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