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Posted: 5/3/2009 8:35:34 AM EDT
MRAPs to get upgrade for Afghanistan

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday May 3, 2009 8:52:20 EDT



The Corps will upgrade mine-resistant vehicles with independent suspension systems for the first time, improving their ability to take the pounding that goes with driving in Afghanistan.

The TAK-4 system used on the Corps’ seven-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement and some civilian fire trucks will be installed on four-wheeled and six-wheeled Cougar Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, Marine officials said. The Corps has purchased about 1,500 TAK-4 systems tailored for MRAPs for $158 million from vehicle maker Force Protection Industries Inc., and could begin installing the hardware in the next few months, company officials said.

“The independent suspension solution provides greater operational flexibility to the field commanders and also makes the … MRAPs even more viable solutions for the harsher off-road environment” in Afghanistan, said Cheryl Irwin, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s Joint MRAP Program Office.

The purchase of the TAK-4 systems comes as the Pentagon works to field the new MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle, a smaller, lighter MRAP designed specifically for Afghanistan. Officials had planned to field them by June, but may experience delays because in early April one of the competitors for the M-ATV contract, Navistar International Corp., lodged an undisclosed complaint with the Government Accountability Office about the selection process.

The two major benefits of the TAK-4 are its ability to carry heavy loads and the way it allows wheels to cushion bumps by extending and contracting vertically by 16 inches, keeping the wheels against the ground over rocky terrain, said Steve Zink, vice president of defense for Oshkosh Defense, which supplies the TAK-4 to Force Protection, maker of the Cougar.

“We have about 16 inches of wheel travel [between the tire and the wheel well], and that wheel travel provides off-road mobility and improved ride quality that allows Marines to arrive at their destination less fatigued,” Zink said.

Pentagon officials began working with defense manufacturers to overhaul the Cougar’s suspension system in August and are expected to upgrade suspension systems for other variants of the MRAP in coming years, Zink said.

Force Protection anticipates the MRAP Joint Program Office will want the work completed on forward operating bases, most likely beginning in the next few months and continuing in 2010, said Tommy Pruitt, the company’s senior communications director.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 8:37:19 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/3/2009 8:38:06 AM EDT by DarkCharisma]
Eugh, off-roaders spend time and money getting rid of IS, and the military spends time and money to get it put ON to the rigs.  Granted the IRS/IFS systems usually have portal boxes and overbuilt components, but strength and articulation is always less...

It's probably difficult to sufficiently up-armor hanging Rockwells though.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 9:09:09 AM EDT
Originally Posted By DarkCharisma:
Eugh, off-roaders spend time and money getting rid of IS, and the military spends time and money to get it put ON to the rigs.  Granted the IRS/IFS systems usually have portal boxes and overbuilt components, but strength and articulation is always less...

It's probably difficult to sufficiently up-armor hanging Rockwells though.


I believe that you're thinking about a different sort of "off-roading" ... the fast off-road racers all use IS, AFAIK.

The military isn't interested in rock crawling as much as it is interested in being mobile in a very rough terrain environment with few to no improved roads.  Troops would never get anywhere if they were rock crawling at 5mph.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 9:13:09 AM EDT
Originally Posted By ShakenNotStirred:
Originally Posted By DarkCharisma:
Eugh, off-roaders spend time and money getting rid of IS, and the military spends time and money to get it put ON to the rigs.  Granted the IRS/IFS systems usually have portal boxes and overbuilt components, but strength and articulation is always less...

It's probably difficult to sufficiently up-armor hanging Rockwells though.


I believe that you're thinking about a different sort of "off-roading" ... the fast off-road racers all use IS, AFAIK.

The military isn't interested in rock crawling as much as it is interested in being mobile in a very rough terrain environment with few to no improved roads.  Troops would never get anywhere if they were rock crawling at 5mph.




Right, but those trophy trucks are almost all 2wd. The few 4wd trophy trucks lack the travel and strength of the 2wd or solid-axled counterparts.

With portal boxes I'm sure the odds of parts breaking due to stress is considerably lower. It just makes me chuckle that I am spending all this time and money to build axles and a coilover solid front setup for my half-ton, and the military is spending money to get rid of them.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 9:16:06 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/3/2009 9:19:24 AM EDT by maxell27]
If you have ever ridden in an MRAP it is like riding in a dump truck.  The suspension sucks.

