What You Need To Know: The U.S. Marine Corps Is Getting Some New Light Armor

What You Need To Know: The U.S. Marine Corps Is Getting Some New Light Armor

The Light Armored Vehicle, or LAV-25, will be replaced by the Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle, or ARV, in Marine Light Armored Reconnaissance battalions sometime in the late 2020s.

 

The U.S. Marine Corps is replacing its Cold War-era light armor with a twenty-first-century vehicle.

The Light Armored Vehicle, or LAV-25, will be replaced by the Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle, or ARV, in Marine Light Armored Reconnaissance battalions sometime in the late 2020s.

 

“The ARV will be highly mobile, networked, transportable, protected and lethal,” said a Marine Corps press release. “The capability will provide, sensors, communication systems and lethality options to overmatch threats that have historically been addressed with more heavily armored systems.”

The LAV-25 is a 1980s design based on the Swiss Piranha armored vehicle. Sort of a cross between the wheeled armored scout cars of World War II, and modern armored personnel carriers, the LAV-25 satisfied a Marine requirement for a fast armored vehicle that was light enough to be quickly transported by air to hotspots in regions such as the Middle East. The vehicle can be lifted by C-130 and C-17 transports or even CH-53 helicopters.

The baseline version of the thirteen-ton LAV-25 has a crew of three plus room to carry six soldiers. It is armed with the same 25-millimeter autocannon as the M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. Other versions include an anti-tank vehicle armed with TOW missiles, an 81-millimeter mortar carrier, as well as command and supply variants.

The LAV-25 is one of numerous models of wheeled armored vehicles, including the U.S. Army’s Stryker, used by armies around the world. They are cheaper and lighter than tracked armored vehicles such as tanks. Wheels also make them faster on roads—the LAV can travel at sixty miles per hour—though at some cost to cross-country mobility in rough terrain.

The downside is that like World War II armored cars, light armor does not want to tangle with heavy armor. The LAV-25 is armored against heavy machine guns and shell fragments, but not a 125-millimeter shell from a Russian tank. LAVs armed with 25-millimeter cannon and TOW missiles were actually able to dispose of Iraqi armor during the Gulf War, but nonetheless, light armor is called light for a reason.

This raises the question of how what the new Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle will look like. Clues can be found in a program announcement last year by the Office of Naval Research, which will be developing prototypes of the ARV.

ONR’s envisions a vehicle that is broadly similar to the LAV-25, but with cutting-edge upgrades. The program announcement mentions a vehicle with a crew of two to three, and room for four soldiers, which would be somewhat less than the complement on a LAV-25. But significantly, the document mentions “active and passive” protection systems to stop incoming anti-tank rockets. This certainly an Active Protection System such as Israel’s Trophy system, which detects anti-tank rockets and fires a barrage of shotgun-like pellets to stop them.

The ARV would also mount a medium-caliber autocannon that could target vehicles and personnel. Interestingly, ONR foresees a capability for the ARV to destroy tanks. “The ARV will need to be able to defeat threats with organic heavy anti-armor capability from beyond the range of the enemy heavy armor. The ARV will need to effectively deliver precision-guided munitions to defeat threats beyond the range of enemy direct fire and anti-tank guided munitions weapons. The means of delivering these effects include manned, optionally manned, and unmanned turret weapons stations.”

Naturally, the ARV will have advanced sensors as well as the ability to network and share data with other platforms. Moreover, all of this would be on a vehicle that can be carried by transport aircraft or heavy-lift helicopter.

ONR will develop two different prototypes of the ARV. “The first is a base platform that will comprise current, state-of-the-art technologies and standard weapons systems designed around a notional price point. The second is an ‘at-the-edge’ vehicle that demonstrates advanced capabilities.”

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Image: Wikimedia.