The US Army's Letterkenny Army Depot has launched a new version of its RG31 mine-resistant combat vehicle.

The latest RG31 has a 300hp engine and a larger transmission that has been upgraded from the 2500 to 3000 series.

An independent suspension was added for improved mobility, in addition to 360° spotlights for night visibility; and an armoured gunner's hatch.

Letterkenny Army Depot commander colonel Deacon Maddox said: "When most people think of Letterkenny, they think of missiles.

"What many people do not know about Letterkenny is that approximately one third of the depot's work is the route clearance vehicle, which includes the RG31."

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Developed by BAE Systems in South Africa, the RG31 has a V-shaped monocoque-welded steel hull, which provides protection against IEDs and ballistic threats.

"The army and the nation made a major investment in the MRAP fleet of vehicles."

The 4×4 armoured mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) route clearance vehicle was originally developed for the MRAP programme, which produces vehicles for the US defence forces.

It provides protection against 7.62mm armoured-piercing ammunition, small arm fires and anti-tank mine detonations.

Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Engineer Regiment deputy commandant James Rowan said: "The army and the nation made a major investment in the MRAP fleet of vehicles.

“This vehicle, the medium mine-protected vehicle that is built on the RG31 MRAP platform, has already saved untold lives and will continue to do so in the future."

The depot is expected to produce a total of 929 RG31s by 2020.

Image:A newly upgraded RG31 rolls off the production floor at Letterkenny Army Depot. Photo: courtesy of Pam Goodheart, Letterkenny.