CAMP RIPLEY, MINN. (07/21/2012)(readMedia)-- "It makes me the most lethal guy on the battlefield," said Staff Sgt. Kurt Russell of Peoria, Ill., with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry in Kewanee, Ill., as he talked about the new M1200 Armored Knight vehicle that his unit began using at Camp Ripley, Minn. during the unit's three-week annual training exercise.
The M1200 Armored Knight is an improved version of the M1117 Armored Security Vehicle (ASV) that has been used overseas and recently acquired by Illinois Army National Guard military police companies. The sole purpose of the M1200 Armored Knight is to provide a forward observer team the best communications, protection and targeting technology available to quickly and accurately bring fire onto an enemy.
"It's very similar at a glance," said Russell. "They have changed the turret, improved the equipment technology on the inside and improved the armor to better protect us."
The new Knight vehicle weighs approximately 16 tons and can travel about 400 miles on one tank of fuel, with a maximum highway speed of 63 miles per hour. It can also ford through 60 inches of water and muddy terrain without getting stuck.
"It's fun to drive," said Pfc. Jake Johnson of Mason City, Ill. with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd squadron, 106th Cavalry in Kewanee. "We are pushing the limits and testing the capabilities of the vehicle. There is so much armor, it would take a lot to tear one of these apart."
Russell deployed to Iraq with the 1744th Transportation Company in Streator in 2006-2007 where he drove the M1117 ASV and up-armored humvees. Russell said he is thrilled to be able to train for a future deployment with such great vehicles.
"There is no comparison," Russell said. "It can take a direct impact and keep going. With the run-flat tires, you can pop a tire and still get back to base. If given the choice between an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle), up-armored humvee and the Armored Knight, I would take the Armored Knight every single day and twice on Sunday."
The Kewanee National Guard unit received three of the $1.7 million vehicles while at Camp Ripley. Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Urbana received four of the vehicles.
"It's a great vehicle that is capable of driving on any terrain," said Pvt. Mark Gibson of Pekin, Ill. with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry in Kewanee. "I feel lucky to be one of the nine guys assigned to these trucks."
Russell said it's important for the cavalry unit to be equipped with high tech equipment like the Armored Knight.
"The cavalry's mission is to go out first and scout the enemy," Russell said. "We have to get a good lay of the land so the infantry elements don't come into a surprise. This vehicle allows us to take fire and lay down suppressive fire while targeting both hard and soft targets for supporting elements and continue to move through the area. We have the communication assets to warn other elements about the enemy's position, make-up and other information critical to the battlefield."
The Black Knight contains a laser designator, a laser range finder and GPS. It is also equipped with computers that take target position data and transmit it to distant artillery units, close in mortar units, naval gunfire or fighters/bombers overhead and get accurate firepower on the target within minutes.
While the technology helps make the missions a success, most of the Soldiers talk about the protection the vehicle provides.
"I feel pretty secure and comfortable," said Gibson. "The armor provided a lot of protection. From the thick armor on the sides to the deflecting shield on the bottom for IEDs, it's a solid vehicle."
The 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team is no longer scheduled for a 2013 deployment; however, they are continuing to train for future mobilization opportunities. Russell said the new sense of security makes his team more confident they will be prepared for combat when called upon.
"In a mobile battlefield, these trucks lead the way," Russell said. "This is just one more piece on the brigade's chess board of pieces to bring absolute and immediate lethality to the enemy."
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Mike Chrisman, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ The M1200 Armored Knight is an improved version of the M1117 Armored Security Vehicle (ASV) that has been used overseas and recently acquired by Illinois Army National Guard military police companies. The sole purpose of the M1200 Armored Knight is to provide a forward observer team the best communications, protection, and targeting technology available to quickly and accurately bring fires onto an enemy. The Illinois Army National Guard was issued seven Armored Knights in July while training in Minnesota.