Four years after a Marine corporal was killed when ordnance ignited his amphibious assault vehicle, the Marine Corps is rolling out a safer and more efficient mine-clearing system for its amtracks.
The MK-154 Mod 1 is now being fielded to assault amphibian battalions across the Marine Corps, officials with Marine Corps Systems Command said, restoring a capability that was curtailed after the tragic 2013 accident.
"The MK-154 was deadlined four years ago after the loss of a Marine during a training event," Robert Davies, a safety official with Marine Corps Systems Command, said in a statement.
"While certainly the last four years have been spent making the system more reliable and driving down the cost of maintenance, the big driver for the past four years was to ensure that we put out a system that was vastly safer," he said.
Cpl. Nicholas Sell, a 21-year-old amtracker from Eagle Point, Oregon, died Sept. 16, 2013, at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center 29 Palms in California when his AAV caught fire. Four other Marines in the vehicle were injured in the blaze and required emergency medical treatment.
According to SYSCOM officials, the modified MK-154 design features a self-bleeding hydraulic system and a test function that tells vehicle operators when it is safe to fire.
The system is the only mobile, multiple shot explosive minefield clearance capability in the U.S. military inventory, according to military program materials. It is also the military's only amphibious vehicle breaching capability, officials said, making it a crucial asset for penetrating coastal defenses.
The legacy MK-154 system was first fielded in the 1980s and had been in service for more than 30 years, officials said.
The self-bleeding hydraulics in the new modification also mean the MK-154 system will be easier to operate and ready to deploy more often, as air intrusion into the hydraulics was a consistent problem with the old system, officials said.
"With the upgraded hydraulic system, the MK-154 can operate with air in the hydraulic lines and self-bleed any air out during operation of the system," Capt. Anthony Molnar, project officer for the MK-154, said in a statement. "This makes the new system more reliable and reduces time needed to prepare for missions."