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Supplying the MRAP Pipeline: a Constant Reconciliation

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- By air, land, and sea, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles are moving into Iraq and Afghanistan through a network of DOD partners.



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Date: 05.21.2010
Posted: 05.21.2010 03:22

Integral to this process are two members of the Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center, U.S. Army Maj. Sharon Felder and Ms. Pam Christian. Through a process of constant reconciliation and coordination, Felder and Christian ensure that all MRAPs are properly accounted for and processed for fielding.

"The priorities are set by the combatant commanders, which in this case are USFOR-A [U.S. Forces Afghanistan] and USF-I [U.S. Forces Iraq]," explained Felder. "They are the ones that determine requirements, locations, and variants of vehicles based on operational needs. We are getting these life-saving vehicles out to Soldiers and Marines by working hand in hand with stakeholders such as U.S. Transportation Command, Army Central Command and Marine Central Command."

Concurrent with the increase of 30,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan this year, there is an additional requirement for the new type of MRAP called the M-ATV or MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle. The urgent requirement of M-ATVs resulted from a need for a smaller and more maneuverable MRAP to take on the mountainous and harsh terrain of Afghanistan.

"We pulled out all the stops to get these vehicles [M-ATV's] into theater," said Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command. "We are doing everything to ensure that they are safe, that the risk assessments are complete, and that they're fully integrated and flown into Afghanistan."

In addition to the constant accounting of MRAP's moving into and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, Felder and Christian monitor the flow of MRAP's throughout the entire supply pipeline. Typically MRAP's are shipped from the manufacture by truck to Charleston, South Carolina. At Charleston, Naval Space and Warfare Command completes add-on specialty items to prepare for shipment. When ready, MRAP's are moved by airlift from Charleston Air Force Base or sealift from the strategic seaport of Charleston.

After moving from Charleston, MRAP's are either flown directly into theater or trans-shipped from a strategic hub in the Middle East. Christian and Felder assist all services in increasing their absorption rate as they compete with other DoD demands. In addition, they must track how many MRAP's are being sent intra-theater from Iraq to Afghanistan. After use in Iraq, many MRAPs have acquired wear and tear that requires maintenance. The MRAP sustainment facility in Kuwait upgrades the MRAP's to prepare them for shipment to Afghanistan.

Daily coordination is vital between Christian, Felder, and multiple agencies to include Joint Program Office MRAP, Marine Corps Systems Command, U.S. Transportation Command, ARCENT, MARCENT and commercial manufacturers. Shipping dimensions, transportation location, MRAP type, and mode of transportation all must be taken into account during the movement process.

Airlift and sealift are not without their challenges. With 34 MRAP variationstheplacement of tie downs on the vehicles vary by type. Thus, it is a difficult process to efficiently stow and secure MRAP's without wasting space on the aircraft or cargo vessel. In addition, MRAP's have varying shapes and sizes that cannot be uniformly loaded onto the vessel.

While airlift is fast, sealift is much less expensive. In addition, a cargo vessel has the capacity to carry more than 300 MRAP's at one time. Cargo aircraft can hold as many as 5 to 7 vehicles depending on the aircraft load weight and type of airframe. To keep the vehicles arriving in theater, however, entails having a steady supply in the pipeline. Thus, the perfect mix of airlift and sealift must be determined according to need, priority, and cost.

In addition, the Pentagon has promised to support NATO partners with the loaning and coordination of MRAP shipments into Afghanistan. So far, the Pentagon has lent or sold 581 new and used MRAP's to allies such as Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Jordan and Georgia. Other countries, including the United Kingdom, are buying theirs directly from U.S. manufacturers.