Armor: December 10, 2000

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The US Army has selected the LAV-III for its new medium brigades. This is an improved version of the eight-wheeled armored car used by the Marines as the LAV. While the Marine version has a two-man turret mounting a 25mm cannon, the Army version will have only a remotely-operated weapon station mounting a .50-caliber machinegun or a 40mm grenade launcher. The LAV-III weighs 19 tons. It is 23.5 feet long, 8.5 feet high, and 8.8 feet wide. It has full-time four-wheel drive and selective eight-wheel drive. The main advantage is strategic mobility. A C-5 transport jet that could carry two M1 tanks or two M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles could carry eight LAV-IIIs. A C-17 (which could carry two Bradleys or one tank) can carry two LAV-IIIs. The key, however, is that a C-130 which cannot carry a tank or a Bradley, could carry one LAV-III. The Army plans to spend $4 billion buying 2,131 of these vehicles. The Army was so impressed with the LAV-III that it agreed to delay the introduction of the vehicle in order to wait for production to begin. The Army could have bought other vehicles for immediate delivery. Part of the delay, however, is due to Congressionally-ordered head-to-head tests against the M113. There are many critics of wheeled combat vehicles who point out that the M113 may be a better protected and more effective vehicle while weighing about the same. Even critics of the medium brigade concept, however, agree that providing these vehicles to the light infantry units (which currently have no vehicles for the front-line soldiers) would make them viable in modern mobile combat. The Army LAV-III will carry a two-man crew and a nine-man dismounted squad. The vehicle will be the basis of ten variants, including NBC reconnaissance, fire support (forward artillery observer), mobile gun system (a tank destroyer with a 105mm cannon), anti-tank guided missile, command, engineer (with mine plows and rollers), reconnaissance, mortar carrier (with 120 mm, 81mm, or 60mm tubes), and a medical evacuation vehicle. In theory, every vehicle in a brigade (except for supply trucks and the ubiquitous Humvees used for errands) would be based on this chassis, allowing the unit to move as a cohesive mass and greatly simplifying maintenance. Because every variant has a winch to pull itself out of mud or other problems, there won't be a dedicated recovery variant. Ordnance teams will use the standard armored personnel carrier model. The LAV-III has armor sufficient to protect the passengers and crew from 14.5mm cannon shells, fragments from 155mm artillery shells, and land mines. It can be fitted with additional armor (after being unloaded from an aircraft) sufficient to stop rocket-propelled grenades and other short-range anti-armor rockets. The LAV is fast. It can travel at 60 miles per hour on roads or hard-packed ground. Its convoy speed is 40 miles per hour, considerably faster than trucks which are limited to 25 miles per hour.--Stephen V Cole

 


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