On the Road Again
Marine Corps’ Light Armored Vehicles will be staying until 2035
By JOHN M. DOYLE, Special Correspondent
(Almost) New and Improved
money for the wholesale replacement of the 1980s-era LAV, an eight-wheeled, diesel-powered infantry
combat vehicle that can fill more
than a half dozen missions as part of
the Corps’ traditional expeditionary
warfare role. Instead, the Marine
Corps plans to upgrade the mobility
and survivability of its LAV fleet to
extend its service life until 2035.
The more than 900 LAVs in the
Marine Corps inventory come in
seven variants, from the LAV- 25 —
the most common vehicle, a four-Marine combat scout carrier armed
with an M242 25mm chain gun and
two 7.62mm machine guns — to the
LAV- C2, a command-and-control
vehicle with advanced communications capabilities. The others are the LAV-AT, an anti-tank
platform equipped with a M901A1 weapons system that
fires TOW- 2 missiles; the LAV-L, a logistics variant that
can carry ammunition, food and other supplies on the battlefield; the 81mm mortar-equipped LAV-M; a LAV tow
truck; the LAV-R, equipped with a crane, winch and generator; and an electronic warfare version, previously
known as the LAV-MEWSS (for Mobile Electronic Warfare
Support System), capable of intercepting radio transmissions and performing other electronic warfare missions.
Originally built by General Motors Defense Systems
of Canada, which was acquired by General Dynamics
in late 2002, the first LAVs entered the Marine Corps
inventory in 1983 and were shipped to the 2nd Light
Armored Reconnaissance Battalion at Camp Lejeune,
N.C., in May 1985.
Since then, LAVs have seen action in Panama in 1989,
Iraq and Kuwait in 1991, Somalia in 1992-1993, Kosovo
in 1999, and Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade.
The LAV line originally was slated to be replaced by
2015, then by 2025, at least partly by the Marine
Because of tight budgets and shifting priorities, the Marine Corps’
Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) will have to remain in active service for another two decades.
■ The eight-wheel, diesel-powered combat infantry LAVs first
entered the Marine inventory in 1983 and have had two service-extending upgrades since then.
■ All of the more than 900 LAVs will get blast-protected seats
and other upgrades to improve survivability against roadside
bombs and vehicle crashes.
■ Three of the seven LAV variants are in line for additional
upgrades to weapons systems, satellite communications or towing, power and repair equipment.
After providing the Marine Corps with recon- naissance, infantry support, anti-tank protec- tion, troop and supply transport and electronic warfare capabilities for 29 years, the Light Armored
Vehicle (LAV) is going to be needed for another two
decades because of tight budgets and shifting priorities
following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As we explore options to adjust to changing fiscal
realities, there is a clear imperative for our Corps to reset
portions of our legacy equipment” while modernizing
“to guarantee our dominance and relevance against
future threats,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James
F. Amos told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee in March.
Navy and Marine Corps officials estimate it will cost
more than $3 billion to reset necessary equipment.
Amos called the LAVs one of the programs “vital to
our ground combat elements.”
However, the Marine Corps’ highest ground vehicle
priority is a replacement for the 1970s-era Assault
Amphibious Vehicle. That means there is little or no