Textron’s M1117 Commando ASV is a modern-day armored car, with armor, weapons, and mine protection that are superior to a Humvee jeep. Its 29,500 pound curb weight is lower than other MRAP vehicles, and the type failed MRAP testing. Nevertheless, it’s widely fielded in American Military Police units, has been exported to Bulgaria, and is in use by Iraq and Colombia in a stretched infantry carrier version.
With respect to Colombia…
Fitting in Locally
The Colombian Army’s armor is almost exclusively wheeled, comprising a large number of Brazilian EE-9 Cascavel 4×4 fire support vehicles and Russian-designed BTR-80 8×8 wheeled APCs, mixed with a handful of EE-11 Urutu 6×6 APCs, ancient M8 Greyhound 6×6 wheeled armored cars, and blast-resistant RG-31 Nyala 4×4 MRAPs. Ancient M3 half-tracks appear to be the lone exception.
Under President Uribe, Colombia has waged a successful campaign that has removed many of the gains enjoyed by both the left-wing narco-terrorists of FARC, ELN et. al., and right-wing narco-paramilitaries like the AUC. The conflict continues, however, and in late 2008, AT4 anti-tank rockets that Sweden had sold to the Venezuelan government were found in FARC bases.
Mines were the logical next threat. More powerful vehicles seemed to be in order.
A January 2009 report included about 30 armored vehicles as part of a wider $4 billion modernization package being financed by a special tax. There were also reports that more BTR-80s would be built locally, if negotiations with Russia were successful. By December 2009, however, the order was in for 39 Commando APCs, which are similar enough that they could be an effective BTR-80 substitute. The APCs are used in the Army’s armored cavalry units. By April 2013, order totals stood at 57.
The M1117 Commando ICV
Colombia becomes the 2nd country to order the M1117 ICV, after Iraq. The tan vehicle in the above photo is a good example – in the enlarged version, you can see the Arabic writing painted on it. The vehicle type is also referred to as a Commando Advanced APC, per a more recent re-branding initiative by Textron. Commando Advanced also includes the Commando Advanced ASV (same as the M1117), and a Commando Advanced Reconnaissance variant for artillery targeting and overwatch.
Compared to the original M1117 ASV, the Commando APC variant has been stretched 24 inches between the wheel base, and its head room and volume has been increased by adding a 6-inch extension over the base roof line. These changes turn it into a full armored personnel carrier that can fit 2 crew members, 8 dismounts, and 1 additional gunner, though exact seating is set up per customer specifications. Weaponry appears to change, as the M1117’s distinctive twin-weapon full turret is replaced by an armored cupola that can hold either a .50 caliber/ 12.7mm machine gun, or a 40mm grenade machine gun. The Commando APC is available in 3 different protection levels, depending on which applique armor system is added to the vehicle.
The net effect is a smaller, lighter wheeled APC that works well in urban scenarios, and in countries whose infrastructure or climate/terrain combination may create problems for larger 22-35 ton vehicles.
Contracts & Key Events
April 6/16: Textron Systems will provide a number of Commando Select armored personnel carriers (APCs) with 40/50 turrents as a foreign military sales contract to both Colombia and Iraq. The $65 million deal will see each country receive 54 of the APCs each, alongside four Commando Select APCs with 40/50 turret and command and control (C2) variant; and two each Commando Select APCs. Funds for the four-wheel APC will come out of the US Army’s “other procurement” funds.
April 1/13: Order. Textron Land and Marine Systems, New Orleans, LA receives a maximum $31.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for more Commando Advanced APCs and related services in Colombia. Based on past orders, this seemed to be around 50 machines – but Textron eventually pegged the figure at 28 APCs with the twin 40mm/.50 cal remote turrets, plus extensive repairs on 2 of the Colombian Army’s 39 Armored Cavalry APCs. Deliveries are expected to begin in November, and finish by April 2014.
As a Foreign Military Sale, 1 bid was solicited, with 1 bid received. US Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI acts as Colombia’s agent (W56HZV-13-C-0333). See also Textron Systems’ Aug 22/13 release.
March 1/13: Turrets. Textron Marine & Land Systems announces a $5.5 million contract award from US Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) to provide 12 armored turrets, technical support services, vehicle repairs and spare parts for the Colombian Army’s 39 Commando APCs. Commando ICV/APCs with the full dual-weapon turret are referred to as Commando Elite APCs.
They also reveal that Colombia has expressed an interest in more APCs, under a separate U.S. Foreign Military Sales case. Textron.
May 2010: Fielded. The Colombian Army fields the M1117 ICV. Source.
Dec 3/09: Order. Textron Marine and Land Systems in New Orleans, LA received a $20.9 million firm-fixed-price contract from Colombia for 39 of its M1117 ICV extended personnel carriers, including necessary weapons, spare parts, manuals, and training support. Textron places the total value at $45.6 million, which means the Pentagon contract announcement is a partial payment.
Work will be performed in New Orleans, LA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 24/10. The Colombians evidently knew what they wanted; just one bid was solicited, with one bid received by U.S. Army Contracting Command TACOM in Warren, MI (W56HZV-10-C-0044). As the accompanying graphic shows, these vehicles are already in production. Textron release.
39 Commando APCs
* DID – Colombia’s Defense Modernization
* Textron Land a& Marine Systems – ASV Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV)