LAV-25 can be carried by C-5, C-17, C-141 or C-130 transport aircraft, and can even be mounted under CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopter.
As a force ready to deploy around the world, the US Marines possess many modern weapons and are ready to fight in all situations. As a highly mobile force, the US Marines rely not only on main battle tanks but also light armored vehicles, including the LAV-25. A battalion of US Marine Corps light armored vehicles possesses many variants such as LAV-25, LAV-AT, LAV-M, etc. With specific features, from anti-tank, air defense to command and control. Owning high speed and flexibility, LAV-25 specializes in frontline reconnaissance and supporting ground forces.
Considered as a pioneer cavalry force, the LAV-25 was born from the request of the US Marine Corps, to develop a modern, highly mobile assault force for the Middle East battlefield. Over the past 40 years, nearly 1,000 LAV-25s have been built and have engaged in combat from Panama to Iraq.
In the early 1980s, the United States established the Rapid Deployment Force, the forerunner of the US Central Command, to deploy marines units to every hot spot in the world quickly. The Rapid Deployment Force required a vehicle with firepower and strategic maneuverability that Washington had never had at the time.
The US Army and US Marine Corps have evaluated a series of new generation light armored vehicles to complement the Rapid Deployment Force, including the M1047 light armored vehicle. The M1047 uses an 8×8 chassis developed from the Swiss Mowag Piranha armored platform, the vehicle was fitted with an automatic cannon and a machine gun.
The US Army refused to accept the M1047, while the US Marine Corps welcomed the vehicle enthusiastically, giving it the designation LAV-25. The vehicle has been modified to carry 6 soldiers and used as an infantry fighting vehicle. The US Marine Corps established 4 LAV-25 battalions, each of which was part of the fighting squad of a marines division.
The new US military doctrine emphasizes the ability to operate continuously, gain a favorable position before the enemy, instead of focusing on overwhelming firepower. LAV-25 serves well for this task, equipped with a 6V53T Detroit Diesel turbo-charged engine developing 300 horsepower, mounted to the right of the hull. The LAV-25 has a maximum towing capacity of 19.5 horsepower per ton. However, it can still reach a maximum speed of up to 100 km/h and has an operational range of about 660 km. These vehicles are also amphibious, meaning they have the ability to “swim”, but are limited to non-surf bodies of water. While engaged in amphibious operations, the maximum speed is approximately 12 km/h using equipped propellers.
LAV-25 can be carried by C-5, C-17, C-141 or C-130 transport aircraft, and can even be mounted under CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopter. The name itself stands for Light Armored Vehicle. The vehicle comes with an 8×8 wheel chassis similar to that on the BTR-82A, while the original Mowag Piranha only uses the 6×6 configuration.
Through the kneading hands of General Dynamics, the LAV-25 has become a line of armored reconnaissance vehicles capable of carrying troops. A standard LAV-25 weighs 12.8 tons, is 6.39 meters long, 2.5 meters wide, and 2.7 meters high. It is much smaller in size than the AAV-7, and can only carry up to 9 soldiers including a crew of 3. The driver’s seat is on the left front, at the rear is a two-man powered turret, equipped with an M242 Bushmaster 25 mm chain gun with 210 rounds of ammunition. Two M240 7.62 mm machine guns with 660 rounds of ammunition, one mounted co-axially and one pintle-mounted on the roof. Firing ports are also provided to allow soldiers to use their personal weapons, helping to enhance the vehicle’s firepower on the battlefield. The LAV-25 is protected by light gauge high hardness steel armor, varying in nominal thickness from 4.71 mm to 9.71 mm. This level of high-hardness steel armor is intended only to offer protection against small arms rounds such as the common 7.62mm ammunitions, to achieve the lowest possible weight and cost.
In addition to the standard LAV-25 model, the US Marine Corps has ordered 6 more specialized variants. The LAV-C2 stands out as a command and control center for the LAV-25 battalions. This version removed the turret, instead a larger compartment to accommodate radio equipment and operators. Next is the LAV-L version for logistics, the rear cargo compartment can carry three tons of cargo, usually ammunition. Unlike the LAV-C2, the LAV-L is fitted with a 7.62 mm machine gun for self-defense.
The LAV-R recovery version is equipped with a hydraulic crane that can lift three tons of cargo, along with a rotating shaft with a towing capacity of up to 15 tons, enough to tow other LAV-25s.
Many heavily armed versions were also built. The LAV-AT is equipped with a turret with a TOW Anti-Tank Guided Missile launchers. It carries a total of 16 TOW missiles, and 1,000 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition. There are also LAV-M models equipped with 81mm M252 mortar and LAV-AD for air defense with a 25 mm Gatling gun and 4 Stinger missiles.
The LAV-25 first saw combat in Panama in 1989, when it was deployed by the US Marine Corps during a military campaign against the government of General Manuel Noriega. High maneuverability allows the LAV-25 to move quickly on the streets, even crossing the Panama Canal.
By 1990, LAV-25 of the 1st Marine Division was sent to Saudi Arabia, serving the Desert Shield and Desert Storm campaign. The LAV-25 played the role of front reconnaissance, identifying the positions of Iraqi forces. In some cases, the LAV-25 and LAV-AT also directly confronted Iraqi armored and infantry units.
LAV battalions continued to fight in Iraq in 2003. Iraqi militants refer to the LAV-25 as “destroyers”, due to its ability to launch surprise attacks and overwhelming firepower.
In the mid-2000s, 893 LAVs in service with the US were upgraded to A2 standard. The LAV-25A2 has thicker armor and is able to withstand 14.5 mm projectiles, a new suspension and fire suppression, and an improved thermal viewfinder for the commander and the gunner.LAV vehicles can be in service with US Marine Corps for many more years, especially when no light armored model has firepower and superior defenses. However, the threat of new generation combat vehicles armed with 30 and 57 mm guns could cause the LAV to lose its status, forcing the United States to look for new designs in the near future.