Marines' New Amphibious Combat Vehicle Makes Operational Debut in Annual Philippines Exercise

U.S. Marine Corps amphibious combat vehicles
U.S. Marine Corps amphibious combat vehicles attached to Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct open water transit at Exercise Balikatan 24 in Naval Detachment Oyster Bay, Palawan, Philippines, May 4, 2024. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Peyton Kahle)

The Marine Corps' new amphibious combat vehicle, or ACV, debuted in the Philippines as part of its first overseas deployment after more than a year-and-a-half of limited operations.

Marines aboard ACVs launched from amphibious ships in the Pacific on Saturday to conduct live-fire training in the Philippines, the service said in a statement. The Marine unit involved in the training was the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU, a unit out of Camp Pendleton, California, which deployed this spring for partner exercises across the Pacific.

The ACV was involved in multiple rollovers in 2022, which did not result in any injuries or deaths then, but the Corps temporarily pulled the vehicles from service to better train Marines in operating them. Amid the preparation for its deployment to the Pacific this year, a Marine was killed in an on-land ACV rollover incident in December.

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"The hard work and dedication of our Marines is what made today's training successful," Col. Sean Dynan, commanding officer of the 15th MEU, said in a statement Saturday. "Today's training is a proof of concept across the Marine Corps for successful ACV employment in its intended environment."

The deployment of the vehicle occurred during Exercise Balikatan '24, which involved U.S. training with the Philippine military meant to build the partnership and counter Chinese influence in the region.

A platoon of ACV Marines left the USS Harpers Ferry and attacked targets along the shore of Oyster Bay, Philippines, with MK19 grenade launchers. After wrapping up the attack, the ACVs reembarked aboard the Harpers Ferry.

In 2022, the vehicle rolled over twice on land, which prompted the Marine Corps to pull the ACV from surf operations while it recertified crews to operate it. Late last year, a Marine with the 15th MEU, Sgt. Matthew Bylski, died after the vehicle rolled over on land during an exercise to prepare for the unit's current deployment.

The following month, after the Corps said it had recertify its crews, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Chris Mahoney, announced that the ACV was again operating in the surf and the 15th MEU would be deploying with them to the Pacific.

The new ACVs can deploy from amphibious ships, travel across the water and take beachheads. It replaced a decades-old platform that had a troubled history, including a 2020 incident that resulted in the deaths of eight Marines and one sailor.

That vehicle, called the amphibious assault vehicle, or AAV, had been used since the 1970s. It was lighter and had tracks, different from the wheeled ACV, which weighs roughly 70,000 pounds when fully loaded.

The 15th MEU is deployed as part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, or ARG, which includes the Harpers Ferry and USS Somerset.

Part of the 15th MEU's deployment in April was met with trouble due to the readiness of the USS Boxer, the ARG's namesake. After suffering engineering issues, the Boxer returned to San Diego, causing Marines and sailors to be offloaded so repairs could be made.

The Boxer had already been delayed by months, previously reported, due to maintenance issues.

Editor’s note: this story has been updated to correct the name of the amphibious combat vehicle.

Related: Troubled USS Boxer Returns Home 10 Days into Deployment Due to Maintenance Issue

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