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USMC Light Armored Vehicle (LAV)

The LAV is a family of 8x8 wheel, diesel-powered, lightly-armored vehicles that combine speed, mobility and firepower to fulfill a variety of missions for the U.S. Marine Corps. The versatile LAV brings Marines to the fight on land and in water while also providing a weapons platform for anti-tank missiles and mortars, functioning as a command and control vehicle, or performing logistical and recovery tasks.

The LAV entered the Marine Corps in 1983 with a service life expectation of 2005. As of 2007, the Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) has been in service for more than 24 years and is now projected to remain in service until at least 2024. Through programs of service life extension, upgrades to armor and armament, along with survivability and capability enhancements the LAV remains fully ready for the battlefields of the 21st century.

LAV-25, the base model Light Armored Vehicle
LAV-25, the base model Light Armored Vehicle.

Today in WW II: 25 Oct 1943 American and New Zealand troops land at Mono and Stirling, Treasury Islands, south of Bougainville [25-27 Oct].  More 
25 Oct 1944 First operation by the Japanese Kamikaze Special Attack Force: 55 kamikazes strike 7 carriers and 40 other ships, sinking six, off Leyte, Philippines.
25 Oct 1944 Battle off Samar [Leyte]: US Admiral Sprague skillfully prevents a loss to the stronger Japanese force under Japanese Admiral Kurita.
25 Oct 1944 Battle off Cape Engaño (Leyte): lopsided naval battle resulting in the loss of most of Japanese Northern Force to US Admiral Halsey's carrier planes and battleships [25-26 Oct].
25 Oct 1944 Soviet Red Army enters Kirkenes, the first town in Norway to be liberated from the Germans.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

USMC Marine Corps LAV Light Armored Vehicle History

During the late 1970s the U.S. Marine Corps, under the leadership of then Commandant General Al Gray, used a special allocation from Congress for rapid deployment forces to purchase and field the Light Armored Vehicle (LAV), built by GM Defense Systems in Canada. In 1980, at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, CA a test project began with several Light Armored Vehicles (Grizzlies) on loan from the Canadian Forces.

Based on impressive performance of the LAV at Twentynine Palms, the Marine Corps identified a requirement for enhancing the mobility and firepower of rapid deployment units, replacing the slower, tracked M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers and other platforms. On 27 September 1982, a production contract was awarded for six LAV configurations LAV-25, LAV-R, LAV-LOG, LAV-M, LAV-AT, and LAV-C2.

The first Light Armored Vehicle unit, the Second LAV Battalion at Camp Lejuene, NC, was activated during May 1985 and began receiving LAVs in July 1985. Shortly thereafter, First LAV Battalion was created at Camp Pendleton, CA and Third LAV Battalion at Twentynine Palms, CA. To better reflect the mission of the LAV units, in 1988 unit names were changed to Light Armored Infantry Battalions.

LAVs were first involved in combat operations during 1989, during Operation Just Cause in Panama.

LAV Configurations

There are more than 700 LAVs in the Marine Corps 2007 inventory, fielded in one of eight different model variants or configurations:

  • LAV-25, base model, armed with an M242 25mm chain gun
  • LAV-AT, Antitank, equipped with TOW missile system
  • LAV-C2, Command and Control (C2), outfitted with a robust communications suite
  • LAV-LOG, Logistics vehicle, providing cargo and maintenance capacity
  • LAV-M, Mortar 81mm Mortar carrier
  • LAV-R, Recovery vehicle
  • LAV-MEWSS, Mobile Electronic Warfare Support System
  • LAV-EFSS, Expeditionary Fire Support System replaces the LAV-M with a 120mm mortar

The LAV-25A1 is a USMC light armored amphibious vehicle equipped with a stabilized 25mm cannon and coaxially mounted 7.62mm machine gun. The LAV-ATA1 is a similar vehicle but equipped with the TOW 2 anti-tank missile system.

Older variants include the LAV-AD, air defense variant, no longer fielded.

