The nearly 40-year-old assault amphibious vehicle looks to be getting a new lease on life, even as the Corps is still amid plans to replace the aging vehicle.
For nearly two weeks aboard Camp Pendleton, California, the Corps and Naval Surface Warfare Center put a remotely operated AAV through two weeks of testing, according to a release.
The remotely operated AAV successfully carried out 22 surf zone crossings and 13 open water transits, according to a release.
“Assault Amphibious Vehicles were structured to carry troops in water operations from ship-to-shore, through rough water and the surf zone,” Dustin Bride, the remote AAV system engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, said in the release.
“This modernized upgrade will allow the Marine Corps to remotely traverse from ship-to-shore with an organic vehicle capability to breach and proof lanes and landing zones for landing forces," Bride said in the release.
A mission of the remotely operated AAV is to use the MK 154 mine clearance system that can help in clearing beachheads. The unmanned AAV is being upgraded to remotely operate this feature, a release said.
The new unmanned AAV potentially brings a new mission to the legacy amphibious vehicle, despite the Marine Corps killing the survivability upgrades for the system in Aug. 2018.
At that time, the Marine Corps said it was shuttering the upgrades to better align with the National Defense Strategy focused on near-peer competitors.
The aging vehicle does not "meet the needs of modern Marine amphibious forcible entry operations,” Manny Pacheco, a Marine spokesman, previously told Defense News and Marine Corps Times.
“Rather than continue to invest in that vehicle that, even in upgraded form, will not provide adequate maneuverability, survivability, or ship-to-shore performance, the Marine Corps believes these funds would be better used elsewhere to support modernization initiatives across the force, Pacheco said.
But a remotely operated AAV may serve another purpose.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger alluded to a new fighting concept, dubbed stand-in forces, in his recent planning guidance, which articulated a vision for using cost effective unmanned and minimally manned systems.
“Stand-in Forces are designed to generate technically disruptive, tactical stand-in engagements that confront aggressor naval forces with an array of low signature, affordable, and risk-worthy platforms and payloads,” Berger wrote in his guidance message.
These “risk-worthy unmanned and minimally-manned platforms” can be used to create “tactical dilemmas” for enemy forces, Berger wrote.
“Because they are inherently resilient, risk worthy, inexpensive and lethal they restore combat credibility to forward deployed naval forces and serve to deter aggression,” Berger said in the guidance message.
Berger noted that the new stand-in forces concept would be published and released in the coming months.
The Marine Corps is replacing the AAV with the BAE’s amphibious combat vehicle.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.