February 11, 2015: Strategy page
The United States is providing the 21,000 AU (African Union) peacekeepers in Somalia with twenty MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles to provide peacekeepers with additional protection while patrolling areas where mines and roadside bombs are still a problem. These MRAPs will replace older (late 1980s vintage) and lighter Casspir vehicles. These are from South Africa which is where the modern MRAP design was invented and for over a decade Casspir vehicles were among the best MRAP type vehicles you could get.
The U.S. is apparently providing a much newer design, the M-ATV (MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle) to the Somalia peacekeepers. These are refurbished after service in Afghanistan and more can be sent if needed. M-ATV is a 15 ton, 4x4 (with independent wheel suspension) armored vehicle. Payload is 1.8 tons, and it can carry five passengers (including a gunner). Top speed is 105 kilometers an hour, and road range on internal fuel is 515 kilometers. The M-ATV is slightly larger than a hummer. An M-ATV costs about $800,000, not including transportation. It cost about $150,000 each to fly one into Afghanistan.
The M-ATV design was heavily influenced by earlier American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. This includes much better off road capabilities. After 2009 several thousand M-ATVs were sent to Afghanistan and troops found that the M-ATV can safely handle a lot of cross country travel that would be dangerous for a conventional MRAP. But, like taking a tracked vehicle (like a tank) off road, you can't just drive it anywhere. Even a tracked vehicle will flip, or lose a track (hit an obstacle that will tear the tracks from the wheels) if you don't drive carefully. Same deal with the M-ATV. Off the road, this is a more stable and forgiving MRAP, and commanders are coming up with new tactics to take advantage of it. The enemy can no longer assume all MRAPs will stay on the road.
The M-ATV design improved on the fact that all other MRAPs were, after all, just heavy trucks. The basic MRAP capsule design produces a high center of gravity that makes the vehicles prone to flipping over easily. They are also large vehicles, causing maneuverability problems when going through narrow streets. Most MRAPs don't have a lot of torque, being somewhat underpowered for their size. And, being wheeled vehicles, they are not very good at cross country movement (especially considering the high center of gravity.) The M-ATV was designed to deal with all of these problems.
The rush to get MRAPs to Afghanistan is all about reducing casualties. Anyone in these vehicles is much less likely to be killed by a roadside bomb. The math is simple. If all the troops who encountered these bombs were in a MRAP, casualties would be about 65 percent less. About two-thirds of all casualties in Afghanistan are from roadside bombs. Thus these vehicles reduced overall casualties by about a third.