Prehistoric on the outside, Space Age on the inside.

That’s how U.S. defense contractor Force Protection describes its heavily armored Buffalo and Cougar trucks, which are being rushed into service in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 120 of the vehicles will be shipped overseas by February, and about 100 are already in service.



Unlike the U.S. military’s soft-skinned Humvees, Force Protection claims that its Buffalo and Cougar vehicles can withstand attacks from Iraq’s infamous improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, as well as roadside bombs, gunfire and land mines. The cabins and hulls of both vehicles are layered with steel, ceramics and lightweight composites and can repel small-arms fire and shoulder-fired missiles.



Narrow, V-shaped hulls help direct blasts out and away from the vehicles. The Buffalo and Cougar are nimble for their size, and can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. They are much taller than Humvees and sit high off the ground.



The company claims the Buffalo and Cougar’s IED-survivability rate is perfect. The vehicles may sustain heavy damage, but no roadside bomb attack against a Buffalo or Cougar has taken the life of a coalition solider, the company said.



John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, which focuses on worldwide military news, said the Buffalo and Cougar won’t single-handedly defeat the Iraqi insurgency.



“You have to keep in mind there are 10,000 vehicles in Iraq that are subject to ambush,” said Pike. “I wouldn’t count on the (Buffalo and Cougar) having an immediate impact because the military doesn’t have the sufficient numbers to make a difference.”



But Force Protection claims its “blast design technology” is winning over troops.



“The response from the field has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Jeff Child, a spokesman for the company. He said the vehicles uncovered roughly 200 IEDs in and around central Iraq this past winter.



By John Lasker



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