SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Australia (July 27, 2009) --
The Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) has been an integral part of the Marine Corps since it was commissioned in 1972. According to www.globalsecurity.org, the 26-ton vehicle is equipped with a jet propulsion unit that allows it to reach speeds up to eight knots at sea for seven hours and carries four bilge pumps capable of removing 400 gallons of water per minute. Once the AAV reaches land its 171-gallon fuel tank allows it to operate for 300 miles with 25 combat-equipped Marines in tow.
However, no matter how impressive and indestructible an AAV may seem it can easily breakdown, so daily maintenance is crucial to ensure these beasts of war are ready to respond at a minutes notice.
According to Lance Cpl. Tracy Nava, a crewman from Amphibious Assault Platoon (AAP), Company L (Lima Co.), Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (BLT 3/5), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), the ‘tracks’, as they are commonly referred to by the Marines who operate them, require up to eight hours of maintenance for every hour that they are driven in order to minimize any future problems.
The vehicle’s maintenance issues are handled by a three-man crew. A driver, a rear crewman who reports all maintenance issues to the crew chief who also serves as the vehicle commander.
Nava added that one of the most time consuming issues with the AAV is ensuring that it’s properly lubricated after being exposed to salt water. The AAV’s crew goes over the vehicle for several hours with wire brushes and Cleaning Lubricant Protectant (CLP) to prevent rust.
The AAV crew members must also respond quickly at the slightest sign of trouble. Trouble that can range from damaged tracks, loss of hydraulic fluid and steering or damaged wires. These issues may seem simple to fix, but when compounded or neglected the overall effects can hinder a mission.
Capt. Eric M. Olson, the company commander for Lima Co. said, “The maintenance of the AAVs has slowed us down a little during Talisman Saber, but the AAV Marines have done a tremendous job of keeping the vehicles rolling in order to get the Marines to their inland objectives.”
Now, while some maintenance issues can be attributed to the AAVs’ old age, programs like the Service Live Extension Program (SLEP) have extended the AAVs’ shelf life. The SLEP also allows the Marine Corps more time to complete the fielding of a newer, bigger and faster vehicle; the Advanced Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAAV) or Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). However, the AAAV is not slated for dispersal in the Marine Corps for another 15 years, according to www.globalsecurity.org.
Sgt. Ernie Orrante, a section leader from AAP said, The current models participating in TS ’09 have been made stronger because of the SLEP and another program known as the AAV Reliability Availability, Maintainability/ Rebuilt to Standard (RAM/RS); which gives the vehicle 100 more horsepower and better suspension.
According to www.globalsecurity.org, the RAM/RS program has provided the AAVs with a replacement for both the engine and suspension using U.S. Army M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) components modified for an AAV.
“For an outdated machine it works well for the Marine Corps and that’s what we do here in the Corps, fix and maintain what we got,” said Orrante.
Currently there are 13 personnel carriers, one command and one recovery vehicle participating in TS ’09.
TS ’09 is a biennial combined training activity designed to train Australian and U.S. forces in planning and conducting combined task force operations, which will help improve combat readiness and interoperability.