June 23, 2006 Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the number one killer of US soldiers in Iraq, and the focus of an enormous effort by the US military - in 2005, the U.S. military spent US$3.3 billion to defeat IEDs and one of the key answers found in the quest was the 28,550-pound Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Cougar. The Cougar’s v-shaped hull assists deflection of a mine or improvised explosive device blast away from the vehicle’s capsule, keeping the passengers safe and the vehicle intact. The ballistic glass with gun ports allow the passengers to engage insurgents ambush attempts without leaving the cab. The Cougar is driven by a six-speed, split-shift, all-wheel drive transmission, produced in both 4 and 6 wheel form and can be customized for multiple tasks including troop transport, mine and EOD disposal, command and control, reconnaissance, ambulance, and as a lead convoy vehicle. The Cougar is also built to roll over to absorb blast and is equipped with multi-point, motor racing harnesses, so passengers avoid injury.
The Cougar began arriving in Iraq late in 2004 as part of an accelerated Defence acquisition program and has been getting rave reviews ever since – indeed, despite IEDs claiming between a dozen and five dozen American servicemen in Iraq each month, the Cougar has not yet experienced one death from an occupant – indeed, not even close.
"These vehicles provide unmatched protection capabilities for combat engineers and EOD teams by withstanding both armor-piercing and anti-tank mine blasts," Marine Maj. Gen. William D. Catto told House Armed Services Committee members during a June 15 hearing here. The Marines have fielded 26 Cougars in Iraq, thus far, Catto said.
Joint EOD rapid response vehicles, known by the acronym JERRVs, are another, similar variant of the Cougar concept. The Marine Corps has ordered 122 JERRVs, Catto said, for overseas deployment to joint-military explosive ordnance disposal teams. The Marine Corps is slated to get 38 JERRVs of its own.
These vehicles "are designed with protection capabilities that are very similar to the Cougar," Catto, who heads Marine Corps Systems Command, said at the hearing.
Catto said all 122 JERRV deliveries are to be completed this month. And MCSC, he added, awarded a contract in May 2006 for 57 more trucks earmarked for joint forces' use.
"The Marine Corps is committed to aggressively matching our equipment to changing threats," Catto told the committee. "Our ability to rapidly modify our vehicle armoring systems is another testament to this commitment."
The Cougar is a product of South Carolina company Force Protection, which has become a world leader in designing and producing ballistic- and blast-protected vehicles, which have been used to support armed forces and security personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and other hot spots around the globe.