Amphibious assault vehicles are a niche but critical component of modern military forces. Given the numerous maritime nations in the Asia-Pacific, it is hardly surprising that many are acquiring new platforms and upgrading existing fleets, with a number of indigenous designs being developed and fielded.

Amphibious assault vehicles have a long and storied history, rising to prominence during the Second World War with the US Marine Corps in the Pacific. As is still the case today, they were specifically designed to land troops and equipment in a single lift from assault ships during amphibious operations, and support mechanised operations ashore. The US military’s standard Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) served well in the Second World War and Korean War, and was followed by the 1950s-era LVTP-5.

In 1972 the United States introduced the 23 tonne tracked LVTP-7 amphibious assault vehicle (AAV), able to negotiate rough seas thanks to a boat-like bow and extendible bow plane. More robust than other amphibious armoured vehicles designed to cross small bodies of water, the LVTP-7 became the quintessential AAV. In 1982 manufacturer FMC (today BAE Systems) was contracted to upgrade the LVTP-7, adding an improved engine, transmission and weapons system to create the AAV-7A1. In the 1990s the Reliability, Availability, Maintainability/Rebuild to Standard (RAM/RS) program was initiated and saw upgraded engines and suspensions, amongst others.

The tracked vehicle has a crew of three and can carry 21 combat troops or nearly 5 tonnes of equipment. Water speed is 13 km/h with water jet propulsion or 7 km/h using its own tracks, while land speed is up to 70 km/h. Standard armament on the AAV-7A1 consists of a 12.7 mm machinegun and 40 mm grenade launcher. An aluminium hull provides protection against small arms fire and shell splinters but additional armour can be fitted. The three main variants produced are the AAVP-7A1 Personnel (armoured personnel carrier), AAVC-7A1 Command and AAVR-7A1 Recovery.

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