The requirement of MRAPs in India will remain in the foreseeable future. The need is not only to refine our concepts and measures of area dominance but also develop and provision mine-protected vehicles that provide better protection, in line with the increasing capabilities of the terrorists and insurgents.
In this era of insurgencies, terrorism, proxy wars and employment of irregular forces, the use of mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles by armies around the world has been on the increase. In such environment, the casualties from mines and improvised explosive devices are usually more than bullet injuries. The Indian Army has been fighting in such environments for over past two decades as in Sri Lanka when the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was deployed there. The history of MRAPs is old and in earlier time primarily comprised armoured fighting vehicles deployed for such use. The earliest deployments of armoured fighting vehicles designed to specifically counter mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were during the six-year Bush War in Rhodesia, vehicles that later were developed upon by South African Defence Forces.
As per the Landmine Monitor, at least 73,576 casualties in 119 countries had occurred between 1999 and 2009. These included at least 5,197 casualties caused by mines, improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war. The figures for India, during the same period, are mentionedas 2,931. However, it may be recalled that IPKF had to battle extensive network of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) mines and IEDs including claymore mines fitted on trees and in foliage and that while over 1,900 died in the fighting, more were injured, some losing limbs, due to mine and IED injuries. In recent years, the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have been having periodic, sometime heavy casualties while battling Maoists, the core group of Maoists having been trained extensively in mine, IED and explosives by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), facilitated by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.
America’s MRAP programme is operated under the US Marine Corps Systems Command. The Marine Corps had originally planned to replace all Humvee vehicles in the combat zones with MRAP vehicles, but apparently went for a mix. With the engagements in Afghanistan, $1.1 billion was earmarked to accelerate production of the MRAPs and induct them into Afghanistan. As a result, the number of casualties and fatalities due to roadside bomb attacks in Afghanistan came down by almost 90 per cent, partially due to the increased number of MRAPs. These MRAPs were big (14-tonne weight) and could withstand most of the then bombs and IEDs the insurgents were using. Over the years, the insurgents have been forced to use heavier IEDs and bombs to target the MRAP but the number of incidents has decreased and the Taliban have resorted more to use smaller antipersonnel bombs that target soldiers on patrol. In June 2009, the US Department of Defense (DoD) awarded a production contract for 2,224 MRAP all-terrain vehicles to Oshkosh Defense for immediate induction into Afghanistan and in October 2009, the first M-ATV was shipped to Afghanistan:
The US categorises MRAP in three categories: Category I, as mine-resistant utility vehicle (MRUV) that are smaller, lighter and designed for urban operations; Category II, as the joint explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) rapid response vehicle (JEERV), designed for missions like leading convoys, troop transport, ambulance, explosive ordnance disposal and combat engineering; Category III, that are heavier with seating capacity of six, meant for force protection and dedicated mine- and IEDclearing functions. Some examples in Category I (MURV) are BAE Caiman 4x4, BAE OMC RG-31, BAE RG-33 4x4, Force Protection Cougar H 4x4, International MaxxPro, Textron M1117 Guardian and Oshkosh Truck Alpha:
Examples of Category II (JERRV) include Force Protection Cougar-HE 6x6, BAE RG-33L 6x6, GDLS RG-31E, Thales Australia Bushmaster IMV, Protected Vehicles Inc Golan, International MaxxPro XL and BAE Caiman 6x6:
Example of Category III MRAP is the Force Protection Buffalo MPCV:
Battling insurgency in Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K); the base and advance base workshops of the Indian Army had been working overtime to produce a mine protection vehicle (MPV). Concurrently, India started importing South African ‘Caspier’ vehicles. Some 185 Caspier vehicles were bought in 1999-2001. These have been used to good effect in J&K. However, bomb making skills of the insurgents like Maoists have improved and there is need to provision improved MPVs to security forces in counter-insurgency operations:
Mahindra Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV-1): This 18-passenger capacity, 230 HP diesel engine MPV was developed in 2010 by Defense Land Systems, a joint venture of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited and BAE Systems of the US. Using a V-shaped steel hull, it can withstand 21 kg TNT equivalent explosion under the crew compartment and provides protection to passengers from 5.56mm and 7.62 small arms protection from a distance of 10 metres. Its high torque and power to weight ratio enables operations in mountainous terrain. In August 2011, this MPV was inducted with the CRPF battling Maoists in Jharkhand:
Tata Motors MPV: This is a 14-tonne MPV called ‘Aria’ is a four-wheel drive can and can seat eight persons. Developed in 2012, the company claims it can withstand bigger blasts because of its greater weight:
Ashok Leyland MPV: The Ashok Leyland Defence Systems MPV is a 4x4 multipurpose all-terrain vehicle with high mobility. It offers protection to passengers against 5.56mm and 7.62mm small arms fire, 14 kg TNT blast equivalent under the hull and 21 kg equivalent blast under the wheels. The MPV can be fitted with a remote controlled weapon station armed with up to 12.7mm calibre weapon. The gunner’s position too can be protected with an armour kit. The vehicle has high mobility with a power to weight ratio of 13.5 kW/T and can attain a maximum speed of 90 kmph with a range of 1,000+ km.
