Monday 11 July 2022

Aegean Armour: Greece’s M1117 Guardians

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
The Hellenic Army continues to face great difficulties in replacing its aging inventory of armoured fighting vehicles and other equipment types. Hit especially hard by the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the government-debt crisis that followed, Greece had to cancel or postpone a number of acquisition projects. Although the Hellenic Armed Forces was spared severe budget cuts as a result of rising tensions with Türkiye, the lack of funds led to the curious situation where civilians had to pay for the fuel needed in order for Greece's annual independence parade to take place.
Even though Greece's financial situation has somewhat improved in the past several years, the Hellenic Army is still faced with widespread obsolescence throughout its equipment inventory. Greece has attempted to address its problems with ageing weaponry, for example through the acquisition of 40km-ranged Serbian G2000 rockets for its RM-70 MRLs and the proposed upgrading of its Leopard 1A5 and 2A4 MBTs. [1] [2] Yet other types of equipment are still nearing the end of their lifespan or no longer viable for use in 21st century warfare, and will need to be replaced.

In an effort to mitigate the adverse impact of obsolescence of military systems and Greece's inability to replace them, the United States has donated large quantities of military equipment to Greece, helping the Hellenic Armed Forces maintain parity with the Turkish Armed Forces. This has in recent years included the transfer of 70 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed reconnaissance helicopters, four Mark V Special Operations Craft, nearly 500 M113 APCs and M-901 ITV ATGM carriers, hundreds of trucks and 1200 M1117 'Guardian' Armoured Security Vehicles (ASVs).

Although it is actually more in need of (more modern) IFVs and APCs and MRAPs, Greece's decision to opt for the M1117 (which isn't particularly well suited to the type of conventional warfare that could be expected during a conflict with Türkiye) can likely solely be explained by the fact that they could be acquired free of charge through the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) programme, with Greece only having to pay for their transportation and inspection costs of $102 million. [4] By comparison, the original acquisition value of the 1200 M1117s was some $970 million. [4]

The first batch of M1117 ASVs arrived to Greece by rail in November 2021.

In Greek service the M1117 is likely to be primarly deployed in the role of reconnaissance vehicle and infantry mobility vehicle (IMV), seating up to three troops in addition to its crew of three (driver, commander and gunner). The Hellenic Army currently operates large numbers of armoured HMMWVs (and their Greek-built variants) but is severely lacking in IMVs and MRAPs. [5] Though not designed to serve in any of these roles, the M1117 offers superior protection to all of Greece's AFVs except for its MBTs while also carrying a small number of dismounts. This is largely due to the fact that the Hellenic Army still almost exclusively relies on dated M113-based vehicles for its AFV fleet.

The first batch of 44 M1117s arrived to Greece from U.S. Army stocks in Germany in November 2021, with hundreds more vehicles arriving to the country by ship from the United States in early 2022. Unlike the first batch of 44 vehicles, this batch of M1117s still sported a desert livery upon their arrival. The remainder of the M1117s are expected to arrive in Greece in mid-to-late 2022 and throughout 2023, with deliveries scheduled to finish the same year. [5] After their arrival to Greece, each vehicle is repainted and outfitted before officially joining the ranks of the Hellenic Army.

Greece's M1117s are blessed with holy water, a common practice in Orthodox countries.

Developed specifically for use with the U.S. Army Military Police during the 1990s on the basis of the V-100/150 series of armoured cars, the M1117 first entered service in 1999 before the project was axed in 2002 as a result of budgetary constraints. The Iraq War from 2003 onwards gave new impetus to the M1117 programme as the HMMWV proved highly vulnerable to enemy fire and roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs). From then on produced in significant quantities, the M1117 would quickly find its way to the inventories of several other militaries worldwide.

Corresponding to its intended roles of convoy protection and combat patrols in the rear area, the M1117's armament is optimised for engagements against infantry and lightly armoured targets, consisting of a 40mm Mk 19 grenade launcher and a 12.7mm M2 HMG mounted in a manned turret. A pintle-mounted 7.62mm FN MAG or MG3 GPMG can be mounted on the side of the turret for use against enemy infantry and low-flying helicopters. By comparison, Greece's M113 APCs are only armed with a single 12.7mm M2 HMG placed in an armoured cupola.
The armour protection of the M1117 is sufficient to protect its crew against small arms fire, IEDs and smaller mines, while the angled armour also provides some degree of protection against RPGs. In case the M1117 is to run into an ambush or bites off more than it can chew during a mission, its maximum speed of 101km/h enables the vehicle to get out of hot situations quickly. The ASV can continue to drive even on four flat tires, albeit at greatly reduced maneuverability and speed. The M1117 does not come equipped with any smoke grenade launchers.

It seems unlikely that the M1117 would have joined the arsenal of the Hellenic Army hadn't it been for the generous deal arranged by the United States. Though it is not particularly well suited to Greek requirements, the M1117 will at least provide some breathing space until enough funds can be secured for the acquisition of other AFVs.

[2] KMW to possibly modernize Greek Army Leopard 1A5 and Leopard 2A4 MBTs to Leopard 2A7 standard
[5] Αποτρεπτική ασπίδα στις πολεμικές απειλές του Ερντογάν: Εξοπλίζονται σαν «αστακοί» και θωρακίζουν Έβρο και νησιά τα Μ-1117 Guardian
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