The Corps is slowly phasing out its Assault Amphibious Vehicles, but the Cold War-era vehicle is still finding buyers across the globe as Taiwan seeks to boost its fleet of the tracked vehicle.
On June 22, the Defense Department announced a contract award for $83,629,301 to BAE Systems Land & Armaments to build 36 AAVs as part of a foreign military sale to Taiwan.
Taiwan acquired its first 54 AAVs in 2005 during the George W. Bush administration, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. The additional 36 AAVs will simply bolster the current fleet.
With the new contract, Taiwan is procuring 30 AAV personnel vehicles, four AAV command vehicles and two AAV recovery vehicles.
The development comes as Taiwan is amid an overhaul of its military and navy to increase maritime surveillance capabilities and operations to counter the growing technological military prowess of China.
Taiwan’s latest defense review, released in March 2017, highlighted China’s growing naval capabilities, indigenous aircraft carrier, and its ability to blockade the small island nation in time of conflict.
To counter the threat, Taiwan is retooling its forces to fight a multidomain battle and potential conflict in the littorals. The key emphasis in the Taiwan’s defense review is aerospace, shipbuilding and information security.
During the past several years Taiwan has embarked on a quest to bolster its own indigenous ship building to include submarines and amphibious landing ships. Taiwan announced the new plan in 2016, which is supposed to cover a 23-year period.
And in 2017, Taiwan submitted a bid for its first indigenous landing platform dock which will be capable of carrying the AAV and landing Taiwanese marines.
While Taiwan isn’t going to be hitting the beaches of mainland China with its small handful of AAVs, the tracked vehicles will be beneficial in moving troops along the coast, which will allow its forces to avoid having to use road networks in the event of an attack, according to Dakota Wood, a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer and senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
The AAVs will also allow Taiwan to reinforce or move troops to nearby islands or to aid in disaster relief and the evacuation of civilians, Woods explained.
The Penghu islands are located just approximately 30 miles from Taiwan’s coast. And about 120 miles north of Taiwan are the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan.
But for the Marine Corps, the AAV is currently in sundown as the Corps seeks to replace its legacy tracked amphib with the new eight-wheeled Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1, or ACV 1.1.
The Corps recently announced that BAE was awarded the contract to build the new ACV 1.1 to the tune of $198 million for the first 30 low-rate initial production vehicles. The Corps intends to procure a total of 204 ACVs.
Work on Taiwan’s AAVs is expected to be complete by July 22, 2020, according to the contract announcement.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.