March 24, 2014 Strategy Page
The Colombian Army recently began receiving the 28 Commando wheeled armored vehicles ordered from the United States (for $1.13 million each) in 2013. The Commando is a larger version of the older American M1117 ASVs (Armored Security Vehicles). All of the armored vehicles in the Colombian Army are on wheels, to better control the roads in areas where FARC or drug gangs are active. The army has about 300 armored vehicles, a growing number of them armored hummers. Colombian troops have found the Commando handles most of the bombs and weapons used by the local drug gangs and leftist rebels.
Back in 2009 Colombia bought its first 39 American Commando vehicles, which is officially known as the ICV (Infantry Carrier Variant) of the M1117. The ICV is 61 cm (24 inches) longer than the original ASV, weighs 18 tons, and carries a crew of 3 and 8 passengers. Instead of the turret it has a cupola mounting a 12.7mm machine-gun or 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
The original ASV was, in effect, one of the first MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) to get to Iraq. Originally developed in the 1990s for use by MPs (Military Police) in combat zones, only a few were bought initially. It was found that for 1990s era Balkan peacekeeping, existing armored vehicles were adequate and that in the narrow streets of Balkan towns the ASV was too wide to be very maneuverable. Then came Iraq, and suddenly the ASV was very popular. The army got a lot more because military police like these vehicles a lot. The MPs originally wanted 2,000 ASVs but before Iraq were told they would be lucky to get a hundred. After 2003, the MPs got all they wanted. Colombia noted the ASV success in Iraq and got some of their own.
The basic ASV is a 15 ton 4x4 armored car that is built to handle the kind of combat damage encountered in Iraq. The ASVs are, unlike armored hummers, built from the ground up as armored trucks. Basic ASVs are 6.1 meters (20 feet) long and 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) wide, making them a bit larger than hummers. The ASV is heavy enough to survive most roadside bombs and keep going. The ASV is bullet and RPG proof. The turret is the same one used on the U.S. Marine Corps LAV. When the marines went shopping for armored trucks, however, they passed on the ASV. This is believed to be mainly because most armored trucks have more room inside. The ASV carries a crew of 3, with plenty of room for additional gear but not a lot of people. That's why the stretched ICV version was developed. Iraq has also bought the ICV version.