The Corps will pay $24 million for 13 new LAVs, which will maintain a fleet size of 930. (Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III / Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps has awarded a $24 million contract for 13 new Light Armored Vehicles, an effort to keep its fleet battle-ready after a decade-plus of constant combat, officials said.
Highly adaptable eight-wheeled amphibious vehicles, LAVs are used for troop transport, long-range reconnaissance, tank hunting and forward command and control. Awarded Dec. 31 and announced in mid-January, the deal with General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada is for LAV-25A2s, a variant that features select upgrades made within the last decade to protect Marines from roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices.
This acquisition will keep the Corps' LAV inventory at 930, said Barb Hamby, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. The command has been working to keep the number of operational LAVs up through depot maintenance, but is purchasing new vehicles when repair is not cost effective, she said.
The Corp's LAVs, first introduced to the fleet in the early '80s, have been taxed by years of hard service.
Delivery of new vehicles is scheduled for the summer of 2014, according to General Dynamics.
Beyond up-armoring, the 13 new vehicles will not incorporate a host of planned upgrades, in development since 2010, that aim to make LAVs even stronger and safer. Desired improvements would further reduce risk to the crew in the event of an IED attack. They include blast-mitigating reinforced seats similar to those used in newer mine-resistant vehicles, five-point harnesses for the passengers, beefed up suspensions and relocation of the fuel cell.
The Defense Department agrees these upgrades are important. However, the budgetary squeeze being felt throughout the federal government has set back several military modernization programs while creating uncertainty for big-ticket procurement projects.
Officials at MARCORSYSCOM say it is "too early" to know when or if further LAV upgrades will make their way to the fleet.
As is, though, the A2 variant incorporates some permanent upgrades made within the last decade at the behest of battlefield commanders concerned for troops' safety. Those include improved ballistic protection and an optional v-shaped hull that can be attached, depending on the mission, to deflect blasts away from the vehicle.
LAVs were introduced in the 1980s. They have seen extensive combat, most recently in Afghanistan's Helmand province, where Marine light armored reconnaissance battalions used them to patrol large swaths of desert leading to the Pakistan border.