The Army in November awarded BAE Systems a $37.6 million contract to provide the spare parts and kits needed to convert 250 Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles into trucks for bomb disposal teams.
It is another sign of life for the massive tactical wheeled vehicles that were rushed into the field to respond to the roadside bomb threat in Iraq during the previous decade.
The 250 RG33 trucks that will be converted at the Letterkinny Army Depot in Pennsylvania into vehicles that are designed for explosive ordnance disposal teams shows that they may not all be white elephants.
“We are just scratching the surface of what our MRAPs can do,” said Bob Walsh, vice president and general manager of Navistar Defense, one of the contractors that answered the call to rapidly field the armored trucks during the last decade.
“Before going out to buy a new vehicle, look at the MRAPs. It will be a lot more affordable to change the configuration of these vehicles versus buying a brand new vehicle,” he said.
The $45 billion effort to rapidly field a new blast-resistant truck produced some 20,000 vehicles. Production ended last year, but upgrades are still being done as fighting continues in Afghanistan. The vehicles in the Army have transitioned to a “program of record.” Some are headed for scrap yards. A few will be left in brigades as troop transports, and for training. As much as 60 percent of them will be put in mothballs. Some surplus MRAPs could find life in foreign militaries, or even be given to local law enforcement special weapons and tactics teams.
Oshkosh Corp., maker of the MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle, the variant quickly produced to fill off-road mission requirements in the rough terrain of Afghanistan, inked a deal to sell 750 of them to the United Arab Emirates. Navistar also continues to market its MaxxPro to overseas customers.
Walsh said all the money in the MRAPs was put into survivability to defeat roadside bombs. The highly protected capsules can be swapped out easily. He foresees the trucks being converted to a myriad of uses. They could host computer servers and become command posts, for example. Navistar is in the process of upgrading some of its old MRAPS with rigid axels to ones with independent suspensions to handle more off-road missions.
Michael Clow, spokesman for the Army’s Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support, which now oversees MRAPs, said the new contract work is on top of an order to convert 750 RG31 MRAPs into medium mine protected vehicles to support engineer units in route and area clearance operations.
BAE will provide a rear ramp — used for the deployment of remotely operated unmanned ground vehicles — in route and area clearance missions, and a new heating and air conditioning system for the vehicle.
Clow said the Army may not be done repurposing MRAPs.
“The Army continues to evaluate future force structure requirements and the best mix of assets to satisfy those needs — this could potentially include currently fielded MRAPs, additional MRAP improvements, and potential other uses for these vehicles.”
They could also be available for “contingency responses,” he said. Photo Credit: BAE Systems