Foreign Affairs – Last summer, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the Pentagon’s Joint Program Office for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (JPO-MRAP), a $45 billion program to design, manufacture, and deploy 27,000 heavily protected vehicles into Iraq and Afghanistan, had saved “thousands and thousands of lives.” The Joint Program Office drilled down a more specific figure: MRAPs, as they’re known in military jargon, saved the lives of 40,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, without MRAPs, the number of combat deaths from those wars would be comparable to the number killed in Korea or Vietnam.
“However, tactical wheeled vehicles with ‘heavy’ amounts of protection, such as the MRAP, (which has higher quality armor and a V-shaped hull designed to improve resistance to IEDs),” Rohlfs and Sullivan conclude, “did not save more lives than medium armored vehicles did, despite their cost of $600,000 apiece—roughly three times as much as the medium-protected vehicles.”
If this is the case then $200,000 vehicles (that cost less to operate – use less fuel and are lighter) would work as well. And the overall program might be $15 billion and save $30 billion.
“We found that the heavily protected vehicles were no more effective at reducing casualties than the medium armored vehicles,” Rohlfs and Sullivan write. “While the heavier vehicles are safer in principle, they are bulky and lack maneuverability, and they were introduced at a relatively calm time in the conflict, when there were few deaths for them to prevent.”
MRAP program spokeswoman Barb Hamby said in a statement that the professors’ data “was neither researched nor developed by the JPO. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for us to comment.” But Hamby did note “the authors of that data are not privy to the hundreds of extensive test-event classified data, or that collected in the theater of operations.”