The Office of Naval Research (ONR) under the Virtual Training and Environments (VIRTE) program, led by then LCDR Dylan Schmorrow, developed a prototype training system called the AAV Turret Trainer. The system consists of an actual surplus turret mounted with ISMT (Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer) weapons firing on a projected screen displaying the VIRTE Virtual Environment. At total of 15 systems were produced for the USMC and one system for Taiwan.
Renamed from the Advanced Assault Amphibious Vehicle in late 2003, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) was designed to replace the ageing AAV. Able to transport a full Marine rifle squad to shore from an amphibious assault ship beyond the horizon with three times the speed in water and about twice the armor of the AAV, and superior firepower as well it was the Marine Corps’ number one priority ground weapon system acquisition. The EFV was intended for deployment in 2015. However, in January 2011 United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans to cancel the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. In 2012, the USMC dropped the EFV and cancelled the program. The AAV-7 is planned to remain in service for some years to come. Replacement of the AAV will now come from the Amphibious Combat Vehicle program.
Twenty U.S.-built LVTP-7s were used by Argentina during the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands with all of them returning to the Argentine mainland before the war ended. From 1982–1984, LVTP-7s were deployed with U.S. Marines as part of the multi-national peacekeeping force in Beirut, Lebanon. As Marines became increasingly involved in hostilities, several vehicles sustained minor damage from shrapnel and small arms fire. On October 25, 1983 U.S. Marine LVTP-7s conducted a highly successful amphibious landing on the island of Grenada as part of Operation Urgent Fury. It was heavily used in the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has been criticized for providing poor protection for the crew and passengers compared with other vehicles such as the M2 Bradley. Eight of them were disabled or destroyed during the Battle of Nasiriyah, where they faced RPG, mortar, tank and artillery fire. At least one vehicle was destroyed by fire from friendly A-10 Warthog attack planes. AAV-7A1s were also used extensively in the Persian Gulf War and in Operation Restore Hope.
An AAVR-7A1 attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit splashes into the Pacific Ocean from the well deck of USS Juneau before heading to the beach.
AAVC-7A1 (Command): This vehicle does not have a turret, and much of the cargo space of the vehicle is occupied by communications equipment. This version only has two crew radios, and in addition to the VIC-2, it also carries two VRC-92s, a VRC-89, a PRC-103 UHF radio, a MRC-83 HF radio and the MSQ internetworking system used to control the various radios. This AAV has a crew of 3, and additionally carries 5 radio operators, three staff members, and two commanding officers. Recently, the C7 has been upgraded to use Harris Falcon II class radios, specifically the PRC-117 for VHF/UHF/SATCOM, and the PRC-150 for HF.
AAVR-7A1 (Recovery): This vehicle also does not have a turret. The R7 is considered the “wrecker”, as it has a crane as well as most tools and equipment needed for field repairs. It is by far the heaviest of the three, and sits considerably lower in the water. Crew of three, not including the repairmen.
Many P7s have been modified to carry the Mk 154 MCLC, or Mine Clearance Line Charge. The MCLC kit can fire three linear demolition charges to breach a lane through a minefield. MCLCs were used in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and again in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
In the 1970s, the US Army used an LVTP-7 as the basis for their Mobile Test Unit (MTU), a ground-based antiaircraft high energy laser. After several successful test firings at Redstone Army Arsenal, the laser was reportedly transferred to NASA.
Two U.S. Marine Corps Assault Amphibian Vehicles emerge from the surf onto the sand of Freshwater Beach, Australia
U.S. Marines landing from an Assault Amphibian Vehicle in Djbouti
The LVTP-7 was first introduced in 1972 as a replacement for the LVTP-5. In 1982, FMC was contracted to conduct the LVTP-7 Service Life Extension Program, which converted the LVT-7 vehicles to the improved AAV-7A1 vehicle by adding an improved engine, transmission, and weapons system and improving the overall maintainability of the vehicle. The Cummins VT400 diesel engine replaced the GM 8V53T, and this was driven through FMC’s HS-400-3A1 transmission. The hydraulic traverse and elevation of the weapon station was replaced by electric motors, which eliminated the danger from hydraulic fluid fires. The suspension and shock absorbers were strengthened as well. The fuel tank was made safer, and a fuel-burning smoke generator system was added. Eight smoke grenade launchers were also placed around the armament station. The headlight clusters were housed in a square recess instead of the earlier round type. The driver was provided with an improved instrument panel and a night vision device, and a new ventilation system was installed. These upgraded vehicles were originally called LVT-7A1, but the Marine Corps renamed the LVTP-7A1 to AAV-7A1 in 1984.
Another improvement was added in the form of a Cadillac Gage weapon station or Up-Gunned Weapon Station (UGWS) which was armed with both a .50 cal (12.7 mm) M2HB machine gun and a Mk-19 40 mm grenade launcher.
Enhanced Applique Armor Kits (EAAK) were developed for the AAV-7A1 in 1989 and fitted by 1993, and the added weight of the new armor necessitated the addition of a bow plane kit when operating afloat.
The Assault Amphibian Vehicle Reliability, Availability, Maintainability/Rebuild to Standard (AAV RAM/RS) Program has provided for a replacement of both the engine and suspension with US Army M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) components modified for the AAV. The ground clearance has returned to 16 inches and the horsepower to ton ratio has changed from 13 to 1 back to 17 to 1. The AAV RAM/RS rebuild encompassed all AAV systems and components in order to return the AAV back to the original vehicle’s performance specifications and ensure acceptable Fleet Marine Force (FMF) AAV readiness ratings until the EFV is operational. Introduction of the BFV components and the rebuild to standard effort is expected to reduce maintenance costs for the remaining life of the AAV through the year 2013. Though due to the cancellation of the EFV the AAV will remain in service much longer.