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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Marine Corps has decided it needs far fewer Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles than it originally thought it would, Corps officials said.

Known as MRAPs, the vehicles have V-shaped hulls meant to deflect blasts from underneath and have proven to withstand roadside bomb blasts much better than up-armored Humvees.

The Corps initially asked for 3,700 MRAPs, but it now says it only needs 2,300 of the vehicles, Marine spokesman Maj. Jay Delarosa said in an e-mail Friday.

Marine commanders whose units have been fielded MRAPs have come to see the vehicles are best used along with other armored vehicles, such as up-armored Humvees, which have more maneuverability, Delarosa said.

While MRAPs provide more protection against roadside bombs, they cannot go after enemy forces off-road, in confined areas or across many bridges, he said.

Another factor behind the Corps’ decision is the improved security situation in Iraq, as evidenced by the decline in roadside bomb attacks, Delarosa said.

The move is an abrupt about-face for the Marine Corps. In May, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said it was a “moral imperative” to get as many MRAPs in theater as quickly as possible.

“I just see it’s absolutely critically important to us to push this vehicle as hard as we can so that we save lives, in the process perhaps convince the American people that we can get after this casualty thing in a real fashion and maybe buy more time on the part of our countrymen to see this thing settled,” Conway said May 17.

But on Friday, Conway said he was “completely comfortable” with reducing the Corps’ MRAP requirement based on feedback from commanders on the ground, saying the Corps’ imperative is to provide Marines and sailors MRAP protection “consistent with mission and terrain.”

“Our Marines and sailors are our most precious resource, and MRAP vehicles have and will continue to save lives on the battlefield,” he said in a statement Friday. “This reduction in the total number of MRAPs does not put Marines at additional risk.”

The Defense Department hopes to send 1,500 MRAPs to the U.S. Central Command theater of operations by the end of the year.

So far this year, 798 MRAPs have been fielded downrange: 753 to troops in Iraq and 45 to Afghanistan, said Defense Department spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin on Friday.

On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell announced that U.S. Transportation Command had begun a sealift of MRAPs to the CENTCOM theater.

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