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Demand grows for strong war trucks

Published March 21, 2007


OSHKOSH, Wis. - A new combat truck with a V-shaped bottom designed to withstand blasts from roadside bombs is performing with such success in Iraq that the U.S. military is pressing a Wisconsin company and others to churn out hundreds more in the coming months.

About 200 prototypes of the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles have been deployed in Iraq since 2004, said Capt. Jeff Landis of the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. No Marine has died while in one of the trucks, Landis said.

"This is the best vehicle available for safety and survivability," he said. "The MRAP vehicle supplies troops with the greatest protection we've had."

Force Protections Industries in Ladson, S.C., built the 200 prototypes. Within the past month, the Pentagon awarded about $210-million in contracts to Force Protections, Oshkosh Truck Corp., and three other companies in the United States and Canada to manufacture nearly 400 more vehicles. Landis said the military hopes to receive them by the end of the year.

The key is the truck's V-shaped steel body, which flares like the hull of a boat, said Joaquin Salas of Oshkosh Truck.

"The shape channels the full force of a blast up the sides of the vehicle rather than through the floor," Salas said. "It's all physics. Vehicles with that shape are extremely effective."

The Pentagon has been criticized for supplying insufficient armor for Humvees, the standard vehicles used for transport. The military has since fitted thousands of Humvees with additional armor. But most of the surfaces on a Humvee's underside are flat, creating a large area that catches the force of land mine blasts.

The new vehicles have tires that can be driven on even when flat.

Commanders in Iraq originally said the military would need 4,100 mine-resistant vehicles, but they raised their request to 6,738 in mid February after seeing how well the trucks protected occupants, Landis said. Those requests are subject to approval by Congress.

In addition to Force Protections and Oshkosh, the other contractors are Protected Vehicles Inc. of North Charleston, S.C.; BAE Systems in Washington; and General Dynamics Land Systems in Ontario, Canada.

[Last modified March 21, 2007, 01:30:35]

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