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Mideast edition, Wednesday, April 25, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Marine Corps has awarded a contract for 1,000 vehicles designed to provide more protection against roadside bombs than Humvees, a Marine Corps Systems Command spokesman said Monday.

The contract is for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, which are larger and heavier than up-armored Humvees and have V-shaped hulls designed to deflect bomb blasts.

Under the $481 million contract, the MRAPs would be completed by May 2008, the spokesman said.

The spokesman had no information Monday when the vehicles are expected to arrive in Iraq.

The contract with Force Protection Industries in Ladson, S.C., calls for 700 Category II vehicles, which can carry 10 troops for missions such as convoy lead, troop transport, explosive ordnance disposal and serve as ambulances; and 300 Category I vehicles, which can carry six troops in support urban combat operations, the spokesman said.

The prices for MRAPs vary considerably, with some costing close to $1 million per vehicle.

Speaking to reporters in March, Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said the Corps felt a “moral imperative” to put Marines and sailors into the MRAPs despite their expense because the vehicles provide more protection against roadside bombs than up-armored Humvees.

Right now, Defense officials are reviewing the Corps’ plans to purchase 3,700 MRAPs for Iraq, the spokesman said.

That number is subject to change.

The Corps also hopes to roll out close to 3,400 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles between fiscals 2009 and 2013.

Afterward, the JLTV will replace the Humvee as the Corps’ primary tactical vehicle.

Meanwhile, the Army plans to buy 2,500 MRAPs to augment its fleet of up-armored Humvees.

About 1,000 Army MRAPs are already in theater, and the Army expects to have 1,800 of the vehicles in Iraq by December, said Army spokesman Lt. Col. William Wiggins.

The Army’s plan is to eventually replace its up-armored Humvees with 18,000 vehicles designed to provide better protection against roadside bombs.

The vehicles could be a combination of MRAPs and JLTVs.

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