The MRAP route map
02 December 2010
Richard T Curry et al. herald the importance of the MRAP vehicle to ground forces and the role of the Defense Logistics Agency's Land Supply Chain in supporting the fleetů
Roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have caused more casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other threat. Soft-skinned vehicles were vulnerable, and even up-armoured vehicles were receiving serious damage from the newer forms of IEDs.
To respond to this serious threat, the US Department of Defense called for a fleet of highly survivable, mobile, multimission vehicles to meet urgent operational requirements. The result was the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle that took to battlefield roads in 2007 with its V-shaped hull designed to deflect blasts.
The MRAP family of vehicles, including the all-terrain M-ATV, is the platform of choice in Afghanistan and Iraq, providing force protection to US warfighters and coalition partners against IEDs, mines, crew served weapons, and small arms attacks. MRAP vehicles are currently fielded by all branches of the US military.
Spare parts sustainment for the new family of vehicles is the responsibility of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). Today, DLA's support to the MRAP involves more than 200 people, $437m of inventory, and nearly 37,000 parts coded to 36 MRAP variants.
The responsibility of spare parts support for this workhorse vehicle has been a combined effort requiring close partnerships with the Joint Program Office (JPO), which represents the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and the Special Operations Command, industry and DLA. About 25,000 MRAPs are scheduled to be fielded globally.
Through the close coordination of the MRAP JPO, the US Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Life Cycle Management Command, the Marine Corps Logistics Command, DLA works collectively with six original equipment manufacturers and various contractors to support the programme's radically fast fielding. Today, the MRAP family of vehicles enjoys a fully mission capable rating of 95%.
Long-term sustainment contracts are the primary tool used to support the weapon system. DLA uses its existing corporate contracts combined with new ones to support the MRAP fleet. For example, the Caiman, Cougar and M-ATV variants use the Caterpillar C7 diesel engine, while the Buffalo uses a Caterpillar C12 engine. Those commercial parts along with 17,000 other Caterpillar items are found on DLA corporate contracts.
The principal architect of the strategy was the JPO, which provided DLA with parts usage forecasts that span the early generation vehicles. All improvements are designed to make the vehicle more durable, resistant to threats, and maintainable. With the lessons learned within the MRAP programme and numerous changes made to each vehicle, a new vehicle was designed and introduced into Afghanistan.
The MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV), a more mobile MRAP developed for the country's rougher terrain, is the most recent vehicle introduced to support Operation Enduring Freedom. Plans call for a total of 8,104 vehicles and DLA is heavily engaged in building sustainment inventory for the existing and future fleet. The DLA MRAP Team is closely involved in predicting and right-sizing sustainment of the fleets by constantly monitoring performance metrics and customer ordering behaviours. This information permits JPO and DLA logisticians to engage, shape, execute and deliver critical parts to the warfighters.
To ensure top notch programme support for MRAP, DLA has forward positioned support teams in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait co-located with the military customers.
"We put our MRAP-specific surge team on the ground in Afghanistan where they are embedded with the warfighters," says DLA MRAP Project Manager John Dreska. "We often know there's a problem before the leaders on the ground know there's an issue."
For example, battle damaged MRAP vehicle frames were identified by the team in Afghanistan as critical degraders requiring a logistics solution. To solve the problem, DLA worked with Navistar, Team MaxxPro and the MRAP JPO to provide a new National Stock Numbered-item that allows the military services to order the frame rails already bolted to cross members. The first frames arrived in the war zone this past spring.
"In effect, we created a 'ladder assembly' that allows the MRAP capsule to be lifted up and placed on a new set of frame rails, ready to go," explains Dreska. "All they have to do is bolt it in place and connect the wiring, and then the vehicle is repaired." Dreska adds that no special tools are required. "We've made it a simple process for the folks on the other end."
The teams facilitate supply assistance actions on critical repair parts and serve as 'point people' to support the deployed forces. They gather intelligence from the customer, and relay requests via the JPO to DLA's Defense Logistics Information Services (DLIS) for National Stock Number assignment of new parts identified. This enables the respective military services to order repair parts through their regular supply systems. Additionally, both MRAP surge teams and DLA support teams troubleshoot, monitor readiness rates and inform commanders on DLA support matters. They also teach their customers how DLA operates and assist with training on many logistics and supply support initiatives and programmes. DLA deployed personnel have been instrumental in conveying critical needs and serve as a catalyst to ensure MRAP readiness rates remain high.
"Our team is absolutely dedicated to protecting the soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors riding MRAPS into harm's way," says Dreska. "Most of us have either been there ourselves or we know someone – family, friend, or acquaintance – that has been there."
DLA has also assigned liaison officials co-located with several MRAP original equipment manufacturers such as Oshkosh, Force Protection Industries, and General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada. This has given DLA a direct link to designated OEMs and has improved communication, resulting in quicker part deliveries to the battlefield. The MRAP team also has a Land Readiness Room Cell with special personnel who work express procurement actions for 'deadlined' vehicles. This cell uses a process referred to as 'E-Buy', or Emergency Buy, special contracts designed to support procurement actions for parts needed urgently, but that are not yet available in DLA's sustainment inventory. DLA teams also use deadline reports to predict parts needs before the military customers know they need assistance. In most cases, every E-Buy is followed by a sustainment buy when the part is confirmed as a readiness degrader.
Another way that DLA supports readiness is via the JPO-operated MRAP Sustainment Facility in Kuwait. The MSF's primary mission is to repair and refurbish vehicles with improved parts such as the TAK-4 independent suspension system, a major upgrade to withstand harsh terrain in Afghanistan. DLA is also opening a forward stocking distribution facility in Afghanistan to augment the existing facility in Kuwait. These facilities will ensure parts are closer to the maintainers and will reduce customer order delivery timeframes.
When the M-ATV was developed for the harsh Afghanistan terrain conditions, the JPO felt strongly that DLA should be part of that vehicle's sustainment solution from the programme's onset. Responding to the call, DLA has implemented sustainment in conjunction with rapid provisioning of cataloguing actions by DLA's Defense Logistics Information Services. DLA's land supply chain, based in Columbus, Ohio – the lead centre for MRAP support – coordinates actions across the DLA enterprise to ensure strategic planning and integration is conducted to support the MRAP life-cycle.
The MRAP is one of the most important pieces of equipment being used by ground forces to accomplish their missions; first in Iraq and now in Afghanistan.
DLA is working hard to provide efficient, cost-effective, and rapid delivery of parts to support America's strategic priorities.
"There's no better feeling when you see pictures of a vehicle that's clearly been attacked or even destroyed and you know that everybody survived without being harmed or with minimal injuries," Dreska concludes. "That's somebody's son, daughter, mom, dad, brother, sister, friend who is coming home to hug their loved ones. We know the vehicles are the only reason they're alive. This is what we live for. This is not a job, it's our cause."