CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The commandant of the Marine Corps met with assembly-line workers June 9 to observe production of the new troop-carrying trucks designed to withstand Long War punishment.
The production plant, owned by Force Protection Industries, has delivered hundreds of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles to American troops in the Middle East.
“I wanted to look them in the eye, personally thank them and let them know that plenty of Marines are counting on them," said Gen. James T. Conway, proclaiming the company was truly mobilized and focused on saving American lives.
About 1,000 plant employees are outfitting Marines fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan with dozens of MRAP vehicles each month, and the company plans to have 1,000 MRAP vehicles delivered to the Marine Corps by March 2008.
The Marine Corps currently drives two models at prices ranging from $480,000 to $790,000: the four- and six-wheel drive “Cougar,” and the hefty “Buffalo,” weighing more than 22 short tons.
“These vehicles are going to save lives.” said Conway. “A Marine riding in a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle is less likely to be killed or injured when engaged by an enemy employing the same type of improvised explosive device that would rip through the undercarriage of an up-armored humvee.”
Different from humvees, the MRAP vehicle’s V-shaped hull deflects an explosion rather than absorbs it.
“Everyone at the company enjoys and takes great pride in their work,” said Carrie Reavenell, a welder and fitter. “Other people send care packages; we send care trucks.”
Conway also test-drove a “Cheetah” prototype designed for reconnaissance and urban operations and able to sustain highway speeds up to 75 mph.
“If it proves itself through further testing, the Cheetah will offer the same survivability rates as its predecessors,” said Conway. “But it's also designed to be relevant beyond Iraq.”