AAV-7 (LVTP-7) Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle
The US Marine Corps is set to replace its aging fleet of AAV-7 vehicles with the results of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle program.
Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The AAV-7 series of assault amphibious vehicles was born as the LVTP-7 in the late 1960s. The initiative called for an armored personnel carrier with sea-going qualities that could serve the United States Marine Corps in transporting men and supplies from off-shore ships to positions inland. The tracked nature and distinct hull design of the vehicle ensured that it could fulfill both requirements and the AAV-7 series has since served with distinction for several decades now. The vehicle is also known as the "Amtrack" or "Battle Bus" and is utilized by the Assault Amphibian Battalions of the USMC. It is expected to be replaced by the results of the ongoing "Amphibious Combat Vehicle" (ACV) program. The AAV-7 has served beyond the USMC with the forces of Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Italy, South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Thailand, Venezuela and Indonesia. However, the USMC is, by far, the largest supporter of the AAV-7 vehicle - managing some 1,300 examples in inventory. South Korea is second with approximately 162 units.
For centuries there lived the long-standing challenge in warfare of moving the fighting man from sea to land. This proved a central challenge to the United States Navy/Marines during World War 2 which - along with her allies - was pitted against the entrenched forces of the Empire of Japan across the vastness of the Pacific. The campaign would require the transporting of soldiers, machinery and supplies across thousands of miles of water and land utilizing massive concentrated assaults which proved critical to victory in the Pacific.
One of the key (though largely unsung) heroes the American march to Tokyo was the landing craft. These coastal-minded vessels were launched with a full complement of infantry, support material, fire support equipment and the like against fortified locations across enemy-held beaches. In time, thought was given to a better-armed and armored landing vehicles that could not only traverse bodies of water in transporting infantry but also go ashore and continue the fight inland in support of advancing ground personnel. In essence, a new kind of infantry fighting vehicle would be born and - for the Americans - this came in the form of the "LVT-1" and culminated in the "LVT-4". After the war, the massive "LVT-5" was developed for the same purpose and replaced all preceding types. The LVT-5 held the capability to move up to 34 armed infantry from offshore ships to awaiting beaches while its tracked nature assured mobility beyond that, capable of bringing the fight to the enemy in a whole new way. Armed with a 7.62mm machine gun and powered by a Continental 700 horsepower engine, the LVT-5 was utilized by the United States and several allies (Chile, Philippines and Chile) and eventually emerged in a command vehicle form, a fire support version, an armored recovery variant and a dedicated mine sweeper. The LTV-5 was followed by the limited-run LVT-6.
In the 1960s, the United States Marines began to focus on a replacement for their aging fleet of LVT-5. FMC Corporation was charged with the design and development of a new amphibious armored personnel carrier (APC). This carrier would be capable of operations from US Navy/Marine amphibious assault vessels and carry a full complement of 25 combat-ready personnel or 10,000lbs of cargo. As such, the design would be made buoyant with basic seaworthy qualities while still retaining a capable on-shore infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) component. In September of 1967, the first pilot vehicles (known as the LVTPX12) were made ready for evaluation to which they were then formally adopted for service with the USMC as the LVTP -7 ("Landing Vehicle, Tracked Personnel, Model 7"). Serial production followed with initial deliveries beginning in 1971. Formal operational service of the new vehicle was attained in 1972 with the last LVT-7 delivered in 1974 (FMC Corporation has since been absorbed by defense powerhouse BAe Systems).
The LVTP-7 certainly held a distinct appearance about her with her raised boat-like bow, wheeled-tracked system and slab-sided hull superstructure. The vehicle was given six double-tired road wheels to a track side with the drive sprocket at the front and the track idler at the rear. Ground clearance was 16 inches with an 8-foot trench crossing capability. The front hull held a well-sloped raised underside and near horizontal glacis plate leading up to the flat hull superstructure roof. The hull sides were vertical in their design as was the rear hull facing. The rear facing sported a power-operated large rectangular door for unloading troops and supplies via the door-turned-ramp at speed. There was also a smaller nested door within the door/ramp assembly for a more protected entry-exit. The hull was constructed of all-welded aluminum (up to 45mm thick). The internal configuration saw the driver seated at the front left of the hull with the vehicle commander to his immediate rear (these positions were noted for their individual cupolas along the hull roof). A periscope allowed for outward vision when the vehicle was fully "buttoned" down. A turret was offset to the right-front side of the hull and this served to provide suppression firepower as the unit neared the shoreline and enemy positions inland. The engine was fitted to the front which not only helped to increase frontal protection but also freed the rear internal volume of the hull for the passenger cabin. Up to 25 personnel could be seated across three benches running the length of the design and fixed along the sides and center portion of the cabin. The passenger cabin was also completed with overhead hatches for loading/unloading cargo prior to launch. As completed, the LVTP-7 held an inherent amphibious capability, being able to propel itself in water by its own tracks or via a pair of waterjets fitted aft of the track idlers at the rear.