The Cougar is an MRAP and infantry mobility vehicle structured to be resistant to landmines and improvised munitions.
It is a family of armored vehicles produced by Force Protection Inc, which manufactures ballistic and mine-protected vehicles. The vehicles are integrated by Spartan Motors. These vehicles are protected against small arms, land mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using a combination of design features and materials to protect both the crew and engine compartment against a wide range of attacks. A Monocoquetype, V-shaped hull extends to the engine bay and serves to direct the blast away from under the vehicle. The dual air-conditioners help keep heavily dressed troops from overheating in temperatures over 100 °F (38 °C) in Iraq.
Force Protection, Inc. was formed in 2002 when Sonic Jet purchased Technical Solutions Group, using the name Sonic Jet until 2004. Technical Solutions Group had been a defense company in the US that was involved in a range of products, including mine-resistant vehicles based on South African designs. A few vehicles were sold to the US Army for evaluation, and a small fleet of heavily protected vehicles were sold to the British Army in 2001.
In 2004, the new Cougar was designed by a small British-led team in the US at Force Protection, Inc., in response to an urgent requirement by the US Marine Corps. This was a new design, developed in the US, based on an evolution of vehicle mine-protection technology used by the South African Army and Rhodesian Security Forces since the 1970s. The very first sketches of the new vehicle were made in late March 2004 in response to those initial USMC inquiries. The rapid development and production that followed was based upon the USMC request that the first vehicle be delivered within 6 months of an order - which was subsequently placed in mid-April 2004 for 27 units.
The new design was called Cougar to provide a degree of continuity with the older designs, but had little in common with them. The former vehicles were almost entirely non-compliant with NATO standards for protection, human factors and safety, which made those designs obsolete. The Cougar was effectively a totally new vehicle which incorporated the latest US-made enhancements, a new hull design and structure, as well as built-in growth potential, including dimensions that allowed for the addition of the latest armor and protection systems.
After leaving the factory, the first vehicle was only trialed by doing some circuits of the company campus and trundling over a few rocks and beams set up by the designer to provide a degree of shake-down testing as well as a demonstration course. Urgent operational requirements dictated that the first unit be shipped to theater as fast as possible and those involved in the project decided that the risk of doing so was outweighed by the advantages of having the vehicle available. The Cougar was fully trialed when it became part of the MRAP program.
The first Cougars were called HEV (hardened engineer vehicle), which became JERRV when the Army joined the program, and then MRAP for political reasons when the requirement for many thousands of units was issued.
Some 4,000 of these vehicles were fielded under the US military's MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) and other vehicle programs. US Defense secretary Robert Gates demanded that the vehicles be ordered in larger numbers after the Marines reported in 2004 that no troops had died in more than 300 IED attacks on Cougars. Since then, Cougar vehicles have been hit by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) many times in Iraq with few fatalities. Britain chose the Cougar over the RG-31 Nyala for their "Mastiff" APV.
As of December 2011, the Pentagon planned to add the Crows II remote weapon station and the Frag Kit 6 anti-EFP armor.
Official data states that the Cougar is able to withstand a blast of at least 14 kg TNT under a wheel and 7 kg TNT under a belly.
The Cougar comes in two main configurations, a 4×4 and 6×6. It is designed for the transport and protection of troops and equipment, especially against mines or IEDs. The two main configurations come in specific variants.
- Cougar HEV (Hardened engineer vehicle)
- 4x4 and 6x6 vehicles ordered in 2004 by the USMC.
- Badger ILAV (Iraqi Light Armored Vehicle)
- Based on the Cougar and manufactured by FPII and BAE Systems for the Iraqi Army. The ILAV is based on the Cougar, which can carry ten passengers (the six wheel version can carry 16). The Cougar/ILAV vehicle uses a capsule design to protect the passengers and key vehicle components from mines and roadside bombs. The larger Cougar costs about $730,000 each, fully equipped. The Cougars have been very popular with American troops, and with Iraqis who have worked with them. 865 ILAVs were ordered by Iraq and 18 by Yemen. The ILAV gives the Iraqis the same degree of protection that most Coalition troops have.
- Cougar JERRV (Joint EOD rapid response vehicle)
- 4x4 and 6x6 variants for the US Army, USAF, and USMC. Approx. 200 ordered in 2005 and 2006, with another 200 ordered in late 2006 but now called MRAPs to take account of the new US military/political initiative to be seen to be responding to public concerns about casualties.