By Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, June 19, 2006 – The Marine Corps is using fat cats to combat enemy-emplaced roadside bombs in Iraq.
However, these hefty "Cougars" aren't felines. They're heavily armored wheeled trucks that are robust enough to ward off much of the deadly energy generated by improvised explosive devices favored by insurgents. Cougars and other similarly built U.S. vehicles employed in Iraq feature armor-plated V-shaped bottoms designed to deflect the upward explosive power of roadside bombs that account for the majority of U.S. casualties in Iraq. Explosive ordnance teams as well as combat engineers use the trucks. Each can weigh 30,000 pounds or more, depending on the model.
The trucks began arriving in Iraq in the late fall of 2004 as part of an accelerated Defense Department acquisition program. Reports from Iraq say the heavyweight trucks have saved many servicemembers' lives. "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."