Mine and IED Resistant Vehicles

There are many factors which improve the survivability for a vehicles occupants and designers have to balance them.

If one starts with a deep V shape hull to deflect blast from mines, geometry means that in order to have a useable volume it has to be high. Height raises the centre of gravity which makes it more prone to toppling over caused by side blast or terrain. Adding additional side armour to protect from projectiles, shell fragments and RPG attack will make the high centre of gravity problem worse.

To counter this, the designer might widen the wheelbase but this might mean it becomes too wide to negotiate narrow streets where one might want to go. Turning circles are likely to be reduced by this as well. Wide turning circles are a particular problem in the confines of built up areas, unless the vehicle can reverse at speed it might be stuck in a vulnerable position or even under attack whilst trying to execute a 23 point turn. In this respect tracked vehicles have a great advantage because they can turn on their axis. UK and US experience in Iraq highlighted the utility of tracked vehicles in built up areas, the manouverability of the Bulldog (a modified FV432) was particularly useful.

If stability can be solved by width a vehicles height might not necessarily be a bad thing, providing the occupants with and increased field of view, the higher you are the greater distance you can see, especially when there are obstacles or vegetation nearby. On the down side, high vehicles are harder to conceal and can be dangerous in areas with low power cables.

Having the occupants strapped inside a survivable cell obviously protects them should they contact an IED but they lose all situational awareness which might mean they become more vulnerable to for example, an ambush or direct fire attack. In certain operations the ability to present a low threat visual image and having easy access to a local population might engender greater cooperation leading to improved intelligence, yet another means of defence against attack.

Weight is always a problem for vehicle designers and in areas with poor road and bridge infrastrucure trundling around in 20 tonne plus armoured vehicles leaving a trail of devastation behind it is not likely to engender good relations with the local population.

As the designer seeks to counter one danger it impacts on the ability to counter another, the age old trade off measure-countermeasure is played out.

No vehicle is indestructable, the best protected armoured vehicle in the world, the Challenger 2, has been penetrated by an EFP IED but against a blast mine or large IED there is no better place to be than in a blast protected MRAP/PPV.

Some say the Finland was the originator of the V shaped blast resistant vehicle but it is certain that the concept was perfected by Rhodesia and South Africa during the 70’s in their various brush wars and insurgencies. There are some parallels with Afghanistan today, the mine and IED was and is the weapon of choice for a force that cannot match the firepower, training or discipline of the conventional forces ranged against them. The Rhodesian and South African armed forces and industrial base more or less neutralised the mine as a strategic weapon and whilst the terrain and other conditions are different in Afghanistan, is there something that can be learned from their experience, perhaps yes.

The terminology is also of note; the South African and Rhodesian forces termed them Mine Resistant Vehicles (MRV), the US forces Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) and the UK Protected Patrol Vehicles (PPV). The UK also used the term Mine Protected Vehicle to describe the types used by the Royal Engineers in the Balkans for route proving, IED recce and CASEVAC.

There are different types of weapon that present different challenges for vehicle designers but they are often grouped under one banner. The purpose built mine, the improvised explosive device (IED) that might use ‘home brew’ explosives, the vehicle borne IED and the Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP) or off route mine all act differently against a vehicle. A V shaped hull is unlikely to offer any protection against an EFP, which have even penetrated the armour of a Challenger tank.  A VBIED’s resultant sideways blast may topple a high flat sided vehicle. Modern anti tanks mines rely less on blast and have EFP warheads. Surplus munitions such as artillery shells are sometimes combined with other explosives and the tactic of linking or dasiy chaining explosives to magnify the effect or shape a reaction in the accompanying units is a tactic that was practised in Africa and seems to be on the increase in Afghanistan.

As we said above, solve on problem and it makes another worse. There is simply no universal solution which makes vehicle design simply one part of a comprehensive counter Mine/IED strategy.

The history of these vehicles is very complex with a number of manufacturers and designers being involved over many years, a book could be written on the subject alone. We have split the evolution of the blast resistant vehicle into a number of distinct phases;

Initial Designs

Initial designs took existing truck or Land Rover chassis and applied the V shape hull concept. The success of these first attempts was great but deficiencies were recognised and over the years the design concept was perfected, branching into a number specialist vehicles and designs that were no longer conversions but built from scratch.

