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MRAP Confusion

4:29 PM, Jan 26, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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We've been beating up the New York Times a bit over their report earlier this week of the first death of a U.S. soldier in an MRAP, the heavily-armored vehicles that offer increased protection against IEDs. See here, here, and here for background, but the problem with the Times report is that several soldiers had been killed, prior to this incident, in BAE's RG-31 MRAP and also in Force Protection's Buffalo MRAP.

The apparent contradiction stems from the fact that MNF-I, the source for the story, now claims that the BAE RG-31 is not an MRAP, causing considerable confusion here and at BAE, which clearly labels the truck as an MRAP on its website (requests for information from the company provided no further explanation). Stars & Stripes attempts to clarify:

"This is the first death resulting from an IED attack on an MRAP," said Rear Adm. Greg Smith, a spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq, in a statement Tuesday.

However, servicemembers have been killed in older versions of MRAP vehicles before Saturday, said Michael Aldrich of Force Protection Industries, which makes MRAP vehicles.

In November 2006, three servicemembers were killed in an older version of an MRAP vehicle known as the Buffalo, and in the summer 2007, two servicemembers were killed when a Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicle was hit by an explosively formed penetrator, Aldrich said Tuesday.

In May 2007, the Defense Department stood up an MRAP task force to send newer versions of the MRAP vehicle downrange as quickly as possible. Since then, 1,463 MRAP vehicles have been delivered to U.S. troops in Iraq, as of Jan. 16.

So anyone killed in an "old" version of MRAP, i.e. those delivered before June of last year, is not being counted by MNF-I? This seems like a pretty arbitrary distinction. I am told that later models of the RG-31 do have thicker side armor to provide greater protection, but apparently MNF-I does not consider any version of RG-31 to be an MRAP (see Update:x2 here).

Now a friend sends along this tidbit:

On page 53 of the 23 January 2008 Balcony Brief delivered to the Chief of Staff of the Army, it was noted that 50 + RG31 MK5 MRAPs were on their way from South Africa from Kuwait. ON the PAO page it noted the leading Army story was "First MRAP Death."

And of course, when the Army reports to Congress on the status of the high-profile program, it does include all MRAP vehicles in its tally. Secretary of the Army Pete Geren told Congress in November that "by the end of April 2008, we project that we will have fielded almost 4,100 MRAPs." It's all very confusing.