Indian FICV Project
The Indian Army’s hunt for the future infantry combat vehicle (FICV) intended to replace the Indian Army’s 2,600 BMP-2 vehicles at an estimated cost of Rs. 50,000 crore, appears delayed. In early 2010, the MoD invited Tata Motors, the Mahindra Group, Larsen and Toubro and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to submit proposals to develop a FICV. However, the Acquisitions Wing of the MoD had not announced any criteria for selection and going by reports, plans to cancel the tender and go for re-tendering. This implies a delay by few more years by the time the BMP-2 will be replaced.
China is yet to taste real insurgency and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is so far safe from mine and IEDs. But China has already developed and produced the CS/VP3, which is an APC in the MRAP category designed by Chinese Company Poly Technologies. It was showcased in 2012 at a defence exhibition in Malaysia. The CS/VP3 has a carriage capacity of 2 + 10 and is capable of selfrecovery. With a combat weight of 15,000 kg, maximum speed of 100 kmph and range of 800 km, it provides protection from small arms (7.64mm and 7.63 AP) and 16 kg TNT equivalent blast. It can mount twin 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine guns:
Deployment of MRAPs/MPVs
Deployment of MRAP vehicles every time and everywhere is not without problems and not without debate. This has been the case in India too. The induction of MPVs in the Maoist areas brought down Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) casualties but then the insurgents started using greater volume of explosives (up to 80-100 kg), as was the practice with the LTTE and since the core group of Maoists was trained by the LTTE. The other factors were the paucity of security forces in the Maoists areas, which precluded effective area domination and gave time to Maoists to dig, lay explosives and hide all signs at leisure. Maoists have easy access to explosives and detonators because of large-scale mining in the area, both legal and illegal. Availability of MPV also tended the security forces to stick to road and tracks instead of cross country movement, enabling Maoists to plan and lay ambushes. So when casualties of CRPF personnel started mounting with MPVs getting blown up, the Director General (DG) CRPF rightly banned the use of MPVs. In J&K where area domination has been effective, employment of MPVs has given good results. Among the US forces in Afghanistan, there has been criticism and debate of different kinds; comfort levels in various models, menacing size inhibiting locals, logistics of fuel consumption, etc. But the fact still remains that the US troops preferred to travel in the MRAP compared to the Humvee for obvious added protection. However, the new US strategy of ‘no boots on ground’ will imply that the MRAP producing companies in the US will henceforth need to rely mostly on exports.
India facing a two-and-half front threat is likely to face greater turmoil with China and Pakistan continuing to wage proxy wars against us, increased radicalisation in Pakistan and its likelihood to export more and more terror with withdrawal of the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces from Afghanistan. India also has a unstable neighbourhood with violence ridden Bangladesh and Myanmar, China arming to the hilt the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in Myanmar as its proxy and attitude of the China spawned Maoists of Nepal. All this coupled with numerous terrorist organisations operating within India, already being exploited by our enemies bodes a violent future that may get stepped up in case we cannot ably manage the social change of our large population with 65 per cent population below the 35 years age group.
The requirement of MRAPs in India will remain in the foreseeable future. We need to provide maximum security against such threats including in the Maoist insurgency areas. The requirement is not only to refine our concepts and measures of area dominance but also develop and provision MPVs that provide better protection, in line with increasing capabilities of terrorists and insurgents.