BAGRAM, Afghanistan — Faced with an epidemic of deadly roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military officials ordered up a fleet of V-hulled 16-ton armored behemoths in 2007 to help protect American soldiers and Marines.
At a cost of $1 million each, the ugly tan beasts known as MRAPS have saved countless lives and absorbed or deflected thousands of insurgent bomb blasts in teeming cities, desert flats and rutted mountain roadways. The lumbering vehicles are so beloved that soldiers have scrawled notes of thanks on their armor.
So why would the U.S. military suddenly start chopping up as many as 2,000 of the vehicles and selling them as scrap? After all, just six years have passed since high-tech MRAPs were developed and 27,000 of them cranked out and shipped in a $50 billion production blitz.
As it turns out, the Pentagon produced a glut of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks. The military brass has now calculated that it’s not worth the cost of shipping home damaged, worn or excess MRAPs to bases already deemed oversupplied with the blast-deflecting vehicles.
As they are “demilitarized,” many of the MRAPs are sold as scrap metal to eager Afghan buyers.
It costs about $12,000 to crunch and dispose of a single MRAP here, said Mark E. Wright, a Defense Department spokesman. To ship one back to the U.S. and rebuild it to current standards would cost $250,000 to $450,000, he said. Selling the vehicles as scrap instead of shipping them home and refitting them will consequently save about $500 million, Wright said.
“Disposing of excess MRAPs in Afghanistan where there is no military or excess defense articles need is fiscally responsible,” Wright said. Through Oct. 1, 938 MRAPs in Afghanistan had been turned into scrap, according to the Defense Logistics Agency.
The first to be crunched were older models and those damaged in bombings or wrecks. Next up were vehicles considered “excess property,” sold as scrap along with banged-up Humvees, pickups, treadmills, office chairs and air conditioners.