Mideast edition, Tuesday, July 3, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — Get ready for 2008: the year of the MRAP.

The Army plans to buy up to 17,700 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, known as MRAPs, which have proved to take blasts from roadside bombs much better than up-armored Humvees.

While the Army estimates that it won’t be until July 2009 that all of the MRAPs could be manufactured, the Army wants to send as many as possible downrange next year, said Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Carl Ey.

“It’s important that the Army supports the warfighter as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” Ey said.

USA Today first reported on Monday that the Joint Requirements Oversight Council approved up to 17,700 MRAPs for the Army. Until now, the Army had been approved for 2,500 of the vehicles.

Ey confirmed that JROC approved the MRAP purchases for the Army, but he added that does not mean the Army will get all 17,700 MRAPs.

The MRAPs will likely be a one-for-one swap with up-armored Humvees in theater, with most expected to go to Multi-National Corps–Iraq, Ey said.

“The vehicles will go into theater and the commander on the ground will decide where they go,” he said.

The Army expects that all 17,700 MRAPs could be produced by July 2009.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that companies that have been awarded MRAP contracts are ramping up production and are expected to be able to produce “many hundreds a month” within the next few months.

Gates also stressed the need to get MRAPs to troops quickly.

“For every month we delay, scores of young Americans are going to die,” he said Friday.

Gates has made getting MRAPs to troops in Iraq a top priority.

When the Army initially requested only 2,500 of the vehicles, Gates sent acting Army Secretary Pete Geren a memo noting the disparity between the Army and Marine Corps’ approaches toward buying MRAPs.

The Corps, which has ordered 3,700 MRAPs, felt a “moral imperative” to put all Marines and sailors in the vehicles despite the cost because the vehicles provide much more protection against roadside bombs than do up-armored Humvees, said Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway in March.

“The MRAP program should be considered the highest priority of the Department of Defense acquisition program and any and all options to accelerate the production and fielding of this capability to the theater should be identified, assessed and applied where feasible,” Gates wrote in his May 2 memo to Geren.

Geren responded in a follow-up memo saying that MNC-I had requested the 17,700 MRAPs.

Last month, JROC allocated 1,200 MRAPs to the Army.

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