CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – The armored carrier has a grim black slash across its side, burn marks on the door and a web of cracks along the window.
Like most of the Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in Anbar province, this one has been hit as many as three times by enemy fire and bomb blasts. Yet, to date, no American troops have died while riding in one.
About $3 billion for the vehicles is tied up in the legislation. The spending plan has stalled because of a dispute over provisions that would set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. [emphasis added]
At a hearing last month, lawmakers urged the Army to get more of the carriers to the battlefront as quickly as possible. The vehicles, with their unique V-shaped hull that deflects blasts outward and away from passengers, are considered lifesavers against the No. 1 killer in Iraq – roadside bombs. [emphasis added]
Military leaders say the carriers have reduced roadside bomb casualties in Iraq by as much as two-thirds. But they are not effective against the enemy’s latest weapon – explosively formed penetrators…As the Pentagon scrapes to find the money to run the war in the midst of the budget impasse, the Pentagon says there is not enough cash to buy as many as commanders say they need.
“We can build what we can get the funds to build. It’s strictly an issue of money,” Gen. Peter Schoomaker, former Army chief of staff, told a Senate committee last month.
He said the Army believes “that not only do we need the MRAP immediately to give us better protection, but that we need to stay on a path to get an even better vehicle than the MRAP for the long haul, because the enemy is going to continue to adapt.”
Senators pressed for more. “We’re buying far too few of them,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. “If we have that capability, why would we not do everything to mobilize, to move as many of them into the field as is possible?
Additional orders cannot be placed until the disagreement over the war spending legislation is settled…[emphasis added]
Out on the dusty roads in Anbar province, Marines say the carriers have proved their worth.
This month, Marine Staff Sgt. Tim Kessler said, Marines were riding in one and took a hit from a small roadside bomb. The blast blew a tire, and it took them more than 90 minutes to limp back to base, but no one was hurt. Days earlier, a carrier with six Marines was hit by two blasts; two Marines had broken bones, but they all survived.
“It’s an extremely survivable vehicle. I guarantee it saves lives,” said Kessler. Pointing to the scars on the side of the MRAP, he added that had they been riding in a Humvee or something else, “they would all be dead.”[emphasis added]
Note: these vehicles would be a big help (obviously), but should also not be considered some kind of magic bullet as they remain vulnerable to the Iranian imported (and/or facilitated) EFPs. It is also worth noting that Sen. Dorgan is a supporter of the surrender bill.
Ending on the positive:
1. A big facilitator in EFP importation and implementation has been nabbed.
2. The mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings was captured while trying to enter Iraq.
UPDATE: See also Pentagon says funding fight affecting war effort