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This information is from my 3 years working in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait on MRAP programs, analyzing and providing technical support for the USG. Observations are based on what I have seen.
I don’t discount the fact someone has seen something else.

ASK YOURSELF THIS QUESTION: Would you buy an armored vehicle made of plastic if it could be made to withstand a blast test like a steel version?

Interesting thought. I have asked this to various people over the years, especially since the V hull has been so popular as of late.

In theory, a plastic vehicle could work (I have no knowledge if armored plastic even exists, this is just food for thought) because of physics.

There are 2 basic ways to defeat blast energy or shrapnel: The thickness of steel or physics.

Thick steel means weight. It means more of everything to move a vehicle and in some cases it can be too large to use in certain battle environments.

If a flat piece of steel is hit by a blast, all the blast energy is taken at a right angle focusing the energy of the blast in one spot. If the energy is diverted, percentages of the force are diverted away from the occupants.

From and MRAP perspective:

The V Hull has brought about some new thoughts. In all fairness South Africa brought out the concept during not so pleasant times in the countries history. They needed something to deal with land mine threats so local manufacturers conceived the V shape in the hull.

This design was able to keep soldiers inside the hull safe, using the V shape to deflect blast energy. This concept facilitated the use of thinner gauge steel plate to permit speed and maneuverability of the vehicle.

With this said: How has MRAP used the V Hull?

In my opinion it has been used as a marketing ploy as much as a design factor. Some designs do have as much as a 44 deg angle creating the V Hull. Others have very little if any true V shape to effect blast energy. Some designs actually put a huge flat belly plate between the ground and the limited V shape, which took away any effectiveness of the V design. (I make this point because the variation in V angles between manufacturers is significant. In some case I consider the design more towards the U shape rather than a V)

One significant disadvantage of a true V Hull design is the usable interior space. It forces the floor location to be higher inside the crew area. Designers must find a happy medium; limiting the overall height of the MRAP and creating a workable interior space for soldiers. This explains why some manufacturers have such a poor V angle in their designs. The argument is at what point does the V become ineffective and when does a U shape become effective.

Some manufactures had this idea that armor plating has to surround all the air tanks, wiring, air hoses etc. Truth is this kind of protection is really not required. MRAP is designed to resist blast effects and protect men inside the vehicle. I have never seen an MRAP, after taking an IED hit, drive away. So why add all this extra protection and add massive hours to maintenance? One design uses a large steel plate under the vehicle forcing simple tasks such as an oil change nearly impossible. What’s the point? These same manufactures don’t armor the engine compartment. They are made of fiberglass. I don’t get it.

There is another factor about adding so much additional steel plating that should be noted: A great percentage of blast energy is diverted when items bolted onto the hull are designed to ‘vacate’ the hull, taking deadly energy with them. An example would be outside storage bins. If an IED is encountered and the bins are blasted clear, that means some of the blast energy is used to carry the bins away from the vehicle thus reducing the usable energy of the blast for the survival cell which carries the soldiers. If heavy steel plates bolted to the hull don’t blast clear, the energy is absorbed by these plates transferring the energy to the survival cell.

MRAP and defeating a blast is all about dissipating the energy away from the survival cell. Would you buy one made of plastic? I have asked this question because we all have this concept of heavy steel to effectively defeat blast energy and shrapnel. It’s a new way of thinking but deserves some attention because of advantages.
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