After the bloodbath in Somalia during 1993, American Army authorities were convinced to rewrite their approach to armored warfare and broaden it beyond the Main Battle Tank/Infantry Fighting Vehicle doctrine backed by a fleet of light-armored and ill-equipped HUMVEE vehicles. An intermediate solution was sought that offered the firepower of an armed HUMVEE with the protection level reaching that of an IFV and this result became the M1117 "Guardian" Armored Security Vehicle (ASV) - a 4x4 armored system born from the Vietnam-era Cadillac Gage "Commando" series and developed by Textron Marine & Land Systems. The Guardian entered service in 1999 in time to see combat service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
One key quality of the Guardian is its modular expandable armor protection scheme which includes an exterior level of ceramic composite applique armor coupled to an interior spall liner - this improves crew survivability considerably, particularly in the hit-and-run environment of urban warfare especially when compared to the basic or even "up-armored" HUMVEE vehicles. Armament is fitted to a 360-degree traversing powered turret mounting a combination 40mm Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher with a 0.50 Browning M2HB heavy machine gun. Additional firepower is through a 7.62mm M240H Medium Machine Gun at the gunner's turret hatch. A typical operating crew is three and includes the driver, commander and gunner with an optional passenger if needed. The powerpack arrangement includes a Cummins 6CTA8.3 engine of 260 horsepower driving the two axles and netting the vehicle an operational range of 440 miles and road speed maximum of 63 miles per hour.
The M1117 program initially evolved slowly as the product was not in great need at the time and considerably more expensive than the ubiquitous HUMVEE already in circulation. As such, only Army Military Police (MP) units were handed the vehicles in limited numbers at first and these were baptized in the Kosovo combat environment. It was not until the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq - and combat actions following - showcased the need for improved armored vehicles across the many convoys required during daily operations. These operations proved the extreme vulnerability of the HUMVEE to roadside attacks using IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and well-conceived ambushes by guerilla warfighters using unconventional battlefield tactics. This placed the M1117 back at the forefront of Army requirements to which over 2,000 M1117 vehicles were eventually secured. The Guardian has proven effective against IEDs, land mines and small arms fire to varying degrees thanks to use of sloped armor facings and adequate armament.
Like other American military vehicles, the M1117 is fully air-transportable, able to be carried aloft by a Sikorsky CH-53E "Super Stallion" (slung under the helicopter) or in the belly of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III fixed-wing transport. Up to six can fit in the hold of the latter method.
The United States represents only the primary operator of the M117. Local Afghan and Iraqi police units have been given the Guardian for their day-to-day affairs when combating insurgents. Bulgaria operates seven in its Army force while some 39 examples have been taken on by the Colombian Army and several hundred are expected to be locally-produced at Cugir in Romania for the Romanian Army.
The M1200 "Armored Knight" is a specialized vehicle form of the Guardian line, retaining its 4x4 wheeled configuration and three-man crew though used in the precision targeting role by the United States Army. It entered service in 2008 and has seen combat service in Iraq.
Manufacturing Textron Marine and Land Systems - USA
Production 3,369 Units
Afghanistan; Bulgaria; Colombia; Iraq; Romania; United States
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