The Marine Corps has permanently pulled amphibious assault vehicles from “regularly scheduled deployments” due to concerns over vehicle safety and resources allocation, the Marine Corps first confirmed to Marine Corps Times on Wednesday.
After a tragic July 2020 sinking that killed nine troops, AAV operations had been halted. But the Marine Corps renewed its waterborne operations in the spring of 2021, believing the issues had been fixed and operational requirements had been improved.
“Given the current state of the amphibious vehicle program (the program that manages both AAVs and ACVs), the Commandant of the Marine Corps has decided the AAV will no longer serve as part of regularly scheduled deployments or train in the water during military exercises,” Maj. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps spokesman, told Marine Corps Times in a Wednesday email.
The Marine Corps did not provide specific details about what exactly caused the commandant to pull the aging vehicle from deployments.
Citing operational concerns Stenger did not say whether any AAVs were currently deployed.
In September the Marine Corps beached the AAV’s replacement, the amphibious combat vehicle, due to issues with its towing mechanism.
Stenger said the ACV is still prevented from conducting waterborne operations, leaving the Corps with no amphibious landing vehicles that it can train with in the water.
“ACVs were temporarily suspended from open ocean waterborne operations as we worked to solve an issue that was identified with the towing mechanism,” Stenger said. “We expect that issue to be resolved soon and for ACVs to return to the water early in the New Year.”
On July 30, 2020, an AAV carrying infantry Marines from San Clemente Island, California, sank, killing eight Marines and one sailor.
Investigations into the incident found multiple vehicles on the deployment had serious mechanical issues before joining the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in addition to failures in training that may have led to the accident.
After the sinking the Marine Corps halted all waterborne AAV training and conducted a thorough inspection of the fleet in an attempt to find out the real state of the vehicles.
The thorough inspection, based off of initial tests developed by the manufacturers, found that nearly all AAVs in the Marine Corps leaked at unacceptable rates.
Only 10 of 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion’s nearly 200 vehicles passed the more intense inspection, Operations Officer Marine Maj. Justin Davis said while testifying at a board of inquiry for the unit’s former battalion commander, Lt. Col. Keith Brenize, on Dec. 7 at Quantico, Virginia.
He said he believed the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion did slightly better than his battalion.
Multiple members from the AAV community testified that the age of the Vietnam-era vehicles led to constant maintenance woes, regardless of the amount of attention spent working on the vehicles.
“These are old vehicles,” Lt. Col. Matthew Hohl, the executive officer for 3rd AA Battalion, said during his Friday testimony.
“As a community, AAVs are extremely maintenance heavy,” he added, noting that an AAV typically requires eight hours of maintenance for every hour of operation.
Brenize is facing the board of inquiry for his alleged role in the July 30, 2020, sinking. As the former 3rd AA battalion commander, Brenize was responsible for providing the MEU with fully operational vehicles and well-trained Marines.
Despite the decision to stop sending AAVs on deployment, Stenger said the Corps stands by the fixes that led to the spring waterborne training.
“The Marine Corps stands by the efficacy of the recommendations that came from the multiple investigations into the AAV mishap from the summer of 2020, and with those recommendations implemented and sustained, the AAV is a safe and effective vehicle for amphibious operations,” Stenger said.
While the vehicles will not go on “regularly scheduled deployments,” Marines will still train on them for ground operations and they are ready to deploy if a crisis arises.
Stenger said further guidance to fleet will be coming soon.