The US Department of State has approved the potential purchase by Greece of assault amphibious vehicles of a specific type which was involved in a fatal sinking incident in 2020.
The Marine Corps barred these Vietnam War-era vehicles from regular deployments in December 2021, replacing them with the more advanced Amphibious Combat Vehicles (ACVs).
However, a Marine Corps spokesman, commenting on the sale, appeared confident that the AAV is a safe vehicle and a viable platform for amphibious operations, as long as maintenance standards are followed.
$268 million sale of amphibious vehicles to Greece
The State Department approved a possible foreign military sale to the Government of Greece of 63 assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) and related equipment for an estimated cost of $268 million, an announcement said on Friday.
It was explained that this proposed sale “will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to improve the security of a NATO ally, which is an important partner for political stability and economic progress in Europe.”
The same announcement added that the vehicles are expected to “improve Greece’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing an effective capability to protect maritime interests and infrastructure in support of its strategic location on NATO’s southern flank.”
It stressed that “Greece contributes to NATO operations, as well as to counterterrorism and counter-piracy maritime efforts” and maintained that the proposed sale “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
But concerns were soon raised about the safety and suitability of the AAVs, given the sinking incident which cost the lives of nine troops in 2020 and the vehicles’ subsequent withdrawal from US Navy operations.
9 Marines lost in AAV sinking incident in 2020
Eight Marines and one sailor drowned after their amphibious assault vehicle sank during a July 30, 2020 training exercise in the Pacific, in the vicinity of San Clemente Island, off-California.
Another seven troops on board had survived the sinking, which occured after the AAV took on water while training with other assets.
All AAV water operations were suspended as officials investigated the cause of the fatal incident.
A command investigation concluded in March 2021 that the sinking was the result of inadequate training, a vehicle in “horrible condition,” and lapsed safety procedures.
Spokesman’s response to safety concerns over the use of AAVs
Nonetheless, a Marine Corps spokesman told Defense News on Friday that, despite the AAV fleet’s average age of 40 years, the vehicles have undergone a service life extension program, as well as a reliability-availability-maintainability rebuilt to standard program and scheduled cycles through depot-level maintenance throughout their lives.
In the words of Maj. Jim Stenger, “the AAV is a safe vehicle and a viable platform for amphibious operations.”
“As with all combat systems and equipment, strict compliance with maintenance standards is an essential prerequisite to safe and effective operation.”