USA: Amphibious Assault Vehicles Join WASP for BA
Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs) assigned to the 2nd Amphibious Assault Battalion, Delta Company, 1st and 2nd platoons, embarked the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) Feb. 2.
The 11 vehicles will play a pivotal role in exercise Bold Alligator, the first large-scale amphibious operation undertaken by the Navy and Marine Corps in 10 years.
“The AAVs play a pretty large role because they’re basically moving all the infantry to the beach,” said Gunnery Sgt. Henry Salgado, of 3rd platoon, a Watertown, N.Y. native. The benefit of having AAVs available is that each vehicle can carry up to 21 combat-loaded troops, so with 11 AAVs, we’re capable of taking over 200 Marines to the beach at one time.”
Having AAVs aboard will be a learning experience for both young Sailors and Marines as their respective branches work together in the amphibious realm of maritime operations.
“Part of the challenge is that this type of ship doesn’t normally take on AAVs, so it’s good for us to have this kind of capability on here,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Matlat, assigned to Combat Cargo aboard Wasp. “Usually, from a ship like this we would use LCACs (landing craft, air cushion) to send all our trucks and cargo ashore. With the AAVs, it’s like having 11 extra amphibious vehicles to take people and cargo ashore.”
Adding two AAV platoons to Wasp’s armament certainly increases capability, but it also requires some flexibility to accommodate so much equipment.
“A lot of the Navy and a lot of the Marines with Combat Cargo have never really dealt with getting this kind of vehicle up here into the well deck,” said Matlat. “It’s going to be a little tricky trying to work them up nice and slow into the right spots.”
Getting the AAVs onto the ship is only half the equation, though. Equipment that is frequently exposed to or submerged in saltwater is bound to require intensive maintenance to remain combat ready.
“The maintenance is a big part of working with AAVs,” said Salgado, who has 16 years of AAV experience. “Reliability can be in question, sometimes because some of the parts can break down. That’s probably the biggest disadvantage. For the most part, the daily maintenance and preventative maintenance we do is to minimize how much we break.”
Regardless of the challenges that crop up and the constant maintenance, the AAVs will be ready to deliver when the time comes.
“They’ll go out first and hit the beach, and right behind them will come the LCACs with the rest of the cargo that’s on the ship,” said Matlat. I’d say that’s what they bring to the fight, another way to get to the beach, but with a little more firepower.”
The AAVs aboard Wasp will carry just one small part of the more than 14,000 Sailors and Marines that are revitalizing the amphibious capabilities of the force during Bold Alligator 2012.
Bold Alligator focuses on today’s fight with today’s forces, while showcasing the advantages of seabasing. The exercise takes place Jan. 30 to Feb. 12, 2012 afloat and ashore in and around Virginia and North Carolina.
Naval Today Staff , February 07, 2012; Image: navy