Uganda and Burundi will both receive mine-resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) armoured vehicles from the United States, and these will replace its Casspirs used for peacekeeping operations.
The 20 Cougar vehicles will be handed over in late January/early February by the US Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). CJTF-HOA, in part with US Department of State funding and managed by the Marine Corps Systems Command international programmes office, will transfer the vehicles for use on behalf of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).
“The work that has been completed by CJTF-HOA and the other organizations to be able to provide these 20 MRAPs to Uganda and Burundi, has been extremely vital to enabling our East African Partners, to fight off violent extremist,” said Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby, CJTF-HOA commander. “These vehicles will provide better security and movement to the troop’s contributing countries (TCCs) to complete their mission more effectively.”
The MRAPS, previously used for missions in Afghanistan, were donated under the US Excess Defence Articles program and will receive a second life in East Africa. ManTech Field Service Representatives (FSRs), contracted by the Marine Corps Systems Command International Programmes Office, have been working in Mogadishu since September to get all 20 vehicles up and running, according to CJTF-HOA.
The 20 MRAPs will replace the current vehicle in use, the Casspir, and allow for the phasing out of 20 Casspirs when all the MRAPs have been delivered.
According to U.S. Army Major Myesha DuBose, CJTF-HOA J4 Somalia Planner, the biggest issue was finding a way to accomplish the maintenance on the vehicles with limited space and funding constraints. Several repairs were completed through a controlled substitution plan. This approach will ensure as many vehicles as possible would be operational while awaiting the remaining parts shipments.
“We didn’t realize the challenges we would face in Mogadishu with getting fuel for these vehicles,” said DuBose. At the moment 12 of the 20 are in operational condition, and the final eight will be operational in the near future.
As part of the agreement of donating the vehicles, the contingents are receiving drivers training and maintenance training from the Field Service Representatives to ensure the proper use of equipment. Additionally, the FSRs will provide continual maintenance of the vehicles for a year, to ensure necessary repairs are completed and extend the life of the vehicles.
“This is huge for Uganda and Burundi to be receiving the MRAPs, as they were driving Casspirs. The MRAPS will provide enhanced capabilities to our partnerships, with increased security,” DuBose said. “The TCCs are extremely grateful for the vehicles and knowing that this will help save lives makes the mission that much more important.”
The 4×4 Cougar MRAP can carry four passengers plus the driver and co-driver. A V-shaped hull provides protection against landmines and other threats while the rest of the vehicle can withstand 7.62 mm armour piercing bullets. A 330 horsepower Caterpillar diesel engine provides a top speed of 105 km/h and a range of 675 km. The Cougar was manufactured by Force Protection Inc. until acquired by General Dynamics in 2011.