(high resolution photos attached at end of article.)
By PFC Travis A. Gannon
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The first of 680 refurbished amtraks, which will be distributed throughout the Marine Corps, was presented to Assault Amphibian School Battalion Friday at Camp Del Mar.
The Assault Amphibious Vehicle P7-A1 is a modified version of the AAV7 family of vehicles. The AAV7 has been upgraded several times since its debut in 1972. The additions have made the current version, the AAV7-A1, slow and prone to maintenance problems.
The redesign program was intended to return the amtrak to Marine Corps standards. Thus, the new vehicles formal name is AAVP7/Reliability and Maintainability/Rebuild to Standard (RAM/RS).
Improving on the AAV7's performance, availability and maintainability is critical to the mission of the Marine Corps, according to CWO5 Jim Gehris, maintenance course supervisor at AAS Bn.
The engine and suspension of the AAV7 were replaced using modified parts from the U.S. Armys M2-Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
"Now it has enough horsepower to get you down the road with a sturdy suspension," Gehris said.
The upgrade features 525 horsepower, compared with 400 in the current AAV7. Its suspension now exceeds 16 inches of ground clearance; the AAV7 had fallen to less than 12. The new vehicle has a power-to-weight ratio (horsepower-to-ton) of 17 to 1, compared with 13 to 1 with the old amtrak.
The cost of the rebuild is $400,500 per machine much cheaper than the $2-million cost of a new vehicle. Lower maintenance costs add to the savings.
"The older AAVs were weighed down and low to the ground," Sgt. Marcus S. Mathews said. "The RAM/RS is easier to maneuver through rough terrain. It doesnt bottom out on bumps and sand dunes easily."
The AAV7 family of vehicles has been the Corps amphibious workhorse for nearly three decades, Gehris said. "It was modernized in the early 1980s and has become more expensive and labor intensive to maintain as it aged.
"The RAM/RS will provide the Corps with an extremely reliable vehicle. It'll serve as the backbone to the Corps' amphibious capabilities until the Advanced Amphibian Vehicle is fully operational in 2014."
"This is the first vehicle off the line and I am the first to operate it. Im honored," Mathews said. He was also selected to be the vehicle's first crew-chief.
Distribution of the RAM/RS will begin at the end of the month. "We feel proud and honored to get the first," Gehris said. "It was necessary we had the first, because we teach everyone how to operate them."
Instructors at AAS have already begun training Marines on the vehicle. In February, AAV mechanics attended schools in several cities to learn more about the new engine.
Staff NCOs from the operator maintenance community throughout the Corps traveled to AAS Bn. for instructor and key personnel training.
There are not many differences between the old and new amtraks as far as training is concerned, so it's not a real challenge to switch over, Gehris said.
As the new vehicles are issued, instructors from AAS Bn. will be on hand to provide assistance and last-minute training, Gehris said.
The RAM/RS allows quicker ship-to-shore movement, Mathews said. It moves faster, which makes us that much better.