Taking an existing chassis and transplanting a V shaped hull created an effective but very top heavy and ungainly vehicle, they were often toppled by blast but despite this its occupants more often than not survived, unlike in conventional vehicles. The injuries that did occur whilst riding in these vehicles were mainly as a result of ignoring standing orders and procedures about strapping in or securing loose objects. When subject to a large mine strike even a loose cigarette lighter can be a fatal projectile. Many of these early designs were also transplanted onto railway vehicles which were proving vulnerable to mine attack.

Some examples of these initial designs are shown below;

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The Buffel was probably the most widespread of the type and consisted of a V shaped hull fitted to a Unimog chassis and with extra wide wheel rims to try and counteract the stability issue. An armoured cab was fitted, dispensing with the passenger seat allowed the creation of a protected citadel for the driver that also ensured any transmission or engine components did not intrude into the drivers area during a mine contact. A number of variants were produced, some armed, some unarmed and a wide number of mechanical enhancements. Retaining the basic mobility of the Unimog it still suffered in very wet conditions, after heavy rainfall for example. The Buffel was a significant export success and has been extensively used in Sri Lanka where the locally produced version is called the Unibuffel, a snip at less than £30,000. A particulalrly useful feature of the Buffel is a very large water tank, invaluable in areas where water was a scarce commodity.


For further information and a series of excellent pictures see here


The Concept Refined

In order to address a number of issues including the high centre of gravity, the concept of a monocoque hull was developed, without a separate chassis, the hull formed the chassis rather than sitting on it.

The Mamba still used Unimog running gear but without a chassis, relying in the monocoque hull. These types are characterised by employing a sacrificial drive-train and wheels, the engine and gearbox are inside the shell.

The Casspir was designed in response to a police requirement and is one of the most widely known vehicles of the type (even appearing in a Gorillaz music video for ‘Dirty Harry’)

In a widely reported incident a Casspir detonated 4 TM57 landmines arranged in two stacked pairs, one pair under the a wheel and the second pair linked a meter away. The vehicle was launched into the air but the most severe injury sustained by the occupants was a broken ankle. The TM57 has just over 6kg of high grade military explosive.

Casspir mine protected vehicle
Casspir mine protected vehicle


Up to Date

BAe, Navistar, Force Protection, Integrated Convoy Protection and Oshkosh (amongst many more) are currently manufacturing a wide range of blast protected vehicles, all of which can trace their conceptual roots back to those Land Rover and Unimog based lash ups produced by the South Africans and Rhodesians.

An example is the BAe RG31 Family, Force Protection Cougar/Mastiff or Thales (Australia) ADI Bushmaster;

Dutch Bushmaster in Afghanistan

The UK is no stranger to using these vehicles, having developed route proving and casevac techniques in the Balkans using Alvis 4’s. These were replaced by the Tempest vehicle, not widely known, the contract was let to Supacat (of Jackal fame) and used an early version of the Cougar, the same vehicle that subsequently became the Ridgeback, the vehicle at the centre of the recent ‘waiting at Dubai’ controversy. The base vehicle was obtained from Technical Solutions Group, a subsidiary of Force Protection, the manufacturers of the Mastiff and Ridgeback.

Alvis 4 Mamba Alvis 4 in Bosnia

8 Tempest vehicles were purchased at a cost of £2.7 million (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2006-10-31c.80541.h) or roughly a third of a million each. We always caveat these figures with the statement that we don’t know the nature of the contract and whether it included documentation, initial logistics package, training or any of the numerous other factors that can make dividing the total cost a programme by the numbers of units, meaningless.

Tempest MPV
Tempest MPV
Tempest MPV
Tempest MPV

Its an unfair comparison but worth making anyway, the Sri Lankan Unibuffel costs less than £30k.

