MRAPs and COIN

Christian Lowe at Military.com reports that Marine Corps commanders in Iraq are asking the Pentagon to slow down the deployment of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. Corps commanders were quoted as saying they needed more time to figure out how to best employ the vehicle as they are four-times heavier than up-armored Humvees and may require a whole new set of tactics to operate effectively in a counterinsurgency environment.

Lowe quotes analysts with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA):

The MRAP has yet to prove its place in future service equipment plans. The gas-guzzling MRAP could impose a strain on logistics, suck funding away from needed vehicle upgrades in the future and could run counter to the intent of counterinsurgency doctrine, which stresses close contact with the population.

But retired Army Colonel Robert Killebrew, a former Special Forces officer and Department of Defense consultant disagrees:

I generally agree with the purchase of MRAPs in large numbers... I find unpersuasive the argument that MRAP will have some kind of doctrinal impact on the conduct of the war in Iraq.

It will have no effect at all on the current tactics of putting troops out on the beat and on their feet taking on insurgents in Baghdad and elsewhere...

Of IEDs and MRAPs: Force Protection In Complex Irregular Operations co-authored by Andrew Krepinevich and Dakota Wood was released by CSBA on 17 October.

About the report:

Simple solutions to complex problems are inherently attractive and almost always wrong. So it is with the Pentagon's recent decision to enter into "crash" production of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicles, or MRAPs. Political and military leaders are currently grappling with this problem, which can be summed up as: How much to invest in a new system that appears to provide enhanced protection for troops against the most common, lethal threat in Iraq, without undermining either the ability of the force to conduct the current mission set before it, or the ability to remain effective across the range of missions and operating environments it will also have to be ready for in the years ahead?

This paper's purpose is not to offer a definitive answer to this question; rather, it seeks to ensure that the issues relevant to arriving at a good decision are given proper consideration. Those readers seeking a specific recommendation regarding the overall mix of armored vehicles in the US military's ground force structure will not find it here. However, those who are interested in how to think about the issue in their efforts to reach their own conclusions will hopefully find what follows to be useful.

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