additional armor and other elements, according to congressional sources.
The MRAPs that the Army and Marine Corps decide to keep will have to be paid for out of their core budgets, which are already under pressure. Meanwhile, they are requesting OCO funds in fiscal 2013 to support their MRAP programs, according to the GAO.