The US Marine Troopers will temporarily hold waterborne operations on its new amphibious combat vehicles (ACVs), similar to a nautical tank. They are currently investigating why a couple of the cars got into problems off the coast of Southern California last week due to the high surf, according to officials from the armed forces.

“The pause of waterborne operations will allow for an investigation into the incident and ensure the assault amphibian community can review best practices and procedures to remain capable, safe, and ready,” the Corps announced in a statement.

Lt. Gen. David Furness, the US Marine Corps for Plans, Policies, and Operations deputy commandant, emphasized that the halt is the “right thing to do” while rigorous investigations are underway.

“A pause on ACV waterborne operations will give us time to conduct an investigation, learn from this event, and ensure our assault amphibian community remains ready to support our nation.”

A video released on July 21 by a news agency shows the ACVs are having difficulty navigating the heavy surf right off of a beach at Camp Pendleton. A wave will come crashing down on top of one at a certain point. Marines can be seen fleeing from the vehicle, and one of the vehicles looks to have flipped over in the water. As per the release, Tuesday’s abnormally high waves, caused by a storm in the southern hemisphere, resulted in one of the vehicles rolling onto its side. However, none of the Marines or seamen aboard were hurt in the incident. The other vehicle could not function after waves reaching heights of up to 8 feet pounded the coastline.

A Marine spokesman from the First Marine Division, which is based at Camp Pendleton, did not return calls to queries regarding the number of Marines who were on deck the vehicles or whether or not the cars are attached to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, that is currently undergoing training for deployment. However, officials from the Marine Corps have stated that these vehicles (ACVs) will go on their maiden voyage with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) this year. Additionally, photos from the Pentagon reveal that the MEU has been conducting training exercises off the coast of San Diego in preparation for that deployment.

The New ACVs

Amphibious Combat Vehicle operated by Marines with the Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch, Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity (Source: Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The newest armored Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) 1.1 is currently being developed and produced by BAE Systems in conjunction with Iveco Defence Vehicles. The US Marine Corps (USMC) started the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) 1.1 program in 2011, substituting and finally replacing its aging amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) lineup, which first went into service back in 1972. When compared to the current fleet of AAV7 vehicles used by the US Marine Corps, the new armored vehicle model will have improved features for both survivability and payload capabilities. In November 2020, the US Marine Corps approved the initial operational capabilities of the ACV.

The US Marine Corps has signed BAE Systems a contract worth $184 million to purchase the first 36 ACV vehicles in December 2020. In February 2021, the US Marine Corps placed the order for an additional 36 cars under a full-rate production contract for a total of $184 million and 72 vehicles. Following the terms of the agreement, the ACV personnel carrier (ACV-P) variant will also be constructed.

Déjà vu of the Past Crash?

An Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) maneuvers into position to enter the excellent deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). The AAV is an armored assault amphibious full-tracked landing vehicle. (Source: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Sarah E. Ard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

As the newest ACVs are about to replace the AAVs, history tells a similar experience. After taking on water on the evening of July 30, 2020, an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) off the coast of Southern California carrying 16 members of the US Marine Corps and a member of the US Navy drowned quickly. The unfortunate tragedy resulted in the deaths of nine of the sixteen service members who were inside the AAV. All of the service members killed in the AAV accident off the coast of California were younger than 24 years old when they tragically died.

They were all part of Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), stationed at Camp Pendleton in California. Reports from the media indicate that the military members were engaged in a routine training exercise off of navy-owned San Clemente Island. At approximately 5:45 p.m., the AAV started taking on more water than the vehicle could pump out of its system. At the time of the accident that claimed lives, the AAV was making its way back to the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD-25). Even when other AAVs arrived at the emergency, they could not prevent the 26-ton amphibious vehicle from drowning. According to sources from the military, the AAV was immediately submerged in several hundred feet of deep water.