Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Crunching the numbers on MRAP

I apologize for the silence, I've been having some trouble with Blogger. Specifically, I wrote two posts last night and they disappeared off the server between hitting "Save Now" and "Publish Post." I have reconstructed the first here:

I've been following the debate over Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicle closely because it could could be an important direction marker for the future Army. Despite having drug their feet on the concept, it now appears the Army and Marines plan on replacing a sizable part of their HMMWV fleet with MRAPs.

One thing that has gone largely unaddressed in the debate so far is how MRAP will effect the deployability of the Army. I give you an idea of how big this change might be, I've crunched some rough numbers for your edification:

Up-Armored HMMWV
Curb Weight: 4.9 tons
Volume: 705 cubic feet
Crew: 4
Range: 275 miles

Force Protection Industries Cougar 4x4
Curb Weight: 15 tons
Volume: 1336 cubic feet
Crew: 10
Range: 600 miles

Land Systems OMC RG-31 Nyala
Curb Weight: 8 tons*
Volume: 1463 cubic feet
Crew: 10
Range: 559 miles

I put a star next to the curb weight of the RG-31 because most of the data I've seen is conflicting. I've seen curb weights varying between 7.28 and 8.4 (metric) tons so, I rounded the figure to 8 tons for the sake of argument.

The first thing that jumps out at me is the dramatic increase in volume and weight between the up-armored Humvee and the MRAP candidates. This is pretty understandable though, considering that the Cougar and Nyala are twice the size, carry more than twice the troops and go twice as far. Whereas an average squad would require 2-3 Humvees, they would probably only need 1 MRAP. This should help economize on fuel (fewer engines) and manpower (fewer drivers) some.

The increased weight might raise questions about how the Army and Marines could deploy MRAPs from the U.S. to the theater, particularly airlift feasibility. We should be careful to note that strategic and operational airlift are largely still on the drawing board. The Army's current 'move' doctrine still reflects an assumption that the bulk of Army materiel (including vehicles) will be done by sealift.

Setting that reality aside, the Cougar and Nyala are not too heavy for traditional airlift. The C-17 has enough cargo capacity (85 tons) to carry an M1 Abrams, so it can probably fit as many as two MRAPs on board. The Cougar and Nyala also appear to come under the limits of the C-130's mere 22 tons of lift. They will probably be too big for the Joint Cargo Aircraft's projected 7-10 payload limit though.

Since the next generation of strategic air- (the heavy-lift vertical take off and landing aircraft) and sealift (the austere access high speed ship) are still decades away, I don't think the MRAP won't cause too much of a problem our "expeditionary" military.


Anonymous said...

Of course there is more to putting vehicles on airplanes than simple weight requirements. Assuming the vehicles can actually fit inside said aircraft, the Air Force will have to determine where they can be placed (and how many can be put aboard) to maintain center-of-gravity and other safety-of-flight requirements. While I'm confident they can be airlifted, I'm not so confident that doing so to a significant extent would be wise considering the limited amount of airlift and the competing requirements for its use.

RS said...

And until the next-gen carriers are in production, DoD could look into aquiring a few Condors (An-124) to handle the transport. That would be an interesting experiment.

Robot Economist said...

anonymous - I completely agree, weight and volume are not the only determinants of deployability. Unfortunately, I don't have the kind data of look deeply into center-of-gravity or flight safety issues.

If you look at the fuselage dimensions of the C-17 and C-130 though, it is pretty clear that both MRAP candidates can fit in.

J. said...

While you raise some interesting points, I will suggest that a vehicle that weighs twice as much as the up-armored HMMWV will not get the mileage, and probably is a pretty big gas guzzler. What about spares and repairs for the MRAP? Probably not in the system yet. Add to the package a higher target profile and the cost - recall that statement you made about $17 billion in repair and refit and the procurement cost for MRAP ($18 billion) - and ask yourself, is this really such a great deal?

I watched "Robocop" last weekend - you might recall the huge "police" robot that, ah, malfunctioned early in the movie. The executive says "WHO CARES IF IT WORKED? I had a $25 million annual spares and repairs contract all lined up once the military bought it."

Robot Economist said...

J - You are completely correct, but I am specifically trying to avoid the cost issue for now.

$18 billion is a lot of money, but it does not speak to the MRAP's true value. Value is relative to the Army's mission and how it will structure the future force to (1) meet its mission needs and (2) balance relevant battlefield risks.

If Army ends up converting to the peacekeeping force envisioned in this "Division of Labor" report from RAND, the MRAP could be the cornerstone of a new approach to ground operations. In that case, $18 billion might be a reasonable price.