The New York Times reports on the first fatality inflicted by a roadside bomb attack on a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle; these vehicles were recently deployed to Iraq in an effort to improve the protection of US patrols in the country. The crew suffered one fatality (the gunner) and three injuries from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack. “It’s a great vehicle, but there is no perfect vehicle,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Adgie, commander of the battalion that lost the soldier.
The attack occurred in Al Jabour, a rural area southeast of Baghdad on the Tigris River, where the combat engineers from the 1st battalion operated supporting soldiers of the 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, who had been clearing farmhouses and villages after a dawn air raid. The battalion had been using the new vehicles for about two months, and that this was the first time one had been hit with a bomb. This area was known to be planted with IEDs. The exact type of MRAP was not reported, a video released by the Pentagon indicates the vehicle was a Cougar. However, units operating in the area are operating the MaxxPro, recently delivered to U.S. Army units in the region.
Preliminary findings determined that the vehicle was hit by the buried IED when it was driving beside an irrigation ditch. The vehicle being hit was the second-to-last vehicle in the group. Several vehicles in the convoy had already passed over the same spot, but failed to set off the IED, which was assumed to weigh about 300 pounds (150 kg). The pressure triggered ‘deep-buried IED’ was not detected by the unit despite repeated attempts, using air surveillance, air strikes against suspected IED sites and surveys with metal detectors.
The explosion sent the vehicle airborne and caused it to overturn. According to preliminary findings, the MRAP absorbed the blast, as it was designed to do, as the inner compartment was not compromised, resulting with light injuries for the three crew members. Unfortunately, the crew member killed was the gunner Specialist Richard Burress (25), who was the most exposed in the Gunner Protection Kit (PGK) installed on the vehicle’s roof. At present, MRAP vehicles are shipped to theater without remotely operated weapon stations. It is unclear yet whether he was killed by the blast or by the vehicle rolling over. The vehicle itself was ‘destroyed’ according to eye witnesses.
IED jammers, metal detectors and other countermeasures are employed by coalition forces to protect vehicles and troops from remotely controlled IEDs, roadside bombs and mines. Deep-buried, pressure triggered activation charges are usually more complex to set-up, but when placed, are also more difficult to detect. As these charges are usually not controlled by remote, they are planted in locations where coalition forces are expected to pass. The pressure activation device can be set to trigger the bomb only by heavy vehicles, and not by trucks or animals.
Similar deeply-buried bombs were detected and detonated by the unit before the explosion. Similar devices were used the past to destroy heavy armored vehicles such as M-1 tanks, Bradley armored vehicles. They were originated in Lebanon and the Gaza strip, were they destroyed several Merkava main battle tanks.
Further reading from other columns: