The M1117 Guardian Armored Security Vehicle, or ASV, is an all-wheel drive armored vehicle manufactured by Cadillac Gage of Textron for use by the U.S. Military Police. Its armament consists of a Mk 19 grenade launcher and M2 Browning Machine Gun mounted in a turret similar to that used on the US Marine Corps' Amphibious Assault Vehicle. The vehicle has become very popular with U.S. Military Police Units and Convoy Security Units in Iraq. It is a more heavily protected and heavily armed alternative to the armored HMMWV which was not originally designed to be a protected fighting vehicle.
By the 1980s, American military doctrine emphasized two distinct types of equipment. Heavily armored tanks and infantry fighting vehicles were for front line combat, and unarmored utility vehicles would be used for transport behind the lines. In 1993, the Pentagon had refused to send armored vehicles so the force had to fight through Mogadishu in unarmored Humvees. This led to the development of armoured HMMWVs. Many generals doubted the benefits, but the Military Police Corps, tasked with patrolling the "safe" rear area behind the battle line insisted that the Army to fund a slow but steady production of the bullet resistant M1114 armored Humvee.
In 1999, the Army began buying a limited number of M1117's (originally the ASV-150) for the Military Police Corps. This purpose-built ASV was derived from Cadillac Gage's previous Commando family of AFV's which was used in Vietnam, by allies and for base security. The ASV 150 is a much improved version the earlier Cadillac Gage 100/150, with improved armor protection and better manoeuvrability due to the use of Timoney's independent suspension system. The ASV uses an advanced modular expandable armor from IBD, consisting of ceramic composite applique on the exterior and spall liner on the interior. At $700,000 each, the M1117 was more expensive than the $140,000 price for an armored Humvee. The program was cancelled in 2002 because of budget priorities. The Army believed that existing vehicles could be used without an "unacceptable level of risk." When the Iraq war began in 2003, the U.S. Army only had 49 of the ASVs. However, the onset of events in Iraq have given a new lease on life for this program as HMMWVs have proven vulnerable to attacks and a large source of casualties. Uparmored HMMWVs were not designed to be armored cars like the M1117 which are designed to withstand hits from small arms, mines and rockets in frontline combat units. Some members of congress visiting Iraq have favored them over other mine protected vehicles. As of mid 2007, 1,729 vehicles were delivered or under contract.
In response to urgent U.S. Army requirements over the past three years, production has increased from one ASV every three weeks to the present 56 vehicles per month. The main plant that produces the vehicles is located in New Orleans and was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The manufacturing facilities have since been rebuilt and expanded to five buildings and personnel have more than doubled. The vehicle is an update of the Cadillac Gage Commando which was used by US Air Force base security and foreign forces.
A variant was to be evaluated by the US Marine Corps as part of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle program. As of May 18 2007, Textron received word that they would not receive further orders as part of the MRAP program. In early 2008, Textron was awarded $228 million (less than $1m per vehicle) to build an additional 329 ASVs. They will delivered with the latest fragmentation protection kits. Th total number of ASVs produced or remaining to be delivered to the U.S. Army is now at 2058 vehicles.
At about 15 tons, the M1117 is lighter than the 20 ton Stryker ICV or 25 ton M2 Bradley armoured vehicle. It is only 2.4 metres wide, compared to 3.6 metres for a Bradley. Its road speed of 100 kilometres per hour is higher than the 70 kilometres per hour of an M2 Bradley. Buttoned up, the crew has 360-degree visibility. In size and capability, it fits between the Humvee and the $2.8 million Stryker. The crew compartment is fully air-conditioned, and has proved comfortable for crews in Iraq.