The UK has purchased the Mastiff (a derivative of the Force Protection Cougar 6×6) with UK specific communications fit, electronics, remote weapon station and other modifications including extra armour on the sides in place of the glass view ports. The Ridgeback is the UK version of the Cougar 4×4, again from Force Protection. The Mastiff 2 is now in service and includes a wide range of improvements. The Wolfhound Heavy Support Vehicle is a protected logistic vehicle used for towing the 105mm Light Gun and transporting various loads, based on the Mastiff it is in service in Afghanistan (or will be very soon)

Specialist Vehicles

One of the early wheeled detection vehicles was called the Pookie (Night Ape) and consisted of a highly modified VW Beetle. It had a deep V shaped driver’s compartment, very low pressure surplus racing slick tyres and an electronic mine detection system. Although relatively slow it was very effective and during the latter years of its service the enemy was known to have placed a bounty on it!

In 1979 a number of Pookie’s detected an average of just under 6 mines per day and built at a cost of less than a single damaged vehicle repair they were a great success. None were lost to land mines although a number were damaged in ambushes that specifically targeting them. Only 1 driver was killed by a direct RPG hit. Responding to the threat of ambush they were fitted with the spider, a fearsome 24 barrel 12 gauge shotgun providing a 270 degree arc of fire.


The concept embodied by the Pookie was developed further into the Meerkat and Husky vehicles as part of the Chubby mine detection and removal system. The Chubby system from RSD utilises a range of V shaped and open frame vehicles to both detect and disrupt mines and IED’s. The detection vehicles are very low ground pressure but the detonation vehicles have staggered wheels and high ground pressure.  The UK purchased 3 complete sets for use in the Balkans although their status today is unknown. An unmanned conversion kit is also available. The US has a version called the Ground Standoff Mine Detection System from General Dynamics.


The Force Protection Buffalo is a heavier design fitted with a variety of sensors, space for mine clearance robotic vehicles and an articulated clearance arm. A number have been purchased by the UK as part of the Talisman programme.

Hopefully this post has illustrated the complexity of designing blast resistant vehicles, their history and the fact that the UK armed forces are no stranger to them.


One of our commentors (see below) has highlighted a few shoddy errors in this post concerning the early UK experiences with this type of vehicle, the Alvis 4 and Tempest. Apologies for these and a big thank you to STL for putting us straight on these points. The article above has now been corrected.


For much more detail on the South African and Rhodesian experience of mine warfare we would thoroughly recommend having a read of ‘Taming the Landmine’ by Peter Stiff.

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August 17, 2009 11:32 am

what a terrifically informative post. the links to the Canadian inquiry are truly terrifying

October 7, 2009 11:27 am

The world of mine protected vehicles is itself a bit of a minefield and I am afraid that this article is wide of the mark on a number of issues.

The Mamba was NOT a development of the RG-31. The TFM RG-31 was a commercial version of the Mamba Mk1 built when the Mamba Mk 2 4×4 contract was given to Reumech.

The prototype Mamba 4×4 was sent to Alvis in the UK who asked for a short wheelbase version which became the Alvis 4. This version was sold to the British Army in 1995 – with a few long wheelbase units being lent to them until the Alvis 4s were delivered.

In 2001 the British Army selected the Lion MPV made by TSG (latterly FPI) in the States, This was set up by Seafire Ltd who asked Supacat Ltd to get involved as Seafire was a new company that did not have the size to front this order. Vehicles were sent from the US to the UK and fitted with UK kit for deployment. However, Supacat also did a lot of work on quality issues as well as making the vehicles comply with UK regs. The name Tempest was selected by Seafire to avoid confusion with other UK equipment and program names.

I am not sure where the info about the Tempest being based upon an articulated tractor unit came from – but that is not the case. It used a US truck base with modified drive line and axles to create a 4×4 layout.

The Tempest and earlier vehicles did NOT have fully protected engines. This was a major feature of the modern Cougar and continues to differentiate Cougar from many other vehicles in the field.

And now for the Cougar.

The present Cougar made by FPI, together with its UK derivatives, was a new vehicle, designed in the US by a small team of three people led by a Brit. In March 2004 the USMC went to FPI and asked them to deliver the first of 27 vehicles within 6 months.

