MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. --
The newest version of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle is currently being upgraded, refurbished and up-armored for both the Marine Corps and Air Force at Production Plant Barstow, Marine Depot Maintenance Command, on the Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California.
It has been described by artisans working on the project as “a beast,”
“a gnarly truck,” and “a Humvee on steroids.”
Kenny Phillips, a Barstow native, is the production superintendent for the
M-ATV line at the production plant.
“(The M-ATV) is really the replacement for the Humvee (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) because the Humvee is thin layer sheet metal and didn’t do enough to protect the Marines,” Phillips explained.
“It is a Fast Tactical Assault Vehicle to get men in for certain missions and is the preferred means of troop transport,” he continued.
Phillips said the section of the M-ATV containing the driver and occupants is heavily protected by armor.
“It’s an armored capsule and can take a powerful (improvised explosive
device) hit and keep Marines alive,” he said.
“Currently we’re working on a split line between Air Force and Marine Corps M-ATVs at a rate of about 16 to 20 a month,” Phillips said. “It takes
us about three to four weeks for each vehicle and the total repair cycle time for all the vehicles is 120 days.”
He noted the repair cost of each vehicle is about $385,000. The website
for the manufacturer of the M-ATV, the Oshkosh Corporation, lists the cost of a brand new M-ATV, depending on the model, at around $400,000 to $1 million.
Kenneth Merica, a native of Victorville, California, has been working at PPB as an industrial engineer technician for 19 years. He said the M-ATV is an extremely well-engineered piece of lifesaving equipment.
“These evolved because of the desert war. These came out in 2009 from
Oshkosh,” explained Merica. “You’re looking at a Humvee on steroids. You
can blow this apart and the occupants would all be alive.”
He explained that he and his team have to get the work the PPB is doing on the M-ATVs right the first time around.
“ … because these go back to the Air Force and Marine customer so I make sure it’s able to run and shoot as they’re supposed to,” Merica said. “They need to flip a switch and this equipment is supposed to do what it needs to do.”
Phillips said the biggest difference between the Marine Corps model and
the Air Force version of the M-ATV is the turret on top of the vehicle.
“The machine gun in the turret is operated directly by a Marine from on top,” he explained. “The Air Force has a CROW type turret. That stands
for Crew Remote Operated Weapon system where the machine gun on top can be operated from inside the cab of the M-ATV.”
Daniel Contreras, a native of Barstow, and a former Marine, has worked at PPB for 11 years as a heavy mobile equipment mechanic.
He pointed out the heavy metal armor has three layers. The original plating which is covered by a much heavier and wider second layer of steel, which is then overlaid with dense foam.
“(The foam) is a crumple zone so it absorbs a lot of the impact versus a solid plate of steel, which gives us three layers of protection,” Contreras said.
He said the mountainous terrain in Afghanistan makes it unsuitable for not only the wide M1 Abrams tanks but the previous generation of MRAP vehicles, as well.
“(The other variants of the MRAP) were rolling off the sides of mountain
roads and in to creeks,” Contreras said.
Dustin Wiley, originally from Riverside, Calif., and former member of the Army National Guard, has been working at the plant and on the M-ATV line for six months.
“I love working on it,” Wiley said. “I was actually in the military myself
and I’ve driven these things myself and they do save a lot of lives. My military occupational specialty was a wheeled mechanic and I did work on these in the field.”
Contreras summed up what is a common feeling by the artisans working
on the lifesaving M-ATV line.
“I feel a sense of accomplishment working here,” he said. “Being a Marine
myself, and working at a Marine base, I love this job. It’s a way for me to continue giving back to the Marine Corps even after being out. I can still come here and still do my job and still help them do their job more safely day to day by doing what I do here. Where else am I going to go to be able to build this equipment or look at this kind of stuff and do these kinds of things and still help people survive and come back home to their families? Nowhere else can you do that but here.”