The vehicle is heavy.  When we go over rough terrain the vehicle takes a beating as well as the crew.  It limits mobility and the ability to chase down insurgents.

Max
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 9:20:15 AM EDT
Originally Posted By maxell27:
If you have ever ridden in an MRAP it is like riding in a dump truck.  The suspension sucks.

The vehicle is heavy.  When we go over rough terrain the vehicle takes a beating as well as the crew.  It limits mobility and the ability to chase down insurgents.

Also the vehicle is prone to roll overs.  Hopefully with the suspension upgrades, it will reduce that.

Max


One of the solutions to the beating on the crew is the SOCOM seats.  Well sprung and with gel pads they are the BOMB when it comes to seats.  I got to ride on the hard rubber seats in the back, myself, and my kidneys told me about it later.  In fact, I have a cyst on one of them . . . hmmm . . .
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 9:21:43 AM EDT
Originally Posted By maxell27:
If you have ever ridden in an MRAP it is like riding in a dump truck.  The suspension sucks.

The vehicle is heavy.  When we go over rough terrain the vehicle takes a beating as well as the crew.  It limits mobility and the ability to chase down insurgents.

Also the vehicle is prone to roll overs.  Hopefully with the suspension upgrades, it will reduce that.

Max



This^

Articles about the new mini MRAP with 4 wheel independent suspension  specifically for Afghanistan ops adress the roll over problem in that terrain with the standard dump/cement truck chassis based MRAP's.

The European cabover trucks I drove in fuel convoys in Iraq were sprung like log/cement/dump trucks. They would beat you to death on MSR Tampa/Jackson, etc....I can only imagine MRAPS in Afghanistan.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 9:21:52 AM EDT
this is cool
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 9:24:16 AM EDT
Originally Posted By maxell27:
If you have ever ridden in an MRAP it is like riding in a dump truck.  The suspension sucks.

The vehicle is heavy.  When we go over rough terrain the vehicle takes a beating as well as the crew.  It limits mobility and the ability to chase down insurgents.

Max


Yep.  And, having speed bumps every 100 meters doesn't help any.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 9:25:24 AM EDT
For 95% of the off roading people do an IFS is perfectly fine.
But mall cruisers sure look better with a solid axle all chromed out.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 1:09:43 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/3/2009 1:10:21 PM EDT by brokensky]
Originally Posted By SPECTRE:
For 95% of the off roading people do an IFS is perfectly fine.
But mall cruisers sure look better with a solid axle all chromed out.


Until you run a protruding tree root into one of the rubber boots.  Or pack the shaft in mud and watch it rip the boot(s) to pieces and foul the joint.  Oh, maintaining wheel alignment is always fun too with IFS.

I wonder about the blast resistance of IFS in the MIL application.  Swapping in a new axle assembly would be faster than chopping out all the bent A arms and axle shafts with the IFS assembly.  Vehicle would be back in service faster, it would seem.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 1:12:10 PM EDT
Originally Posted By brokensky:
Originally Posted By SPECTRE:
For 95% of the off roading people do an IFS is perfectly fine.
But mall cruisers sure look better with a solid axle all chromed out.


Until you run a protruding tree root into one of the rubber boots.  Or pack the shaft in mud and watch it rip the boot(s) to pieces and foul the joint.  Oh, maintaining wheel alignment is always fun too with IFS.

I wonder about the blast resistance of IFS in the MIL application.  Swapping in a new axle assembly would be faster than chopping out all the bent A arms and axle shafts with the IFS assembly.  Vehicle would be back in service faster, it would seem.



It would, however the main concern seems to be high speed stability and not pounding the soldiers into ground beef, so maybe that's downtime they're willing to risk?  Then again you can have IFS laying at your feet in burning piles within 20 minutes if you have a plasma cutter.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 1:41:41 PM EDT
Originally Posted By DarkCharisma:

It would, however the main concern seems to be high speed stability and not pounding the soldiers into ground beef, so maybe that's downtime they're willing to risk?  Then again you can have IFS laying at your feet in burning piles within 20 minutes if you have a plasma cutter.


Yep, and then you get to deal with the bent/destroyed suspension towers that weld directly to the frame.  Those would have to be cut out and replaced in perfect alignment before you can install replacement arms and axle half shafts.  Otherwise, the vehicle will become impossible to align and happily eat tires.