FPI was a then small company and had nothing to offer as the Tempest (sold to the UK) and early Lion vehicles were basically a defunct South African design effort which had some unacceptable traits and deficiencies.

The CEO of the company was pursuaded by the Brit to accept the USMC order and and it was agreed that the aim should be to develop a new vehicle which met first-world standards of protection, human factors engineering and use a US drive train. It was also intended that the vehicle should be a fundamentally new design which could effectively be patented in the US – which indeed it was.

The Cougar in service today, therefore, is not a product of South Africa (nor were any South Africans part of the team), but was designed and developed in the US with significant UK input. Simple as that.

The product of that effort was the Cougar 4×4 and 6×6. The USMC had not wanted a 6×6 initially as they were looking for a shorter vehicle that would fit onto an ISO flatbed of 20ft length. However, they were pursuaded that a 6×6 would be needed to deal with the weight/mobility requirements on anything other than a hard surface.

The first 30 or so Cougars were called Hardened Engineer Vehicles. Then the US Army and others jumped on the bandwagon and the next batches were called Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicles (JERRV). Several hundred JERRVs were ordered but it was clear that FPI could not keep pace with demand and so the DOD opened up the whole operation to other suppliers by way of the MRAP programme.

So – I hope that thismakes it clear that the modern Cougar is not a variant of the RG-31, the Mamba, the Tempest or the early TSG Lion. It might be considered an evolution of those earlier vehicles – but it was a new design from the wheels up.

Nor was the Buffalo a version of the Cougar. It was a South African design for a heavy demining vehicle that was sent over to the US for evaluation in the late 1990s and ordered via TSG/FPI in 2002 and thereafter in small quantities. It is certainly an older design by today’s standards and perhaps not as efficient as it might be – but that having been said, it has done exactly what it was intended to do and more; some vehicles have taken 60 hits or more and are still running. It should be viewed as a landmark in the development of armoured vehicles in my opinion.

Hope this of interest or use to someone out there.

