27 March 2012

The Boys Get More Toys

In a Holiday 2011 blog post, I noted that the manufacturer of Matchbox-brand toy cars had produced a design that mimicked the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected ("M-RAP") armored vehicles used by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. The "SWAT Truck" was available in either basic black and friendly Infantry blue. The black one had "SWAT" painted on its sides, while the blue one said "police." Although altered, the design strongly resembled Navistar International Corp.'s MaxxPro.

During a recent dismounted patrol of local toy stores, my 4-year-old son Rain and I noted the Matchbox design has been re-issued, as part of 2012's "MBX Airport" series. Bright fire-engine red, with "Guard Services" and a Grecian helm logo on the side panels, this armored vehicle just screams "relax, dear traveler, and leave the flying to us."

Here's a fun travel tip: If, while preparing to board your next flight to sunny CancĂșn or Honolulu, you see an MRAP parked next to your aircraft? You should probably consider taking the bus instead.

The back-of-the-card prose on the 2012 Matchbox SWAT truck is even more inscrutable than that of its black-and-blue brethren, which noted selling features such as a "fully armored exterior [that] will crush any obstacle that appears in its path! Time to restore the peace!"

Here's how the red-truck version reads:
Great adventures fly in and out of the Airport every hour! World travelers come and go by vans and taxis. Transporters load exotic high-performance cars for international events in far-off lands. Cargo carriers careen from runways to access roads and the Rescue Crew is always ready to spring into action!
Careening cargo? Exotic cars? What kind of airport is this?!

(Answer: In Rain's world, it's probably an airport that also hosts a swarm of Matchbox "Mission Helicopters," an 1985 design also re-issued in 2012, and painted out in digital (?!) jungle camouflage pattern. They look a little like AH-64 "Apache" helicopters, with shorter tails.)

In the real world, military leaders have reportedly begun speculating what to do with a rag-tag fleet of hard-to-maintain MRAP trucks, given that the latest wars are winding down.

As the Washington Post's Marjorie Censer noted in a March 7, 2012 article, the "MRAP [...] is something of a relic, bought specifically to protect soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan but far too bulky for a future characterized by drones, cyberwarfare, and intelligence and surveillance technology." The trucks each cost between $10,000 to $20,000 to maintain annually.

Plus, maintaining the many different kinds of MRAP trucks is a logistical headache. In a 2011 Defense Logistics Agency (D.L.A.) news article, the organization manages more than 40,000 line items [parts and supplies] for the MRAP and stocks about 25,000 of them, said John Dreska, DLA Land and Maritime MRAP program manager. Dreska heads a team of 120 government employees and contractors whose sole priority is to support repair-parts sustainment for more than 13,000 MRAPs fielded in Afghanistan and about 1,500 used for pre-deployment training in the United States."

Some MRAP trucks could find themselves repurposed by Iraqi or Afghan security forces, or by other allies. It's not unthinkable, however, that some surplus MRAP trucks might eventually show up in U.S. law enforcement, just like Tommy guns and black rifles previously migrated to civilian use.

Still, one wonders if there might be a line drawn in the stateside sand, especially when it comes to Airport rent-a-Spartans and shopping mall cops. Inshallah, even the Big City P.D. won't need to drive around in top-heavy trucks that are designed to take bomb blasts from below.

Note to the city council members everywhere: The citizens of Mayberry R.F.D. do not need to be protected and served by surveillance drones. Or MRAP trucks. Or Blue Thunder.

But, if you ask nicely, Rain will let you play with one of his.

*****

Click here for a YouTube video comparing and contrasting the 2011 Matchbox "SWAT Truck" designs, starting at the 45-second mark.

1 comment:

  1. so often stuff the military comes up with was a "noraml" something before they put it to use....it's just a big ass truck with lots of armor. better than the canvas humvees we had with hajji armorer tacked on.

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