Staff Sgt. Nicholas Amsberry, an infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, guides a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected all-terrain vehicle in the unit's tactical assembly area during 2012's Operation Buffalo Thunder II in the district of Shorabak, Afghanistan. (Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie / Army)
2003: The Army and Marine Corps use a small number of MRAPs in Iraq and Afghanistan for route clearance and explosive ordnance disposal operations.
2005: Mounting casualties caused by improvised explosive devices increase demand for more heavily armored vehicles such as the MRAP.
2006: The Pentagon launches an unprecedented acquisition program and orders 144 MRAPs. That order will exceed 27,000 vehicles in five years.
2007: 1,525 MRAPs are deployed by year’s end.
2008: Roughly 7,000 vehicles are produced by March — a little more than one year after the contracts were awarded.
2009: The 10,000th Operation Iraqi Freedom MRAP is fielded in Baghdad on Feb. 20.
2010: The Pentagon reports that almost 80 percent of roadside attacks against Humvees proved fatal. Attacks against MRAPs resulted in 15 percent fatalities.
2011: More than 13,600 MRAPs are in Afghanistan at the start of the year.
2012: Production comes to an end Oct. 1. More than 27,000 MRAPs from seven manufacturers have been produced. The average cost is $1 million per vehicle.
Despite budget cuts that put most depot maintenance on hold for months or years and eliminated reset maintenance for all equipment that is not slated to go back to the fight, the Army is finding money to fix mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.
Navistar Defensem, on June 3, was awarded a $9 million modification to a multiyear contract for field services representative support. In January, Navistar was awarded a $10.6 million contract for MRAP maintenance.
What makes those numbers especially interesting is the timing. The Army is about to divest itself of 13,000 MRAPs, or 62 percent, of the fleet. Half of the remaining MRAPs will be kept in Army pre-positioned stocks to support up to four brigades when called upon. The rest will be assigned to undetermined formations as command and control and counter-improvised explosive device vehicles.
“We had 10 different variants, which were very difficult to maintain,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said May 22 in congressional testimony. “So we've got it down to a very few number of variants, the best performing variants. We’ll keep those.”
The Army has not identified the three top performers that will be sticking around, or how many of each model it plans to keep. Those decisions and numbers are in the works and can be likely to hit the streets this summer, said Lt. Col. Peggy Kageleiry, an Army spokeswoman.
The service has 8,199 Navistar MaxxPro variants, by far the lion’s share. There are 5,759 Oshkosh M-ATVs, and 2,874 BAE Systems Caimans.
The Army plan to cut 13,000 vehicles, and a Marine Corps plan to cut 2,800 of its 4,000 MRAPs, have raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill. Few, if any, would argue the vehicle’s value when it comes to protecting troops. But lawmakers have spent $50 billion on the program, and will have fewer than one-third of the vehicles to show for it.
And these plans to divest mark a significant and swift change of course. Just one year ago, the Army planned to place 60 percent in APS, 30 percent in units and use 10 percent for training. A few months later, the plan was to divest 4,000 vehicles. The Marines were planning to keep 2,500, or 63 percent, of its MRAPs.
Money is driving the change, defense leaders said. Maintaining the heavy vehicle, which was designed for a unique environment and strategy, is too costly in a cash-strapped economy.
Still, defense leaders continue to parade the MRAP as a model acquisition program.
Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, on May 23, touted the MRAP as a rapid acquisition model during a news briefing on better buying power.
“One of the things we can do is something that’s kind of related to the rapid acquisition idea. It’s the idea of rapid prototyping,” he said. “It’s a way to hedge against an uncertain future. But we’re not going to be able to afford to do an awful lot of that. It’s a way to protect the industrial base and do things.
“Now, it’s going from our standard acquisition processes to something which is more like, say, the MRAP program, which I think is also implied in that. The MRAP program is a very interesting program. It shows how we can do things quickly of a certain type. The MRAP essentially took a number of commercial components, mostly from trucks, essentially, and put them together into a new package that we could field very quickly. And we did a lot of them in a hurry.”