By Emelie Rutherford
The Pentagon is expected to order 1,610 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in coming days, though the $1.7 billion purchase will not include the next-generation MRAP II vehicles, sources said.
"It’s definite" the MRAP II vehicles will not be included in the order, likely to be placed with multiple companies, one Pentagon source said. The delivery orders must be made no later than July 15, to avoid a production break, sources said.
Pentagon acquisition executive John Young told reporters last month that it was not clear if testing on the MRAP II vehicles–larger trucks more resistant to explosively formed penetrators (EFPs)–will be wrapped up in time for the July order. He also said any need for the vehicles will be driven by theater feedback.
"Those vehicles are heavier, they’re going to be more costly, and so the theater will have to send the demand signals," Young said at the time.
Yet the services "have no requirement for the larger vehicles," a source said this week.
Since the MRAP II effort got underway, some first-generation MRAPs have been outfit with extra armor, to protect from EFPs, via engineering change proposals (ECPs).
Pentagon Comptroller Tina Jonas notified lawmakers on July 3 that the Defense Department intended to transfer $1.737 billion out of its MRAP Vehicle Fund for FY ’08 to buy 1,576 vehicles for the Army and 34 for Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
"The transfer also provides equipment for vehicles and upgrades such as mobility and survivability enhancements for vehicles already procured," Jonas wrote in letters to the congressional defense and appropriations committees’ leaders.
The funds will cover government furnished equipment (GFE) for the Army vehicles including radios for communication, Driver’s Vision Enhancer (DVE) for troops to drive at night without night-vision goggles, and Blue Force Tracker (BFT) tools that provide the location of friendly forces during combat operations, according to a Pentagon document detailing the MRAP money transfer.
For the SOCOM vehicles, the monies will fund the same GFE, as well as "Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) systems for high resolution thermal imaging capability [and] ROVER III portable terminals for video situational awareness," the document says.
The forthcoming vehicle order will bring the Army’s MRAP tally to 12,000, and potentially could be the final order in the high-profile program to field the blast-resistant vehicles to theater that began in November 2006.
The Army’s current MRAP requirement–approved by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) in March–is a range of 10,433 to 15,884 vehicles, with a target of 12,000. The overall MRAP requirement for all of the services — most of which have ordered all their planned vehicles–is thus also a range, from just over 14,000 vehicles to just under 20,000.
Young said last month the July order "could be the end of the program," and a July 3 Pentagon press release states: "The final contract order for MRAP vehicles is expected later in the summer, bringing the overall total more than 15,000 vehicles in the current build-up."
Yet Young and Pentagon sources have noted that theater needs for MRAPs could change. Congressional sources also pointed this week to the potential for an increased MRAP need later this year because of heightened focus on the war in Afghanistan.
The FY ’08 MRAP Vehicle Fund is left with $400 million after the $1.737 billion transfer.
Companies that have been building MRAPs include BAE Systems, International Military and Government (IMG), Force Protection Industries [FRPT], and General Dynamics [GD].