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thedrifter
02-02-06, 06:49 PM
Cougar on prowl for IEDs
MCB Quantico
Story by Pvt. Andrew Keirn

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (Feb. 2, 2006) -- A new vehicle is revving up to defend America’s troops against the threat of improvised explosive devices in Iraq.

The Cougar and Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle (JERRV) are new tools at Marines’ disposal to combat transportation threats. The vehicles feature a South African-inspired V-shaped hull, which is designed to distribute the impact of an IED or mine blast outward away from the crew compartment.

The hull has already proven its worth in combat mission in Iraq. The RG-31, a similar but smaller vehicle than the Cougar, recently took an IED hit in Iraq. Marines with Security Detachment, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, encountered an IED Jan. 6. The IED exploded underneath the RG-31. The V-shaped hull sent the blast outward instead of directly up, saving the lives of the crew.

First Lt. Brandon S. Davis, the 8th ESB assistant Security Detachment commander, described the scene in an interview with a 2nd Marine Logistics Group combat correspondent in Iraq. The blast briefly threw the vehicle into the air. Everyone survived with few, minor injuries.

Five service members were aboard the vehicle; two received concussions and two others suffered only minor burns.

The Cougar and JERRV, both of which are larger than the RG-31, are armored vehicles that provide survivability for Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians and combat engineers. Both provide protection for them to do their mission and each have proven their worth in Iraq.

“What really separates these vehicles is their level of survivability and ability to provide protection to the occupants in the vehicle against IED and mine blasts,” said Lt. Col. Mike Micucci, project manager for the Cougar and JERRV. “They can survive a larger blast from an IED or mine than your typical humvee.”

“They [South Africa] understood that manpower was precious, and wanted to build a vehicle that provided protection against mines” Micucci said. “The armored V-shaped hull helps to deflect the blast away from the crew compartment.”

The Cougar and JERRV are not just troop transport vehicles. They are force multipliers that EOD and combat engineers units utilize to accomplish their mission.

“These vehicles provide them protection to patrol areas prone to IEDs and to safely check out situations where you need EOD and combat engineers to go,” Micucci said.

Micucci said three variants of each vehicle are being produced. There is a 4x4 EOD vehicle, a 6x6 EOD vehicle, and a 6x6 engineer vehicle. EOD vehicles usually carry four troops while the engineer vehicles carry 10. The EOD vehicles also can carry an assortment of EOD equipment, such as bomb disposal robots.

There are a few differences between the Cougar and the JERRV. The Cougar has firing ports while the JERRV does not. Instead, it has a ring mount for crew serve weapons.

Micucci said the Marine Corps purchased 27 Cougars for use in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Task Force appointed the Marine Corps as the lead procurement agency to buy 122 JERRVs to be distributed among the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force. The Corps is receiving 38 vehicles.

The contract to produce the vehicles was awarded to Force Protection Industries of Charleston, S.C. Production of the vehicles is ongoing and will run through June.

At roughly 52,000 pounds and about $600,000 per vehicle, the Cougar and JERRV have neither the transportability nor the cost effectiveness to serve as a replacement for the humvee, Micucci said. However, he said, the vehicle’s armored, V-shaped undercarriage could find its way onto future warfighting vehicles.

“The Marines love the vehicle,” Micucci said. “They have survived IED hits in Iraq and the Marines have sustained only minor injuries. I think the future is towards the V-shaped hull. And if it’s not V-shaped, it’s definitely under-body protection that can help deflect or absorb blast from mines and IEDs.”