The article below from Global Security is provided as an example of the arguments continuing to rage over armored systems to enhance troop protection in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Omitted from the balance sheet is the requirement to sustain the multitude of different MRAP type vehicles being procured.  There is no common system being procured, but rather a slew of different vehicles with little commonality as well as little thought to the long term logistical sustainability of such an eclectic procurement.  Nor is there any mention of the transportability issues entailed with these behemoths.  If you have ever stood beside a Buffalo and have any memory of the stacks in the aft V onboard ship, their size given this consideration is gargantuan.  The same holds true for air transport. 

 

The MRAP procurement is a knee jerk reaction by politicians rather than a professional procurement process.  If the GWOT, including the fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, has taught us anything, it is that AT is intelligence intensive.  Better bunkers and armor are not the answer.  Rather such reactions play into the hands of those who wish to bleed not only our forces but also our purses dry in a contest that, dare I repeat it, is generational.  I believe this contest is generational.  That said, we need a longer term focus in our procurements than is evident in our rush to spend precious funds on a multitude of incompatible systems that are logistically unsustainable and operationally unsuitable if looked at in a broader context.

 

  Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles

Current operations have proven that USMC unarmored ground vehicles are unsuitable to support combat operations. Mine warfare is nothing new to the US. In WWII and Korea, the US lost about 5 percent of its casualties to mines and ambushes. However, mine related casualties skyrocketed to 33 percent during Vietnam and 26 percent for Somalia.

In Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, RPGs, mines, IEDs, and small arms fire have been responsible for over 30 percent of Marine Corps level III and IV casualties. According to audiotapes released in November 2004, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ordered his followers to "Block off all their main and secondary supply lines for these are their main arteries and ambush them along those routes for they are exposed and easy prey." The Corps was responding to the threat slowly because it took time for industry to build what is needed. As a result the enemy adapts before the Corps gets a chance to protect Marins. As of 2005 the enemy was inside the Corp's OODA loop and had the Marins chasing their tales.

The Marine Corps responded to these guerilla tactics by with a proactive-reactive strategy in order to increase the survivability of vehicles. Marines began armoring vehicles with steel from whatever source was available, and then as the threat grew and evolved, we followed this ad hoc armor with factory produced Marine Armor Kits (MAK) for HWWMVs and Marine Armor Systems (MAS) for MTVRs. This was then followed with the acquisition of the ultimate in HMMWV protection, the Up-Armored HMMWV. These armoring efforts have provided an immediate response to the threat that has saved lives and reduced casualties, but it does not correct the deficiencies that still exist with the current ground tactical vehicle fleet. The MAK and MAS kits should afford the time we need to launch a counter-attack aimed at the heart of the problem: the vulnerability of the current ground tactical vehicle fleet.

The current ground tactical vehicle fleet does not have the survivability needed to support and sustain operations on the modern battlefield. While the US has superior intelligence collection, training, and tactical skill, the enemy continued to exploit the vulnerability of Marines in the current vehicle fleet. The most likely threat the Ground Tactical Vehicle Fleet (GTVF) will encounter under ship to objective maneuver (STOM) scenario is a combination of mines and small arms employed by unconventional forces operating in a non-contiguous battlespace. The legacy GTVF was not designed to withstand this threat. The GTVF was designed to support the Cold War linear battlefield.

The Marine Corps must develop a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) combat vehicle fleet capable of sustained operations in a chaotic, mine-infested, non-linear battlespace. Marines can no longer disregard survivability in favor of reliance on the ability to predict and neutralize threats. Unprotected vehicles result in unnecessary casualties that degrade operational readiness and that are politically untenable. There is a fleeting opportunity to skip a generation in research and development and move directly to a mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle designed from the ground up that gives us an order of magnitude increase in survivability.

A Baseline Survivability Index would be similar to how the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration establishes Federal Highway Safety Standards to protect vehicle occupants. If the Marines established a BLSI for every Marine Corps Vehicle, it would mitigate and reduce risk associated with combat and non-combat killers. Every vehicle system would possess the same Base Line Survivability Index. Every Marine is a rifleman, every vehicle system is a weapon system. If it going to go into harms way, if someone is going to shoot at it with real bullets, it needs to be protected from that threat. The BLSI will specify key performance parameters that will protect every Marine operator to a specified minimum level. That level should be established in combat because it will be the goal to ensure that every vehicle system becomes a combat vehicle system. The end result would be a Ground tactical vehicle fleet that became a Ground Combat Vehicle Fleet that is survivable, adaptable and supports operations across across the range of military operations.

This would created a Multi-mission Mult-role Family of Vehicles: RECON, C2, Cargo Truck, Fighting Vehicle. It must be capable of fighting and sustaining among non-linear battlespace. It must be strategically agile and tactically mobile to enable broad range of big M and little M operations. Getting to the battlefield only to by stymied by mines is not good enough. Adversary countries are already purchasing this capability.

The requirement for MRAP is not limited solely to combat operations. The mine and IED threat is pervasive throughout most of the developing world and the vulnerability of US ground tactical vehicles is a liability any time the US deploys. According to the International Committee to Ban Landmines, over 87 countries have a significant landmine or unexploded ordnance (UXO) problems. This coupled with the easy accessibility of mines and other ordnance on the world arms market makes MRAP essential for every Marine vehicle. The enemies of the United States will spare no expense to kill Marines whenever they are given the opportunity.

MRAP vehicles exist today. Companies abroad and in the United States produce MRAP systems, and both Army and Marine Corps engineers are successfully exploiting this technology in Iraq and Afghanistan. MRAP-equipped units that before required dedicated infantry support to complete their mission would now be equipped with a survivable, offensive weapon system that would enable independent operations. MRAP vehicles are inherently offensive in character, built from the ground up to survive a combination of mines, RPGs and small arms fire, and would better support Marine concepts of Ship to Objective Maneuver and the emerging concept of distributed operations.

The cost of acquiring a MRAP vehicle fleet will be significant. However, it is militarily and financially less expensive to acquire MRAP vehicles than to continue to suffer casualties in excess of Vietnam's historical loss rates. Protecting people is cheaper than replacing them in an all-volunteer service. Research by the Math and Statistics branch of the Naval Safety Center incicates that the financial costs associated to casualties should be adjusted upward no less than 250% from its current 1988 baseline to account for the real dollar costs of care and replacement. Adjusted enlisted casualties average $500,000 dollars while officers, depending upon their military occupation range from one to two million dollars each. This means the average light tactical vehicle with one officer and four enlisted personnel is protecting 2.5 million dollars of the DOD's budget. This $2.5 million is real O&M dollars. The argument that "we can't afford armored vehicles" is specious. The opposite is true, at 2.5 million dollars of precious cargo each, the Corps cannot afford UN-armored vehicles.