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This Armored Car Is The Backbone Of The Afghan National Army

June 14, 2014

US M1117 Armored Security Vehicle

Using “backbone” to describe a vehicle’s significance is a tad ambiguous. There’s nothing ambiguous about the M1117 manufactured by Textron Systems, however.

The M1117 4×4 armored car is the largest wheeled fighting vehicle in the Afghan National Army (ANA), who have to fight the Taliban once US forces leave by year’s end. Other vehicles like the ubiquitous Humvee and the dated Soviet BMP-2 may seem more useful to the ANA at the moment, yet it’s the M1117 which offers the Humvee’s mobility and a traditional APC’s protection.

Since NATO and the US military molded the ANA along Western principles this meant issuing US-standard weapons. The affordable M1117 became the vehicle of choice for the Afghans. The M1117 is cheap, fast, and had a proven track record in past conflicts around the world.

It’s unfortunate the heftier and no less capable MRAP, with some 2,000 units left behind by departing US forces, is destined for the scrap heap.

The M1117 is the latest variant of the fabled V-100 product line introduced by Cadillac Gage during the 1960s. The Louisiana-based Cadillac Gage is now Textron Systems and remains a defense contractor that builds air cushion hovercraft, UAVs, electronics, and patrol boats.

The original V-100 led to a whole family of amphibious armored cars. According to a Textron Systems’ brochure, the M1117 was rolled out in 1995 for the US Military Police Corps, who were the original customers of the first V-100.

The most remarkable feature of the M1117 is it carries multiple weapons depending on what the client needs. The M1117 of the ANA, marketed by Textron as the Commando Select, uses a so-called “standard turret” supporting a .50 caliber M2 Browning machine gun and the Mk 19 auto-grenade launcher, with eight smoke dischargers. Textron Systems provides a mortar system, a 90mm gun turret, or an ambulance configuration of the same M1117.

Each of the ANA’s more than 400 M1117 Commandos weigh a hefty 38,000 lbs and transports three crew members with seven passengers. Its powerful 280 horsepower Cummins 6CTA8.3 engines makes it ideal for Afghanistan’s dismal highways and roads.

The single critical weakness of the M1117 is, unless it deploys with either additional armor or Textron’s Enhanced Survivability upgrade (V-shaped hull + ceramic plating + inner spall liner), its hardened steel body offers little protection from RPGs, shaped charges, and even recoilless rifle rounds.

The ANA’s current incarnation dates to 2002 when NATO envisioned a multi-ethnic organization with an adjunct air force. Today, NATO’s figures puts the ANA at 194,000-strong. The Afghan Air Force (AAF) is miniscule by comparison, with less than 10,000 personnel and few combat aircraft.