The Marine Corps Clears Its New Amphibious Combat Vehicle for Operations

The Marine Corps Clears Its New Amphibious Combat Vehicle for Operations

The Marine Corps restricted its newest vehicle after an issue with its tow mechanism raised concerns about a repeat of 2020's deadly AAV sinking.


The Marine Corps has cleared the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) for a return to unrestricted waterborne operations, it announced in a press release early in January. A new tow rope has been developed to address issues with the ACV's towing mechanism, according to the release.

“Amphibious operations, including the use of amphibious ship-to-shore connectors, is a foundational aspect of Marine Corps operations and is critical to the future force and its ability to remain the Nation’s premier expeditionary force in readiness,” said Lt. Gen. David Furness, Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies, and Operations, in the release.


Deadly Accident

In September 2021, the Marine Corps decided to suspend Amphibious Combat Vehicle operations following several issues detected in after-action field reports involving the ACV. One of these, a problem with the vehicle’s towing mechanism, prompted the Corps to forbid ACV operations in unprotected waters until the issues could be resolved.

The operational halt put a wrench in the works for the Corps’ Assault Amphibious Vehicle replacement, a project several decades in the making. The 1970s-era AAV — with nearly half a century of service under its belt — is itself restricted to land-only exercises following a deadly accident at sea in 2020 that killed nine Marines and Sailors.

The Solution

“Once equipped with and trained to employ the new tow rope solution, units are authorized to utilize the ACV to conduct unrestricted amphibious operations, including self-recovery operations in the open ocean and through the surf zone,” the Marine Corps press release said explained.

But, “prior to the receipt and installation of the new replacement tow ropes, ACV operation remains restricted to land mobility, gunnery operations, and amphibious operations in protected waters.” Until the new tow rope is installed and validated, the ACV is restricted to “land mobility, gunnery operations, and amphibious operations in protected waters.”

A Long Time Coming

Finding and fielding an Assault Amphibious Vehicle replacement has proven a more difficult task than the Marine Corps initially anticipated. During the 1990s, defense company General Dynamics developed the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) for the Corps.  The EFV was significantly more capable than the AAV on paper, sporting a 30mm cannon and, thanks to an innovative and highly streamlined hull design, could reach speeds of nearly thirty miles per hour in the water. 

But the Marine Corps ultimately shelved the project. Questions about the EFV's survivability against anti-ship missiles, its complex design, and conflicts in the Middle East that did not require an amphibious vehicle led to its demise.


Following the 2020 AAV tragedy, Marine Corps leadership grounded the Amphibious Combat Vehicle out of an abundance of caution. With ACVs cleared once again for unprotected exercises at sea, the Corps can focus on what it does best: amphibious assault.

Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.

Image: Reuters.