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Amphibious Assault Vehicles

An amphibious operation is a military operation launched from the sea by an amphibious force, embarked in ships or craft with the primary purpose of introducing a landing force (LF) ashore to accomplish the assigned mission. Types of amphibious operations include assaults, withdrawals, demonstrations, raids, and other amphibious operations in a permissive, uncertain, or hostile environment.

The amphibious warfare doctrine laboriously developed by Mmines between the two World Wars could never have been successfully executed without special equipment to trxnsport the assaulting troops and their supplies from ship to shore and to land them on an enemydefended beach. No one was more aware of the need for such equipment than the Marines.

On item of equipment tried out in 1924 was the Christie "amphibian tank." Afloat, this unusual machine was driven by twin-screw propellers at a rated speed of seven knots. On short, as a tractor, it could make 15 mph; or, where good roads were available, the remountable tracks could be removed, and on wheels it could do 35 mph. It functioned well enough on land and in the sheltered waters of rivers. But in the open sea, under conditions that must be realistically anticipated for an assault landing, it proved so unseaworthy that the Marine Corps directed its attention to other types. The construction of these types of amphibious equipment constituted a beginning, however humble, towards the solution of the problem of transporting troops and equipment from ship to shore. But a shortage of funds made it impossible to follow up these developments until 1935, when appropriations became more plentiful.

The importance and capabilities of the versatile amtrac as a landing vehicle as well as an assault weapon were fully demonstrated at Tarawa, although they had been employed earlier in the war in the Solomons. On Guadalcanal, the amphibian tractors were used to carry cargo from ship to shore, and once on the island, the artillery employed them in the role of prime movers. Once in position, however, the gunners found the amphibian was a creature of mixed virtues; tracked vehicles tore up communications wire, creating early the pattern of combat events that became too familiar to plagued wiremen.

The amtrac began its career on Guadalcanal in a modest manner, and its usefulness exceeded all expectations; nobody, however, envisioned using the weird vehicle in much more than a cargo-carrying capacity. After Tarawa, however, never again in the Pacific War were assault troops to be handicapped by serious shortages of this vital piece of equipment. Amphibian tractors were later armored and armed with guns, howitzers, and flame-throwers, and utilized to carry the assault wave into the beachhead.

The amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) is employed to conduct mechanized (mech) operations and related combat support in subsequent operations ashore. A fully-tracked amphibian, the AAV is used by the assault amphibian (AA) battalion to accomplish its mission to land the surface assault elements of the landing force (LF) and their equipment in a single lift from assault shipping during amphibious operations to inland objectives.

Understanding the capabilities and limitations of the AAV are important to maximizing its operational utility on the battlefield. An amphibious armored personnel carrier (APC), the AAV is capable of open ocean operation from offshore shipping through rough seas and plunging surf; and without modification, it is capable of traversing beaches, crossing rough terrain, and performing operations on improved roads. AAVs provide the ground combat element (GCE) with armor protection as well as land and water operation capabilities.

The mission of the assault amphibian battalion is to land the surface assault elements of the landing force and their equipment in a single lift from assault shipping during amphibious operations to inland objectives and to conduct mechanized operations and related combat support in subsequent operations ashore. The battalion is organized with an H&S company and four assault amphibian companies. The organization of the assault amphibian company permits independent deployment for limited operations.

During the 1980's, the Navy and Marine Corps developed the concept of over-the-horizon (OTH) amphibious operations to avoid enemy strengths, exploit enemy weaknesses, and protect Navy ships from increased land-based missile threats and sea-based mine threats. This littoral warfare concept has matured into the Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare (EMW) capstone concept. The Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV), together with the MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft and the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), will provide the tactical mobility assets required to spearhead the EMW concept. Each system is an integrated element that will permit the Navy-Marine Corps team to fully exploit littoral areas as maneuver space.

The existing Assault Amphibian Vehicle (AAV) was originally fielded in 1972, and although there have been numerous upgrades and overhauls throughout its' lifecycle, the AAV will have been in service for 40 years by the time AAAV is fully fielded. In 1988, a series of Mission Area Analyses determined that the AAV was significantly deficient in several important areas, to include water and land speed, firepower, armor protection, and system survivability. Thus, the requirement for an improved assault amphibian vehicle was established.




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