We’ve talked before about how the Humvee isn’t really meant to be a fighting vehicle, even in its up-armored state. The next obvious question would be, “What does a vehicle designed for fighting look like?” Well, we’ve all heard about the MRAP. But MRAPs have their own problems. They cost a fortune, and are big and heavy, limiting their mobility on the goat trails of Afghanistan, and the narrow alleys in Iraq.
In the 80’s, Army doctrine for a linear battlefield had heavy combat units securing the front line. Units in the rear area were responsible for their own local defense, but the lines of communication were (and supposedly still are) the responsibility of the Military Police. MPs may function as law-enforcement in peacetime, but in a combat situation, their primary focus is on three missions- POW handling, traffic control, and rear area security. The MP Corps wanted a vehicle heavier than the existing Humvee weapons carrier for some situations that needed a little more protection. They looked to the past, found the Cadillac Cage V-100 Commando armored car and had it updated into the M1117 Armored Security Vehicle or ASV.
The MP Corps bought about 50 of these in the late 80’s before procurement was switched to up-armored Humvees. Most of the decision to switch was based on cost. An up-armored Humvee only cost about $140,000 while an ASV ran about $700,000. That’s five times the cost. It wasn’t until the IED threat in Iraq became clear that the MPs started to rethink the decision to switch.
But there were still problems. At that price tag, the Army might be able to afford enough ASVs for the MPs, but not for the whole force. Secondly, right about the time the Army decided to restart production, the factory was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. They have finally rebuilt the factory, and are currently looking at buying just over 2000 ASV’s.
Each ASV carries a three man crew- driver, gunner/commander, and a rear gunner. There’s also space for a 4th passenger. Thus each ASV can carry 4 men, versus 5 in an up-armored Humvee. The ASV has a small turret carrying a 40mm Mk-19 machine gun and a M2 .50cal machine gun. There’s also a mount for an M249 SAW for the rear gunner.
By using angled armor, applique ceramic plates on the exterior and a kevlar spall liner in the interior, the ASV is designed to withstand fires from .50 cal machine guns and bursts from 155mm artillery shells at 15 meters. They aren’t proofed against RPGs, but most ASVs in Iraq that have been hit with PRGs have come through with few if any casualties to the crew.