The U.S. Marines’ Light Armored Vehicle Is RIP

U.S. Marines

The U.S. Marines’ Light Armored Vehicle Is RIP

In order to keep pace with a growing threat in the Pacific, the Corps is ditching their LAVs for good.

The Marine’s LAV has been a United States Marine Corps (USMC) workhorse since the early 1980s. With a 25mm chain gun, eight-wheel-drive, and a moderate amphibious capability, the Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) is a powerful reconnaissance tool. Since its introduction, the LAV has been steadily upgraded, incorporating armor protection upgrades as well as fuel economy and drive train improvements. Though the LAV certainly fills an amphibious armored reconnaissance capability niche for the Marine Corps, it is on the way out.

The Marine Corps is currently in the throes of what is perhaps the most significant force redesign in the USMC’s nearly 250-year history. Though the USMC is an amphibious force that has historically worked in close coordination with the Navy, the Corp adjusted to the grinding land campaigns that defined the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by functioning as essentially a nominally amphibious, second Army. Those days, however, are over.

In order to counter an increasingly assertive Chinese presence in the Pacific, the Marine Corps is returning to the sea. Their new force design hearkens back to the island-hopping campaign of Second World War fame in which Marines jumped from island to island throughout the Pacific on their march toward Japan.

One could almost term their current attitude as “is it doesn’t swim, it sinks,” a sentiment that is reflected in the divestment of all tank battalions—and soon the Corp’s LAVs as well. Among the multitude of changes outlined in the Corps’ Force Design Annual Update, one is particularly noteworthy.

The Marine Corp has “invalidated the requirement to replace existing LAV-25s with a similar armored, wheeled or tracked manned vehicle in a one-for-one ratio.” Instead, the Corps has decided to continue “examin[ing] options for the conversion of legacy Light Armored Reconnaissance capabilities to more broadly capable Mobile Reconnaissance.”

In essence, the Marines just don’t see a role for the lightly armored LAV in a future island-hopping campaign. So, what would replace the Light Armored Vehicle?

Though the Corps had previously toyed with the idea of a LAV replacement, this is no longer the case. Rather than looking for a direct LAV replacement, the Marines currently have an eye on capabilities that could be brought to bear in a future conflict rather than any individual platform. “What it will be replaced with is not necessarily another vehicle,” U.S. Marines Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration said in a phone interview. “It could be, but the capability is to also control air and ground robotics and provide reconnaissance.”

Although the LAV does not have a direct successor in the works, the Marines are confident their eventual divestment will allow for a force design better equipped to respond to a near-peer threat in the Pacific—and is further evidence of the Marines returning to their amphibious roots.

Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer with The National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Image: Reuters.