Air ride seats would seem to be better answer to the harsh ride issue.  Will be interesting to see some aftermath photos of these converted vehicles in the coming months.  Do any of these vehicles presently have IFS from the factory?

Link Posted: 5/3/2009 1:46:30 PM EDT
Ive hit the ceiling a few times going over bumps.  The standard suspension was abysmal even on small stuff.

Link Posted: 5/3/2009 1:50:08 PM EDT
As bizzare as this sounds, have they looked at a Twin Traction Beam set up?  It actually sounds like it would work well in this specific application.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 1:52:21 PM EDT
Originally Posted By maxell27:
If you have ever ridden in an MRAP it is like riding in a dump truck.  The suspension sucks.

The vehicle is heavy.  When we go over rough terrain the vehicle takes a beating as well as the crew.  It limits mobility and the ability to chase down insurgents.

Max



I always thought of an MRAP as a Cement Mixer with an armored box where the Cement Hopper goes.  
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 1:58:58 PM EDT
Hopefully someone will video tape themselves ghost-riding the MRAP on rough terrain.  That I would like to see.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 2:03:26 PM EDT
MRAP?

On Afghan terrain?

This should be good.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 2:14:05 PM EDT
The USMC figures it owns enough MRAPs and just wants to comvert the ones they have now.  IIRC the USMC isn't buying the newest version which has independent suspension.

Realize that the US military has been running independent suspension for decades now, so it has plenty of institutional knowledge on it.  There are other reasons to go to independent suspension, the crew ride being one.  With all the high-speed commo/electronics/computers/etc they pack in each one of those things, reducing the overall vibrations to the vehicle has become a priority.  Any vehicle armed with something like a CROWs, or other weapons systems will have far fewer problems on a vehicle with less jarring as well.  Independent suspension also tends to provide an increase in capability without changing ride height much.  That gets pretty important in transport aircraft, ships, landing craft, rail cars, etc.  The reduction in rollovers hasn't been as important in Iraq as it will in Afghanistan due to terrain.  These types of vehicles have always had a bad rollover problem going way back to the mine resistant Buffalos, etc. used in Africa back in the day.  

The US might be slightly complicating one part of the vehicle by using independent suspension, but the move will probably result in an overall increase in effectiveness of the total package.  It's not just how fast you get from point A to point B.  The military has used independent suspension since at least the M151 jeep and later the Humvee, so it's not like it doesn't have any idea what it's getting into.  The company providing the kits to the Marine Corps has been working with the Army and Marines from the begining of the program to make any and all changes needed to increase the MRAP's capability.  So odds are pretty high the actual product is something that had alot of service input as well.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 2:18:15 PM EDT
The terrain in A-stan is UGLY.
It will beat you and your vehicles half to death.
We always used to have at least one vehicle breakdown on mission just because the terrain was that damn ugly.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 2:18:51 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Frost7:
MRAP?

On Afghan terrain?

This should be good.


I know 24 MEU, 2/7 and 3/8 (plus a shit ton of army units) have tried it and it doesn't work too well.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 2:20:44 PM EDT
Originally Posted By R0N:
Originally Posted By Frost7:
MRAP?

On Afghan terrain?

This should be good.


I know 24 MEU, 2/7 and 3/8 (plus a shit ton of army units) have tried it and it doesn't work too well.

They should just use Brads while they're at it.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 2:25:48 PM EDT
They should spend more time trying to get a real suspension for the solid axles instead of the crap that is on it...

IFS is NOT a good way to go for offroad..
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 2:30:36 PM EDT
Originally Posted By brokensky:
Originally Posted By DarkCharisma:

It would, however the main concern seems to be high speed stability and not pounding the soldiers into ground beef, so maybe that's downtime they're willing to risk?  Then again you can have IFS laying at your feet in burning piles within 20 minutes if you have a plasma cutter.


Yep, and then you get to deal with the bent/destroyed suspension towers that weld directly to the frame.  Those would have to be cut out and replaced in perfect alignment before you can install replacement arms and axle half shafts.  Otherwise, the vehicle will become impossible to align and happily eat tires.

Air ride seats would seem to be better answer to the harsh ride issue.  Will be interesting to see some aftermath photos of these converted vehicles in the coming months.  Do any of these vehicles presently have IFS from the factory?




The humvee uses full independent suspension w/ portals. I've worked on a few that are owned by local search and rescue units come back smashed to hell, but the suspension components seems to stay intact pretty well.
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