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Ukrainian volunteers purchase rare Grizzly MRAP vehicle from Blackwater PMC.

| Russia Ukraine War 2022

As reported by Ihor Pysklynets on April 29, 2024, Ukrainian volunteers purchased an extremely rare Grizzly Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) 4x4 vehicle for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Developed by the American private military contractor Blackwater for the US Armed Forces almost 15 years ago for the MRAP II program, the vehicle did not enter mass production.
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Prompted by the memory of fallen defender Andrii Seniv, his family took the initiative to procure the Grizzly MRAP vehicle without relying on charity funds or volunteer movements. (Picture source: Ihor Pysklynets)


Prompted by the memory of fallen defender Andrii Seniv, his family took the initiative to procure the Grizzly MRAP vehicle without relying on charity funds or volunteer movements. Through collective efforts and support from the residents of the Nadvirnya territorial community and the Nadvirnya diaspora in America, sufficient funds were swiftly raised for the purchase and transportation of the equipment to Ukraine's Ivano-Frankivsk region.

Upon its arrival in Ukraine, the Blackwater Grizzly will undergo necessary modifications before being assigned to the 109th battalion of the Ukrainian Army's 10th Mountain Assault Brigade "Edelweiss", where Andriy Seniv served. Primarily designated for medical evacuation purposes, the vehicle's purchase reflects the community's commitment to supporting Ukraine's defense efforts. However, recognizing the emerging threat posed by enemy drones, an additional fundraiser has been launched to equip the armored personnel carrier with essential electronic warfare protection.

Between 2007 and 2008, the US government contracted Blackwater USA (now Academi) to manufacture Grizzly MRAPs, in line with a broader military strategy to integrate Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, deemed essential for resisting attacks such as IEDs. This initiative, led by Blackwater Armored Vehicle, a division of Blackwater Worldwide at the time, aimed to address specific military needs for operations in environments like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Grizzly, based on a civilian GMC vehicle, was entered into the MRAP II competition, designed to identify advanced MRAP vehicles with superior protection. The MRAP II program, initiated by the Marine Corps Systems Command in July 2007, sought to develop a new class of MRAP vehicles with enhanced protection against threats like explosively formed penetrators (EFPs). Unlike its predecessor, MRAP I, which required additional Frag Kit 6 for EFP protection, MRAP II aimed to integrate such technologies directly into the vehicle's design for flexibility.

Initial testing at Aberdeen Proving Grounds disqualified several contractors, including Force Dynamics (reinforced Cougar), GDLS Canada (upgraded BAE OMC RG-31), Navistar subsidiary IMG (upgraded MaxxPro), Textron (upgraded M1117), and Protected Vehicles (upgraded Golan vehicle), due to perceived deficiencies, particularly in forward armor protection. Blackwater's submission included two Grizzly vehicles equipped with EXO Scale anti-EFP appliqué armor by ARES Systems Group. Although the armor was effective in testing, the vehicle did not progress in the competition due to concerns about insufficient armor on the vehicle's forward area. Despite Blackwater's willingness to adjust the design, the vehicle was not adopted.


Powered by a Caterpillar Diesel engine generating 330 horsepower coupled with an Allison 6-speed automatic transmission, the Grizzly can reach speeds up to 100 km/h and has a road range of over 600 kilometers. (Picture source: South Jersey Classic)


Ultimately, two designs were qualified for the MRAP II program: an upgraded Caiman by Armor Holdings (later acquired by BAE Systems) and the Bull, a collaborative effort between Ideal Innovations Inc, Ceradyne, and Oshkosh, each weighing over 40,000 pounds. However, the Pentagon favored the lighter first-generation MRAP I vehicles, incorporating Frag Kit 6-derived armor, due to concerns over the heavier MRAP II vehicles affecting road infrastructures.

Blackwater planned to produce approximately 300 Grizzlies annually in Camden, North Carolina, in a facility prepared for high production rates, anticipating both U.S. and international demand. However, the lack of selection by the U.S. military in 2008 and minimal international interest led to reduced production and consequent downsizing. The cost per vehicle was not publicly disclosed but was estimated to be around half a million dollars, potentially more with optional advanced equipment. Nonetheless, Blackwater did deploy the Grizzly MRAP to Iraq, according to available evidence.

Internally, the Grizzly supports two crew members and up to eight passengers comfortably. It includes amenities such as power outlets for electronic devices, blackout lights for covert operations, heavy-duty air conditioning, a front-mounted Ramsey winch, and a 200 amp power generator supporting additional electronic equipment and communication tools. Measuring 7.01 meters long, 2.57 meters wide, and 3.33 meters high, the Grizzly offers a substantial internal space while maintaining a relatively compact profile.

Powered by a Caterpillar Diesel engine generating 330 horsepower coupled with an Allison 6-speed automatic transmission, the Grizzly can reach speeds up to 100 km/h and has a road range of over 600 kilometers, despite a shipping weight of 18,824 kilograms, and a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 22,226 kilograms. Its armor can withstand 12.7mm machine-gun bullets, and the windows are fortified against 7.62mm high-powered rifle bullets. A distinctive feature is its v-shaped hull designed to deflect blasts from mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), enhancing occupant safety.

Moreover, it can be equipped with a remote-controlled gun turret supporting up to a 12.7mm machine gun and includes five firing ports for occupants. Additional features include high-powered lights controlled from inside the vehicle, all-terrain run-flat tires, air brakes, dual-zone air conditioning, a roof hatch access, and a day/night vision camera.


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