Marine Corps News 11/21/99


By Cpl. Christian DeLuca

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Nov. 11) -- While the amphibious assault community awaits the next generation of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, an interim program is making amtracks stronger and faster while cutting down on maintenance.
The program, called Reliability Availability Maintainability/Rebuild to Standard, will cost about $6 million to complete. It will improve and maintain the current fleet of Amphibious Assault Vehicles until the new Advanced AAVs arrive around 2012.
I Marine Expeditionary Force currently has 30 of the improved RAMRS vehicles and will receive another 193 by December 2002. The Marine Corps will maintain a total of 680 by that time.
The two main improvements to the amtracks are a larger VTA525 horsepower engine, replacing the old Cummins VT400 engine, and an improved suspension system. Both were borrowed from the Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
"The changes are excellent. It runs superbly," Cpl. Matt Kavanaugh, crew chief, said during a combined-arms exercise. "It ran like a champ. You can feel it when you step on the gas. It just takes off quicker, and the ride's a lot smoother."
Although top speeds are approximately the same for both vehicles, the RAMRS's extra horsepower and higher suspension system allow faster acceleration and better maneuverability over obstacles, reducing the time it takes to reach a destination.
The engine also contains many improvements that have come with new technology - including a larger-diameter camshaft, which will improve injection control, and new Step Time Control injectors.
"The STC injectors are one of the biggest and major changes in this vehicle," said Sgt. Michael Carrera, a mechanic. Carrera went to a weeklong class on the new engine in Columbus, Ind. "It will give better fuel economy, less pollution, less smoke and longer life on the parts."
New engine cooling systems and a larger oil pan have also been installed. A high-efficiency turbocharger will bring the vehicle 1,746 pounds heavier than the old AAVs - to its required power and speed.
"It can get you in and out of harm's way a lot quicker than before," said GySgt. David Zapp, company gunnery sergeant. "And if you have to fire, you're not bouncing around as much because of the new suspension, so you can find the target."
The new suspension raises the AAV to its original height, providing 16 inches of ground clearance. The current vehicles have sunk to less than 12 inches because of extra weight added over the years. Those 4 inches add to the vehicle's maneuverability.
"The maneuverability is much better. I have no problem crossing deep trenches. I have no problem crossing over practically anything now," Kavanaugh said.
The main attributes of the new suspension are single and dual rollers that sit above the roadwheels.
These rollers help spread the weight of the vehicle evenly over the wheels and keep the track tight, eliminating many of the old system's problems.
"I remember when we had to do suspension work every day," said Sgt. Billy Schwartz, crew chief. "Now we dog these vehicles and still don't have any problems."
Along with the new engine and suspension system, the vehicles will receive a complete tear-down, hull and component inspection and be repaired and reworked to original material specifications. "Overall it's a completely different machine, it's that much better," Carrera said. "This one should be able to take us way beyond year 2012."