Safe truck, explosive business
Force Protection manufactures trucks that can protect its passengers from a landmine blast.
By Maggie Overfelt, FSB writer-reporter

(FSB Magazine) -- The UN estimates that more than 110 million active landmines lurk beneath roads and fields around the world, and for every mine cleared, 20 are planted. That's a growing market for Force Protection (Charts), a Ladson, S.C., manufacturer of armored vehicles.

Unlike its competitors, Force Protection fits its trucks - such as the Buffalo, pictured - with V-shaped hulls, which deflect the energy blasted from mines up into the sides of the chassis instead of directly at it.

Force Protection's Buffalo truck has a distinctive V-shaped hull

"Soldiers have a much better chance of coming back alive in our vehicles vs. anything else," says vice president Michael Aldrich. In the three years since the trucks were launched, no fatalities have been reported in any Force Protection truck.

Britain, Israel and South Africa have inquired about using the company's trucks, but Force Protection's recent revenue spike - from $6 million in 2003 to more than $200 million so far this year - comes from U.S. government contracts.

About 200 trucks have been shipped to Iraq, and in May, Force Protection won a $445 million multiyear contract from the Pentagon to build 1,000 trucks for the Iraqi army. The first Cougars, four-by-four trucks that fit ten soldiers and can hit speeds of up to 75 mph, were shipped in July.

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