Senior Defense Department officials today showcased a more agile, downsized version of the military’s family of super-armored vehicles now arriving in Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain requires a more agile vehicle than the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles used in Iraq, the MRAP vehicle was modified to produce a lighter, all-terrain vehicle known as the M-ATV, said Ashton B. Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. The new vehicles will replace up-armored Humvees. Like the version used in Iraq, the new trucks feature armor and V-shaped hulls to deflect roadside-bomb blasts, Carter. M-ATVs “will similarly be a live-saver in Afghanistan,” he added. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pushed to develop the new vehicle quickly, Carter said, noting the first production order was provided to Wisconsin-based manufacturer Oshkosh Corp. in June. Vehicles already are arriving in Afghanistan, Carter said, noting he has test-driven an M-ATV. “These are superior vehicles,” he told reporters. The military is planning to buy more than 6,500 M-ATVs, Carter said, with about 690 having been accepted. “We will continue to make changes in the MRAP-ATV as we get feedback from soldiers [on] how to improve it,” Carter said. U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are training with the first 41 M-ATVs that have arrived there, said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Va. Marines, too, will get M-ATVs, he said. The M-ATV weighs about 5 tons less that the 40,000-pound regular MRAP, Brogan said, noting the new vehicle also features an independent suspension and a shorter wheelbase to better negotiate Afghanistan’s rocky hills. The M-ATV “was designed from the ground up to have mobility that’s roughly equivalent to an up-armored Humvee, yet retain the survivability features that are inherent in the baseline MRAP vehicles,” Brogan said. The major contributor to the M-ATV’s increased mobility, he said, is its four-wheel independent suspension.