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Marines suspend water operations for new Amphibious Combat Vehicle after one fell on its side in the surf

Amphibious Combat Vehicle. (Kaitlin Kelly/ Marine Corps)

After one of its new eight-wheeled, seafaring vehicles recently fell onto its side while being towed through the surf zone, the Marine Corps has suspended for now all use of the armored troop transports in water training.

Camp Pendleton just recently started using the Amphibious Combat Vehicle, which is being phased in to replace the Marine’s aging fleet of Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

The Amphibious Combat Vehicle was tested by Marines from Delta Company over the past year. The group put the new vehicle through its final paces across the harsh desert landscape at Twentynine Palms and in the open ocean off Camp Pendleton before the rollout began for training.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Marine Corps has suspended waterborne operations of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle after identifying an issue with the towing mechanism,” Major Jim Stenger, a spokesman for the Marines, said on Friday about the Aug. 26 accident off a Camp Pendleton beach. No one was hurt, officials said.

“The Marine Corps is working on identifying and fixing the root cause of the problem,” he said. “Realistic training is a vital component of readiness, and the Marine Corps is committed to ensuring Marines train under the safest conditions possible; this includes ensuring the functionality of vehicles and equipment.”

What exactly happened with the vehicle’s towing mechanism is unclear, but Stenger said the Marines are investigating. He said it is also not clear whether this was a first-time event.

Just recently the Marines had started water training again using the AAVs, following a deadly training accident last summer with one of those vehicles.

Eight Marines and a corpsman died when the AAV they were riding in sank 400 feet to the bottom of the ocean off San Clemente Island on July 30, 2020.

Following the deadly accident and an ensuing eight-month investigation, the Marine Corps inspected its entire AAV fleet and ordered policy and procedural changes to AAV operation.

The water suspension on the use of AAVs was lifted in April when Marines from the 3rd Amphibian Assault Battalion were given the go-ahead to take the troop transports back into the water, but not into the open ocean. Only in July were infantry Marines allowed to go back into the AAVs, utilizing new training procedures following the deadly accident.

The new ACVs were first introduced at Camp Pendleton in September following months of evaluation and testing. In February, the Marines of Delta Company used the vehicles in a war-fighting exercise for the first time.

The ACVs, like their predecessor AAVs, are built by BAE Systems. In 2018, the military signed a $198 million deal for 30 vehicles. The first ones arrived on the West Coast in late 2019.

Evaluations continued through April, with summer testing at Twentynine Palms and Camp Pendleton in August and September. Two more lots of 36 vehicles have been contracted.

More than 200 vehicles are expected to be in service by 2028 and will cost more than $1 billion, Marine officials have said.

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