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Monday, May 14, 2007

Mine-resistant 'MRAP's called 'four-to-five' times safer than Humvees for U.S. forces

WASHINGTON The Bush administration plans to accelerate deliveries of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles for the U.S. military in Iraq.

Officials said not one Marine has been killed during 300 IED attacks on MRAPs. They said MRAP's raised, V-shaped underbelly deflected the force of IEDs. In all, the Marines have deployed 65 MRAPs in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said MRAP offered improved troop protection over up-armored Humvees. Gates said MRAP would replace armored Humvees, particularly in the Marine Corps.

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"Our experience is that Marines in these vehicles have been four or five times safer than a Marine in an armored Humvee," Gates told members of the House and Senate Sea Power and Expeditionary Forces subcommittees on May 10.

"Based on this experience, we recently decided to replace our armored Humvees in theater on a one-for-one basis with MRAPs."

"My understanding is that the army has been recalibrating its interest and has substantially increased the number of these vehicles they think they can use," Gates said.

Officials said the US. military has ordered 7,700 MRAPs in an $8 billion project. Gates has met U.S. Army and Marine Corps officials to explore ways to accelerate deliveries of the 16-ton vehicles.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said MRAP was the result of defense industrial cooperation with the military. But he warned that the vehicle which has been criticized for its huge size would not provide full protection against IEDs.

"There's no solution out there that's going to protect everybody from everything all the time," Pace said. "What you try to do is provide the best protection you can that still allows a soldier [or] Marine to be able to go out and do the job they need to do."

U.S. commanders have urged the Pentagon to increase troop levels to fight the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. On May 11, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, the U.S. commander in northern Iraq, asserted that his 3,500 troops were insufficient to quell the insurgency in the Diyala province north of Baghdad.

Mixon, citing a request to Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, said the additional troops would be used in the counter-insurgency offensive in Diyala. Diyala also contains 10,000 Iraq Army troops.

"I do not have enough soldiers right now in Diyala province to get that security situation moving," Mixon told a Pentagon briefing.

In rare criticism by a U.S. commander, Mixon said the Iraqi government was not supplying services, which he said was vital in any effort to weaken the insurgents. Mixon said the Diyal government was no longer functioning.

"They are overburdened by a centralized bureaucratic process from Baghdad and impacted by corruption and sectarian issues," Mixon said. "These are areas that we must improve on over the next several months."

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