The U.S. Marine Corps pulls AAVs out of the water forever

  • The Marine Corps excludes its amphibious assault vehicles from waterborne operations except in a crisis.
  • The corps suspended these operations after an AAV sank and killed nine U.S. troops last year, but restarted them this year.
  • The decision is a big turnaround and comes even though the corps says AAVs are “safe and effective” for amphibious operations.

The U.S. Marine Corps is pulling its amphibious attack vehicles from regular deployments and out of the water except in emergencies following a fatal crash last year, the service said in a statement.

The commander of the Marine Corps, General David Berger, has decided that AAVs “will no longer serve as part of regular scheduled deployments or train in the water during military exercises,” the statement said.

“AAVs will only return to operate in the water if it is necessary for crisis response,” the corps said, noting that the vehicles will still be allowed to operate on land.

The Marine Corps insisted that “the AAV is a safe and effective vehicle for amphibious operations” and that the decision “was taken in the interest of the long-term health of the amphibious craft programs and future capabilities.”

amphibious assault vehicle

An amphibious assault vehicle enters the sea.

US Navy photo of Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Lyndon Schwartz


The decision comes about a year and a half after an AAV assigned to the Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit sank off the coast of California during training, killing eight Marines and a Marine. It was the deadliest accident in the history of the AAV program.

One of several investigations into the accident concluded that the tragedy was “preventable” and was caused by “a confluence of human and mechanical faults.” Specifically, the vehicle was improperly maintained, training was inadequate, and critical safety procedures were not followed.

In the wake, the corps replaced several officers, including a two-star general.

Although Marine Corps suspended waterborne operations for AAVs almost immediately after the accident, the service decided in April to put them back in the water, provided the units met certain safety requirements.

Pulling AAVs out of regular deployments and waterborne operations permanently, where their use is only allowed in the event of a crisis, is a big turnaround.

Marines with Amphibious Testing Division, Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, Drive New Amphibious Combat Vehicles Along the Beach

Marines drive new amphibious combat vehicles on a beach.

Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez


The corps is in the process of replacing its aging fleet of AAVs with the newer amphibious combat vehicles that the service began receiving last fall.

In September, Marines announced that the service had “suspended waterborne operations of amphibious combat vessels after identifying a problem with the towing mechanism,” explaining that the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution.”

A Marine Corps spokesman told the Marine Corps Times that the ACV is currently still unable to carry out waterborne operations, meaning the service does not have any amphibious vehicles authorized to carry out waterborne operations under normal circumstances.

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