New MATVs Designed To Reduce IED-Related Deaths
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
American troops in Afghanistan will soon be getting a new vehicle that should help protect them from perhaps their greatest threat: the roadside bomb. A key feature is its V-shaped body that deflects the blast from those improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. The vehicle is being built by Oshkosh Defense, and the $2.3 billion contract from the Pentagon is creating hundreds of new jobs.
Erin Toner of member station WUWM in Milwaukee reports.
ERIN TONER: When you walk through the factory doors at Oshkosh Defense, the first thing you see are construction workers building a new assembly line.
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TONER: The company in Oshkosh, Wisconsin is scrambling to increase production capacity to build 4,300 armored vehicles for the military, called MATVs. The MATV is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle that looks like a Humvee on steroids. It's 19 feet long, 98 inches wide, and weighs just under 25,000 pounds.
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TONER: Plant manager Jake Jones shows me around the sprawling factory and the different stations where workers are welding, installing and inspecting.
Mr. JAKE JONES (Plant Manager, Oshkosh Defense): So, really, on this line, we take the axels of a vehicle, we take the frames of a vehicle and we actually build the durability and the muscle of a vehicle.
TONER: John says the MATV's durability comes from frame rails that protect the Crew Cab, a V-shaped armored hull that dissipates the force of a bomb blast and thick armor plating on its body.
Ken Juergens overseas the product line for Oshkosh Defense. He points out huge, round coils inside the wheel wells that give the vehicle its agility.
Mr. KEN JUERGENS (MATV Program Director, Oshkosh Defense): What makes it unique is it's an independent suspension, so when you're going over heavy rocks and boulders and stuff like that, then the wheel moves up 16 inches both ways, so it rides fairly smooth for a military vehicle.
TONER: Marine Corps Brigadier General Michael Brogan says the design of the vehicle will impact the three major causes of IED casualties.
Brigadier General MICHAEL BROGAN (Marine Corps): First of all, blast, if that blast wave gets inside the vehicle. Second is shrapnel or debris that is ejected from the blast. And then the third is acceleration. The vehicle is rapidly accelerated upward when an explosion occurs underneath it. And so having a very heavy vehicle with the V-shaped hull that sits high off the ground helps defeat all three of those blast mechanisms.
TONER: The MATVs will be integrated with older Humvees in Afghanistan that have been retrofitted with extra armor. Ken Juergens says the vehicle's construction can better handle the terrain in that country.
Mr. JUERGENS: For Afghanistan, it's a whole new theater of operation. You're going with there's little roads, small villages, many mountains, harsh terrain, valleys, rocks - you add a whole bunch of things if you have to go off-road.
TONER: Juergens says right now workers are building a hundred vehicles a month. Production will jump to a thousand a month in December.
Mr. JUERGENS: It's been a lot of hours, a lot of work. That's one of our competitive advantages. We are a military specialty truck manufacturer. This is what we do.
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TONER: This summer, Oshkosh Defense hired 600 new workers for the MATV contracts, and officials say more jobs could become available. A Pentagon official says the first shipment of inspected MATVs could be flown to Afghanistan as early as this week.
For NPR News, I'm Erin Toner in Milwaukee.
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MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.
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