October 8, 2009 2:10 pm

My first comments posted yesterday dealt with some of the historical and programme details in the article and offered up a few background factoids which might have been of interest. However, I was challenged to comment on the main issues to do with design and operational philosophy – and have done so in this comment .
Design is always going to be matter of opinion at the end of the day – a balance has to be struck. As with most things, it can all come down to the opinion of the senior person present who, however qualified, has to deal with the facts available at the time. Tactics and strategies change, technology moves on – and so do politics. This comment tries to take this into account – whether anyone else agrees is (of course) a matter of opinion.
The modern MPV (mine protected vehicle) does not actually use a deep-V; since the Mamba was introduced in the early 1990s the V has been quite suppressed precisely in order to provide a sensible hull shape and volume. This has been possible as a result of extensive tests, design and construction changes and also better materials. That is not to say that one has a free hand in any dimension – and nor would one expect that to be the case given requirements to load vehicles into aircraft, trains or ships – or indeed to comply with everyday road regulations in the EC or States.
The height of an MPV is governed by many factors – but will include the need to get the bottom of the hull as far from a potential explosion as sensibly possible. The internal height is driven by ergonomic factors such as the seated height of a 95% percentile man in combat kit with a helmet etc. These two requirements are a typical example of how a designer has actually very little scope to make radical changes in the basic dimensions of this or indeed any other vehicle. It is why tanks look so similar regardless of where they came from. Or why SUVs basically all look the same.
The width of a vehicle cannot be extended much beyond the fairly standard 8ft – 8ft 6in. But this does not affect turning circles as much as the article implied. This is governed more by the ratio of wheelbase to the “cut” or turning angles of the steering axles. The higher the angle the smaller the turning circle – everything else being equal. Put two steering axles on it and you will get a better circle again. (You will also get better cross country performance in many cases and reduce the chance of mine strikes by reducing the number of separate wheel tracks since the rear wheels follow the front wheel tracks in a turn.)
The advantages of making a higher vehicle are limited. Apart from the transportation problems (air and rail), the extra height is not going to provide that much of a tactical advantage. Typical MPVs are already quite high and tend to suffer from CofG problems as well as practical matters such as brushing power cables etc (as mentioned in the article). Even if height was not a major problem, it would still not confer many advantages in terms of volumes. A standard military 6×6 APC should aim to provide about 11cubic meters of internal volume; a command variant/ambulance needs up to 18. But much of the space is required to seat troops and bulky, heavy stores and equipment and simply raising the roof is not always the answer; one has to bear in mind that stowed weight is a factor when calculating CofG figures.
When designing any vehicle one has to make sure it is usable. If it were actually the case that strapping oneself into a “cell” meant that you lose “all situational awareness” then the vehicle would not be usable. In fact, during the design phase much time is spent analysing sight lines for all crew stations. Yes, there will be blind spots – but the concept of the modern MPV is to provide as much crew vision as possible. In fact, after the first Cougars were supplied, the users asked for fewer windows to prevent outsiders from seeing what was inside. I submit that the concept of better relations with local people leading to fewer incidents in the first place, whilst important, is not part of the remit of the MPV design and outside the scope of the article and this comment.
Weight is frequently neglected in discussions about MPVs. Everything else being equal, weight is a good thing for protection as it provides a mass that has to be worked on by an explosion before a vehicle is moved up or sideways. As the article points out, this is not always good for local relations – but again, this is an issue which is possibly outside the scope of this article as most armies have very good route clearance and mobility teams in the form of Engineers (and it is therefore no surprise that the early US Army users of the Cougar, Buffalo, RG-31 and Husky MPVs were the Route Clearance Vehicle teams of the US Assured Mobility Systems department of the Tank Automotive Command).
The article attaches significance to the various titles given to mine protected vehicles. Perhaps this is overstating things somewhat. These things change with fashion – or according to commercial needs. Having written the UN requirement for a protected vehicle as well as submitted proposals to the UK, Europe and the States, as well as the Middle East, I would use “protected” or “resistant” randomly ( I have an old Force Protection brochure – to which I contributed – which has all three terms used in the space of a single page). Sometimes I used Mine and Ballistically Protected (MBP) to emphasise the need to protect personnel from direct small arms fire after a mine was used to halt a vehicle. However, one should understand that the terms MRAP and LPPV were not generic but rather programme names. In the US the Cougar was first called the HEV (Hardened Engineer Vehicle); it morphed into the JERRV (Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicle) as a joint service programme and then into the MRAP. (We sometimes sat around late at night trying to create a sensible programme name – it was often as basic as that). Today HEVs, JERRVs and MRAPs are in service – often alongside each other.
One aspect of the evolution of the MPV from the early days in Africa to the modern iteration is that the threat has changed. Early, deep-v hulls were mainly aimed at simple pressure fused blast mines. Today’s vehicles are designed to deal with a wider range of threats including side-blast attack and the EFP or SFF mine. It is the ability to accommodate these changes which makes vehicles more useful to the user and I would submit that the planned-in growth potential of the Cougar is an example of a good design being exploited to its full.
But, I agree that in reality, since the fielding of the Cougar there have not been many significant advances in MPV design and, indeed, many of the MRAP-types to have entered the field since 2004/5 are not as competent a vehicle as the Cougar for a variety of reasons.

October 11, 2009 11:59 am

A brief reply to the author’s note about having corrected the article – some mis-statements are still present.

A. The Buffalo is not a derivative of the Cougar. It is an older, larger vehicle designed originally in South Africa per my first contribution to the comments section on this article.

B. The Tempest was not linked to the COugar/Ridgeback. The Tempest used an older South African designed hull fabricated in the US and fitted with UK mission equipment by Supacat.

The Cougar was – per my earlier comments – a new design which threw out most of the specifics of the older, South African, designs to take account of first-world technical standards and operational requirements.

The Cougar also addressed many of the perceived shortcomings of those earlier vehicles – good payload and plenty of growth potential being just two features of the new vehicle.

Above all it is important to understand that the Cougar marked the transition of the lead in MPV technology away from South Africa to the US (with British help of course).