In the early 70’s, the Argentinean and Brazilian marines introduced the original LVTP-7 at almost the same time as the USMC. Forty years later, the amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) is back in the spotlight: The Chilean Navy is looking for twelve AAV-7A1s to replace their already decommissioned LVTP-5s and DSCA notified Congress of a potential sale to Brazil of twenty-six AAV/RAM-RS (plus the upgrade of the old ones to RAM/RS configuration). During the last couple of years, Argentina locally upgraded the survivors of their fleet, and Venezuela (the other historical user of the LVTP-7 in the region) was in conversations with Argentina to do the same. (United Defense was the original equipment manufacturer for the LVTP-7 and was later purchased by BAE, which now manufactures the AAV-7A1.)
While the new AAV-7A1 or the AAV RAM/RS are far more modern and powerful than the original LVTP-7s, it is still the same base vehicle. After forty years, the AAV is not only still in service, but it is being upgraded, produced, and procured by multiple countries. Out of ten international users, four are South American countries, four are Asian (Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Thailand), and two are European (Spain and Italy). The vehicle’s dominance in the Latin American market is remarkable. What makes this gator so well-suited for this region of the world?
Last week at the Modern Day Marine expo in Quantico, VA, I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Signe Johnson, BAE Systems Program Manager for the AAV-7. (Signe manages the U.S. side of the program, not the international part. Still, she very kindly answered my questions about the AAV in South America.) “The AAV is not only amphibious, it also has a tremendous cargo capacity that makes the vehicle ideally suited for disaster relief operations. The USMC used the AAV-7 extensively after Katrina” she mentioned. Additionally, she pointed out that the Brazilian Navy used AAVs to support Brazilian police operations in the favelas. The AAV-7’s capacity to support disaster relief in flooded areas, plus its versatility for law enforcement (and peacekeeping) operations, in addition to its unique amphibious tracked assault role, is what makes it so popular.
In discussing the different options to procure the AAV-7, she mentioned that BAE Systems can deliver through either DCS or FMS, both the AAV RAM/RS (rebuilt from the USMC’s retired AAVs) and factory-new AAV-7A1s. In addition, the option to partner with local companies is always open. “We did that with Samsung for the South Korean order,” she added. BAE’s commitment to producing and upgrading the AAV – and to making it available to foreign customers through DCS or FMS – ensures that the vehicle will remain an important component of South American militaries for years to come.
What other benefits do you see in the AAV? Do you know of any other countries interested in BAE’s AAV-7A1?