Thursday, May 31, 2007

MRAPs Lose to Arms Race

Three weeks ago I wrote about Vulnerability-Centric Security regarding the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, the US Army's replacement for the Hummvee pictured at left. I consider the MRAP an example of the failures of vulnerability-centric security. This morning USA Today's story MRAPs can't stop newest weapon validates my thoughts:

New military vehicles that are supposed to better protect troops from roadside explosions in Iraq aren't strong enough to withstand the latest type of bombs used by insurgents, according to Pentagon documents and military officials.

As a result, the vehicles need more armor added to them, according to a January Marine Corps document provided to USA TODAY...

"Ricocheting hull fragments, equipment debris and the penetrating slugs themselves shred vulnerable vehicle occupants who are in their path," said the document...

EFPs are explosives capped by a metal disk. The blast turns the disk into a high-speed slug that can penetrate armor.

Even with additional armor, the augmented MRAPs will still be vulnerable. This is because attackers possess advantages that defenses cannot overcome. In April I wrote Threat Advantages, which describes the strengths I see digital threats offering.

At least John Pike understands this problem.

It's doubtful new armor can stop all EFPs, said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity, a Washington-based defense think tank.

"Short of victory, they're going to continue to figure out ways to kill Americans," Pike said of the insurgents. "In any war, it is measure and countermeasure."

Investor's Business Daily agrees:

[W]e know the insurgency won't be put down with such defensive technologies. Better armor won't kill jihadists and suicide bombers. Better intelligence and better offensive tactics will.

In the digital realm, offense means actions to deter, investigate, apprehend, prosecute, and incarcerate threats. Sitting behind higher, deeper walls is not the answer. Neither is trusting the victim (the hardware, OS, application, or data) to defend itself.


Anonymous said...

It is always better to kill the threat, but sometimes that is not possible (political/legal reasons/trouble finding them, etc). If I had a choice of riding in a soft shell Hummer or an MRAP I would take the MRAP any day.

Jonathan said...

This is the kind of nonsense you get when computer geeks start writing on military matters. Every vehicle, even a tank, is vulnerable if the threat is high enough. The point of vehicles like the MRAP is to make the soldiers as safe as reasonably possible, given the speed, weight, carrying capacity and other factors. You are safe inside one of our MRAPs against anything except maybe an EFP or an anti-tank mine. Riding around in a n unarmored Hummer will get you killed if the bad guy has an AK-47.
One of the constant dynamics of warfare is the varying advantages of offense vs. defense. Both sides constantly adjust and change. We will be there to help.

Richard Bejtlich said...


Welcome to the blog. You clearly have no idea where you are posting. You probably did some kind of search and found my post. If you have any clue whatsoever you'll see that I was in the US military and so are many of my readers. In fact, 13 years ago today I graduated from the US Air Force Academy.

The point of this post and previous posts was to show that playing defense is not a winning strategy. Of course it's an arms race.

I suggest you hire a computer geek to fix the nameservers for You'll sell more MRAPs.

Anonymous said...


Graduating from the US Air Force Academy hardly counts as "having served," and the fact that you site that as some type of apex of your service is an indication of what little, if any, real-world experience you actualy have. As for me, having conducted both mounted and dismounted patrols in Najaf and Baghdad, and having recently lost a unit member to an IED blast that hit his Humvee, I appreciate any technology that increases the good guys' survivability while they conduct offensive operations. There will never be a perfect solution, but if these things are safer than Humvees, let's use them until the next thing comes around. Who cares if Jonathan has an idea where he is posting? Neither do I. So while you'll probably get an "A" on your thesis, it won't make troops down-range any safer. The MRAP, however, just might.

Richard Bejtlich said...


You completely miss the point. Do you think I don't want to protect our soldiers, even people like yourself who honorably serve? Try engaging your brain to see what I really mean before you start taking cheap shots. You don't know anything about my service record or my relationship with anyone in the war. This thread is closed due to trespassing by people who can't read.