Mine Protected Clearance Vehicle
The Buffalo is a 23-ton vehicle intended to defeat mines and improvised explosive devices. It is a heavily-armored v-hulled vehicle designed for route clearance, giving patrols a closer look at suspected hazards. Using the vehicle's onboard systems and interregator arm, it can be confirmed that a mine or improvised explosive devices is present before bringing an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team onto the scene.
With the vehicles, once an improvised explosive device was spotted by a route clearance team, it could be investigated without getting physically on the ground to look at it. The Buffalo could achieve this by using its integral 30-foot extension arm, referred to as the Ironclaw, which was operated from within the vehicle.
The operator could use the Ironclaw to probe debris and dirt from around the questionable device and also had an extra set of eyes mounted on top to help decipher the identity of the object. Working hand in hand with a television screen inside the vehicle, a video camera with a 200x zoom had a bird's eye view of everything. It had the capability to help the crew see clearly.
The Buffalo seated 6, with the driver and operator at the front and the 4 remaining soldiers behind them designated for observation. The crew was seated about 10 to 12 feet off of the ground and also had access to an extra set of searchlights that could maneuvered from inside the vehicle. With the lights, the camera, and the 30-foot arm, they could search anywhere they felt there might be a threat.
In 1999, the US Army began a Foreign Comparative Test (FCT) to determine the most appropriate vehicle to serve as the Mine Protected Clearance Vehicle component of the GSTAMIDS Block O Program. There were 2 candidates being considered for the control vehicle. They were the Reumech OMC Casspir Mk II and the Denel-Mechem Lion II. Both vehicles were produced in the Republic of South Africa. The Casspir Mk II was sold in the United States by LNY, Inc, while the Lion II was sold in the US by Technical Solutions Group. These companies provided vehicles to the US Army for testing. While the Lion II was a relatively new development at the time, the Casspir had been sold to some 90 countries, including India.
In June 2001, the US Army selected a Lion II based vehicle. The basis of issue of the vehicle would be one-for-one with GSTAMIDS Block 0 and Block 1 systems, as the vehicle was initially intended to be an integral component of both systems. Technical Solutions Group was asked to refine the design, and the resulting product was called the Buffalo. The vehicles visual similarities to the other contender in the initial selection, the Casspir Mk II, led to some confusion about the lineage of the vehicles, compounded by the fact that both were of South African origin. While visually similar to the Casspir, the Lion II and Buffalo were separate developments. Neither series of vehicles are related to the South African mine protected vehicle, the Buffel.
On 12 September 2002, Technical Solutions Group, of North Charleston, South Carolina, was awarded a $6,560,651 firm-fixed-price contract by US Army Communications-Electronics Command for the production of 10 mine protected clearance vehicles, development of a system support plan, delivery of maintenance spares, development of training courseware and development of an electronic technical manual. Work would be performed in North Charleston, and was expected to be completed by 12 September 2007. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This was a sole source contract initiated on 25 July 2002.
Technical Solutions Group Inc, of Ladson, South Carolina, was awarded on 10 May 2004, a $7,681,688 increment by the US Army Communications-Electronics Command as part of a $15,363,376 firm-fixed-price contract for procurement of 21 Buffalo Mine Protected Clearance Vehicles, one set of steel wheels, one set wheel width disc rollers, one lot of repair parts and spares, and one lot of consumable and maintenance parts. Work would be performed in Ladson, South Carolina, and was expected to be completed by 31 December 2004. This was a sole source contract initiated on 21 April 2004.
Technical Solutions Group Inc, of Ladson, South Carolina, was awarded on 18 November 18 2004, a $5,909,743 firm-fixed-price contract by the US Army Communications-Electronics Command for procurement of 15 Buffalo Mine Protected Clearance Vehicles and associated repair parts and spares. Work would be performed in Ladson, South Carolina, and was expected to be completed by 30 April 2005. This was a sole source contract initiated on 15 September 2004.
Buffalo MPCVs were deployed with the 108th Engineering Battalion in early 2005. Operators received a course on the specifications and operations of the Buffalo. They were trained by the 458th Engineers and received classroom instruction, as well as on-the-job training. They were afforded the opportunity to go with the team on missions, and about 75 percent of what they learned was from actually conducting route clearance in the area of operation. The system was employed by the Army to protect Route Clearance teams while patrolling, probing, locating and neutralizing IED along civilian and military routes.
Based on the intelligence gathered through patrol debriefings and information sent down to the company level, the Buffalo was tasked out to the desired patrols. The Buffalo's purpose with the 108th Engineering Battalion was to keep soldiers protected from improvised explosive devices.
Also in 2005, Force Protection Inc., the parent company of Technical Solutions Group, Inc., took over complete responsibility for the Buffalo vehicle line. On 9 September 2005 Force Protection, Inc announced the initial sale of its Buffalo Mine Protected Clearance Vehicles (MPCV) to the US Marine Corps under an urgent operational need request issued by the Marine Corps Systems Command. Under the terms of the contract, Force Protection would deliver 4 Buffalo vehicles, replacement parts and a service representative to coordinate maintenance efforts in active operations. The total value of the contract was approximately $3.8 million. It was expected to be filled by the end of 2005. The contract represented the Marines' first purchase of the Buffalo MPCV, which was originally provided under contract to the US Army. The vehicles supplied under the USMC contract would join more than 50 Buffalo vehicles already being used in Afghanistan and Iraq. At that time the Buffalo had been in active operations for more than 2 years, and had been used to clear thousands of suspected explosive devices from hundreds of miles of dangerous roads in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
In June 2007, the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General released a report suggesting that the US Army and US Marine Corps had been wrong in continuing to award contracts to Force Protection, Inc. for Cougar and Buffalo Vehicles. The Marine Corps Systems Command awarded sole-source contracts to Force Protection, Inc., for the Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle even though Marine Corps Systems Command officials knew other sources were available for competition. In addition, TACOM Life Cycle Management Command and Marine Corps Systems Command officials did not adequately justify the commercial nature of 3 commercial contracts with Force Protection, Inc., for the Cougar and the Buffalo Mine Protected Clearance Vehicle. As a result, the Marine Corps Systems Command continued to award contracts for armored vehicles to Force Protection, Inc., even though Force Protection, Inc., did not perform as a responsible contractor and repeatedly failed to meet contractual delivery schedules for getting vehicles to the theater. In addition, TACOM Life Cycle Management Command and Marine Corps Systems Command decisions to award commercial contracts to Force Protection, Inc., were said to have possibly limited the Government's ability to ensure it paid fair and reasonable prices for the contracts.
In late 2007, the Department of Defense launched a major procurement initiative to replace most uparmored High Mobility, Multi-Wheeled Vehicles in Iraq with so-called Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles by FY09. Force Protection, Inc initially submitted variants of the Buffalo MPCV, which had already been in service with the US Army since 2003. Eventually, a derivative, call the Cougar, which had also been in service with the Marine Corps, was selected as part of the MRAP program. GSTAMIDS Block 0 was eventually transformed into a route clearance element of the MRAP program, MRAP Category III, as the GSTAMIDS Block 1 program had already become associated with the Future Combat Systems in 2003, becoming GSTAMIDS FCS. Buffalo vehicles were subsequently added to projected total requirements for MRAPs rather than GSTAMIDS assets. A slat/bar armor kit was also subsequently developed for the Buffalo as part of the MRAP program to help prevent against additional threats encuontered by forces during both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
In 2008, the US Army conducted testing of a product improved version of the Buffalo, referred to as the Buffalo A2. The original Buffalo was subsequently referred to as the Buffalo A1.
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