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ARLINGTON, Va. — More than 1,500 Mine Resistant Ambush Resistant vehicles are expected to be downrange as of Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

The MRAPs have V-shaped hulls that deflect blasts from underneath, providing better protection than up-armored Humvees. But MRAP vehicles also are often too large to go off-road, into confined spaces and cross bridges.

Defense officials had said the department’s goal was to deliver 1,500 MRAP vehicles to the U.S. Central Command theater of operations by the end of the year.

“Our hope is on or about Dec. 20, we will exceed that number,” Morrell told reporters Wednesday.

Defense officials have delivered 1,330 MRAPs to theater as of Dec. 17, with another 180 vehicles enroute by sea and 15 more vehicles being airlifted downrange, he said.

Morrell said not all of the vehicles delivered downrange will be fielded to troops by the end of the year, it would be close to 1,500.

Morrell’s comments came one day after Defense officials placed their latest order for MRAP vehicles, asking for 3,126 more of the heavily armored vehicles. Those would be in addition to the 8,800 vehicles already under contract this year.

In October, a senior Defense official told reporters that the Defense Department planned to order 6,500 of the vehicles in December.

Asked if the Defense Department had decided to curtail MRAP orders, Morrell said no and noted that commanders in Afghanistan have requested more.

The plan is still to get more than 15,000 MRAP vehicles to all branches of the service, and that number could increase, Morrell said.

However, the fervor surrounding MRAPs seems to have cooled since earlier this year.

In March, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway told reporters it was a moral imperative to get all Marines and sailors going outside the wire in Iraq into MRAPs. In May, Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote a memo calling the MRAP program “the highest priority of the Department of Defense acquisition program.”

But at the end of November, the Corps scaled back its request for MRAPs due to the vehicles’ limitations and the improved security situation in Iraq.

Last week, the head of Multi-National Corps – Iraq said the Army would need fewer MRAPs after U.S. troop strength in Iraq falls next year.

Still, Morrell said Wednesday that MRAPs are still needed downrange.

“Despite whatever the limitations there might be on these vehicles, they are proving to be extraordinarily valuable life-saving, and the commanders in Afghanistan seem to want more of them.”

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