Marine Corps’ new amphibious vehicles will soon deploy to the Pacific

The Marine Corps will deploy its new amphibious vehicle within a few months, after nearly a year and a

Marine Corps’ new amphibious vehicles will soon deploy to the Pacific

The Marine Corps will deploy its new amphibious vehicle within a few months, after nearly a year and a half of restrictions on the operation of the platform.

In October 2022, an amphibious combat vehicle rolled over in the water during training, prompting the Corps to halt most operations of the vehicle in the surf — the second time that year that the service restricted the use of the vehicle after a mishap in rough waters.

The Marine Corps attributed the mishaps to training shortfalls and is recertifying vehicle operators and maintainers, focusing the new training on how the amphibious combat vehicle differs from its predecessor, the amphibious assault vehicle.

With these new training procedures in hand, the Corps plans to deploy amphibious combat vehicles with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in or around March, Assistant Commandant Gen. Christopher Mahoney said Thursday at a Hudson Institute event in Washington.

The eight-wheeled amphibious combat vehicles can emerge from a ship, transit the waves and then roll onto shore, allowing the military’s amphibious force to conduct amphibious operations. But the vehicle has faced challenges, not only on the water but also on land, including a a December 2023 rollover that killed a Marine aboard a California Marine base.

Even the operators who have gotten recertified aren’t yet authorized to transit the surf zone with embarked troops or when the average height of the tallest waves are at 4 feet or higher, Marine spokesman Capt. Ryan Bruce said via email Friday. The spokesman said the service wouldn’t make “predictions or assumptions” about when it would lift those restrictions.

“Setting the proper foundation for the long-term success of this platform is our focus and we are going to make sure we get this right,” Bruce said.

The California-based 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit will deploy on the Navy’s Boxer Amphibious Ready Group in phases, with the amphibious transport dock Somerset heading to the Pacific in the coming days to begin a six-month scheduled deployment, Shon Brodie, the director of the Maritime Expeditionary Warfare Division at the Corps’ Capability Development Directorate, told Defense News on Friday.

The amphibious assault ship Boxer and the dock landing ship Harpers Ferry will deploy about two months later, in or around March, due to ship readiness and maintenance challenges.

Corps and fleet leaders recognized the importance of having Marine forces afloat in the Pacific between Taiwan’s January election and its May inauguration, Brodie said. Since the entire amphibious ready group would not be ready to go, they elected to send the Somerset early to allow for some presence in the region.

Mahoney said the vehicles likely will deploy with the other two ships, allowing for more time to wrap up testing and training.

The Marine Corps previously had been tight-lipped about when it would lift the restrictions on the operation of the vehicle.

Bruce said via email back in December 2023, “Our Marines are training and experimenting with the platform as we speak, but the service is not going to rush into announcing capabilities on upcoming deployments until we are certain we have done our homework.”

In announcing that the vehicles soon would deploy with the Marine expeditionary unit, Mahoney acknowledged that Marines still have some more homework to do first.

“We have a very detailed checklist sort of criteria to get that platform back to unprotected waters,” said Mahoney, who also is the acting commandant while Commandant Gen. Eric Smith recovers from his October 2023 cardiac arrest.

“We’re working on that. There are a couple more things to go, but I’m confident that we will get the training, get the procedures and the methods to the level that we need to be confident in rough sea states.”

Defense News reporter Megan Eckstein contributed reporting.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday to reflect the correct names of the ships in the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group. A previous version of this story included a reference by Mahoney to a ship that wasn’t in the amphibious ready group.

This story was updated at 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday with additional comment from a Marine Corps spokesman about restrictions on the operation of the amphibious combat vehicle.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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