General Dynamics’ wheeled LAV A2 family is the US Marine Corps’ backbone armored personnel carrier, and the LAV-AT (anti-tank) is one of the most interesting sub-types. A pop-up M901 Emerson turret rises out of the vehicle like the head of a robot, tracks opponents using visual and thermal imaging, and fires up to 2 BGM-71 TOW(Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire guided) anti-armor missiles, before dropping back inside to re-load under armored protection. The result is a more mobile tank-killer that can strike from long-range, and remains effective even under heavy artillery shelling. It’s also handy for fire support against enemy strongpoints, serving in the same role as an assault gun.
Unfortunately for the Marines, their LAV-ATs are facing 2 separate threats to their long-term viability. Hence the USMC’s ACAT-III Light Armored Vehicle Anti-Tank Modernization Program.
LAV-AT Modernization: The Program
The overall program is a USMC ACAT class III effort, but will be managed by the US Army’s TACOM. TACOM has experience with their own modern M1134 Stryker ATGM, which is based on the non-amphibious LAV-III platform; Canada operates a very similar system as the LAV TUA (TOW Under Armor).
The overall program will involve 4 Engineering & Manufacturing Development (EMD) systems, plus 114 operational systems that will be retrofitted to USMC vehicles.
Why bother? As TACOM explains [MS Word]:
“The LAV-AT Modernization Program is designed to counter two converging obsolescence issues on the LAV-AT platform. First, the M901 Emerson turret is no longer in production and has been retired from the U.S. Army inventory. Second, the M220A3 TOW system is being replaced by the M41 SABER [DID: TOW ITAS firing] system in the infantry and the tank battalions of the Marine Corps which will leave the LAR (Light Armored Reconnaissance) Battalion as the only unit employing the legacy TOW system. The Program objective is to improve the supportability and mission effectiveness of the LAV-ATA2s by providing the following mission suites upgrades: improved reliability, availability, maintainability, multi-shot capability, the ability to acquire targets while on-the-move with an improved thermal sight and advance fire control system capable of firing the current and next generation heavy anti-armor missiles and will provide training commonality.”
The USMC aren’t the only force using LAV-ATs, which could make the results of this modernization program an attractive export to countries like Saudi Arabia.
Contracts & Key Events
November 27/17: Deliveries Having successfully completed its initial operational goals during field tests in September, the US Marine Corps (USMC) has started rolling out its upgraded Light Armored Vehicle Anti-Tank (LAV-AT) weapons system to troops. Developed under the USMC’s LAV-AT Modernization program established in 2012, the upgraded ATWS includes a new turret that is unmanned, fires both wire-guided and radio frequency TOW missiles, and can acquire targets while on-the-move with an improved thermal sight. It also has a Far Target Location system, new commander/gunner video sight displays, and an electric elevation and azimuth drive system, which helps rotate the weapon system onto the target. Fielding will be completed by the end of 2019.
April 26/12: Raytheon in McKinney, TeX receives a $19.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the LAV-AT modernization’s engineering and manufacturing development phase.
Work will be performed in McKinney and in Goleta, GA, with an estimated completion date of April 15/19. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 2 bids received by the US Army’s Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-12-C-0046). See also FBO solicitation.
* Military Today – LAV-AT Anti-Tanks Missile Carrier
* Military Today – M1134 Stryker
* Military.com (July 21/09) – Marines Train With New Saber ITAS System