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Video: 2 Marine amphibious vehicles flounder in high surf off Camp Pendleton; waterborne operations suspended

Amphibious Combat Vehicle. (Kaitlin Kelly/ Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps is suspending waterborne operations of its new Amphibious Combat Vehicles after two were involved in a training accident on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Tuesday morning, the Marines said in a statement.

One ACV rolled onto its side in the surf and another became disabled, the statement said. Marines in both vehicles immediately evacuated and made it safely to shore. No one was injured, the statement said.

The service is still attempting to recover the vehicle that rolled over. The other was towed to shore.

The incident is under investigation.

video published Wednesday by USNI News shows the ACVs struggling in high surf just off a Camp Pendleton beach. At one point, a wave crashes over the top of one. Marines are seen leaping from the vehicle and another appears overturned in the surf.

The abnormally high swells are due to a storm that originated in the southern hemisphere and sent historically large waves to Tahiti and Hawaii last week. Forecasters predicted waves as high as 10 feet could batter Southern California beaches through Thursday.

Late Wednesday, the Marine Corps announced it is pausing ACV waterborne operations out of “an abundance of caution” while it investigates Tuesday’s incident.

“This is the right thing to do,” said Lt. Gen. David Furness, the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps. “A pause on ACV waterborne operations will give us time to conduct an investigation, learn from this event, and ensure our assault amphibian community remains ready to support our nation.”

A Marine spokesperson from the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Division did not immediately reply to questions about how many Marines were on board the vehicles or whether the vehicles are attached to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is currently training for deployment.

Marine officials have previously said ACVs will deploy for the first time with the 13th MEU this year. The MEU has been training off the San Diego coast this month ahead of that deployment, Pentagon photos show.

Marine ACVs are the service’s replacement for its beleaguered Vietnam War-era Assault Amphibious Vehicles, one of which sank off the San Diego coast in 2020, killing eight Marines and a sailor. AAVs were pulled from waterborne operations last year.

ACVs are larger and heavier than the AAVs they’re replacing and ride on eight wheels instead of the tracks used on AAVs. ACVs are also faster in the water and are equipped with modern computers and communications. The vehicles can operate on land and in water and are used to ferry Marine infantry troops to shore from Navy amphibious ships.

The troops killed in 2020’s sinking were returning to the amphibious transport dock Somerset when their almost 40-year-old AAV broke down and began taking on water. A wave washed over the top of the vehicle and inundated it, causing it to immediately sink, according to the Marine Corps’ investigation.


© 2022 The San Diego Union-Tribune

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