In 2005, U.S. Marine Officer Brad Watson was on active duty in Iraq when his armored humvee was destroyed by a roadside bomb. When he returned from combat, he came back with a new passion and personal interest in the developing MRAP (mine resistant ambush protected) program. The MRAP program was developed specifically to handle the development of roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which had become so widespread and endemic in Iraq, that a vehicle was needed to handle the threat and protect the vehicle’s occupants.
Watson became a program manager in the defense industry and became involved with Navistar Defense’s MaxxPro vehicle program, its MRAP solution. “What my background brings as a program manager is a sense of urgency and firsthand knowledge of what the consequences would be had we not developed these lifesaving technologies,” Watson explains. “On a daily basis I try to lead and inspire our team from that perspective—to pursue this program with an extraordinary sense of urgency. Lives depend on what we do.” Since Navistar was awarded one of several MRAP contracts for OEMs in 2007, the company has built nearly 9,000 MaxxPro MRAP armored vehicles for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A common perspective of military vehicles is one of design freedom. There are no emissions regulations to meet, no extreme cost restraints—only the best piece of equipment technologically possible to protect the lives of our soldiers. However, vehicle development and procurement can take years. In the immediate need of the MRAP vehicle, Navistar Defense decided to harness its proven reliability and established manufacturing system in its commercial vehicles to rapidly procure a solution.
The MRAP program was a rapid procurement program because lives were at stake and the war in Iraq needed a vehicle that was highly survivable quickly. That is a big part of the reason why Navistar Defense opted to utilize an existing vehicle design as the MaxxPro’s foundation. “When we talk about things like survivability, we talk about things like armor and blast protection, but reliability and durability also contribute to survivability, in a way. If a vehicle breaks down outside friendly lines, that is now a threat and a danger to a soldier’s life,” Watson says.
“Leveraging the commercial background to develop a military vehicle is central to the story of MRAP,” continues Watson. Navistar’s 7000 Series WorkStar commercial truck shares the same DNA as the MaxxPro. The WorkStar truck was chosen as the basis for the MaxxPro thanks to its established history of durability and reliability. “When we were presented with the opportunity to develop a highly reliable, durable and survivable vehicle for the military, Navistar looked at its commercial vehicle line-up and selected what is today known as the WorkStar to be the basis for that truck.”
Design parallels and differentiations
At Navistar’s assembly plant in Garland, TX, the chassis for both vehicles roll off the same line. The MRAP vehicle capsule with bolt-on armor panels and the v-hull are added at Navistar’s production plant in West Point, MS.
The v-hull design was built to channel the energy from an IED blast event out and away from the vehicle capsule, protecting the soldiers inside. Modified suspension rope seats, similar to those used in helicopters, are suspended from the cabin’s ceiling to maximize a soldier’s survivability and absorb energy from a blast event beneath the vehicle.
Transparent armor (a.k.a. windows) and the bolt-on composite armor are designed to defeat most threat weapons. “The MaxxPro leverages a bolt-on panel design which is one of its strengths,” says Watson. “There is very little welding on the vehicle. It’s modular and easier to work on because of that. This is all based on lessons learned in our commercial history.”
The transparent armor has evolved since its first iteration on the original MaxxPro, now employing emergency egress windows in the event that an occupant is trapped in the vehicle.
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