The U.S. military learned a painful lesson during its Iraqi operations: Don’t send troops into danger in unarmored vehicles. Cheap IEDs proved a significant challenge to high-priced and capable, but woefully under-armored supply trucks and Humvees. The solution was to armor vehicles on the front lines.
Today, the Army faces a new round of challenges in Afghanistan. Hostile forces have ready access to IEDs, and the terrain is practically impassable for the heavily armored military vehicles that eventually worked well in Iraq. The solution this time is an upgrade to a current midsized military transport that can shrug off mine attacks and operate off-road over rough terrain.
After a quick competition between four vehicles, the Army chose the M-ATV from Oshkosh Defense, Oshkosh, Wis. (M-ATV is short for MRAP-ATV which stands for mine-resistant ambush-protected all-terrain vehicle.)
The key to the M-ATV is its in- Afghanistan battlefields demand vehicles that can navigate rocky, unpaved mountain paths and survive IED attacks. dependent TAK-4 front suspension, a big step up from straight axles. It gives the wheels 16-in. of travel, enough to get over boulders, downed trees, and other obstacles. The suspension’s 4×4 configuration gives the M-ATV a shorter hull which makes it more maneuverable and agile. The suspension also reduces stopping distance (by up to 24% in some trucks) and helps tires hug the ground for better cornering and handling.
The military has long been satisfied with TAK-4 equipped vehicles, having purchased and battle tested over 10,000 tactical trucks carrying it. Oshkosh and military managers have figured the suspension is well suited for the M-ATV which should spend 70% of its time off-road and the other 30% on roads and highways.
A Caterpillar C7 diesel engine running through an Allison automatic transmission will power the 450k to 500k miles. (This means 50% of the engines should last 450k to 500k miles.)
To protect the crew and passengers, the vehicle will be outfitted with relatively lightweight composite armor from Plasan, an Israeli firm with facilities in Vermont. It combines metal composites, ceramics, and high-pressure fibers to protect against small arms, IEDs, and mines. The armor is already in use on more than 5,000 Army and Marine tactical vehicles in theater.
370-hp, Caterpillar C7
Allison 3500 SP
4×4 TAK-4 independent
Four passengers & one gunner
Michelin 395/85r20 xzl
|The M-ATV from Oshkosh Defense is sized to be carried inside C-130 transport airplanes, as well as CH-53 and CH-47 helicopters. The five-person vehicle replaces the Humvee which was not factory armored nor capable of heavy-duty off-road terrains.|
The M-ATV will also be riding on run-flat tires, letting it travel up to 50 miles at 30 mph after taking several hits in two of its tires. The engine, by the way, should be able to survive a 7.62-mm round in the oil, coolant, or fuel-storage systems and still run long enough to get 1 km away.
The other candidates
When the Army first went looking for its M-ATV, it issued specifications that included:
The Army evaluated vehicles from BAE Systems, Force Protection, Navistar Defense, and Oshkosh Defense before choosing the Oshkosh model.
Though the M-ATV does not travel over the water, it will carry the Electronic Keel from Synexxus, Arlington, Va. It’s an information- distribution system (also called a information backplane) based on a 1-Gbyte LAN and open-standard network architecture. (It could’ve gotten its name from being used on the Defense Dept.’s largest carbon-fiber high-speed ship.) In the past, power and cramped space restricted what could be added to smaller vehicles. The E-Keel removes these limitations and simplifies maintenance. The plug-and-play E-Keel can also be quickly updated or changed to suit new missions and threats.
Fast tracked program
The Pentagon initially wanted to order for 10,000 M-ATVs from a prime contractor, with an initial order for 2,080 granted by May of this year. Contractors would have to guarantee production of at least of 100 M-ATVs/month and be able to ramp up to 1,000/month if needed. A review of four competing vehicles slowed things but just a little. In June, the government contracted with Oshkosh Defense to deliver 2,244 M-ATVs for a cost of $1.05 billion, or a little under $470,000 apiece. Since then, Oshkosh has taken advantage of its flexible manufacturing line to begin turning out M-ATVs in June, which means the Army could start testing production models in July. The plan is to deploy them in Afghanistan by fall.