LAV Specifications and Performance

Length20.96 ft (6.39 m)
Width8.20 ft (2.50 m)
Height8.83 ft (2.69 m)
Weight14.1 tons (12.8 m-tons)
EngineDetroit Diesel 6V53T 275 hp diesel
TransmissionAllison MT653 5 fwd, 1 rev
DriveRear two axles full time, front two axles selectable
DifferentialsFour for wheeled axles, two for water propellers
Armament (LAV-25)M242 Bushmaster 25mm automatic chain gun
two M240 7.62 mm machine guns
two 4-barrel grenade launchers
Ammunition (LAV-25)210 ready rounds and 420 stowed rounds of 25 mm ammunition
200 ready rounds, 800 stowed rounds of 7.62mm ammunition
eight ready rounds and eight stowed rounds of smoke grenades
Max speed (highway)60 mph
Max grade60°
Max side slope30%
Acceleration0-20mph, < 10 sec.
Vertical step capability18 inches
Cruising range400 miles
Ground clearance14 inches
Air transportableC-130 Hercules, CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter

LAVs are equipped with twin aft propellers and rudders, and can make 6.5 mph in calm waters of rivers or for fording streams. It cannot handle surf or ocean-going.

The LAV-25 has a two-man turret, which provides ballistic protection equivalent to the base chassis. The vehicle provides the vehicle commander and gunner with full 360° visibility in the closed hatch mode via periscopes. The primary armament is the electrically powered M242 25mm automatic chain gun, the same as on the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which can fire single shot, 100 or 200 rounds per minute. The LAV-25 has a crew of three and carries six Marines inside.

LAV-A2 Program

To reflect the improved significant survivability and capability enhancements occurring today, the LAV is being renamed as the LAV-A2. The LAV-A2 project involved developing and installing an internal and external ballistic protection upgrade package for the Light Armored Vehicles, an automatic fire suppression system for the interior of the vehicle and a Generation II suspension upgrade to support the added weight of the new armor. The suspension upgrade includes new struts/steering knuckles, torsion bars, shocks and mounts and drive shaft. The three-kit armor system provides the LAV with additional survivability against improvised explosive devices (IED) and direct-fire kinetic energy weapons.

LAV-A2 includes the AN/PAS-13 Improved Thermal Sight System (ITSS) developed by Raytheon of McKinney, TX, scheduled for fielding by the end of 2007. The ITSS provides the gunner and commander with thermal images, an eye-safe laser range finder, a fire-control solution and far-target location target grid information.

LAV-AD, air defense variant (discontinued)
LAV-AD, air defense variant (discontinued).

USMC 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit LAV-25, Udairi Training Range, northern Kuwait, 8 April 2000
USMC 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit LAV-25, Udairi Training Range, northern Kuwait, 8 April 2000.

Staff Sgt. Russell A. Strack, Company B, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Fort Detrick, MD, in LAV-25 commander's seat, during an exhibit on the National Mall in Washington, DC, 10 May 2001
Staff Sgt. Russell A. Strack, Company B, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Fort Detrick, MD, in LAV-25 commander's seat, during an exhibit on the National Mall in Washington, DC, 10 May 2001.

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Maj. Gen. Willie J. Williams (top, right), Commanding General, Marine Corps Logistics Command, and Michael T. Madden, LogCom Executive Deputy, with the first completed LAV-A2, Building 3500, USMC Logistics Base Maintenance Center Albany, GA, October 2006. Standing next to the LAV is Tim Minatee, LAV line work leader, and Heidi Roe, LAV project lead. This particular LAV-A2 is the first completed model of more than 80 that are undergoing extra armor protection at the Albany facility for use by U.S. Marines fighting in Iraq.

Two LAV reconnaissance vehicles assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, during a Central Command training operation, 2007
Two LAV reconnaissance vehicles assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, during a Central Command training operation, 2007.

Marines from 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion prepare to fire an M252 81 mm mortar from a LAV-M during Combined Arms Exercise, Twentynine Palms, CA, 18 October 2000
Marines from 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion prepare to fire an M252 81 mm mortar from a LAV-M during Combined Arms Exercise, Twentynine Palms, CA, 18 October 2000.

LAV-R at Task Force Breach Alpha's position in northern Saudi Arabia, Operation Desert Storm, February 1991.
LAV-R at Task Force Breach Alpha's position in northern Saudi Arabia, Operation Desert Storm, February 1991.

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