You Want MRAPs? Too Bad!
Army planners warn soldiers they might not get life-saving vehicles in future battles
Army officials say that in the future, certain troops in armored brigades shouldn’t expect to get Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles—better known as MRAPs.
Lt. Col. William Kepley and Stephen Harper make these comments in the most recent edition of Army Sustainment, the Army’s internal publication for truck drivers and other support personnel.
The authors offer a glimpse into possible amnesiac plans for these life-saving trucks—and the hazards soldiers could face if they have to ride in less well-protected vehicles.
Both men work at the ground branch’s Training and Doctrine Command. TRADOC develops the Army’s core rules and regulations for training and warfare.
However, the article does not necessarily reflect any official policy. Sustainment says the articles do not reflect the opinions of DOD or the Army and do not change what is contained in official manuals.
No MRAPs for you
“If an [Armored Brigade Combat Team] is ordered to deploy, the odds are that it will deploy with its own equipment,” Kepley and Harper write. In short, if you don’t already have MRAPs, tough luck.
Of course, the Army never planned for MRAPs to be a permanent part of the force even as the Pentagon began buying tens of thousands of them starting in 2007. The military assigned the vehicles to almost all units headed to Iraq and Afghanistan, cost be damned.
The MRAPs’ angular hulls and special armor mix helped protect against deadly roadside bombs, saving potentially thousands of lives. But the million-dollar vehicles were an expensive ad hoc solution to an urgent problem. Early on, the Army gave little thought to what it would do with the trucks after the wars.
In 2011, the ground branch did imply that it would try to make the MRAPs a permanent part of selected logistics brigades and medical, route-clearance and bomb-disposal units. The Army said it would add the trucks “as feasible” to some units’ Modified Tables of Order and Equipment.
MTOEs are official Army documents that describe the total number of personnel, vehicles, weapons and other equipment any certain type of unit gets. The ground combat branch regularly adds or subtracts items from these charts.
But units whose organizational charts don’t now include MRAPs can’t assume they’ll get the trucks in the future, even in the event of a wartime deployment. “Units will not likely draw and sign for a fleet of [MRAPs] if they are not authorized on the MTOE,” Kepley and Harper write.
Still, the Army plans to keep thousands MRAPs in storage, for use in extreme emergencies. The government is disposing of thousands more of the war-weary trucks, selling or donating them to other agencies and foreign allies. Leftover MRAPs are destined for the scrap heap.
You’ll use the guns we give you
Instead of riding in purpose-built MRAPs, in the future truck drivers are supposed to add bolt-on armor and gun mounts to their regular trucks to make them suitable for combat, according to Kepley and Harper.
There are serious problems with this idea.
For one, there are no gun mounts for two of the Army’s newest heavy trucks. According to the article in Sustainment, the ground branch doesn’t actually have a formal requirement to put weapons on these trucks at all—but is trying to solve the problem anyway, out of the sheer goodness of its institutional heart.
Secondly, the Army’s next generation of add-on armor was never intended to provide the same level of protection against bombs that MRAPs offer. None of these kits add the critical, blast-deflecting, v-shaped hull that is the major feature on MRAPs.
Kepley and Harper insist that it’s critical for units “to train with their own equipment to provide convoy security [before they deploy].” TRADOC apparently worries that convoys can’t carry vital supplies if their soldiers are busy defending each other in MRAPs.
By the authors’ rationale, military truck drivers should try to defend themselves if attacked—and promptly call for other forces to help out.
Both men seem to forget that this kind of optimistic thinking got hundreds of truckers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan … and resulted in the emergency demand for MRAPs after six years of bloody warfare. The unique trucks replaced motley fleets of improvised gun trucks.
The ground branch would be effectively setting itself up for failure by telling its troops to go to war in the future with the same kinds of vehicles it had before Iraq and Afghanistan. As though those conflicts never happened at all.