MRAPs Get a Bad Rap

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In "Doubts About a New Armored Vehicle," Time reporter Mark Thompson asks around about the importance of those big bad armored vehicles they're putting together up the road. prove useless against new armor piercing bombs.

There is no doubt such heavy-duty vehicles are needed. Improvised-explosive devices account for more than half the U.S. fatalities in Iraq; and the characteristic V-shaped hulls of these vehicles are engineered to deflect blasts from roadside bombs away from the troops within.

But the push to encase as many U.S. troops as possible in MRAPs is raising some vexing questions. Because there are so many suppliers and different designs, the Pentagon is buying 16 different kinds of MRAPs, each with its own requirements for maintenance, training and spare parts. The MRAPs, up to five times as heavy as the Humvees they are replacing, gulp a lot more fuel — fuel that gets to them inside thin-skinned tanker trucks that must travel Iraq's IED-laden roads.

According to a study released last week by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the vehicles run against standard thinking on counter-insurgency tactics and could

"Can I give a satisfactory answer to what we're going to be doing with those things in five or 10 years? Probably not," the Marines' top officer said. "Wrap them in shrink wrap and put them in asphalt somewhere is about the best thing that we can describe at this point. And as expensive as they are, that is probably not a good use of the taxpayers money."

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